Paris Wallace is an enterprise expert who has founded two successful companies in the women+’s and reproductive health space. As co-founder of Ovia Health, the leading women+’s health and technology company focusing on fertility, pregnancy and parenting programs, Paris has helped empower women and families to take control of their healthcare. As a recognized leader in the space, Ovia Health was acquired by Labcorp in 2021.
Prior to Ovia Health, Paris founded Good Start Genetics, a genomics technology company focused on fertility and reproductive health. His first effort in the health tech space made waves, resulting in Good Start Genetics’ acquisition by Invitae in 2017.
With a highly successful career thus far, Paris is not done yet. He is currently an entrepreneur in residence at Harvard Business School and is working on various diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and gender equality projects, providing a unique and impactful lens to entrepreneurship.
On July 20, Paris joined MATTER and Dr. Sheila Bhagavan from VillageMD to discuss his career, Ovia Health’s acquisition by Labcorp and what’s next in his journey.
This Tales from the Trenches™ is produced in partnership with VillageMD.
Speaker 1: (00:12)
Everyone and welcome to matters. Uh, signature tales from the trenches series. I'm Steven Collins. I'm the CEO of matter. We are a healthcare technology incubator and innovation hub built on a mission to accelerate the pace of change of healthcare. Uh, we do three things in service of our mission. First we incubate startups. We launched seven years ago. We've worked with more than 700 companies since then ranging from very early to growth stage startups. And we have a suite of services to help them at every stage of development. Second, we work with large organizations, health systems, life scientists, companies, payers, to help them strengthen their innovation capacity. We help them find value in emerging technology solutions, empower internal innovators to unlock the value of their ideas and create a more human-centered healthcare experience through system level collaborations. And third, we're a nexus for people who are passionate about healthcare innovation.
Speaker 1: (01:09)
We bring people together to be inspired and learn and connect with each other. And we produce a lot of programs, including large scale events for the broader community, as well as small forums that are exclusively for our members. Tales from the trenches is our longest standing series here at matter where accomplished entrepreneurs share their journeys from how they got started to what they've learned along the way today will be joined by Paris Wallace. The co-founder of Ovia health. The company was acquired by LabCorp last year. It's the leading women's health and technology company focusing on fertility, pregnancy and parenting programs, and like millions of expected parents in more than 200 C countries and territories around the world. My wife and I used Ovia, uh, and we thought it was a great product. Fem tech as a category is a space that matters has been spending a lot of time exploring the amount, the quantity and of technology, entrepreneurship, investment and innovation.
Speaker 1: (02:10)
That's focused on women's health is not commensurate with the scale of the needs or the opportunities. Um, so matter will be launching a fem tech accelerator. Later this year called 51 labs. We look forward to spending even more time, uh, in this space. The discussion with Paris today will be led by Dr. Sheila. Bavan a senior medical director at village MD. Dr. Bavan was a primary care physician in Chicago for more than 22 years till village MD acquired her practice last year. And she moved into a leadership role with the company. So she will bring to the conversation with Paris, the perspectives of a physician and entrepreneur, and an executive Paris, and Sheila, thank you both so much for joining us today. We are looking forward to the conversation. That was a
Speaker 2: (02:58)
Great, and I'm really looking forward to our hour together. So let me kick it off and just kind of get in there and just say, you know, Hey Paris, you know, you've had a couple of really successful companies. Can you take us back to that bike shop and how you stumbled into entrepreneurship?
Speaker 3: (03:16)
Uh, yeah. Um, so it started many years ago in a land land, far away. I grew up in Northern California, uh, very humble beginnings. Um, and so to help support, uh, my family, I worked full-time during high school, in a bike shop, uh, doing, you know, retail and fixing bikes for minimum wage, which I think at that time was around 5 75, um, and two years into it, uh, in the height of kind of the first internet bubble in 19 98 99. Uh, I had the crazy idea, uh, at, at, at 16 at the time of saying, Hey, I bet you, I could create something online and sell a lot of this stuff because there wasn't really any back countries or kind of big, uh, uh, online outdoor stores. And so my friends and I, who are juniors in high school put together a, uh, an online bike sport store called dirt mart.com.
Speaker 3: (04:10)
And I remember we launched it and this was before cell phones, um, and, and, and continuous internet and connectivity. And so, uh, you know, I checked my email before I went to, to high school, the end of the day, I, I went home and checked and we had gotten so many orders that day. I'd made more money while working, uh, while being at school. Um, then I did from working a month at the bike shop, and that's when I really caught the bug and was like, okay, I'm only gonna start businesses that make money while I'm doing something else. Um, and I'm only gonna run businesses that I, that I own because just that, you know, the, the leverage was very clear even to my 16 year old mind.
Speaker 2: (04:52)
so, okay. So you're, you know, Bon bike entrepreneur. So how did you pivot into healthcare and tell us about the role that your mom played in that, um, leap?
