Advisor, Operator & Mentor: The Critical Role of a Redesign Health Venture Chair.
The current options for innovation aren’t working. The vast majority (90%!) of startups fail, and as a result, valuable solutions are never delivered to those in need. The odds are stacked even higher in healthcare, given the multitude of stakeholders, the regulations, network intensity, and more that an entrepreneur needs to navigate.
We built Redesign Health to address these challenges head-on, by streamlining the process of company creation and minimizing the risk involved with building a business in its earliest days. While we have developed systems, tools, and technologies to make this happen, a core piece of this equation is Redesign Health Venture Chairs.
Venture Chairs play a role that’s both critical and unique to our innovation model. Our Venture Chairs are experts and entrepreneurs in their respective fields, and have played a key role in building successful enterprises. Their experiences include leading healthcare startups and some of the largest tech companies on the planet, and they fundamentally understand what it means to build a business. Unlike many advisors and investors, Venture Chairs are introduced when the business is just an idea—and act as a partner, operator, and advisor, depending on the stage of the company. They are deeply invested in the growth and success of the founder and the business.
To explore this unique role, we spoke to three Venture Chairs and two Operating Company Founders to get their perspectives. Venture Chairs James Quarles, Missy Krasner, and Kira Wampler shared their insights on the role they play in the idea-to-scaling process at Redesign Health, and Jon Cooper, CEO and Founder of Overalls, and Kathy Kaluhiokalani, CEO and Founder of a stealth company founded at Redesign Health, provided their perspective on how Venture Chairs have shaped their journey.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. How does the Venture Chair fit into Redesign’s unique model for powering innovation in healthcare?
Kira: Healthcare is something that impacts everyone’s lives and makes up 20% of our GDP — and yet it’s fundamentally not working. The whole system needs to be redesigned. At Redesign Health, we take a holistic approach, with a singular focus on the healthcare industry, and use a highly rigorous diligence, ideation, and launch process to build and scale companies. We leverage repeatable processes to create a platform that seeks to remove the barriers to launching healthcare companies, which allows us to bring more people from varied backgrounds into the important work of healthcare transformation. We firmly believe that redesigning healthcare must be a collaborative effort within the existing healthcare system.
Venture Chairs are seasoned operators with deep functional backgrounds in areas like technology, go-to-market, business development, sales, clinical systems, 4-wall real estate, and more — bringing deep operating and advising backgrounds to create a springboard for success for Founders and founding teams. Venture Chairs act as a through-line within Redesign Health’s iterative company creation process, taking ideas through the diligence, ideation, and launch processes, and then serving on the board of the companies we’ve launched. We incorporate what we’ve learned from stakeholders, patients, providers, and healthcare system partners, to evolve and grow and offer the best guidance possible to these companies as they expand. Even before our CEOs come aboard, Venture Chairs are entrenched in these Operating Companies, asking how we can create the most value. As a Venture Chair, you’re there to have difficult conversations with the CEO and offer advice at key moments — asking them how they’re feeling and what they’re doing in response to the earliest market data, for example. It’s multifaceted, and emotionally and intellectually intensive work.
2. As the Founder and CEO of a company founded at Redesign Health, how has your Venture Chair helped you build your business?
Kathy: I have past experience building a startup, and also working in leadership roles at very large healthcare organizations. So I understand what it’s like to be building something on your own, or trying to implement change at a mature company. In a startup environment, it’s just you, and you’re running fast. You’re reporting to a board, but ultimately it’s you in the captain’s seat. It can be very isolating. At Redesign Health, having a Venture Chair to work alongside allows you to have someone in the passenger seat next to you, who can bring their experience and knowledge to the work you’re doing. You can tap into their insights at literally any moment of the day or night. That’s what I really love about the model.
Because of my Venture Chair, Nate Snyder, and the broader team at Redesign Health, I don’t have to spend all of my time focusing on day-to-day tactics. Instead, I can focus on the long-term strategy, taking my company through the pilot phase, proving the concept, and building a fantastic team… all of which ultimately determine the future success of any company.
Finally, I love that Nate and I think about things differently. He surfaces insights to encourage me to think about things differently. The secret sauce in this equation is having someone who is parallel to you but doesn’t think the same way you do, to encourage you to consider assumptions in new ways and push the limits on the work you’re doing.
3. As a Venture Chair, what does your day-to-day look like? What aspect of the role do you enjoy the most?
James: Day-in and day-out, our role is to enable our Operating Companies to grow and perform in service of our mission to redesign healthcare for everyone. Our primary measure of success is the speed at which our companies find initial product/market fit, to ensure we’re best serving key stakeholders — whether that be patients, payers, providers, etc. As Venture Chairs, we work backwards from that goal.
A key part of that process is putting a founding team in place with complementary expertise and backgrounds, so we do a lot of interviewing. It also involves developing a learning plan that helps frame the critical questions and enablers of success, to sharpen a focus on things that matter to test today, versus those that can be answered in the future. We spend significant time trying to anticipate what might be coming in the next stage of growth, benefitting from the lessons of other Operating Companies and Venture Chairs.
I spend a lot of my week speaking candidly with our CEOs about how things are going, how Redesign Health might help, and creating a safe space for whiteboarding. Some of our conversations can be very tactical, sometimes we’re having big-picture conversations, and other times I’m facilitating introductions. Whatever it is, we’re deeply aligned on all the business foundations and context, which I think allows some of the best explorations together.
