October 3, 2021
5
 min read
Fellowship Showcase

How On Deck Health Helped Me Navigate the Early Steps of My First Healthtech Startup

Authors

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Tara English
Founder
,
Stealth Startup
The post originally appeared on MikeWilner.com. It was republished with permission.

Authors

Avatar icon
Tara English
Founder
,
Stealth Startup

Avatar icon
Tara English
Founder
,
Stealth Startup

Investors

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ODH1 fellow Tara English shares her experience leaving Kaiser Permanente to take the first steps in starting her own healthtech startup, where ODH helped her find 7 collaborators helping her in areas from operations to product strategy to design.

Investor's note

I would have never tabled myself to be a healthtech founder. I started my career in management and strategy consulting and only discovered through my early engagement with a diverse set of industries - CPG, retail, industrials, etc. - that health-tech was something I wanted to focus on. 

After going to business school, I joined Kaiser Permanente to work on the implementation of virtual care and AI/ML programs to reimagine home health and how to bring parts of the hospital to individual homes. 

Discovering a Potential Opportunity

After spending 7 and a half years at Kaiser, I felt like I had accomplished a lot of what I joined to do. Delivering impact as an intrapreneur by taking programs from nothing and scaling them to thousands of patients and clinicians, including one of the largest virtual cardiac rehab programs in the US and a rapidly-scaled COVID-19 program to provide kits and social resources like food and housing to families in need. 

While at Kaiser, I noticed a common trend around the programs focused on bringing healthcare to the homes, we were relying heavily on family caregivers. 

As I did more user research, I realized a massive problem. Even though family members serve as the caregiving backbone to most long-term at-home care systems across the world, they often don't have professional training or any resourcing to help them deal with the care that they provide. 

This was consistent with my personal experience. One of my first ever "jobs" was as a family caregiver. As a teenager, having little guidance around how to execute and operate wasn't a recipe for success. I made a lot of mistakes while trying to help someone I was deeply close with. 

During COVID-19, where the experimenting around Telehealth projects and missions were accelerated, we began to research how individuals approached health and healthcare in general. 

By the time I left Kaiser in early 2021, I had a general end objective for what I wanted to build: A digital health format to support, empower and train family caregivers of aging loved ones. Whether through connections to subject matter experts (geriatric care managers), connection to peer groups, recommended local resource packages, or tech tools, the end goal is to ensure that family caregivers can provide better care with a lower lift. 

Now, I just had to find out how I was going to build it. 

Finding On Deck

After spending 7 and a half years at Kaiser, I was pretty disconnected from people building startups within Health Tech. I reached out to a trusted network of friends who were in Venture Capital and asked for guidance on how I could take my idea from 0 to 1 and beyond. 

Initially, I had gone into the process thinking I would work with an accelerator to get started. When I explained to people in my network what I was looking for, I counted off my main needs: access to a community within the healthcare vertical, building out an early product, and finding early team members. I got more than a few people recommending I look at On Deck. 

It was great timing as well that they recently launched the On Deck Health Fellowship and after reading about the experiences of fellows in the On Deck Founders Fellowship, I decided to make the investment. 

The On Deck Experience

While I had a robust network I could turn to in larger healthcare companies, it was difficult to get advice from them on the entrepreneurial aspects I was building out. Since joining On Deck, I've met 7 different collaborators that are helping me build out my company, in areas from operations to product strategy to design. Of the 7 collaborators, who I spend more than 10 hours each week, 2 of them are other ODH fellows and all the others were personally introduced to me by other ODH fellows. 

Through giving presentations on my startup, getting on individual 1:1 calls, and even meeting some ODH fellows IRL in the Bay Area, it seemed like everyone had a friend or connection that would be interested in talking to me about the idea. 

When questions came up that fell out of the scope that I or one of the collaborators I was working with could answer, my go-to location became the On Deck Health Asks & Offers channel. It was the best search engine in the niche as the results were driven by people passionate and informed about the space. 

My specialties from my time at Kaiser were in how to operationalize technology in healthcare and how to address social determinants of health but I often needed more tactical advice such as: 

- When do I incorporate? 

- Anyone have recommendations for [insert professional service, like legal]?  

- What do people think about [insert tech solution, like Dex / personal CRM]? 

It seemed like ODH had something set up to answer any type of question/ask that a fellow had. As a first-time founder coming from a massive incumbent company with over 170,000 employees across the globe, I found that my ODH mastermind group gave me a safe space to be vulnerable about my leadership: 

- How do I build a team? 

- What is my leadership style and how can I improve it? 

- How do I begin to ship like a startup and build up momentum and traction without sacrificing quality too much? 

Next Steps

I’m about to launch a couple of experiments to test some key product features, including localized resource bundles, form automation capabilities, and upskilling family caregivers to support one another. I plan to launch my full MVP in the fall to test with family caregivers and value-based care organizations.

I’m so glad to have been part of On Deck Health. I’ve avoided a lot of mistakes and moved faster because of it. One of my biggest fears with transitioning to entrepreneurship was loneliness. On Deck has made me feel like I will never have to worry about this.

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