Speaker 3: (05:03)
Yeah, so my mom was very influential, uh, you know, single parent household. She was disabled, um, and put all of her time and attention into me. Um, and I was really lucky to, to go to private schools, Amherst college, Harvard business school, a joint degree there. And by the time I got there, you know, I had really decided that anything that I did with my, with my time professionally, I wanted to really make sure that it, uh, made a tangibly positive impact on the world and actually had a fellowship while I was at, at Harvard getting my MBA and MPA and social entrepreneurship. So I had the opportunity to look at all the models, kind of for organizational social change, um, and really came to the conclusion that for profit models that had a great business engine behind them, but if they were successful could really make a positive impact on the world.
Speaker 3: (05:53)
And, you know, as I looked at kind of what I could do out of business school, um, you know, to, to think about the struggles that my mom went through, uh, at being disabled, and then also just the kind of abysmal women's outcomes in the us, especially around maternity. I thought that was something I could really make an impact with. And so my last year at business school started researching it, um, and started good start genetics, which was, which is a, uh, noninvasive, prenatal testing company, testing parents before they have children to see if they're at risk of passing on a genetic, uh, disorder, but specifically focused on women's health. And now, you know, 15 years later, you know, we've helped, uh, you know, my, my companies have helped 20 million people start their families and are really changing the way that, uh, that women are receiving care, um, and improving outcomes.
Speaker 2: (06:41)
So let's go back a little bit to good start genetics. And obviously you told us, you know, it's, it's a company that, uh, does genetic testing, but you also have the fortune to be able to sell that company. So can you tell us a little bit about that acquisition and kind of what went through your head?
Speaker 3: (06:59)
Uh, yeah, so it was, it was definitely unique. Um, you know, diagnostics, uh, in, in 2008 was not dominated by, you know, 20, 26 year old entrepreneurs. Um, and so, you know, managed to, to raise money and start growing that, that team with my business partner at the time who was a, a classmate from Harvard business school, we grew that business, we got the investment, but, but, you know, I think, I think two things, one, um, the emergence of technology and, and apps at the time really got me interested. I started mentoring at Techstar and I really got interested in how much more scalable that was than kind of the traditional healthcare models and how many more people could be helped through that. Um, so I actually, after four years at good start left, uh, joined the board and started Ovia. And then as a board member, you know, as we were thinking about the future, uh, of the business, as we can con continue to grow, um, you know, one of our great options was to be part of a much larger organization and be part of their suite of products, right?
Speaker 3: (07:58)
I mean, it's kind of the, the classic business issue is, you know, do you want us be really good at, at, at, at one thing, um, that, you know, you can really be absolutely excellent or be part of a much broader platform we'd really excelled at this one type of testing. We were the best in the market. It was time to join a much bigger platform to be able to, to take advantage of the leverage and economies at scale of being part of a bigger organization. But I learned a tremendous amount. Um, you know, that, that first company, I think one of them is, you know, stick by your idea and see it through, you know what I mean? I have no regrets about starting Ovia, but I think as the founder, as the person who wrote that business plan, I understood it better than anyone else. And, you know, I definitely gave away, um, gave away some of that vision to others that didn't understand it as well. And that business definitely paid the price for not having that, that deep understanding that only the founder has.
Speaker 2: (08:51)
Gotcha. So, okay. You've mentioned Ovia what is Ovia?
Speaker 3: (08:56)
Yeah, so, I
Speaker 2: (08:57)
Mean, tell us what that's about. I mean, I, like I said, I had to sort of Google it to find out because I already had my kids. And so I'm not sure if it was around when, you know, I was having my children.
Speaker 3: (09:07)
Um, yeah, so we so started the company in 2012. Uh, you know, now we are kind of the largest digital health platform for, for women and families. We've served over 20 million families around the globe. We have 40 peer reviewed papers, um, to, to show the, the efficacy of the platform and everything from C-sections to, uh, you know, C-section prevention to, you know, predicting and helping with things like preterm birth and preeclampsia infertility. Uh, essentially it's a direct to consumer platform where you can go, you can download and we give minute by minute updates. Um, women share their most important health and life information. We turn that into realtime advice, uh, and insights into what's going on with them. Um, and then we aggregate that data across all of our users, um, and, uh, in a confidential way with, uh, with academic partners, do large scale research, the type of which has been UN systematically underinvested, um, for forever, basically, you know, the majority of investment decisions are made by men.
Speaker 3: (10:10)
Um, and the majority of things that the dollars have been spent on, uh, are men's issues. Um, one of my favorite examples of this is breast cancer. So the primary breast cancer research was done on men, uh, through the D O D, right? And so, because women's health has been systematically under invested in, there was no way to catch up, right? And so the theory was if we could create a direct consumer following that we could create real value for, they would share our data. We could use that data to unlock some of the, uh, some of the fundamental truths and really medical breakthroughs that haven't been invested in much more quickly, right. And 40, 40 papers over 10 years, it, you know, makes us one of the fastest and largest publishers in women's health, and then actually be able to take those insights and immediately give it back to our users.
