Startup Teams: DynamiCare Health

Kristin Karaoglu · May 30, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4e10

If you're young and scrappy, try to find a leading expert in the field to partner with

This week's startup teams profile is DynamiCare Health. DynamiCare Health is a digital platform that helps people monitor and reduce the use of drugs, opioids, alcohol, and tobacco by empowering people to perform substance tests through their app anytime, anywhere, through connected breath and saliva tests verified by selfie video.

DynamiCare Health was founded in 2016 by Eric Gastfriend, Harvard MBA tech executive, and his father, David Gastfriend MD, an international expert in addiction psychiatry. Together they have raised funding, built a growing team, and built the product, which is now being used by treatment programs, academic research institutions, and health plans across the U.S.

Prior to DynamiCare Health, Eric was the General Manager of Happy Cloud, a cloud gaming startup, where he oversaw software development and business development, licensing its proprietary technology to large game publishers such as Warner Bros. Eric is currently the CEO of DynamiCare Health. Read more about Eric: Today's Entrepreneur: Eric Gastfriend

Eric holds an MBA from Harvard University and an International Relations degree from Brown University.

David Gastfriend, MD, is the co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of DynamiCare Health. Prior to that, he was the CEO of the Treatment Research Institute, Vice President of Scientific Communications at the pharmaceutical company Alkermes, and Director of the Addiction Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. On the Harvard Medical School faculty for 25 years, he has over 150 scientific publications on addiction and has advised the federal governments of the USA, China, and Russia.

David Gastfriend has a holds a BS in Chemistry from Haverford College and Medical degree from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

VatorNews: How did your company come together?

David: Eric came to me frustrated with the addiction treatment system, and asked me why relapse rates are so high. I told him that we have effective, evidence-based treatments -- as effective as any in modern medicine -- but that some of them never even get used. For example, Contingency Management -- paying people for health -- using positive reinforcement to reward people for staying sober -- works in study after study, but nobody will use it. It’s too complicated and requires too much effort. Eric said, “but don’t people realize that you could automate the whole thing?” That’s when my jaw hit the floor. I said, “if you could do that, you could revolutionize this whole field.”

Eric: I ran a tech startup before business school, so after graduating with my MBA, I decided to start a new company that would have more social impact. I was deeply concerned about the opioid epidemic, especially thinking about friends and family members who have struggled with addiction. When I found out that addiction research had shown what works, but that the field had not adopted these techniques yet, I thought that applying my tech and business background to the problem could make a huge impact.

VatorNews: What are the complementary skills you each bring to the table?

David: I’m an addiction psychiatrist, and I’ve led addiction research at Mass General Hospital, a biotech company, and a research institute.

Eric: My dad is the expert in addiction psychiatry, so he oversees the clinical and research aspects of the company, and I run the business and tech side. I was General Manager of Happy Cloud, a cloud gaming startup, for 3 years, which put me in the driver's seat of getting a startup off the ground, and taught me a lot about gamification that I now apply to DynamiCare. By bringing together my background in tech startups and my father’s expertise in addiction psychiatry, we believed we could transform the field of addiction treatment.

VatorNews: What are the characteristics/qualities you look for in a founding partner? 

Eric: Complementarity. In the case of me and my father, he's the experienced one, and I'm the scrappy one. We also have complementary skill sets, without too much overlap. This means that as a founding team we can oversee most aspects of running the business.

VatorNews: How do you make sure you don't get on each other's nerves?

David: We have a lot of experience working together -- Eric started working for me on projects related to addiction starting when he was 13.

Eric: My father and I have similar cognitive styles, but very different domains of expertise. It's clear to us who is in charge of what. I respect his expertise on questions of how to communicate with the addiction treatment field, and he respects my experience on issues like fundraising.

VatorNews: What are some lessons learned about working together?

Eric: It helps to have a mutually-trusted 3rd party who can help resolve areas of disagreement or tension.

David: In our case, that person is Dr. Paul Earley, our VP of Medical Affairs, who is both an addiction expert and a tech entrepreneur, so he understands both of our perspectives.

VatorNews: What's your advice about teams and founding partners to entrepreneurs looking to start a company?

Eric: If you're young and scrappy, try to find a leading expert in the field to partner with. DynamiCare would not be possible without having someone like my father on board.

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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DynamiCare Health is a digital platform that helps people monitor and reduce the use of drugs, opioids, alcohol, and tobacco. DynamiCare empowers people to perform substance tests through our app anytime, anywhere, through connected breath and saliva tests verified by selfie video. The app can also track treatment attendance using GPS, creating accountability and encouragement. Family members, employers, and health plans can leverage financial support through our platform as rewards for healthy behavior. The platform automates an evidence-based methodology that has been demonstrated to be effective in over 100 randomized controlled trials. DynamiCare Health was founded in 2016 by Eric Gastfriend, Harvard MBA tech executive, and his father, David Gastfriend MD, an international expert in addiction psychiatry.

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David Gastfriend

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Chief Medical Officer at DynamiCare Health
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Eric Gastfriend

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Founder & CEO at DynamiCare Health

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