Bringing avatars to telemedicine

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I am fascinated by what today’s guest has done. He essentially created the first Siri in the early days of voice interaction.

Today, Adam Odessky is the founder of Sensely, a character-based Enterprise Virtual Assistant Platform.

We’ll find out how he did it and how COVID helped build this business.

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Adam Odessky

Adam Odessky

Sensely

Adam Odessky is the founder of Sensely, a character-based Enterprise Virtual Assistant Platform.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs and tell their stories for an audience of other entrepreneurs. And, one of the things that people would notice about me is I pry sometimes people’s personal lives. Adam, are you a little nervous that I might ask you about your background, your time childhood and your relationships?

You seem okay with it.

Adam: it’s all out in the open. Anyway, if I guess you could do enough Google searches, that’s fine.

Andrew: No. And I just spent, um, I spent a few days talking to a past guests, media relations person about how I got into personal stories that it didn’t feel comfortable with. I intentionally I don’t try to do it where I go beyond, but I, I do sometimes go into people’s personal lives and I promise I’m not going to ask you about stuff like.

I dunno, nothing too personal, but I have learned a few skills about how to get personal with people. Unbound sponsored me. They said, Andrew, we just want to throw money at you. Just say the word Unbounce. We’ll give you money. Do whatever you want. I said, you don’t want me to use your, your landing page software or anything.

They said, just do whatever you want. I said, great. I’m going to write out some of the things I learned about how to get people to be open and conversation to have meeting in depth and conversations. How about you just create a landing page. They said, great. We’ll create the whole thing for you. So if you want to know some of the techniques that I use to have conversations that go deep, even with strangers like Adam, who never saw me before, and hopefully he’ll, he’ll, uh, enjoy this conversation.

If you want to know how I do this stuff, go to unbounce.com/mixergy unbounced.com/mixergy. I’m thankful to them for sponsoring. And in this interview, we’re going to ask, uh, Adam a dusky, not personal information about his life, but, um, I might ask a little bit, I’m fascinated by what Adam’s done. Adams who worked for a company called tell me networks, this is one of the original, like Siri by phone.

You would dial it up. And this thing would read, emailed to you. Am I right? Adam was fricking ahead of its time. Sorry.

Adam: That was actually the first application that I ever built out of college. Not even telling you. Yeah. So I think my, my little claim to saying, and I don’t know if it’s a true claim to fame, but I interactive voice response to this market were telling me play. It was in the very early days. Um, there was a lot of other groups doing this type of voice, you know, interacted with as process knowledge is one of the first companies I worked for.

Oracle had a voice lab in Chicago, actually in a Cirrus tower called the Willis tower now. And this is where we experimented with these types of voice applications. The first application that we ever built. Over the phone. And this was like, uh, I think year, 2000 or something like that was access to email.

So somebody, a big executive can drive from his house. That was the first request that the use case dry, I have a long commute to my house. I get stuck in traffic. I just want to drive. And I want to listen to my emails being read to me. Cause I have so many of them in the morning. And that was sort of the Genesis of this kind of voice access, uh, email.

Andrew: to people who’ve done that and they paid for that. Right? Wasn’t it a paid service?

Adam: Yeah. Yeah, it was fine. I was part of a suite, but yeah, it was included in there.

Andrew: Killer stuff. You were part of that. What I’m fascinated by is that whole tell me experience. I want to know a little bit about that. And I also want to find out about your current company Sensely I went to Sensely what’s the URL sense dot Lee, right? Dot L Y

Adam: But a lie or essentially.com.

Andrew: I see this, um, I know you might not want, what do you want me to call our virtual health assistant? She was like a nurse, but she was a mechanical nurse, like a robot, like type of thing. It was an, I don’t know, a bot. And I, she said, what are you feeling today? So I typed in just some random thing and then she responded anyway, that’s his business.

The company is called Sensely Adam Odeski is here to talk about how he built it, how he’s getting customers for it. And, uh, probably to try to get me to not ask him about his revenue, but I am curious about how well this business is doing and we could do it. Uh, actually, you know what. Thanks to two sponsors.

The first was Unbounced. I mentioned the second is whole, or I’ll talk about them later, but Adam, let me ask you this. As a first question, I go to the site, I type in, she says, what’s what are your symptoms? I said, headache. She immediately jumps into let’s check to see if you have COVID. Can we go through a list of questions?

Why jumped the COVID right away? It could be a headache. My kids or my wife are giving me a hard time. Why jump to that?

Adam: Yeah. Yeah, it was, uh, one of the biggest traffic jams or the biggest sort of, uh, uh, spikes in our usage that we experiences right after COVID started becoming more prevalent. Uh, and many, like a large percentage of people started using sensory and the symptom tracker to check about COVID. So a decision was made to basically let’s make this.

As easy as possible. And let’s also create awareness for these symptoms, uh, in a, in a way that makes the most sense to the community. Um, so we put in like a COVID branch into the conversation just to let people know, Hey, this could be COVID, you should really check this out because if you have this pattern of symptoms, then Hey, let’s, let’s get you isolated and let’s get you to take a test, whatever it is.

Andrew: uh, you noticed that COVID

Adam: capture as many people as possible that we can, that we have access to. Uh, with these types of symptoms, uh, and really kind of try to help the community that can, the various communities that we serve in this kind of way.

Andrew: There’s the people who are coming in and that COVID was an issue. And you said, you know, let’s have our system bias towards at least. Right.

Adam: that’s right. We want it to let people know, uh, it was, it was part educational part, sort of a kind of let’s capture the, as much of this population as possible if they do in fact have COVID. And so.

Andrew: most people not be going onto the sensory website in order to do what I did. I was just demoing it for myself. Most people will be customers of say Kaiser Permanente, the insurance company that also owns hospitals. Right.