Speaker 3: (11:00)
Right? So we have about 40, 40% of all the new parents in the us are on our platform. So as we learn, we can put it back, which changes outcomes, which gets more data, which allows us to learn, which allows us to give it back. So it's this amazing virtuous cycle that's really helped us, um, you know, help tens of millions of, of women and really advance women's health, which, you know, I would argue like our research or some of the fundamental building blocks that's fueling the, the fem tech revolution that I'm so excited to see, uh, at this point, Steven mentioned,
Speaker 2: (11:29)
Well, I can tell you that I probably messed with your data because I went in and downloaded the app and played the app and put a bunch of fictitious information in there. So hopefully my deleting of the app will take that out of your
Speaker 3: (11:40)
Data. We we're large enough that, that, that, uh, that one person is not gonna impact our results, but don't be surprised if one of our researcher follows up with you.
Speaker 2: (11:49)
Yeah. Right. So, okay. You're an entrepreneur, you're an innovator, um, in the healthcare space. So tell me how important is it for the physician to be part of a healthcare company that's going to affect their patients and them?
Speaker 3: (12:08)
Yeah, and I guess, you know, one thing that I think we committed to early and really served us well, and I think is definitely the future of digital health is being evidence driven, being guideline driven, being evidence driven. You know, it is shocking to me how many big digital health companies are out there that have never published a paper that have never shown the efficacy of what they're doing. Um, coming from the diagnostic background, I really understood the, the level of rigor it takes to convince convi, convince, uh, uh, physicians to use your product and to trust it. And so that was always at the core of what we wanted to do. Um, you know, we had a, a clinical advisory board. We had a chief medical officer, um, who was who's fantastic, that helped us both in our decision making at the strategic level, but also on the research side.
Speaker 3: (12:59)
Um, all that being said though, physicians were not part of our plan, right. I mean, essentially, um, you know, we were able to get to 40% of the pregnancies in the us, the largest OB practice in the us has under 1%. Um, so we couldn't afford, and couldn't, couldn't, uh, push forward with that. The other piece, which I think is, is interesting, right. We can have a, we have a disagreement in our conversation about this, but a lot of the issues in maternity, and I think this, this, this is very different depending on what, what, uh, what condition you're talking about, but in maternity is, you know, inadequate, uh, uh, in inadequate care, in obstetrics, right. Based on mainly reimbursement, right. But for example, C the, the C-section epidemic that is a pH physician driven, uh, issue, I would say, right. I mean, and we can argue why, what, what that shows, but what we saw actually, you know, and, and we did a, a four year comprehensive study with Harvard medical school on it that we could impact C-section rates by helping people choose low C-section delivery sites and low C-section doctors.
Speaker 3: (14:12)
And so that's actually pretty opposed right. To, to partnering with anything. And so we really tried to do the right thing, the evidence based, I think we really got adoption and excitement. We would see OBS who would see what we were doing, or a patient would tell 'em about it. And then they would tell all their patients, Hey, download this app. It's amazing. Um, but then also, uh, you know, sometimes we have to say, Hey, look, you know, obstetricians are doing 20% more C-sections than they should be. And it's resulting in all these issues. What, how, how do we, how do we work with that?
Speaker 2: (14:45)
Oh, sorry. So, okay. Going back to health, what you formed this amazing company, um, great mission. Um, you have been successful. What, what went on when you were thinking about, gosh, this is, this is the time I wanna sell, or is that the right choice for my team? Tell us about like, how you came upon that decision and, and why.
Speaker 3: (15:12)
Yeah. It's, I mean, it's, it's interesting cuz it's actually a deeply personal decision. Right? We had built, um, such a fantastic, uh, company, you know, we were serving millions of women. We had partnered with thousands of employers and health plans across the country. Um, you know, the, the, the company was continuing to grow. Uh, you know, we were getting inbound interest from a variety of, of folks, both private equity and strategic. Um, and the question really came down to, you know, the founding team saying, you know, does this make sense? You know, is this, is this where we want to go? I mean, I think one of my fundamental beliefs in a startup is that the leadership team and the CEO need to grow at the same rate as the company. So when we sold the business, um, the enterprise side, which was the side of the business that worked directly with employers and health plans was growing at 300%.
Speaker 3: (16:08)
And so, you know, I have to look in the mirror and say, am I capable of getting three times better? Um, in my leadership, in my decision making, in my ability to manage this organization in the next three years and am I willing to risk, right. Cause I don't know, but I don't know what percentage of my net worth was, but it was over a hundred percent of my net worth, right. Was in, um, Ovia health. Am I willing to risk that on my ability to be able to get three times better next year and probably three times better the year, uh, beyond that. Um, you know, and that was really kind of the equation that, that I thought through to say, you know, and my co-founders thought through to say, Hey, it, would this be a success for us? Have we done what we wanted to do?
Speaker 3: (16:53)
And then our commitment that we took very, very seriously for the users and for our employees, will they be, how will they be materially impacted by this decision? Um, and will they be better off, worse off the same, you know, and I think that there was great alignment when we made the decision between, Hey, this is gonna be a really big success for us as a founding team and for our lives and for our families, it's gonna be a really big success for our employees. Um, everyone did quite well, uh, in the exit and ultimately having the capabilities of a much larger organization that will allow us to go into diagnostics and telehealth and expand our services to more women's health, um, will be a really great thing for our users. And I think we really found alignment on, on all those things. And we said, yes, this is something we wanna move forward with. But I think the first decision that we made right was around, you know, does this make sense for the, for the founders, for the employees and for the customers? Um, and then, you know, we negotiated around the, the logistics of it.
