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Charleston health care startup PokitDok replaces founding CEO with insurance executive

July 18, 2017

The founding chief executive of PokitDok has stepped down, saying the health care technology firm needs a new leader to manage its expansion.

Lisa Maki says the company, which is headquartered in California but has most of its employees in Charleston, had grown large enough to justify a transition. Maki says she helped court her replacement, Joe Murad, who started earlier this month.

Like Maki, Murad will be based in Silicon Valley. The company’s chief technology officer, Ted Tanner, is based in Charleston.

Murad comes to PokitDok from Willis Towers Watson, where he ran its individual insurance exchange. He came to the human resources consultancy through the sale of the Medicare exchange operator Extend Health, where he was a top executive.

Murad comes to PokitDok as the company, one of Charleston’s most-funded startups, changes its tack. The company was founded with plans to build a platform that connects dozens of health care software programs.

The idea is to let computers in hospitals, pharmacies and doctors offices talk to each other and create a path for patient data to flow between them. The company has raised $48 million in investments since 2011, including $5 million this year from Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America.

Six years later, that’s still the goal. But the company is now hitching its future to blockchain technology. Its goal is to essentially create continuous logs of patients’ history that are both encrypted and secured from changes.

“I’m here to shepherd the company Ted and Lisa built to scale, drawing from my operations and business development background that spans both the world of technology and the world of health care,” Murad said in a statement. “So I recognize PokitDok is well positioned to leapfrog the incumbents that frankly hold customers back from efficiency gains, cost savings and net-new market opportunities.”

As for Maki, she says she’ll still be involved with the company. She’s keeping a seat on the board, and she plans to stay involved in helping land big contracts.

Last week, for instance, the former CEO said she was in Charleston courting new business. A few “brand names” had flown into town, she said, though she declined to identify them. But their willingness to visit the Lowcountry, she said, was ultimately a selling point for attracting Murad.

“Other health care early-stage companies in the market right now are not attracting those kinds of brand names,” Maki said.

Print property

The Mount Pleasant printing technology firm Sawgrass says it’s planning to sell its offices on U.S. Highway 17 and move into bigger digs.

Sawgrass, which will turn 30 years old next year, says it wants to move its corporate offices and manufacturing facility under one roof. The company says a bigger headquarters would help keep up with growth in its business of developing and building printing systems.

Sawgrass was founded in Columbia in 1988, but hit its break in 1996, when it released its first sublimation inks. The technology essentially uses heat to infuse dye into materials like plastic and fabric, and it’s now licensed by printer manufacturers like Epson.

“Sawgrass has undergone marked expansion into a truly global business,” company president Darcy Mauro said in a statement. “We have been preparing for this pivotal move for several years, and the timing now could not be better.”

Company spokeswoman Robin Kavanagh didn’t respond to requests for comment on the move. But in a written statement, the company said plans for its move hadn’t been firmed up yet. It says it’s in talks with a developer about selling its property, which is near Boone Hall Plantation.

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