Adam: Yeah, it would be one of those, or it’d be the national health service in the UK. If you, of the insurance companies around the world, like Allianz or Hatcher. And

Andrew: your customers and their clients, their insured members are the ones who would be using this chat experience. And so what would they go to maybe a Kaiser Permanente or their insurance company’s website, and then see a little chat bot that pops up and that’s how they interact.

Adam: Yeah, it depends on the company and how they deployed this virtual nurse or virtual assistant to their membership. So some of it’s through insight and half, some of it is on a website. Some of it is inside of like a chat bot, a service, uh, that they may be promoting. Uh, some of it can be using the, the app directly, but it’s, it’s primarily white label, as you mentioned, like a B2B to C.

So we sell, uh, where we provide the service to primarily, you know, large health organizations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies around the world, and then they make it available via their own channels or their own, uh, you know, digital assets to their members.

Andrew: because if they could diagnose something without sending the person to a nurse or bring them into a hospital, they saved money. And if they could diagnose something earlier than they saved money, my right.

Adam: Close. Yeah. I mean, we don’t actually do the final diagnosis. Um, I think that’s kind of a, a risky proposition to be able to Dallas, uh, download somebody’s, uh, something like super correctly without a human being present or, or human evaluation. The primary purpose of these systems is to do what’s called steering, right?

To navigate these patients to the right care at the right time, perhaps, you know, with various insurance companies at the right, at the right level of cost. And so if you look at the national health service, for example, what we’re doing there is. Basically shifting people away from high cost services, that those patients don’t really need, like emergency rooms, perhaps some doctor’s appointments until lower cost service.

And they can resolve their issues faster, like telemedicine, urgent care, self care, et cetera. So the idea is to basically shift away from those higher cost services and save money along the way.

Andrew: okay. I kind of wish that one medical, I love one medical. Do you know them? You pay like a couple hundred bucks a month and then you get to see a doctor whenever you want to. You do telemedicine. You do chat-based medicine. If you go into their office, they’re never late. They have great wifi. I just, they have so many different options.

I never know which one to pick. And then if I pick the wrong one, then they sometimes will tell me, well, you should actually come into the office for this. It’s weird. Um, and that’s what you’re trying to do.

Adam: They’re able to offer that service at a really great price by being, by being able to offer a lot of this, these types of automated tools to give you peace of mind, to make you feel pronounced, secure. But obviously if we detect something or if they detect something that, you know, they need to see to see you for, they’ll obviously make the, that, uh, you know, doctor, nurse available very quickly.

Andrew: you told her producer that it’s your work in these previous companies, like, tell me where you said. I think we could be more empathic. We could actually add an avatar. What do you mean? What did you, can you make an example of something that you noticed that one of these bigger companies that you worked for that made you have a better vision of how these chat interactions should go?

Adam: Yeah, that’s part of having the experience in these companies. It’s part technology evolution. That’s gotten to a level of kind of where we are today. But if you look at an empathetic conversations, if you look at building trust, uh, looking at, you know, being able to be convincing, uh, having that human to human contact face to face, maybe on video a little bit, probably a little bit less is very important, right?

Because you have a lot of body language, you express, you know, emotion, uh, you express different, you know, different tones of voice. So that, uh, it specifically, if you look at a doctor. A doctor patient experience like that, that side manner, that matters a lot, right? Because people want to trust their doctors.

They want to have, you know, the doctor tell them what they need to do and how to take care of themselves and how to be safe. Uh, and so as these interfaces that try to sort of mimic. That very personal experience began, began to be evolved. Now that’s when I became interested in this voice space. So having these phone-based conversations on phone was the predominant channel.

And, you know, for most of the time you can only have audio conversations via the phone before smartphone, smartphone games, but obviously audio has its inherent limitations. Uh, you’re not able to express, you know, Uh, body language. You’re not able to, you know, not or do other type of things. And so, you know, as, as video, as smartphones, as he interfaces became closer and more intimate, where you can do audio and video and imagery and everything else.

Uh, the idea was, well, how do we take this conversational interface further? How do we create more empathy using technology that, uh, become is becoming very ubiquitous and people are using more and more of like smartphones. Um, and so that’s where the idea of having an avatar sort of represent a character and call it a brand ambassador sometimes where the, uh, the, you know, the, um, the insurance company, uh, creates this kind of persona that persona.

Resembles other personas or other sort of, you know, promotional characters like Flo from progressive, right. Or the Aflac duck, you know, and the idea there is that this assistant that represents the company brand with build this emotional level relationship with you, it would show empathy. It would talk, it would listen.

We use speech recognition to understand what the, you know, the patient is trying to say. And the, you know, the people are then able to trust them more. So that’s where the idea of like using this avatar sort of germinated from, it was like, how do we, how do we get closer?

Andrew: it was just you being impersonal, but technical back, tell me, and, and efficient. And you’re thinking I want to be more emotional, but what did the idea come from? Did you say I’ve got a target health companies, or did you say that I want to find somebody who can use this more empathetic experience? What was it?

Adam: the idea of the avatar came, came first, as I was thinking of like, where do we take, um, voice technology next? What is the next iteration? And there are two paths, right? That it went down. And I think the biggest path by far is it made the self into the, you know, the Amazon echo and Google home and become, it became an assistant, you know, in your living room.

That was a great sort of leap frog leap from the phone channel being used for, you know, customer service, uh, uh, interactions. Uh, but the area that I was really fascinated is how do we make it more graspable? How, how do we make this experience more human? Like with the goal eventually like, Hey, maybe we can build a really cool robot,

Andrew: why’d you go after insurance companies though, they seem really hard.

Adam: It does. Um, well, healthcare is very, very hard in general. It’s probably the, the toughest nut to crack, especially in the U S in terms of industries to be disrupted. Um, and it’s, you know, because it requires, you know, clinical input, technical input, design input, just a lot of different people working together.

