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5 innovator CEOs reveal the hardest challenges they have overcome

In this Innovation Lab series, founders and CEOs discuss obstacles they encountered, from pushing one’s own personal boundaries to gaining a foothold in the market at the right time.

Health Evolution | March 5, 2021

Ask Mark Menton about the hardest challenge he has overcome as a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in multiple M&A deals, including Kyruus recently acquiring HealthSparq where he is CEO, and Menton answers from a personal standpoint.  

Being somewhat of an introvert, I had to become front and center at ClarusHealth, where I led the sales team in addition to being CEO,” Menton says. So it was interesting to be self-aware of some strengths and weaknesses and where I get energy and then to be able to challenge myself to push beyond what I was really comfortable doing. 

For Lark Health Founder and CEO Julia Hu, the steepest wall to climb was achieving market acceptance for the cutting-edge technology Lark spent six years building.  

Innovators at plans, at PBMs, and in large, innovative employers, have all supported the potential of Lark’s conversational AI as a way to provide scalable, effective care and given us a chance,” Hu says. “We’ve been able to competently execute within existing care delivery models.” 


‘Islands of innovation’ offer a look at what’s next for digital health


Likewise, whereas many entrepreneurs pursue avenues to disrupt health care or other industries, Wellframe Co-founder and CEO Jacob Sattelmair says the company takes a different approach: partnering with established organizations to help them modernize.  

Achieving that at scale requires a lot of persistence to create the attention and expectation as market demands evolve. This is not something you go into if you want a quick win or a quick flip,” Sattelmair adds. “One of the most exciting parts is I get to learn ten new things every single day — and one of the most challenging aspects is that I have to learn ten new things every day. I am continuously being challenged to grow as a person, a leader, and a business owner to constantly think about how to make us successful and then execute against that.”  

Executing against strategy, of course, is difficult for every innovator — and that becomes even more daunting when up against a long sales cycle, according to Tagnos founder Neeraj Bhavani.   

Solving that problem is a big challenge. You can raise millions of dollars in VC money but burn through it fast because of the long sales cycle. We overcame it by working with our channel partners,” Bhavani adds. “Taking the investment money from channel partners, we were able to accomplish that in the Series A stage and that is bearing fruit now because it takes a lot of time to get channels to work. But now that it’s on track, we’re set to grow.”  

And then there is always the matter of timing the market.  

“In health care that’s twice as hard,” says Apervita CEO Kevin Hutchinson. “It’s always about making sure you have the timing right on where the market is going because if you are too far ahead or too far behind, it just won’t work. 

Also in the Innovation Lab series:  
Health care innovators on 2021: New consumer expectations, value-based care and quality measures 
6 innovator CEOs share insights that steer their careers 

About the Author

Health Evolution, Staff Writer