Speaker 2: (17:57)
Got it. So I know that there's transaction process. I mean, you might have come to this decision a few years ago, eight months ago. Um, and there is a process I watched my husband go through this last year and, you know, lots of twists, lots of turns, ups, downs, and so on, but maybe you could just give us a little bit of a ringside seat as to sort of just the process, um, and how that was for you. Was it fun? Was it hard? I mean,
Speaker 3: (18:26)
Well, so the, the, uh, the first process, um, we, we were working with a fantastic investment bank, um, uh, Raymond, James, and the, and the team there, the digital health team there, which I think is absolutely the best in the business. Uh, we ran a fantastic process. We had a, a ton of people who were interested in the business, um, and the first bids were due March 3rd, 20, 20 . So we actually got some bids. And then, you know, by March 10th, 2020, um, we had no bids and, you know, by March 20th, 2020, we were, you know, telling people that we cut everyone's salary in the company. We were really thoughtful cuz half of our business was a media business and we saw dire things based on obviously the pandemic hitting and no one knew what was happening and we had to go remote. Um, so that process was not fun.
Speaker 3: (19:18)
Uh, but then, you know, two years later, um, you know, LabCorp actually was, was at the table for the first process and then, uh, subsequently invested in the business cuz they really saw the, the, the strategic upside. And then when we got approached again, uh, in, I guess December of 21, uh, no, of, of, of two years later, like pandemic time, I can't think about time. Um, they were there, they were on our board and we said, Hey, look, we're getting real interest again. They said, okay, we wanna move forward. Uh, again, and, and see if, you know, we can make it work this time if there's not a global pandemic.
Speaker 2: (19:53)
Okay. So that you had a bit of a cooling off period then where you had to like step back a little bit because it was, it wasn't just a, a straight road,
Speaker 3: (20:01)
Straight line. That's right. Yeah. And you know, I, I was lucky enough, I'm, I'm part of a, a, a leadership group called uh, YPO. Um, and basically it allowed me to meet with a group of fellow founders and CEOs, uh, uh, monthly. Um, we've been doing it now for seven years. Uh, and three of them went through exits. And so I got to kind of say, Hey, I'm thinking about exit. What, what advice would you have? And the best advice I had was the deal has to die three times before it gets done. And this was such great advice because every time it seemed like we had hit a roadblock and it wasn't gonna happen, I was like, this is great. It's the next step we've made it. Right. Um, and so it allowed me to keep, keep my spirits up, you know, but it's, you know, I think it's,
Speaker 2: (20:47)
It's really fascinating.
Speaker 3: (20:49)
Yeah. I mean, right. And you know, the other really hard part is, especially through the pandemic, but always we've had a very, very open culture. Um, you know, and, and working on this without having kind of everyone in the company involved was really, really difficult, uh, you know, from a, from a cultural standpoint. But, um, you know, eventually we got it done, the deal died three times and, and, you know, we were able to, to, to move it forward.
Speaker 2: (21:13)
That's great. So, okay. So a great company you've sold it. Um, what are you the most proud about in, um, Invia in what you've done there?
Speaker 3: (21:24)
Yeah, I will, I will take Liberty and, and claim a twofer on this one. So, you know, I think, I think first and foremost would just be the impact that we've had on, on women's health and our millions of users. Um, you know, we really, you know, we set out to do things like change the change, the maternal mortality rate in the us, which is a worse than any developed, uh, country. And, you know, if mom's black or brown like me, right, four times more likely to, to die on the delivery table, the C-section epidemic, like a variety of things facing women that definitely could have impacted my family. And we actually made a dent on that, like a really significant dent, which is, which really feels good. Um, you know, on the D and I side, we were the first to go and really help start helping companies think through how they could in recruit, retain return women and families to the workforce.
Speaker 3: (22:17)
Right. Like, I mean, I can't, I, I can't even quantify how many more weeks of maternity leave across our thousands of partners we've created to, to allow for that time. So that, so that's, that's kind of the first thing that I think is really, really proud about. And then I think secondly is just the organization that we created. You know, we had a, we had a, a place where people really felt like they belonged, they felt like they were doing their life's work. Um, they were really proud of what they were doing and we all really enjoyed it. Uh, and I think, you know, I, I joke I'm the worst person to ask career advice from? Cause I never worked at a company. I didn't start, but I was told by people that did work at other places, you know, that, that it was really a, a special place and people could really be themselves.
Speaker 3: (23:01)
And we really created that, that belonging. And I think that all of that passion and joy made its way into the products that we had, that, that we created. Um, and that was really evident and that's what really drove our, drove our success. Um, you know, and just, you know, so many examples of people being able to be incredibly vulnerable in a public way because they knew that we were gonna embrace that, that we were gonna support them, that they could be themselves at work, even if they couldn't be themselves at home, they could be themselves at work. Um, and that's something I'm really proud of. And, you know, thinking about, you know, the, the, the folks at Ovia who are still there and now the alumni and alumni who are out there in the world spreading this right across digital health, across the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Um, you know, I, I think that's a really powerful legacy that's gonna, that's gonna, uh, continue to grow in the coming years.