The thing about health care, though, Is that when I worked at tell me when I worked at other companies and I looked at like, here are the industries that we’re creating a lot of value for their customers or their clients really fast with these types of customer services and innovation technologies.

Healthcare was not in that. In that segment. And I was always wondering why healthcare was not there because obviously you talked to your nurse, your doctor, your health care administrator all the time. You’re always trying to kind of get help. Uh, and, and a lot of times you can get around or run around.

It’s like the perfect industry to be disrupted with these kinds of services. Um, and. You know, like I, I kind of started looking into health care and that’s when I first really started looking at the healthcare industry and try to identify what’s driving the costs, what’s driving the reimbursements, what’s driving these, these kinds of healthcare services and a lot of the initial services they had to be face-to-face that you have to go out literally and see a doctor in a facility face-to-face in order to get the service that you needed.

And so. And there are so many different workflows and tasks like that, but I said, well, this is a great space to start working in disrupting, but what’s more important as well. There is that trust element. So I partnered with, um, with a clinical, uh, with a clinical doctorate. My co-founder in the company in sincerely Dr.

Monica Schnorr and she’s been also studying avatars, but in a different way. And this in the space of virtual reality, uh, in therapy, particularly like, you know, soldiers coming back from Iraq and these types of PTSD situations. Uh, and she also noticed that when people are in this kind of virtual world with avatars.

And they’re sitting there side by side, like you would with your therapist. Um, people become, uh, much more relaxed and they’re more open and honest with how they describe their issues and the things that that’s on their mind. It’s a little bit more impersonal, but at the same time, they don’t have that same fear of judgment that you would if you’re a particularly, uh, sitting next to somebody face to face.

And that was a very important kind of insight about how these avatars can work in real life, because there is a real kind of reduction. Uh, and the fear of judgment. So people are more open and honest, meaning if it’s in a healthcare situation, you can get a lot more information and you can understand more of what they are actually seeking and how they’re feeling.

And that idea of actually creating that level of trust is like, Oh, this is perfect. Healthcare industry really needs this type of automation. And Oh, by the way, it really needs to have deeper level empathetic doctor type conversations. With his patients. So this is a great application of these kinds of technologies being put together in this way.

Andrew: So I’m trying to think of something that I wouldn’t feel comfortable just chatting over without seeing a person’s face. Is there an example that you have that you could have a issue somebody would feel better or more willing to talk about in depth if they saw an avatar?

Adam: Yeah. I mean, it’s issues that are considered to be perhaps at the various kind of base level kind of embarrassing. Uh, perhaps it’s in the STD kind of issue or some sort of, uh,

Andrew: God let’s take an STD for example. So if I’m worried that I have an STD, I would feel better going into a chat bot then to a frequently asked questions section, is that it?

Adam: well, it’s a very different, um, Those are very two different use case. So let’s put it that way. I would say you would feel probably more safe going to a non-personal source of information than a personal source of information where you have to talk to somebody pocket human and reveal to them about this STD with regards to like informational.

Source and a navigational sources, a little bit different, right? Informational sources. Sure. I can go and I can read about it. I can figure out what to do, but the way that, uh, we want it to handle things in terms of, particularly in the healthcare industry, we wanted to take action and they’re sort of the business model to take action.

And there’s an efficiency to take action. So now that I can impersonally reveal any kind of embarrassing or perhaps it’s, you know, a C know privacy related type of issue. Uh, to the chat bot, we can actually do something about that algorithmically, right? We can take you through this conversation and then we can recommend based on this interview and this or this conversation, we can recommend a very concrete, very actionable next step to get you on your way to proper treatment of that issue.

And that’s where, sort of the, that, that, that workflow, if you will, or that, that puzzle comes together.

Andrew: you know, the U S army had a chat bot long ago. And I remember reading about it. And men did not feel comfortable asking before they came into the army. Certain things like. How much underwear, how many pairs of underwear should I bring? Right. It just felt a little unmanly and childish to go and ask, but they want to know.

And that was one of the top questions being asked of the chatbot. And that’s what you’re talking about, that they wouldn’t want to talk to human being about it, but they are searching for the answer. We’re not replacing a frequently asked section, but when they want to talk without having that super personal experience, this is, this is the option that we want to

Adam: Back the frequently asked section is almost like the lead in or in vocation or having a conversation then understands more and then allows you to kind of be more precise about the outcome or the next step that you recommend.

Andrew: Okay. So that was your vision. What’s the first step you took to create it.

Adam: So we built, the first step we took was we built the actual product. And this is where I spent, you know, very early on in my career, early in my career at Sensely. I spent a lot of, uh, late night co uh, late nights coding. Uh, and, um, the idea was to actually put this avatar and the voice interface together.

Nobody’s really done that at that point in time, this was like 2014, 2015. Nobody’s put that together in a way that works great on. On mobile, one of the reasons, and this is, it gets a little geeky, is that Steve jobs basically killed the flash and the best avatars at that point in time, it’s like the, you know, the, the, the nicer side of flash where the more kind of the, the, the, you know, the kind of good reputation of a flash was that people were building really great, kind of talking characters and avatars in flash.

We couldn’t get it on mobile. And so. One of the first major challenges. The step that we took was try to get this avatar and voice and this whole experience to work on mobile so we can get a, as many scans as possible. So that’s, that’s our first step. We got the platform working. Um, and then what we built on that is basically a, an easy to use a conversational design interface.

I want the avatar to say this, this, this, and this, I want based on these answers, I want it to do a, B and C. So that was sort of the Genesis of the first. Great.

Andrew: And, and it’s like, uh, it was like a flow chart. It seems like you ask a question, you give people buttons, they press a button. It leads to another question with more buttons. Each button has its own next connection. And then if they don’t want to read it, users can actually turn on audio and hear the avatar, speak the questions to them.

Right.

