What’s the inspiration behind Responsum Health?
About 10 years ago, my mom died of a rare cancer-like condition. Over the course of years of treatment, she relied on my sister and me to help her research treatment options and lifestyle-related challenges. Although she had access to excellent doctors, the truth is that our healthcare system is not designed to provide patients with the individualized support they really need.
Most patients in these situations—including my mom—turn to the Internet for answers. But as we found out together, the internet’s value as a health resource is just a mirage.
There’s a lot of valuable information online, but it’s only useful if you have expert guidance to filter out all the inaccurate, outdated or intentionally misleading information. It takes a trusted advisor working every day of the year to stay current with treatments, clinical trials, or advice on how best to “live with” your disease.
When my mom passed, I recognized that there must be millions of others like us—people who need a trusted partner to provide customized, current, and comprehensive healthcare information and support. That’s why I created Responsum Health.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd via Republic?
Responsum Health is the perfect company for a Republic raise, because anyone can relate to our value proposition. We can all understand both the necessity and the shortcomings of searching the internet for information about a health condition, for ourselves or for a loved one.
It’s also easy to understand the value of a free, disease-specific mobile app that curates the web for us—backed by a team of professional writers/researchers, and supported by a trusted patient advocacy group. The value for patient users is obvious, while the business model—premised on the monetization of data collected from patient communities—is both intuitive and proven.
We want to give everyone who both sees the investment upside, and supports our mission, the opportunity to get involved.
You’ve been active in the political arena for decades—as a co-founder of political organizations and of a government affairs firm, and as a congressional candidate yourself. Does your passion for politics intersect with your work as a healthcare industry entrepreneur?
Actually, no—I founded Responsum because after years in the government arena, I came to realize that government will never solve the problem of patient empowerment and meaningful engagement. But private industry can.
On the other hand, my involvement with both politics and the healthcare industry are driven by a passion for helping people. They are different branches from the same tree.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Yes—that I love solving problems.
I am motivated time and again by comments from the thousands of people with chronic disease who are finding value in Responsum’s apps and online communities.
I take energy and inspiration from building and leading a team of brilliant, mission-oriented young people.
And I believe that if I work hard enough, I can—and I will—lead our company to success.
For six years you served on the advisory board for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Did your time with this organization provide any useful context or connections for the development of Responsum Health?
Yes. The PCORI is an independent, government-backed research organization created in the Affordable Care Act. Their goal is to fund comparative effectiveness research (CER) that helps consumers, clinicians, purchasers, and policy makers to make informed decisions intended to improve health care at both the individual and societal levels.
I was asked to serve on an advisory panel to help guide their effort to inform patients and other healthcare stakeholders about the results of their CER, so that they could benefit from the research PCORI had funded. What I took away from this experience was:
there are frighteningly few proven, effective ways to engage and inform patients, especially at any scale worth noting;
the federal government sees patient engagement as a real health policy priority; and
if we’re ever going to make improvements in patient education and engagement, it’s going to be the private sector that gets it done.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
The most difficult hurdle for any new startup is landing those first few “gold star” clients. Convincing established market leaders to sign on with your company and to pay for your product or service is the ultimate validation. Last year, when Responsum Health entered into agreements with four multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies—Abbvie, Otsuka, Allergan and Galapagos—we immediately evolved from “a neat idea” to a viable business with an exciting future.
How do you handle risk and competition?
I believe in weighing and respecting risk, but I don’t fear it. With age, experience and success, I’ve gained greater confidence in my instinct, and I’ve learned to trust it. That instinct is especially important when it comes to making a pivot or revisiting an earlier assumption.
With regard to competition, I find it to be reaffirming and motivating. If there are other smart, sophisticated players out there, then I’m probably onto something. If I can see the competition, I know I can out-strategize and outmaneuver them.
I respect the competition. I simply know I can do it better.
What is your superpower?
My ability to recruit and lead exceptional people. My secret to success in business (and in life) is to create an attractive environment for people who are more talented than I am.
What’s your kryptonite?
I don’t much care for being around negativity. If I get the sense that someone is prone to complaining, or is non-constructively looking for fault in others, I will address it head on. If it’s intractable, however, then I don’t want that person on the team.
Morale and high confidence is an incredibly delicate, yet essential, feature of any successful venture—it must be cultivated, encouraged, and protected with vigilance.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I really enjoy cooking and entertaining friends at our home, although I don’t have as much time for it as I used to… but someday I will!
I spend most of my free time with my daughter, Kate (10), and son, Max (7)... playing soccer, throwing a baseball, or doing whatever it takes to get them off their devices!
My sheep-a-doodle, Oscar, also keeps me very busy. He is our pandemic pup and is constantly pining for attention and love.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without? Ideally, not the typical Twitter, Slack, etc, but share any gadgets or tech you can’t live without.
The latest focus of my family’s collective attention is a robot toy from a Republic startup company. Vector— a miniature sized robot-toy with a big personality —is made by Digital Dream Labs (hopefully you got in on that Republic investment opportunity!)
It is really a remarkable little gadget. After a few hours, you begin treating it as though it was a live creature! It’s really remarkable and is bringing my family a lot of joy.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
My mentors have taught me—by example, not through words—that in order to be successful, you need to project success. Meaning, you need to convince others to have confidence in your leadership… and to believe in your ability to succeed.