Each year, Rock Health brings together over 100 digital health CEOs for candid, behind-the-scenes conversations on how to build a successful digital health business. For the 2021 Digital Health CEO Summit, co-hosted with Venture Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, we were joined by a diverse group of CEOs whose organizational growth stages ranged from pre-seed to successful exits. . Discussions focused on topics such as pitching, go-to-market, inclusive hiring practices, and navigating times of uncertainty. In this intimate setting, CEOs shared honest and valuable insights into their experiences in transforming healthcare.
Below are some of the takeaways from time spent together:
1. Relationships drive results
Surrounding yourself with the right people, including your team, investors, mentors and champions, is integral to long-term success. A key theme emerged from several anecdotes around relationship building and, more importantly, relationship management. Never miss an opportunity to meet people in any setting because you never know where (or who) your next investor or partner might be.
“Fundraising is always a relationship game. Make sure you build those relationships long before it’s time to search for investors.
The founders recommended playing long term when it comes to networking – and doing it without an agenda and off raises – to make sure you’ve established trust with real interactions long before you have a specific request. And be sure to use that time to find the right partners who have capabilities that can propel your organization in particular, with all of its unique needs and aspirations. Beyond external relationships, the founders also shared that building and nurturing a great team that embraces your mission is the only way to be successful. After all, you can’t do it alone and you are only as good as the people around you. Finally, when all is said and done, pay it forward: spend time putting new founders in touch with your connections who might be interested in their business idea.
2. Run towards the fire
It’s human nature to avoid pain, loss, and struggle, so it’s probably fair to say that the majority of people don’t start or research the most difficult part of a project. But there you have it, that’s exactly what the founders who spoke this year emphasized that we should all be doing:
“Allow yourself to spend the most time on the most difficult, difficult problem. Start there first.
Their lessons were succinct: don’t be afraid of failure, don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. And in the meantime, don’t forget to look at these challenges from different angles and perspectives, which is especially important in the digital health space. Learning to face the problem allows us not to run away from it and to better prepare ourselves to move forward through all the trials and tribulations that accompany the life of a startup.
3. Be honest with yourself
Many of our attendees expressed how lonely the job of Founder or CEO is and how difficult it is to find a space to really check on the constant pitch, direction, planning and strategy development. It was gratifying to hear that this year’s CEO Summit provided this outlet through open and honest conversations and shared experiences. Many participants recognized the value of peer relationships, honest conversations and shared learning.
“I haven’t received any venture capital funding yet, which can be very lonely. Events like this really help people like me – I feel like I have a community to go to when I’m in trouble.
We are so grateful to all of the digital health CEOs who joined this year’s event and are already looking forward to next year’s CEO Summit on March 16, 2022 in San Francisco. For more information on participation or sponsorship, contact us.
Finally, a special thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors: Fenwick, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Ogilvy and JP Morgan; and our co-host, Venture Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, powered by The Wharton School! We deeply appreciate your commitment to the digital health community.