Adam: That’s right. And they can also respond back with,

Andrew: I’m back. I could respond back with my voice.

Adam: they can have a full audio conversations on the wedding camp. Uh, we’re, we’re about to introduce that, but on mobile. So if you download the Sensely app, for instance, and you sign up with an account, you can actually talk to the avatar and have a back and forth conversation.

Andrew: Oh, that’s

Adam: And one of the original, uh, focus areas for us was on the elderly. And the other benefit of the, of the, of the avatar is that through our testing and that this was also very early. Once we got the avatar working, we started testing it with, uh, with the elderly and we noticed that there. Uh, their like their usage patterns in terms of how, how, how often they come back to it per day.

And what kind of things they say to it increased quite a bit from some of the other like, uh, mobile tests of other people have run. And so we thought like, Hey, this is interesting. Let’s talk, let’s talk to some of these people. And they basically, the, the overarching comment was, you know, I really like when she’s talking to me, I don’t have to read anything.

You know, I really liked the, I liked looking at her like that. She’s talking to me and you know, my kids tried to get me in these texts tabs. I don’t really like that level of, of motive conversation. Uh, this is something I can actually like use an interact with. And so our first use case based on that kind of knowledge and experience was to deploy a chronic disease monitoring service, where our interface, instead of navigating people to the right, uh, to the right level of care, based on their symptom, it would take a patient that has.

You know, congestive heart failure or COPD or diabetes, and then on their mobile device with follow up with them at a regular interval, just having conversation with them, just chatting, you know, how are you feeling today? What’s your pain level on a scale of zero to nine? Uh, you know, give me your blood to take your blood pressure for me to do stuff on a scale, we actually have connected, connected Bluetooth scale to the, to the app so they can, uh, uh, automatically read their information.

And then. That information just started flowing to us and then ultimately to, uh, to our clients, which use started using nursing teams to like just monitor these patients. And so that became our first deployment and this was what we deployed this first Anheuser. We then deployed it to other hospitals around the world was actually monitoring these kinds of patients from

Andrew: about, um, before we continue, I’m curious about how you even got them. How’d you get your first customer? It feels like these are super enterprise customers, like really tough to get into more involved sales process. What’s the first one. And how’d you get them to work with you?

Adam: Yeah, it was a, it was a lot of, kind of very early on a lot of frolicking D or so similar to fundraising. Right? The sales was more ad hoc. And, you know, San Francisco and Bayer in particular have a great, you know, a digital health community has a great, you know, medical community in general, UCLA, Stanford medicine, uh, Kaiser, et cetera.

Uh, and you know, back in those days we just had a lot of meetups. So I would meet people, you know, from various institutions we would do.

Andrew: The healthcare meetup.

Adam: Yeah, there were a bunch of these healthcare meetups there’s health 2.0, which was kind of a larger meetup. Uh, we had, um, um, you know, various, uh, kind of small group activity activity, type of things, getting together at conferences and like pitching to investors, things like that.

And eventually there’s. A few things bubbled up. I started meeting some of UCF professors. I started meeting some Kaiser people and started telling them about what we do. Actually. One of our first deployments was in the, uh, Santa Clara medical center. And I met the person through the meetups and said, Hey, there’s a great, there’s a guy that I really would use it.

So it was very personal kind of relationships and just. Kind of, uh, networking very early on before we could really prove the value because even adapting these cases, like we had the platform, but we need to adapt, um, the services to, you know, support heart failure, diabetes, or whatever it is. And so that took a lot of collaboration before broader product was, was formed.

Andrew: Okay. And so the first were they the first customers or the first deployment they were, they signed up and started working with you because of this introduced. I thought it was the NIH. That was the first one. It wasn’t, it was more local than that.

Adam: There’s certain things that are public, not public. I think they UCF relationship. We had a very early on relationship with them that, that that’s public, uh, primarily due to various PR teams like as risk tolerances. Um, the NHS, I would say was our second largest biggest customer. So Kaiser would probably first NHS, uh, which is the national health system of the UK.

Uh, they’re the ones that really started focusing on this idea of. Patient navigation. Uh, they call it triage, right? Uh, where get a digital technology over to the patient, make sure the patient before they book an appointment, do this conversation with the patient. And then only offer them the appointment if it’s needed

Andrew: That’s what they

Adam: very sort of single payer system, way of thinking about it.

You wouldn’t, you would not get away with this in the U S but the idea is that are like, Hey, we don’t have people have to have to wait six weeks or more for these primary care appointments. How do we manage the flow and how do we manage the traffic in a better way? So we essentially become a healthcare traffic cop.

Andrew: And so they were wait, they already had a human being doing this and you were able to offer them an alternative. Is that right?

Adam: They have a service what’s called a one, one, one

Andrew: Okay.

Adam: a. And the one, one, one is a telephone line that you call one-on-one and a nurse answers. The phone basically does the same thing that we do over the phone. Uh, and they had, and that was a very busy service, also overflowing, uh, not very efficient. So the idea was like, how do we make the systems that we have more efficient?

Andrew: And so they, they want to make it more efficient. You sought them out. How easy was it to sell to them? What was the sales process to them?

Adam: Yeah, it was a very, very complicated, very long. Um, we sought them out. We had some, we had a partnership with McKinsey. They really liked what we were doing. So they were promoting this and the NHS is a big customer or client of, of McKinsey. So they actually got us into that NHS initially, because they were like, yeah, you guys are a systemic way to fit.

It’s the healthcare, our broken healthcare systems, you know?

Andrew: Kenzie’s being hired by health insurance and healthcare companies to help make them more efficient. And so once they know about you, this is one of the, one of the benefits that they bring their clients.

Adam: That’s right. I can make anything up about Mackenzie, but I probably don’t, but yeah, exactly. This is something that will just create this techno it was the technological efficiency rather than, you know, operational efficiency. Let’s put it that way and, um, And, and yeah, so that’s sort of the, uh, the sales process, you know, um, I guess it’s unique in a way compared to some of the other traditional insurance companies, enterprise procurement type sales processes, because this is a government system.