Speaker 2: (23:57)
Well, it's interesting. I read something, um, that was out there about sort of the type of the way that you target employees isn't necessarily on their, you know, their letters after their name or their degrees, or what have you. And I, can you just speak a little bit about that? Cause I thought that was quite fascinating.
Speaker 3: (24:15)
Yeah. I mean, one of the things that we felt very, very strongly about is that our employees needed to represent our users, right. Because if we had, um, folks that were totally removed from our users, then it wasn't gonna work. We weren't gonna be able to build products that could really relate to them. Uh, and we, weren't gonna build a culture that understood our users in a, in a, in an authentic way. Um, so what did that mean? Right? I mean, we had 20 million users, so it was basically the us population. And if you look at the us population, they didn't all go to new England, you know, colleges, um, you know, um, and, and all the other things, that's kind of the typical startup community. And so we very early on said, we wanna be the best place in Boston, uh, for, for women and the L B G T Q community to work at.
Speaker 3: (25:05)
And we really focused on those folks because at the time it was, you know, tech bros and people really didn't feel welcome. And guess what, you know, people were willing to leave Facebook and Google and these other huge startups come work for us because we said we wanted them and kind of implicitly, they were not wanted at these other cultures. Um, and then, you know, thinking about, um, being, uh, uh, you know, attracting bilingual folks, attracting bipo folks, attracting folks without college degrees, right. We were really, um, one of the first, first to do it and got a lot of fanfare, I think probably unfairly, like it's crazy in 2022, what's like considered revolutionary, but you know, the vast majority of our users did not have a college degree. So thinking that we would require all of our employees to have college degrees just outrageous, and the stats are, if you require a college degree, you immediately disqualify eight, uh, 70% of black and Latino, uh, population in the us and 80% of the rural population in the us. And so how, how can you possibly represent those people if you have none of them in the room with you? And so again, you know, I'm like, you know, what, what do I use every day for my college degree? Right? Sorry, Amherst, you know, zero, right. I mean, it's not like, I'm like, oh, I remember an economics class at this and that's gonna help me sell the business. Um, you know, but they're, don't tell my
Speaker 2: (26:28)
Speaker 3: (26:28)
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's right. Um, but you know, really thinking through what are the life experiences, what are the incredible talents, right? Having self-taught coders, um, you know, who doesn't, who don't have a computer science degree, but they spent two years learning how to code on their own. Like, those are the types of people we want to attract and just summarily dismissing all those folks from the talent pool. Would've been such a mistake. And so we were really able to Excel. We kept people longer. People were happier, you know, our user base, we were a majority female. Um, and the company, I think 75%, the leadership team was, uh, uh, two thirds, minority, 80% female, right? Like these are the sorts of things that then one allows us to attract the workforce that we want and attract the absolute best people. But secondly, create the products that our users really wanted to use because it reflected their values and who they were in a way that you can't have when it's, you know, 50 dudes in a room.
Speaker 2: (27:26)
Right. Cause I know you've said something like one of your sort of soap boxes is when companies try to serve communi serve communities that are underrepresented or not represented in their own communities and how that can be just a huge disconnect. So, I mean, clearly you've cracked the nut on that one or at least started to,
Speaker 3: (27:48)
I, I mean, you know, I think, I think going into the future, people don't realize that D E and I gender equity, it's not, it it's, it's not a business strategy. It's an absolute business imperative and you're gonna get caught out if you don't do it. Right. And you know, and this idea of, you know, it's like, um, that the DEA, the person in charge of DEA and I at any company should be the CEO. Right. I mean, that is an absolute business par when you look at what the future looks like, you know, fortunately I, I joke there's like all this terrible news and the world is totally going in the wrong direction. The one trend that gives me hope for the future is that women are taking over and hopefully they can, they can fix it. Right. So the women, uh, the future are, you know, more women and browner people.
Speaker 3: (28:36)
And that's not the decision makers in these organizations. Right. And so thinking, you know, I get asked all the time and I won't go into kind of the racial bias, but like social determinants of health, how are we gonna solve that? I'm like, get some people who are append impacted by social determinants of health, AKA, you know, minorities, AKA poor people in the room to be part of the discussions to help solve these issues. Right. And they're like, oh, wow. That, but where would we find them? Like probably in your cafeterias, at your check-in CA right? Like there's all these places that they're there. That're just absolutely overlooked. And it's like, you can't solve problems for people that you have no knowledge and no understanding of. And that is, I think one of the fundamental issues with healthcare right, is like the leaders that are solving it, the people who are involved are not the people they're trying to solve problems for. Right. And that's not even just because users or patients or members or whatever are, are systematically overlooked in business models, but also those people aren't sitting in the room. And it's really important to think about that. Not again, as a strategy, but as a core tenant of your business and a core driver of your growth into the future.
Speaker 2: (29:46)
Yeah. I mean, as a physician, that is definitely something it's a box we're supposed to check, um, to say we've addressed it. And I would bet that 90% of physicians don't really know what that means, which is unfortunate because we're the ones that are supposed to, um, advocate, um, for that.
