Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it takes a village to create change.
Today’s entrepreneur is Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity, a Life and Health InsurTech provider that offers a digital holistic well-being platform for insurers and employers using AI, gamification, and habit-coaching behavioral economics to support healthy lifestyle engagement.
Optimity’s technology solution personalizes their mobile app for users through dynamic health and wealth risk assessments and can educate and support members on healthy activities, financial best practices, and lifestyle choices to hit their goals.
Prior to Optimity, Jane created innovative new "FICO scores" for banks and healthcare organizations. She also spent a decade in global clinical trials. Her trials focused on maximizing adherence and performing dynamic risk scoring using software for patients in North America, Asia, and the EU. Jane holds an MBA from Ivey Business School at Western University and a B.S. in Biochemistry from McGill University.
Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?
I was always driven by impact and good at managing highly-skilled teams to achieve health outcomes and goals (for example in hospital systems and big pharma); however, after I lost my mom in 2011 I became obsessed with the concept of preventive health (instead of sick care). This passion drove me towards a very ambitious goal of making a difference in the quality of life and longevity of billions of people. After testing various ways to make this goal possible, and to achieve this in my lifetime, I committed to becoming an entrepreneur focused on creating a proactive holistic health ecosystem, with amazing people who are passionate about the same goals.
What are your favorite startups?
Shopify: They bootstrapped for 9 years! Then grew with rocket fuel. Love their founders' grit. Three areas they excelled: (1) not raising too much money too quickly, (2) focus on metrics that matter, making a business that works, and a repeatable business model, and (3) maintaining control of the business and sticking to keeping their vision
Spotify: They published their company culture for their teams! Love their tech structure and product practices. They did best at: (1) quickly iterating on the product based on feedback, (2) testing constantly and validating their hypothesis externally based on data, and (3) innovating on product teams to implement pod structure, making their teams very efficient and happy!
Netflix: Great product and values their people. Love how they adopted unique hiring and compensation structures to show their meritocratic values. Netflix’s unique advantages are: (1) the best hiring practices and only takes the best people (see "hiring only fully-formed adults"), (2) implementing great internal tools to help coaching, goal setting, investing in your own employees and helping them grow and become more bought in, and (3) keeping the team lean, compensation and hiring models, and not hiring tons of people when one could do the best job.
Why did you start your current company?
My mom passed away abruptly at 52 due to late cancer detection, while I was working on early detection health studies and prevention of cancer. The irony and loss of meaning forced me to think deeply about why this tragedy happened and is still happening to millions of people around the world, every day. It drove me to ponder a sustainable solution that could have a long-term systematic impact. Along with this exploration and journey, I found many kindred spirits who shared the same vision of proactive holistic health, disease prevention using technology, and continuous risk scoring, so our Optimity community grew. These brilliant people contributed to Optimity as employees, clients, and investors; they often bring other like-minded, passionate people too. I'm blessed to be surrounded by these talented people, who are so supportive, creative and persistent in finding ways to make Optimity a success and deliver a sustainable solution that helps billions of people improve their longevity and quality of life. My mom would be very proud of what I started.
What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
Frustrating: Innovation always take longer than planned and any talks of data will trigger lots of alarms. Thankfully, since now we have 5 years of experience working with insurance companies, my team is good at being proactive about helping our clients with their road-blocks and offering everything from legal-language, product filing-support, and education about HIPAA. It takes a village to create change, I'm glad our village has a lot of patient and smart people.
Rewarding: People! I can't even count how many amazing people I met through this whole journey. The good definitely outweighs the bad, especially since I love sincere, kind, and effective people. Health outcomes, data analytics, and the insurance industry are abundant with this archetype of people. They go out of their way to make things happen and I'm often surprised by their generosity and creativity to push innovation/entrepreneurship forward! Thank you for all the weekend calls, white-board brains storms, creating events, sponsoring knowledge-sharing, and feeding us as entrepreneurs (both intellectually with knowledge from your decades of experience, and physically with healthy food!) <3 for all the amazing clients who have fed me personally; you know who you are! Thank you!
What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?
Not asking for help. It takes a village to create something that improves the world, I learned that. Highly effective and capable as you are... you need help, a lot of it.
What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
Not asking for help when I needed it. Especially externally around fundraising. This is where I'm always too shy to ask for help. I tend to only take money when offered; however, as we are heading into a significant round in our next raise, I know how important it will be to ask for help.
There is no such thing as Behavior Change! :o I know, it's shocking for someone in health tech, but the truth is that data show humans don't truly do 180-degree changes long-term. It also shows that people who envision themselves as healthy will morph and learn, so the concept of behavior amplification is very alive and real. If you have 2 people, both overweight, if one thinks they are just born bigger and that their diet doesn't contribute to their size, it'll be very hard for that person to change their eating behaviors in the long term. If the other finds it interesting or desirable to eat better (even if they currently don't), then that person if given tools/education/accountability will eat better.
Unit economics are important! We have seen a lot of businesses (great founders, great product) die in the last 5 years. It is worthwhile to build a business that makes money and creates value for the whole ecosystem. Health is especially like that. There are many players, it is essential that everyone wins. We spent a lot of effort in creating an ecosystem that helps carriers, employers, members, and our partners (e.g. blood clinics, pharmacies, health coaches, and mental health support providers) all win in our universe of proactive holistic health. We drive business to them, and deliver health and happiness to our members! Unit economics matter for everyone involved.
What does Optimity mean to you personally?
A fun way to deliver more years of happy and healthy living to billions of people, cost-effectively and sustainably.
How do you envision corporate wellness changing if you reach substantial market share?
Corporate wellness in the Optimity universe is a table stake. It will be holistic and should be weaved into core benefits and job design. We see it delivering more productive hours of work for all the star employees, and helping the employers shrink their health claims and disability-related bills.
What is the biggest challenge to making corporate wellness work?
Most wellness programs don't get enough participation and there aren't enough solutions focused on prevention. Wellness is sometimes a checkbox for employers, so they are under-investing, not getting enough adoption by their employee base and therefore, they do not get any ROI as a result.
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