So there was a lot of government type of. Compliance work that we had to do, but just to have to be real located, we have to do like, you know, we have to fly over there. I don’t know how many times we flew over to the UK, maybe, uh, several, I would say less than a dozen. Um, and, uh, it took us a better part of a year, uh, and, uh, I think investment from our own kind of do the work, but we got it done.

We knew it was a huge client. We knew it was like, Hey, if we can get a system, a health system that has 50 million people, 60 million people, that’s going to really put us on the map. That’s going to be like a pivot point from which we can go forward. Like, Oh, you guys have the NHS. It means we must do.

Which means you can scale to really, really large numbers means the compliance, the clinical regulation is really solid if you work with them. So it was kind of that, that very high value reference that we’re seeking.

Andrew: imagining then your future, the way you’re thinking is, well, are you, do you want people to eventually call in to one, one, one, and then have, have it handed over to Sensely?

Adam: Um, I mean,

Andrew: Is that your future? Is that the vision?

Adam: I mean the vision of, they probably won’t even call one, one, one to begin with because their perception of what this front door or this kind of entry point. Into primary care has already been changed. And I think COVID has really accelerated that bit where people don’t necessarily think of the phone channel anymore.

They’re like, Hey, my health system or my insurance company has an app. And I know that the app has a very, very high level resources that I don’t have to cold call a phone number and wait on hold. But so we’d see that as ourselves as kind of even, um, in front of that as the front door, uh, to, to the healthcare system.

Andrew: all right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor. And then I’m going to come back and ask you a little bit about fundraising and how that worked out for you. My first, uh, sponsor for sponsor message for this interview, actually, I guess this is the second one. Unbounce was the first one second one HostGator listen, Mixergy is hosted on HostGator, super easy to host with them.

Inexpensive. It just freaking works and I’ve been using them for a long time if you’re getting started. And I know a lot of people now under COVID Adam, I asked them about my numbers. Cause I’m so obsessed. I said, HostGator are people even signing up? How’s it doing? They said under COVID people have been signing up more from your podcast.

They’re creating, they’re experimenting. They’re trying. They’re ditching. They’re trying again. They’re taken off and at times, frankly, they’re closing it up, but it doesn’t cost much money to get started with HostGator. It will scale nicely. If you’re looking to get started right now, just go do something about it.

Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. Get your website and you use that URL. You’re going to get their lowest possible price. It’s at host gator.com/mixergy. Let’s talk a little bit about fundraising. Um, I think I emailed you earlier today about the fundraising article that I read from last year where you guys brought in what?

$15 million. The first dollar in was from where

Adam: Into this, into that

Andrew: Sensely. Yeah, the first investment.

Adam: the first investment. Well, sincerely as, as a, as a concept, started in a big telecom company called orange orange, which is, uh, Canada largest telecom company

Andrew: Oh, really?

Adam: Yes.

Andrew: You were working for them.

Adam: I was working for them as a product manager, entrepreneur, entrepreneur. And so that’s where I built the initial concept.

And, um, it was really cool. It started getting these sort of customers in the U S market. And orange said, let, let’s just send you out into a separate company.

Andrew: Wow.

Adam: off. So technically orange put in sort of the initial

Andrew: so then was it, was it, it was your idea inside of orange. They have some kind of skunkworks department. They do, but it was you saying, Hey, look, here’s a big area. No, one’s focused on it. We have the expertise. Let me go and create something. See where it goes.

Adam: That’s it. Yeah,

Andrew: Ah, got it. Okay. All right. And so they put in money into it.

You start to build it out. You then start getting customers in the Bay area, even though they’re a French company where you work, where were you working?

Adam: well, that’s one of the issues that, uh, that occurred is that I was working in San Francisco. I was in there sort of a research lab slash partnership lab there, a lab that they have in San Francisco.

Andrew: Okay.

Adam: And the concept was built there. Uh, got a lot of internal attention, um, but it felt like. Like it was taking off in the U S where we were continuously getting these sorts of S U S interests.

And they didn’t an orange did kind of, since we’re like a cost center rather than a P and L they were like, well, we can’t really accept money from customers for this, because we’re not set up that way in this, in this, uh, in this world.

Andrew: mean, orange says you have to be a cost center. You don’t have, uh, w we don’t have the ability for you to collect income.

Adam: Yeah, it was, it was, it was not set up that that part of the company was not set up as a P and L it was outside the females, like a research division, uh, technically. So, uh, this was a work part where accelerators were taking off. So they started like, well, let’s, this is a really cool concept is getting interest in getting customers let’s let’s call it, excavate it. Wait you based something that’s excavated. We incubated here, let’s kind of push it out. And that’s, that was sort of me taking it out with, uh, with my co-founder, uh, we just kind of legal agreement. Um, and, uh, so the first dollar technically was in the project was with orange. The second dollar after it was a separate kind of an independent company, less from Alchemist accelerator and ultimately accelerate.

I don’t know if you know those guys. Uh, they’re they’re I think they’re one of the topics celebrators in the world. I mean, maybe number four, number five, it’s specifically focuses on enterprise enterprise companies that sell to enterprise, uh, B2B. Um, and, uh, we applied, we got in as a really cool, uh, community of companies, of mentors, advisors, et cetera.

They got, they gave us 50 K. Uh, and a bunch of, uh, lessons on how to do sales and how to build your business, et cetera. And it was a really cool way to start building the company.

Andrew: You’re not a sales background person. What did you learn about sales?

Adam: Sales is very, very hard, uh, enterprise sales, probably even harder. There’s a, there’s a huge difference between selling a consumer sort of widget type product versus selling a software solution. Uh, and actually introverts do really, really well. At long-term enterprise scales where the sales cycle is really long because sales cycles it’s like a project.

