Brenda Schmidt: From Healthcare CEO to Innovation Leader

Brenda Schmidt, Head of Enterprise Growth, shares how her background as an entrepreneur led to her perfect career match at Redesign Health.

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I’ve spent my career as an entrepreneur, mentor, advisor and educator. I launched and led several businesses and ventures before coming to Redesign Health — and when I joined the team, some of my peers wondered whether I’d even be happy in a non-CEO role. But as it turns out, Redesign Health is exactly the right place to apply my decades of healthcare leadership and operational experience. Here, the Enterprise Growth team creates a sustainable competitive advantage for Operating Companies by facilitating the programming, enablement tools and introductions to a large network of strategic partners who also inform and co-build healthcare businesses with us.

A Passion to Impact Patient Care

My road to Redesign Health began with my education in business and science: I studied microbiology and earned a master's degree in immunology. I didn’t have an endpoint in mind for these degrees—I just knew I was passionate about emerging research and discoveries in science and technology. During my early career I also earned my MBA.

After trying out pharmaceutical sales, I joined Baxter Healthcare. This was a phenomenal place to start my professional journey, as it offered so many avenues for career development and learning. I have always been an “intrapreneur,” even within large organizations like Baxter. I was a hand-raiser and volunteered for projects outside of my core role, which exposed me to different lines of business and functions, including product development, product marketing, regulatory processes, marketing management, global marketing and total quality management. During my last six years at Baxter, my role expanded internationally and I led a Latin American division with a $100 million revenue, which gave me my first taste of running a business. It was also a great opportunity to become fluent in Spanish!

Through Baxter, I attended an executive education program at the Center for Creative Leadership. There, I realized I wanted to become an entrepreneur to have a more direct impact on healthcare, and specifically patient care, than I could make by working for a Fortune 100 company. 

Venturing Out on My Own

In 2005, I started my first company, Viridian Health Management, which provided health management services to employers to improve the health of their diverse employee populations — including workers in the hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture, trucking and casino industries. Viridian’s technology-enabled community-health worker model met the needs of those populations that were frequently excluded from online-only services.  

This experience taught me that healthcare happens in the doctor's office, but health happens where you live, work, pray and shop. Increasingly, community organizations like  YMCA, churches and other non-profit groups were delivering evidence-based health prevention and promotion programs in their communities. Although these programs were not integrated into the broader healthcare ecosystem, their services improved health and health outcomes by providing community members with access to preventive services, structured education, programming and other services solely through grant funding. 

While Viridian focused on employee health management, I recognized that there was a much larger opportunity to partner with health plans to create a network of community organizations focused on improving the health of their members. While at Viridian, we launched a pilot of the new model with Anthem, and immediately had product-market fit and strong validation for the business model. 

After 10 amazing years at Viridian, I left to start a new venture called Solera Health. Solera was one of the first platforms to implement a measurement-based outcomes business model focused on matching health plan members to the community organization or digital solution that best met their goals, needs and preferences. Health plans contracted with Solera as a delegated entity to manage a network of community organizations and digital solutions paid through medical claims for achieving chronic disease prevention and management engagement and health outcomes goals. Solera scaled significantly under my leadership. We secured Series A funding and grew very quickly in the first 36 months and raised $72 million in venture capital in four years. 

Viridian and Solera taught me very different lessons about early startup creation and scale. I bootstrapped Viridian and learned to manage cash and how to prioritize to support deliberate growth. At Solera, I had quite the crash course on venture capital as I quickly needed to raise capital to build the technology platform and hire team members to support rapid growth. I had to catch on fast — I actually went out and bought the book Venture Capital for Dummies as I was raising the Series A. It makes me chuckle to remember how much I had to learn back then. 

I transitioned to the Executive Chairman role at Solera to start my next venture in December 2019, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was not the time to start an early-stage, disruptive healthcare company. So I put that on hold and joined Coplex, a venture studio in Phoenix, as president and then CEO. I led that studio for about 18 months. 

Bringing it All Together at Redesign Health

I first learned about Redesign Health in 2020 while I was leading Coplex, given some parallels between the business models. I was intrigued by their ability to launch and scale new ventures in quick succession. Having researched venture studios around the world, I became confident that Redesign Health’s business model was the best way to create valuable, advantaged ventures. After having conversations with a few leaders there, they asked me to join the team. And I did.

After serving as a consultant for a few months to gauge whether Redesign Health was a good fit for my background and interests (it was!), I soon joined full-time as a Venture Architect — helping develop the early structured ideation and workshop processes around assumption mapping, diligence, blueprints and validation. I was able to leverage the network I had built throughout my career to source advisors for Redesign Health and bring industry leaders in to test our validations in real time, and ensure the right data points were being used to inform the business. 

I was soon asked to build our Strategic Partnerships team to create a sustainable strategic advantage for our Operating Companies and create a world-class growth advisory firm within Redesign Health as part of our innovation platform. Through our enterprise strategic partnerships, we understand the challenges and opportunities our partners face, and use this knowledge to co-develop, launch, and scale new businesses that tackle the most pressing issues in healthcare. Our team supports Redesign Health Operating Companies throughout their lifecycle, from concept validation through growth and scale by developing and leveraging strategic partnerships with innovative healthcare incumbents. 

Driving the Greatest Value

What I appreciate about Redesign Health is that we take a broad and unique approach to solving the many challenges that exist within healthcare. We look for opportunity zones that span different clinical conditions and customers. We don’t have a singular focus on a particular technology or business model such as artificial intelligence, business process automation or SaaS. I enjoy the opportunity to think creatively about new businesses and collaborate with our industry partners without feeling limited. And it’s especially exciting for me to be involved in the startup community again. As we build new ventures, I can use my experience as a founder and CEO to support our Operating Company CEOs to anticipate and address common issues facing early stage companies.

The highlight of my work has been being able to build and lead a team that drives value and creates a competitive advantage for our Operating Companies. I manage my team the way I led as a CEO, where there's an expectation of accountability and agency. Redesign Health has the philosophy of hiring outstanding people and then letting them go do their jobs, which is a great fit. 

Everyone at Redesign is incredibly driven and smart, and it is a privilege to work alongside them. I learn something new every day here. Redesign Health is a place where I can use my varied experiences to add value to both Redesign Health and our portfolio of Operating Companies.

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Brenda Schmidt Head of Enterprise Growth

Brenda is a proven innovation leader focused on go-to-market speed and growth of healthcare technology and technology-enabled services startups. Brenda founded Viridian Health and Solera Health to create new models for whole-person care. She also led Coplex, a venture studio partnering with health systems to validate, design and launch new healthcare companies. 

She has received numerous awards, including EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, Best MedTech CEO 2019, Becker’s 102 Women Healthcare IT Leaders, and 2019 Phoenix Top 10 Business Leaders. 

Brenda continues to teach entrepreneurship at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, participates as a Director of Delta Dental of Arizona, Startup AZ Foundation, Solera Health, Big Data Studios and Rivia Health, contributes to FierceHealth as an Editorial Board Advisor, and writes for Entrepreneur Magazine.