Tell Us About Your Journey
I started life as an engineer and suddenly then pivoted to medicine. I was a practicing physician for over eleven years in academics here in Boston at Boston Medical Center, and I’m a BU faculty member. I pivoted over to hospital administration and then into business and have been with a series of companies that have helped me become a bit of a commercial animal, I guess.
What Is The History of Cohealo?
Cohealo is really the first and the only sharing economy company in healthcare. Cohealo was founded by a laser salesman who realized he could sell one laser for every hospital that he ever walked into, but then realized that his hospital system customers weren’t making any or taking any advantage of economy of scale. So what our company does is we create networks on behalf of our clients to share equipment between their facilities or with anybody else they want to share with.
What excites me about Cohealo really is that it may be one of the only kind of new economy companies in healthcare. Healthcare is kind of stuck in the dark ages in a technology way. And when I first met these guys now to be the CEO, but when I first met them, they were literally a company that everybody looked at and said, well, wait a minute, that sounds like Air Bnb or that sounds like Uber or that sounds like any other company that uses collaborative consumption. And I was like, yeah, that’s good, because basically how else are you going to kind of disrupt and improve the state of affairs here if you’re not really sort of borrowing and modifying and working with new economy ideas.
Tell Us About Cohealo’s Customer Opportunities.
We partner with some of the largest health systems in the United States. It’s actually a big challenge for us because we’re a startup to be navigating that environment. The challenge comes, I think, really because we actually are a platform company that is incredibly scalable. The work that we do with these large clients is actually not all that difficult for us because the technology is there. But in many, many ways, folks really do challenge us to understand whether or not we really do scale and those types of things.
It’s a lot of proving to the customer that what we can do is doable. And then, of course, the relationship that follows is really quite sweet because we’ve hardened this process and done some cool things to really have a resilient service.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
The best example of the challenges we face is something that I called Gesmer about yesterday, which is we’re working with a very large health system. They have their own interpretation of data and privacy standards. Basically, we’ve been navigating with them on how we appear to them as a company that creates some risk. We don’t. Full stop. We just don’t.
But the idea is how to work through and adjudicate that. So actually, one of the things I did was get Gesmer on the phone yesterday and say, look, we’ve got a customer, they’ve given us some alternative contracts. We need to work through these quickly because we’re in the middle of an implementation. Why don’t you just keep things going?
What Advice Can You Offer Other Entrepreneurs?
The best advice I ever had personally was from my dad, who was quite the sales guy, actually. He basically said to me, no matter what your first impression about a person is, it’s probably wrong. Just remember that as you drive home every day, they’re probably listening to the same music, too. And it really opened my eyes to this idea that to be a decent leader, there needed to be a certain amount of authenticity. But you also had to sort of suspend some of the preconceived notions you have about folks that you’re dealing with.
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Where Do You See Cohealo In 3-5 Years?
In five years, Cohealo will be ten times bigger than it is now, at least. We have landed a number of marquee clients and we’re feeling really good about those. And what’s really happened because of the pandemic is the whole idea of sharing equipment has suddenly become an interesting and a good idea. We’re right now, as we speak, leaning into this sort of post-COVID thing here because hospitals are struggling. They’ve really had quite a financial whack from the COVID surges that they’ve had. So now as there’s dust settling on what they’re doing, they’re moving forward. And really what they have is sort of a savings target on their back and they don’t know how to hit it. What we represent is kind of an entirely novel way to save money. And folks are really interested.
How Important Are Your Advisors?
I keep a short list of advisors. Some of them are personal friends that have been successful in certain ways that I’d like to be, and therefore, they’re personal advisors. Some of them are folks that know our business. One of our board members, Jodi Hatchers, used to be the President of Vizient, and he’s like, absolutely sensational. He’s been really transformative for our company.
You should always be not self-doubt, but always questioning. And I think my management style and what I always admire about other folks is this concept of maintaining open-mindedness, constantly thinking about retesting assumptions that you’ve made. I think if you say advisor, those are the people that you’re going to go to and say, hey, what do you think? I’m thinking about this now I’m changing my mind. I’m feeling like we might try something new. What do you guys think? I find it very helpful.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided To Cohealo?
Gesmer’s been incredible in a couple of ways and I really mean it. Our lead attorney, Peter Moldave, is magnificent, and he’s got a great sense of humor. He’s basically become a confidant in many, many ways. As our corporate attorney, he’s incredibly focused on the business, which I guess he’s supposed to do, but to the point where I don’t ever get any sense that I’m not getting the absolute best advice for the company. As somebody who has an interest in the company financially, I find him to be almost an anchor in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s possible and what’s not in terms of moving the company forward.
Why Go With Gesmer?
One cannot start and run a company without legal counsel. It’s just they are essentially a member of the team. I suspect that one of the reasons that Gesmer exists is because in the earlier stages of a company you certainly don’t need anybody full-time and you’re never going to get that bench unless you’re using a firm that has some broad exposure and can really help you.
I inherited Gesmer. I’m not the first CEO and I came on and there was Gesmer. There’s been business and legal continuity that’s been incredibly strong through the management changes and all the other things that have happened with Cohealo along the way from its initial formation on.
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