It’s not really a sales thing. You’re, you’re actually spending, this is kind of unfair, but I guess it’s the world works right the way the world works. But a lot of these, you know, B2B enterprise to enterprise sales scenarios, you’re literally spending a year of your life working with this client without getting paid because you’re meeting them.

You’re. Pitching to them. You’re introducing, you know, ideas, all those things off you’re, you’re meeting different people in the company and you have to be really conscious and aware of that. That basically you really need to believe that the reward is going to be big and scalable, and you’re going to get something out of it.

That’s why we spent this time with NHS and others. Uh, but it’s really sort of building this very methodical way of. Building credibility building your relationship, but at all levels of the organization, ultimately having them buy into the vision. What’s interesting about our company that I find very unique is that when we do enterprise sales, we actually sell to three different constituencies.

We sell to the marketing team like, Hey, you need, you can build and create this new brand ambassador. That’s going to represent sort of your brand of how, how your customers perceive you. We sell to the it team like, Hey, you’re going to be, we’re going to be inside your. Infrastructure, we’re going to be doing machine learning.

We’re going to be doing conversations. You’re going to be collecting all this amazing data. And then it’s doing the sort of the main sell to the business folks. You’re going to save my money. You’re going to, uh, you know, all these things. And so all of these different threads of the sale are extremely interesting, but also are time-consuming long.

And really you have to really have your head in the game in order to execute it.

Andrew: That would drive me freaking nuts that I have to justify everything to every one of these people. None of them has a personal upside. It’s not like they’re going to get rich if they pick you. Right. It’s just going to improve a business that they’re there to improve. So there’s more, more downside than upside for them.

Um,

Adam: you’re basically acting as their consultants.

Andrew: why do you, why do you think that it, that as an introvert, you do better with this type of sales process?

Adam: it just, the thing is you’re selling a solution. She has to really, really understand. You have to spend a lot of my time. Really trying to understand what the solution could be, that benefits, um, you know, the end client. Uh, so, and you have to have like, just a lot of patients, not something you can just talk your way into.

It has to be done very methodically over a long period of time. And that’s what we found as well. Like we had like lots of different sales guys and the scheme and the ones that like bubbled up are the ones that shows kind of be very quiet. Actually. They would kind of go to their room and do their things super methodically.

And like, and they do it really well. And it’s like, Hey, don’t, it’s like, almost like an engineer. He’s like, you see an engineer in front of their computer and they’re working like inside and they’re trying to solve their problem or build their software. And they’re in their own world. They’re very, you know, they’re very sort of, uh, into that world in a large enterprise type of client that has all of these different, you know, uh, threads and, and, uh, ways to, uh, kind of push your solution across.

It’s almost like solving just a very giant problem.

Andrew: What are some of the ways that you learn to solve that problem for your client at alchemists? What do they teach you? What’s the

Adam: Yeah. So we had, um, we had access to different mentors and different like advisors type, um, folks that would, um, that would come in and really, um, it was set up where, um, There was modules and some of the modules were around fundraising. How do you raise money? And primarily the companies were in like the seed between series, seed and series.

They are priests, some were pre-seed or their first money like us that we took in. Uh, so you would get a lot of. Education around fundraising. Cause that was the thing that most companies were concerned about. Like how do I, how do I take this to the next level of 50 Ks? All right. But this is not going to get me too far.

Um, so that was, I spent a lot of time on, on, uh, meeting various fundraising experts and, uh, getting taught that. Enterprise sales is a big part of the big module, uh, in the, uh, in our class or in our cohort, uh, where we were, you know, how do we sell? How do we target? How do we close these large?

Andrew: And you were just sitting there taking notes at this class, teaching you how to do it.

Adam: Kind of like a, uh, like an executive MBA in a way where you have these professors that have been exposed into this unique business environment, the startup communities, and they were basically taking their insights and trying to create, you know, education from it, the college education from it.

Andrew: Is there one thing, give me more that stood out for you that you learned from them about selling to enterprise. What did you learn that was in your notes that you actually used?

Adam: Um, building the relationship and creating the solution, not to your problem, but to the problem that that enterprise is having. So like what, what are, what are the metrics. That you’re trying to seek. Where, where are you not, you know, not achieving your goals with healthcare is, you know, around cost or insurance, in which particular organization, this organization, what are the resources of this organization?

So being able to really kind of like, as I said before, almost mathematically or architecturally. Be able to convince them, like, here’s how our solution will solve your, solve your problem. On a year, one year, two, year three, and these are the savings or the benefits that you’ll get in each of these years, make sure you build that story.

And that story is very clear, crisp and is defensible. And so that was one of the things and never give up persistence that was that’s sort of table stakes. Like these guys work in large organizations, they have a million things on their plate. You’re like a little fly to them. You gotta keep buzzing. You gotta keep buzzing.

Don’t give up, uh, and try to create sort of new ways for engagement or ask for new engagement.

Andrew: good way for you to engage with a

Adam: Let somebody asks, like, give me a ballpark price. I want to know what to ballpark prices for the free product. Uh, thank you very much. Would love to get on the phone with you to outline the options and also understand a little bit more about your business, what you’re trying to achieve, how you’re trying to achieve it.

Let’s set up an hour call. Uh, can I see like your API is yes, here’s our API diagram. We’d also be able to love to host a workshop with you and your engineering team and your it team in order to educate you on how to integrate our products, how to do it very quickly and easily.

Andrew: every time they even give you an opening to have a deeper conversation, take it and suggest a deeper conversation. It’s not, I want to know this number. You email it over to them. It’s let’s get on a phone and do it.

Adam: the phone, getting somebody on the phone and getting them to invite more people and getting a bigger audience. Every one of these things where they need something from you is always a way to get deeper and sort of building engagement.

