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The most difficult aspect of startup life? Founding a company, serving as CEO, or managing both simultaneously. But the work can also be extremely rewarding — so we asked members of the Health Evolution Innovation Lab what makes them proud to be innovators.  

For this group, the pride comes from developing and leveraging technology to make an impact on human lives, assembling world-class teams and, in at least one case, proving an idea that once seemed crazy could actually work 

Tagnos founder Neeraj Bhavani, for instance, lists “being able to solve significant problems inside health care with viable product,” as an accomplishment that makes him proud. “And working with corporate partners to invest in our company at an early stage. The alignment with channel partners has been a bright spot and I’m proud of that.”  

Stephanie Tilenius, founder and CEO of Vida Health, adds that serving individuals is among the most rewarding parts of her career.  

I’m most proud of building products and services that help people live better lives,” Tilenius said. “That really keeps me going when times are tough.”  

Also in the Innovation Lab series: 5 innovator CEOs reveal the hardest challenges they have overcome 

Servant leadership was a common theme among the innovator CEOs we interviewed — and that of course includes, but is not limited to, their own workforce.  

I serve three masters. I serve our clients, I serve our shareholders and I serve our employees. All three of those have to get a good deal from working at whatever organization it is I’m leading and I just take a lot of satisfaction when serving all three well,” said Peter Everett, CEO, NextHealth Technologies. Another highlight is just helping a company find its voice and then get everyone aligned around it.”  

Aligning its team positioned Beacon Healthcare Systems to win major clients in Puerto Rico, Highmark Health, Independence Blue Cross and a national account that CEO Ken Stockman said enabled him to do much more as CEO, notably bringing in a wider range of senior executives.  

“They are so talented, so experienced and so credible. That they were willing to sign up for this journey to help me build the company, that is something I am proud of and super humbled by,” Stockman added. Stockman also credited the account management team for achieving a 98 percent customer renewal rate in 2020. “Anytime, as CEO, you look at your team and they can renew basically 100 percent of clients, you know you are doing something right.”  

Lark Health CEO Julia Hu also highlighted the team for developing an artificial intelligence platform that delivers comparable outcomes as nurses and health coaches at a lower cost.  

“I am most proud of their belief and fortitude in a pretty crazy idea eight years ago that was: If we worked hard enough, we could one day build AI-enabled coaching to extend and add to the army of current nurses and coaches such that millions of people could access the level of personalized care that I had while navigating my own chronic condition,” Hu added. “The team was so patient and dedicated as we spent nearly six years in R&D and training the AI on more than one million members — because we were so stubborn and crazy.” 

Also in the Innovation Lab series: 6 innovator CEOs share insights that steer their careers  

Building a “world-class” team to effectively apply machine learning to health care is a point of pride for Zeeshan Syed as well. The Health at Scale Founder and CEO said the team has deep expertise in machine learning, software engineering, medicine and health care 

“I am very pleased with the fact that we have taken a discipline and been able to demonstrate use cases that are very forward looking, such as how health care should be delivered with precision and focus on outcomes. I think it is a big win for us to re-imagine health care as something that is truly smart, integrated and outcomes-based,” Syed said. “I feel very proud of the fact that we have been able to move machine learning toward deployments where we are now being used by populations in production settings. And we are able to deliver real impact to drive real results.”  

For Apervita CEO Kevin Hutchinson, pride comes from assembling great teams and then developing people to reach their full potential. Hutchinson stays in touch with people on all the teams he has worked with, dating back to his IBM days when he first got out of school.  

A point of pride is that many past team members are senior leaders in other companies,” Hutchinson said. We were all in health care when digital health was not cool, everyone was saying we’re not going to use EHRs, we use faxes to share patient data and why write a prescription in a computer when paper is faster? It’s been great to see those people evolve and make a real impact in improving health care.”  

Homepage photo by Shridhar Gupta via Unsplash.