Smart, young, talented, and very much not bro-tastic.
Business news these days is overwhelmingly depressing. But yesterday I had a chance to speak with five leaders of extraordinary NewCos, the kinds of companies that restore your faith in the role business can play in the world. For today’s column, I thought I’d introduce them to you as well.
Sean Duffy runs Omada Health, a late stage digital therapeutics company focused on addressing our nation’s obesity and diabetes crisis. The company has raised more than $135 million and is a standout in a complex and crowded digital healthcare space. I interviewed Duffy, along with four other entrepreneurs, at Comcast’s Millennial Tech and Change Summit in San Francisco yesterday. Omada is Duffy’s first startup, and as with every new company, it’s had its challenges. But Omada is now charting its own course, and helping hundreds of thousands of people change their lifestyle and beat chronic disease. The concept behind the platform scales to the size of the problem — which is massive.
The ability to scale to the size of the problem was central to a panel I moderated following my conversation with Duffy. Four inspirational leaders joined me, each with an earlier stage startup focused on addressing a seemingly intractable social challenge.
Cat Perez is co-founder of HealthSherpa, which helps consumers navigate the maze of regulations surrounding identifying and signing up for healthcare under the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Her company has already helped more than one million people access the healthcare system. Komal Ahmad is founder of Copia, a public benefit corporation focused on using software and logistics to solve the “dumbest problem around” — the fact that we waste far more food than required to feed our most vulnerable citizens. Copia has already delivered more than one million meals and is a growing platform for businesses of all kinds who otherwise toss the excess food from their corporate catering or institutional cafeteria programs.
I also met Maia Bittner, the founder of Pinch, a financial services platform focused on the lowest income bracket of Americans. Pinch’s first product helps renters get credit for paying their rent on time, which in turn helps them build credit and a more stable financial future. Pinch has plans to extend its offerings well beyond rent payment. Lastly, I spoke with Ysiad Ferreiras, COO of Hustle, a SMS platform that delivers non profit and political organizations an efficient communications suite — via text message — that includes customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics. Hustle has grown to more than $5mm in revenue in just two years, but the company won’t work with clients it feels contravene its core values — which include LGBTQ rights. So yes, Trump’s campaign asked to use Hustle, and no, the company didn’t allow them to.
What was remarkable about this group was that of the five companies represented, only one leader was a white man. And all five are deeply mission driven, each addressing a major social problem. To review:
- Omada Health focuses on putting all consumers on a path to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes.
- HealthSherpa wants to make it easy and affordable to secure basic healthcare for all.
- Copia’s mission is to eradicate the scourge of hunger and waste that plagues the wealthiest nation in the world.
- Pinch’s goal is to secure financial stability for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
- And Hustle is enabling progressive candidates and non profits to efficiently get out the vote and express their points of view.
Each of these companies is venture backed and for profit. But they are also all focused on missions that go beyond mercenary or financial goals. They’re thriving reminders of the good that business can create in the world. And they are proof that the startup world can move past the culture of “bros” to a culture of inclusiveness and true problem solving.