Andrew: What about if they don’t reach out to you? What if they, what if they’ve kind of gone cold and you need to get a reason for them to get on a call with you?

Adam: I mean, this is where some of the messaging apps are great. You know, the traditional business culture, right? You’d email somebody. There’s no guarantee that your email is going to be returned. Um, in, um, you know, you can, you can give somebody a phone or a phone call. People find it weird. If they get a business phone call these days sort of like, Hey, let’s find this person on WhatsApp.

Let’s find this person on Facebook

Andrew: And you would do that. You would just WhatsApp them.

Adam: Yeah.

Andrew: How do you not make it weird? I I’d like to

Adam: Not anymore.

Andrew: not, it’s just, Hey, saw you on WhatsApp.

Adam: outside the U S is completely normal. You ask, you can still text them, like on their phone number that they think that, you know, that’d be okay. But yeah,

Andrew: And it’s okay to text

Adam: closer way to get to somebody without it being weird.

Andrew: I I wonder. So I’ve got a customer who, uh, bought from screw. They’re going to do dropout. It’s LinkedIn. LinkedIn did really well. Last year. I know that their numbers ended up being stronger than they expected. They actually couldn’t even satisfy all the, although, uh, orders that came in from these, from my interview, then they, they agreed to buy and they went silent and I’m listening to other podcasts.

And they’d not on there either, but I want to at least stay in touch with a woman who set up the ad. What do I do? I just like pop in on text message and what do I even say?

Adam: check if she’s on WhatsApp. Okay. Uh, just say, Hey, I

Andrew: find her even on I

Adam: WhatsApp or like text. I mean, texting is great. And I don’t think people think about it as weird anymore. It’s weird. It’s from a telemarketer, but it’s not weird when it’s more of a personal sales relationship.

Andrew: But then how do I fire it up again? Do I say, Hey, are you ready to talk? Are you ready to talk about buying from me again? That’s not the thing I would say. What, what would, what would you say if you got them on WhatsApp?

Adam: Yeah, I think you’d ask about if it’s the right time, you’d ask for it. Actually, the best way is to ask for a phone call. So you don’t just get to the WhatsApp level, but really the WhatsApp level is the next level to say, Hey, let’s talk on the phone. Let’s catch up. I want to update you on what I’ve been doing.

I want to know what your timeline looks like. I mean, what, I don’t know what you’re selling, but probably this

Andrew: ads on Mixergy, that’s all it is. We just, they happen to advertise. So it could be something like, you know, what I would, what I would think is if we suddenly had an opening because somebody dropped out and there’s a reason to do it, like that happened last week, then just send a text message and say, Hey, look, this person just dropped out.

I think we could work or if there’s someone who’s reaching out because we get lots of inbound, it’s easier on my business. People, uh, send over messages that I could send over a message. Say, Hey, this company, that’s very similar to yours. Just wanted to talk about buying an ad and they would then become our, our version of you.

Can we get on a call and talk about whether you want me to lock it down? If, whether you’re interested in holding? Cause I’d prefer to work with you.

Adam: Even if he or she doesn’t want to deal with you, what sort of value that you could offer that they will remember next time? Like, and yeah. Making an introduction is, has that been a value for sure?

Andrew: okay. All right. I like this a lot. Do you ever geek out on this?

Adam: COVID when COVID came out, right. We, we gave our COVID screening, our specialized COVID free COVID screening away for free. And it was really easy to integrate. So people would pop in this COVID screening into their website. We built a relationship with that. And then ultimately some of them, we upgraded to our full symptoms.

Andrew: Got it. So there’s something new that you’re giving away or there’s something new that’s coming up. That’s a good opportunity for you to go through and say, who else is out there that we haven’t talked to in a while we can reactivate with this

Adam: That’s right. That’s right. And with conversation, it makes it, you can slice and dice and conversations and make them very targeted, very specific. You know, COVID does not a lot of content. It’s not a huge product that, you know, some innovation there and some branching there based on symptoms, similar with vaccines now, you know, some information there.

So it’s not something that’s hard to build. It’s something you can just give it away for free as a teaser to then hopefully then they’ll integrate your product. And just for that. And then ultimately you use that channel to push additional products or.

Andrew: Adam, you said several times a year, more like of an engineer in this interview. I, I read about how in the eighties you got into Lego, you’re really into building, even as a kid. Do you now, as an adult feel like this same kind of interest in the sales part of the business, or are you still heads down thinking I want to create the software part.

I hate that I’m doing this, but it’s a price I pay for being

Adam: I mean, it’s annoying to be persistent. It’s annoying. It’s annoying to be hustling every day, depending on your mood. Right? Like sometimes you just don’t want to do it. Like, I really don’t. I don’t have the empathy to talk to this person right now or something like that. Um, but especially enterprise sales, there’s a, there’s an art and there’s definitely a science to it.

Um, and it’s like value creation at this kind of level that touches millions and millions of people that, that I find, uh, absolutely fascinating. Uh, and, and that’s also a process to be discovered, which also is like involves a lot of experimentation. So yes, it’s not, it’s not engineering, it’s not, uh, you know, um, kind of more of the tech sciences, but it is actually becoming, you know, I think Salesforce was one of the early.

Companies to start automating, not automating with start convening, making some of these sales tactics, very convenient for salespeople to be able to be able to track, to be able to follow up, et cetera. Uh, and so the, the art part of it is sticking around, but the science part of it is getting where you are.

It’s my daughter here. She,

Andrew: Hey, my kids are coming in from school too. You’re working from home.

Adam: uh, yeah, well, yeah, there’s some places like is right now. Um, but, uh, Uh, there’s almost seven, uh, they’re twins and they have a, uh, almost a year, uh, year old daughter as well.

Andrew: Wow. Are you, um, are you guys homeschooling now? No, they came back from school. It seems like.

