After creating a potentially groundbreaking solution, two founders weren’t sure whom to sell it to.
4 min read
When Gil Addo’s grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1998, she traveled from her home in Barbados to Boston for surgery, where the best care was available. The treatment was a success, but for the next five years, she had to regularly repeat the exhausting trek north for post-op care from a medical specialist. Addo knew there had to be an easier way.
“Most medical specialists’ expertise is centralized in big cities, and they’re overbooked and costly,” he says. “And almost half the reasons a patient goes to see a specialist could be handled by their primary care physician.” So along with his co-founder, Carlos Reines, Addo created RubiconMD, a digital platform that allows primary care physicians to consult virtually with top medical specialists around the country within 24 hours.
It’s a potentially groundbreaking solution, but Addo and Reines weren’t sure whom to sell it to. Healthcare provider networks? Hospitals? “We weren’t 100 percent clear on which markets needed us the most,” he says. So the co-founders hatched a plan. They would meet with 90 industry professionals in 90 days and refine their product based on what they learned.
To pull this off, they enlisted RubiconMD’s then-six employees to help them get potential leads. “We’d find people via Google or LinkedIn, kind of by accident, and set up a series of meetings based on geography,” Addo says. “Once we had one good meeting set in a city, we’d find everyone else in the ecosystem.” Sometimes that meant scheduling as many as eight meetings in a single day.
The duo cast a wide net, setting up chats with just about anyone who’d listen to their pitch. The results were illuminating. A low-stakes meeting with an on-site clinic at a prison in Nashville, for example, shined a light on the all-but-ignored corrections market. They signed the facility as a client, then sought out similar on-site clinics; today RubiconMD serves the correctional market across 10 states.
Other meetings led them to the market that now accounts for two-thirds of their clients’ total business: Medicaid. “Most patients on Medicaid can’t pay to see a specialist, and even if they can, many work by the hour — they can’t afford to take a few hours off to see someone,” says Reines. Addo echoes: “We weren’t anticipating Medicaid at all, but we realized we could unlock medical expertise in the underserved communities that needed it most.”
Once they knew where to find their customers, RubiconMD developed individual pricing models to best serve each market, and then made sure to build the lessons from these meetings into their brand DNA. “We’ve codified the learnings,” Addo says. “Before, we were running from meeting to meeting scribbling on notebooks. But now we have processes to collect information and feedback and better understand it.” It’s something the company now does constantly — always listening to the market and collecting data so it can service the customers who need it most.
Today “90 meetings in 90 days” is practically lore at RubiconMD — a tale that helps define the company’s mission. The co-founders do admit one glaring oversight: “We only took 87 meetings in total,” Addo admits, laughing. “We fell short by three.” But in 87 meetings, they learned what they needed.