Speaker 3: (30:04)
Yeah. And, and it's, I mean, and it's, and it, and it becomes real right. In, in, in, uh, in OB, right? Why is the, uh, maternal mortality rate higher in black and brown women? It's because their pain is not realized or is not recognized right. At the same level of white women. And so, you know, you can imagine if, and I, I say you can imagine it because of course there's never been any research on it. Right. But, and, and there's not enough black and brown OBS to actually show this. Right. But it's a very different outcome just based on the doctor, that's in the room. Right. And so, again, it's not a nice to do. It is a real results driven strategy that needs to be adopted to allow us to move into the future and to allow us to achieve the results that we want to get to.
Speaker 2: (30:51)
So what advice would you give our entrepreneurs who are really serious about de and I, I mean, as you said, it shouldn't be just serious, but it should be just a must have.
Speaker 3: (31:02)
Yeah. I mean, you know, I think depending on, on the stage, the stage, uh, you're at, right, like, you know, and people have said this, right. One is, if, if all of your first 10 people are one type of person, your 11th person is likely gonna be that type of person, your 12th per right. And so making sure that you're getting diverse candidates right from the beginning, um, I think is, is, and diverse is whatever. You're not right. I mean, it's not like a group. There's not like a group of diverse people you need to get in, but it's whatever, you're not, whatever's not represented making sure that they are represented, making sure that you can pull them in. And then I think, secondly, just having policies that don't, uh, that don't negate moving forward, but at least give everyone the opportunity. One to see that it's important.
Speaker 3: (31:52)
And secondly, to give other folks a chance. So for example, right, don't have hiring quotas, but make sure that for every, that, for every position, you're at least interviewing one, you know, diverse person. Right. And which is again, not, not a specific category, but someone that's not currently in the company. Right. And when you think about, you know, your team makeup, don't just think about, oh, we need a COO and a marketing person and a finance person also think about the makeup, the perspectives in the room, what are the backgrounds that you wanna make sure that you have represented, um, and do it early and talk about it. And don't talk about it in terms of initiative, talk about it as something, a core value that you're doing at a company measure it just like you would revenue, right. Come up with whatever metrics you would measure it.
Speaker 3: (32:38)
And time you talk about revenue. Every time you talk about growth, every time you talk about those strategic priorities in your company, mention this as one and put it on blast, right? Hey, we want to increase, this is how we're defined diversity. We wanna increase diversity by 10% this year. Every time you say, Hey, we're, we're 25% off our revenue or 25 ahead on our revenue. We're 5% behind on a diversity thing. Who's working on it. And then I think they, the other thing, right, is like, don't hire someone to work on diversity, pick the most influential person, pick the smartest person, pick, you know, the CEO and put their name next to that metric and hold them responsible for it, um, in a really meaningful way.
Speaker 2: (33:21)
Yeah. Um, I can definitely tell you, my husband was head of D and I in his company as well. So I think he has the same sort of, uh, thinking as you do. Yeah. Okay. So I'm gonna jump over to the chat here. I'm gonna try to toggle here. And one of the questions somebody asked an anonymous attendee said, what barriers do you experience being a male, running a women's health company? What did you do to ensure you were taken seriously?
Speaker 3: (33:47)
Yeah. Uh, you know, I, I think one just, it's a good question, but the question also shows the shows the problem, right. Which is like, women's women's health issues, women, it turns out this is crazy statistic. Women are 50% of the population in the whole world and their issues are just people issues. Right. I mean, I, I think about a woman would never get the question of dealing with men's issues. Right. I mean, cuz men's issues are just issues. It's just business. It's just whatever women's issues are seen as like, why would you want to talk about, you know, this? Or why would you wanna have that issue? So, um, you know, I looked at it in terms of it's something I'm really passionate about. Um, you know, and I had a really privileged position in talking about it because I could be an outgroup advocate and being an outgroup advocate is incredibly, uh, incredibly important because, you know, if you're a woman in the room talking about women's issues, it's because you're a woman.
Speaker 3: (34:49)
If you're a man in the room talking about women's issues, people hear you in a different way because you have no incentive right. To, to, to talk about it or to care. And so I really try to use that position of privilege to advocate for things. And frankly, as you can probably tell from this, from this, uh, thing, I can advocate for it a lot more strongly than a lot of women are comfortable doing because you know, you're always, self-conscious talking about the, the, the group that you represent. Um, you know, and then again, just like from a, from a straight up, uh, capitalist perspective and building a big business, go to the place that no one else is thinking about, right? Like men, unfortunately still control the vast majority of resources or still the vast majority of entrepreneurs, investors, all these other folks. So going after like a overlooked, uh, population, which is again crazy because women are 50% of the population of the world is actually a bigger opportunity.