Adam: They are still all remote at this point.

Andrew: How’s that going? What are you doing with that?

Adam: Uh, we just have them in the dining room, basically on their tablets and everybody else grow up and they do exercises. It’s a nice court. I mean, they do pretty well. I just, I, I don’t have, I don’t have a great comparison to how it would be face to face or person to person.

Uh, I think that better person to person, but it’s not a total loss, I guess that is, uh, that it’s all

Andrew: really love when we were doing the

Adam: a lot along the way as well.

Andrew: the pod was great. Hire teacher teaches two or three different. No, at the time was four different students. It was great. Then our, the private school that we were part of opened up. So we just switched into that. That was my wife’s idea. I was more into the pod.

She’s more into the private school. And so now the kids are basically out, not basically fricking outdoors the whole time, all day, even in the rain. It’s pretty cool.

Adam: cool. Yeah, they’re getting a lot of outdoor space. Now. You live in a city.

Andrew: but I want him to do, sorry.

Adam: You live in San Francisco or? Okay, cool.

Andrew: Are you here too? Um, okay. I’ll tell you what school afterwards, where, where the kids go. And it’s pretty, it’s pretty interesting, but they’re not doing math.

I’m a math person. Send my kid to do math. I want them to do math. I want them to do more, more reading and writing. Instead of that fricking climbing trees, he’s identifying mushrooms, um, like stuff like that. It’s. Seeing animals in the park. Um, let’s let me just ask you about two other things. Before we end up, before we end this conversation, there was a period there where a customer pulled out and this bone out.

And then as a result like this whole set of dominoes, talk to me about that period in your life. Let’s talk about that difficulty.

Adam: Yeah, I think it was, uh, around investment, I think is this is a story, is that yeah, not to name a particular round or, or get too deep to it. We had a lead investor essentially in one of the rounds. Uh, that almost pulled out, uh, and basically this domino effect that happened that the investor was about to commit to a follow on, sorry.

Well, if this investors are not investing, I’m not investing. And the other two investors basically said after them, we’re not investing either. So the whole thing was basically underground. Um, the sort of main lead anchor, uh, investor, and, and that was one of the more stressful kind of, uh, I think formative moments in the, in the start-ups career where we basically had to, you know, like there’s, there’s a picture of the startup person or the founder sitting by the phone begging for the phone to ring.

Andrew: Is that you, you, you told our producer, you were begging, were you literally at the verge of begging investor to put money in,

Adam: I mean, I’d have to probably analyze my language to see if it.

Andrew: but it was the Florida line enough that you’d have to analyze it.

Adam: It was definitely borderline is definitely, I was definitely felt like a little bit uneasy afterwards. I don’t know if I would do that with anybody, but yeah, it was basically kind of like, please, everybody else is here. We’re running out of money.

This whole thing is going to Trumbo. If you’re, if you’re a CEO, doesn’t, doesn’t sign this thing. And you know, like, I don’t know why he was assigning. I think it was like some, you know, some, some issues that they were having with end of the year and they needed to cut their investments and, and, you know, like any, you know, some of this bureaucratic stuff and they finally like dead.

Okay, Hey, we’ll keep push it off onto the next, we’ll push this budget onto the next quarter and we’ll be able to do it. It was very dispassionate. And then whatever.

Andrew: How much have you raised total

Adam: About 27

Andrew: 27. And then will you give me a sense of revenue right now? Or do you guys have real revenue yet?

Adam: it’s between, let’s say it’s between five and 10. And I didn’t say that.

Andrew: All right. And, and I’m guessing is, well, what do you think is the vision for the long-term for this? What are you thinking sense? Lee’s going to look like five years from now.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, we, we have always had the vision and kind of the mission of, about being kind of a global as a global health assistant, this sort of entity that serves, provides this type of front end health care to billions of people worldwide. Um, initially we thought it was gonna be a single channel, like our app.

That’s going to be like, everybody’s going to have our app in the world and we’re going to be like the Kings or whatever. Um, all we learned along the way is that the real kind of, uh, the people that, uh, or the companies really that have the close relationship to patients and our members are these insurance companies, uh, That obviously have an incentive to reduce costs and to improve outcomes, hospitals, insurance companies.

So we see the seed, our technology, our conversational technology, our avatar, our assistant technology being embedded into these end user devices, that different regions of the world, different companies in the world operate of us being sort of like the Intel inside. And so, so being that leading Intel inside health assistant platform is where we really want to be the next few years.

Andrew: In whatever their app is, they’re going to use you as that D the thing that the, that, that directs their customers to the right area.

Adam: Huh engages, uh, converses and then navigates. So yeah.

Andrew: All right. For anyone who wants to go check you out? I think that the best way for my audience to get a sense of what it, how it works is to go to actually, I would say sensely.com/product, right? Because if you’re there on the bottom right corner is, is this woman, this avatar, what’s her name? Molly. You said.

Adam: Molly. Yeah,

Andrew: I could hit play here. I’m gonna hit play. Let’s see if I can maybe not as listed below. Which one would you like to try? There you go. And there she is. And then I just pick the one that I have. Let’s say I have diabetes, I hit diabetes and then she’s going to respond back.

Adam: You.

Andrew: There you go. And then she goes right through it.

I’m going to hit mute just so we don’t get this on the mic. All right. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen by now. Everyone was listening to me, knows that my site is hosted on HostGator. And if you have a site for yourself, you should host on HostGator to go to hostgator.com/mixergy.

And if you want to hear some of the techniques, I’ve used to have a better conversations here in these interviews and away from them. I wrote this little guide. I’m kind of interested in see what people think of it. If you go to mixergy.com, no. Unbounced.com/mixergy. You’ll see that great landing page that Unbounce created for me.

And you’ll get that guide and I’m looking forward to your feedback. Thanks. Thanks Adam. Thanks everyone. Bye.

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