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"Don’t focus on competition, focus on your customer"
Through a connected device and mobile app that uses AI, behavioral science, and personalized digital coaching to drive lifestyle changes, Hello Heart empowers people to embrace healthier behavior, which can reduce the risks of high blood pressure and heart disease. Under her leadership, the company has grown to 130+ employees, dozens of Fortune 500 clients, and covers more than 1.6 million members.
Cohen is an experienced strategy and consumer behavior specialist. In her previous position, she ran the consumer goods and retail practice in a leading management consulting ﬁrm. She managed several successful new-product launch projects for industry leaders like Hyundai, Nestle and American Express.
Cohen holds a B.S. in Biotech and an MBA.
Companies I've founded or co-founded:
I’m the CEO and co-founder of Hello Heart, a digital therapeutic that empowers people to understand and improve their heart health. We are the only digital therapeutics company to focus exclusively on heart health.
Companies I work or worked for:
I started my professional career in the Israeli Army as a tank and mortar platoon sergeant, where I commanded an all-male group. During my university years, I worked in a non-profit and managed “big brother” projects helping children without positive role models find their way in the world. Then, I moved to the business world and worked in management consulting, specializing in strategy and consumer behavior. I started as an analyst and finished as their head of Consumer Goods and Retail practice. It was the best hands-on business school imaginable – I was able to work on new product launches and aspiring growth projects for industry leaders like Hyundai, Nestle, and American Express.
Company exits (of companies you founded):
Hopefully an IPO in the future, but not yet!
Achievements (products built, personal awards won):
Hello Heart has been named one of the best employer wellness and prevention solutions by UCSF’s Digital Health Awards and recognized as Most Innovative Digital Health Startup by CB Insights' annual ranking of the 150 most promising digital health startups in the world. The company has raised $138M to date from the best digital health VCs in the US, and is a member of the American Heart Association’s Innovators’ Network. We are excited to have most recently received a 2022 Health Value Award for Digital Health by Validation Institute.
Additionally, Hello Heart’s app has shown the highest engagement rate in the category, with sustained long-term app engagement. A study recently published in JAMA Network Open analyzed data from over 28,000 Hello Heart users to show whether engagement with a hypertension self-management program and blood pressure monitor connected to an app with digital coaching was associated with blood pressure control during a 3 year follow-up period. One year post-enrollment, reduced median systolic blood pressure was observed in over 85% of users who had Stage 2 hypertension at baseline. Greater engagement with the app was associated with lower systolic blood pressure over time. Validation Institute also certified a report validating Hello Heart’s cost savings, demonstrating a reduction of total employer medical spend by an average of $1,865 per participant in the first year.
My favorite startups:
I’m most inspired by companies that are market changers, those that revolutionized the way we live our lives, making life easier and better. For example, Netflix changed the way we consume media and personally allowed me to be able to watch shows I love at times that work for my schedule. Similarly, Amazon disrupted the way we buy pretty much everything, allowing consumers to receive (almost) anything we want and need instantly. These companies are not startups today, but it’s inspiring to see how they truly changed our world. They both also have a strong feedback culture that encourages people to speak up so we can all do a better job. That is a key principle for innovation.
Why did you start your company or why do you want to innovate inside your company?
I needed Hello Heart, myself. After supporting a loved one through a cancer diagnosis, I identified the real need for a solution for people to understand and improve their health, especially within a fragmented healthcare system that makes it near-impossible for patients to understand and be deeply involved in their health. When I came to the US/Silicon Valley, I knew that I had the personal experience needed to insightfully develop a digital solution to help others living with chronic conditions. Knowing that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, I founded Hello Heart in 2013 to help people better understand and manage their heart health in a connected, digital medium, as opposed to the traditionally fragmented, antiquated healthcare silos.
What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
It’s the loneliest job in the world, and if you’re building something really innovative, everyone will tell you you are wrong or that it is impossible - especially in the early days. So, the lows tend to be very lonely, but it’s important that you don’t drag your team into the lows – you need to get back out there and make things work! Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, describes this as “the struggle.” I would say the highs are when you see that your vision everyone thought was impossible actually comes to life, when you hear from a user that your solution is life-changing for them, and when you see the team working together to build on the vision and make it a reality.
What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs/innovators make?
Don’t focus on competition, focus on your customer. You can beat any competitor – big, small, better funded – if you provide more value to your customer. It doesn't matter what they do, it only matters that you provide a better product with high, meaningful value to the customer you are trying to serve. Don’t forget why you started the company and who you are serving!
What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
- Rule number one (relevant today more than ever…) is don't run out of money. Raise funds on time, and plan ahead to avoid overspending while keeping healthy buffers. You and your company need to always be prepared for market surprises, product surprises, and funding surprises.
- Rule number two is to find a problem you are passionate about - there will be ups and downs, and the meaning behind the work will get you through the downtimes.
- Rule number three is to surround yourself with people with a strong mindset and high ambitions who will challenge you. You don't need five "yous" on your leadership team; you need five diverse professionals to round out your collective POV.
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