Speaker 3: (35:46)
Right? And like now the world is slowly but surely, um, catching up with that. But you know, in, in, in 2012, when we, when I was out fundraising for this, people would say that it women's health was a niche market. Right. And you know, I'd walk into a room and it would be, you know, VC on, in Silicon valley with all white male partners. And we'd start talking about women's issues and they'd go, well, we don't have any women. Like, do you think, do you think the, uh, our, our assistant would know, I think she has a kid bring her in. Right. And it's like, this is a sort of thing that there has opportunity because there will be people that believe out in you out there and you don't have to compete cuz they're all investing in whatever dudes like
Speaker 2: (36:26)
. Um, okay. We have some questions from an OB GYN, Dr. Johnson, and she had a few questions, but it looks like some of 'em were selfs answered, but her last question is, um, 50% of the births in the us are funded through Medicaid plans. Does your platform include Medicaid patients? How do you reach the disadvantage OB patient populations?
Speaker 3: (36:49)
Yeah. Great, great question. So we, we were the largest digital health platform for Medicaid patients. We had 40% of the Medicaid births in the us, on our platform. Um, you know, and I think again, going back to the social determinants of health and the kind of those people, right? It's like if you come in with the fundamental belief that everyone cares about the health of their child and wants to do the right thing, when they're pregnant, um, we created a platform that people could really see the value on and it attracted all types of people. And I actually think it specifically attracted folks that couldn't get great access to other care, um, because you know, of their, of their circumstances. And so frankly, like we never targeted that population, that population went out and looked for us and said, Hey, this is something that's gonna be really valuable.
Speaker 3: (37:43)
This is, you know, I, my, you know, my, my level of care, my level of access isn't there, I can learn a lot on with this program. It can gimme a lot of things that the healthcare system isn't getting or I can't access from it. Um, you know, so I think that was, you know, again, like it wasn't necessarily the plan, but it's definitely the way that it, that it, that it, uh, played out. And then as we saw that we were getting huge traction on the population, we made sure that we were creating content and writing at, at a level that, that folks could understand and making sure that it was really appealed, um, to that population. And then just word of mouth, right. Um, continued to, to push that forward. Um, and then right. Being able to do a tremendous amount of research specifically on that population, because we were the only folks engaging them and figuring out what they really needed. And then again, to a cycle.
Speaker 2: (38:35)
Got it. Okay. Uh, let me see if there's, I'm gonna just take a second from these questions and I just wanna ask you just kind of to go back to sort of your philosophy about healthcare and those companies that are going to the thrive in 20, really not 20, 22, but 2023. How, who are those people and you know, how do we move from, and I've heard you say this sick care to healthcare, um, give us your, your take on it and, and sort of what you think about Pokemon go.
Speaker 3: (39:04)
Yeah. , that's awesome. Yeah. So, so the, the Pokemon go thing, there's, there's this, uh, all of this money has gone into health and, and fitness apps to get people healthier and to get them active and to measure. And, and the joke is the greatest digital health app ever created was Pokemon go. Cause it had millions of tens of millions of people taking trillions of steps to go find Pikachu. Right. And it turns out that like, you know, the continuous glucose monitor, like it doesn't do it, right. Like none of the pharmaceuticals, you just gotta, you gotta have a cute made up. Rodent is Pikachu, rodent. I don't know. Um, you know, out, out in the, uh, uh, augmented reality world, um, for people to go and chase. So, um, you know, I think the big trends that, that I think will dominate, I've been saying this for years and I've been wrong, but right.
Speaker 3: (39:51)
One is patient first, right? I mean, the business models in healthcare now is, are you gonna sell to the payer? Are you gonna sell to the provider? And the one group that just very few people are focused on is the, the patient. Um, right. And I, I always kind of chuckle when I say patient, because if there's anything that consumers are not it's patient, um, and right, it's like they haven't even figured that that out yet. So I think this patient first approach at Ovia, we'd go into a health plan and we'd go into an employer and we'd actually ask our users before. Um, we even, we talk to their employer health plan, who is your health, who is your health employer? So we would go in and say, Hey, we have 25% of your, um, of your members who have asked to get help about, you know, from you through our platform.
Speaker 3: (40:41)
How many do you have? And they'd look at their numbers and say, Hey, I think we have to, we have to work with you guys. Right? And so I think really creating products that appeal to the, to the customer, um, and that really show efficacy with them is a much better route and gonna be much more long term successful than creating something that has benefits for the health plan than the provider, but is just a terrible experience for the patient, which frankly is most things that I've seen in healthcare. I think the second piece, and again, this is, this is maybe idealistic for me, but like, I gotta hope that the age of marketing driven healthcare companies will be unserved by the age of product driven companies. And what I mean by that is, you know, the number of big companies out there that have zero evidence, zero peer reviewed papers, zero evidence that their solution is effective and does anything is astounding, right?
Speaker 3: (41:38)
I mean, that's 75, 80 5% of digital health companies. And so I think you see health insurers starting to get more sophisticated about this, and the next step is gonna be employers and other payers getting more sophisticated to say, Hey, show, send me your peer review paper first, or your peer review papers to show that this thing works before we even have a meeting with you. Um, you know, because that, that, I think, especially in the money isn't free and you can't raise as much as you want at whatever that's gonna be a big differentiator, and that's gonna cut out 75% of the digital health companies that have never thought about that. That don't have enough data that don't have the level of sophistication to pull together the data set or the connections with the academic community or physicians to be able to run a paper and guess what those are not the solutions that people should be using and buying.