The most fulfilling part of the role is unquestionably seeing these founding teams come together with such commitment to better serve individuals and families to create better healthcare outcomes. We are redesigning healthcare one company at a time.
Venture Chair, James Quarles and CEO of Keen, Scott Matthews
4. Take us through the ideation, development, and launch process for Operating Companies from the Venture Chair perspective. How have you and the Founders you’ve worked with collaborate to bring the company to life?
Missy: The Venture Chair role is incredibly unique. We shepherd companies from the research and ideation phase all the way through to commercial launch. Once the company is commercially “open for business,” we work alongside our Finance & Strategy team at Redesign Health to help the company raise a Series A and beyond. When external investors come into the company, the Venture Chair takes a Board seat and continues to help coach/advise the CEO and founding team as the company matures and gains market share.
A crucial area where Venture Chairs contribute early on in the ideation phase is identifying gaps in the market and business research and figuring out what needs to happen to get the company greenlit (i.e., receiving initial financing). And that’s when the real fun begins.
After the company gets seed funding through Redesign Health, we partner with our recruiting team to help bring on the entire leadership team — including the CEO, a Head of Product, a Head of Operations, and a Founding Chief of Staff. It’s a really exciting time because the vast majority of startup success comes from getting the founding team right from the very beginning. It’s also a really robust trust-building exercise, as Redesign Health is totally aligned with the founding team as co-founders. Once the founding team is in place, the Venture Chair helps the company march towards a commercial launch, using many of the resources provided by Redesign Health — like marketing, product & engineering, legal, government and regulatory affairs, communications, and so on.
Alongside our Partnerships team at Redesign Health, we also help open up doors to potential pilot partners and secure Advisors from our Redesign Advisor Marketplace and our own personal industry network. This is all happening at a very rapid clip, when experienced decision-making and expertise are especially critical for GTM success.
Every step along the way, we’re helping our CEOs and founding team members de-risk common everyday startup challenges and run fast at finding product/market fit.
5. As a Founder and CEO, how would you describe the value your Venture Chair provides?
Jon: My Venture Chair, Missy Krasner, is someone I’ve known about since business school, because she’s worked in the White House and in health tech policy, and is a big name in the healthcare space. So I was thrilled to not just meet her, but get the chance to work closely with her. The expertise that Redesign Health has brought in across the board, and especially on the Venture Chair team, is astounding.
Our relationship has evolved over time. From day one, there was already a core business idea, and a team was being built. To be a founder and come into this type of foundation is rare. Missy was the glue that made such a successful transition possible. She got me up to speed and then gradually handed over the reins. She truly was a coworker to start. Once we started raising our first round of capital, she moved into more of an advisor role. She was incredibly helpful during this process—leveraging her experience of helping prepare countless other businesses for fundraises, and also calling upon her network to help get us ready. Now that we’ve raised money from outside sources, she’s moving into more of a traditional board member role.
There’s so much to gain from Redesign Health, but having someone to really walk you through the process and point out resources and areas of opportunity is critical. Venture Chairs are the connective tissue between the startup and Redesign Health that makes the entire process work together.
6. As a Venture Chair, how have you worked through roadblocks with your founders to help grow the business?
Missy: A great example is my work with HealthQuarters, which builds retail clinics for large health systems and is a new destination for curated, clinically-backed health and wellness services. The company unites medical care (e.g., primary care and other specialty physicians) with wellness providers (e.g., physical therapy, mental health, dentistry, and nutritionists) in one retail space. The company currently operates a center in NoHo, NY with a well-known health system in the New York area as its anchor partner. HealthQuarters ended 2021 with more than 21,000 visits to our NoHo location and are well on our way to doubling that figure this year.
One of the business challenges they encountered early on was finding the right mix of services and capabilities that meet their guests’ (patient’s) needs but that also deliver value to provider partners in the space. Their guests (patients) care about access, convenience, affordability, quality of care, and their overall patient experience, while provider partners care about managing pain points like costs, scalability, new patient acquisition and retention, and reputation management.
As a Venture Chair, our job is to support the CEO and founding team in ruthless prioritization and execution to secure product-market fit. After several early experiments with HealthQuarter’s’ GTM approach, we settled on a model that was health-system focused — meaning, going out and finding health system partners and then building out an ecosystem around them. This in turn drives patient traffic to our wellness brands in the same location. For their guests (patients), they’re bringing preventative medicine and a wide array of wellness services to their everyday care. HealthQuarters offer peace-of-mind that the care they will receive will be easier to access, holistic and more convenient. For wellness providers and brands who want to grow their business, HealthQuarters is a turnkey platform to help drive cross-referrals. The team spends a lot of upfront time on relationship-building to ensure their provider partners are a good fit, both with each other and overall. Onsite Health Guides, digital signage, and branding underscore cross-selling opportunities and reinforce the synergy between traditional medicine and wellness providers. The end result is a retail turnkey medical space with onsite operational support and access to new customers.
Our long-term goal is for hundreds of companies to be built at Redesign Health, serving more patients than any other US healthcare company. We firmly believe the only way to create real change in healthcare is at scale. The expertise, partnership, and advice our Venture Chairs provide to our CEOs and Founders are a critical piece of our innovation equation. Interested in joining us? Check out our careers page for open roles.
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