Speaker 3: (42:27)
But instead what's happened is, you know, Hey, we have this thing. That's kind of interesting that like quick thinking makes sense. Let's spend a hundred million dollars, let's spend a billion dollars to sell it as opposed to actually create something that we know is useful to the patient and, you know, and, and push that forward. And I think that with the new valuations and money, getting more difficult to raise those companies that have done it the right way that have proven efficacy are the ones that are really gonna rise at the top. I hope fingers crossed.
Speaker 2: (42:56)
I love it. I love it. Okay. You got a lot of questions here, so let me look at your, your little set here. Um, maybe while I'm looking, I, I do wanna ask you, cuz I think this is fascinating kind of what you're doing right now.
Speaker 3: (43:11)
Yeah. Um, about that. Yeah. So, you know, uh, I guess there was a bit of planned obsolescence, uh, after the acquisition. Um, you know, I was, I was with the company for three months after, uh, I was pretty sure and they were pretty sure that I was not a, a big company guy. Um, so I think we made a really successful transition there. Uh, and I thought I was gonna ride off into the sunset. Um, you know, and, and ultimately, um, you know, my passion for de and I decided that I had to do something else in that space, you know, specifically gender equity and D E I, uh, not technically in the healthcare space again, the, the Pokemon go thing was very inspiring. So thinking about what could I do to, to really, uh, create something that was inclusive and exciting. Um, and then also a big passion of mine and, uh, is cycling, right.
Speaker 3: (44:01)
I I've been doing it since high school, as we talked about beginning the call. So I'm, uh, in the process of starting the first majority minority and female own professional sports league around cycling, um, with the idea of, you know, changing the idea of ownership in sports. There's, I won't go into the statistics there, but you know, there's one majority minority owner across the NBA and NFL, even though 80% of the players are black and brown, um, you know, gender equity and sports just doesn't exist. Right? I mean, that's, that's like really the, the, uh, the, the piece. And so how do you really rethink that? Um, and tap into the values of everyone under 45, who are not watching kind of professional sports to think about, could we create a movement around, um, doing the right thing around diversity and teaching people about ownership and then also gender equity in sports to show women and, you know, girls that their sports efforts matter just as much as the boys and that, that there's a, there's a path for them to be, to be an athlete and pursue their dreams there as well. So we're, we're, we're moving that forward. We're, uh, recruiting teams. We're gonna have races in Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver next year. So look for, look for more of that.
Speaker 2: (45:15)
That's awesome. That's great. All right. So your questions, you got a lot of them. So when you partnered with investors, what characteristics or qualities did you look for in a capital partner?
Speaker 3: (45:25)
Yeah, I mean, with, with good start, uh, we went the traditional, uh, venture capital private equity route. Um, we raised in debt and equity over over a hundred million dollars for that business. Um, so I, I understood that well, and so Ovia essentially, we didn't raise money from any funds with LPs. So our largest investors were, uh, Johnson and Johnson, blue cross blue shield of Massachusetts and LabCorp. So we really went after strategic investors. Um, and a lot of that frankly, was wanting to make sure that we had the flexibility to do the right thing for our users, um, and not grow at all costs. Um, you know, that was really core to, uh, I mean, we've talked about it really core to our mission, really core to being able to recruit the right people and really core too, to just the impact that I want to have on the world.
Speaker 3: (46:19)
Right. And, and having to cut corners for, for short term growth versus doing the right thing with long term investors that don't have a specific horizon, um, was really important for me. It was a strategy that, that really, you know, worked out. Um, I do think generally if like the job of the CEO is obviously to run the company, but you also have to know more about private equity and venture capital than the private equity and venture capital folks that, that you're talking to. Um, because their model, if you take money from them is gonna dictate your strategy going forward. And again, that's what people don't get is like the valuation of the money you raised is a promise of three to 10 X return. Right? I always joke like, you know, if someone wanted to put in a billion, do, uh, a million dollars at a billion dollar valuation, don't take it because they're expecting to take that million dollars and create a $10 billion company, which will never happen.
Speaker 3: (47:12)
And if it doesn't happen, then you're gone, you know, the company might be dead. And so I think a lot of times people don't understand the risk that they're taking when partnering with these venture folks, um, and they get into huge trouble. And there's, you know, I think there's more company there's, there's a lot of companies that have failed because they took too much money or partnered with the wrong investor. Um, you know, and, and people don't see that as a risk. They see it as an opportunity, oh, we raise money. We can do this thing now. Not saying, oh, we raised the wrong money. I'm gonna get kicked out as CEO. And the company's not ultimately gonna work cuz we raised too much too fast or we don't have a partner that's aligned with our, with our timeline.
Speaker 2: (47:48)
Yeah. That's great. That's great advice actually. Uh, one question is how hard was it to get your first employer client in your earlier days? Was it easier after
Speaker 3: (47:59)
That? Um, yeah. I mean my, my answer I'll is gonna be painful for whoever asked that question. Right. I mean, again, we didn't go into the employer side until we were five years old and had 10 million users. And so we actually got invited by Mercer to come into one of their clients because they said, Hey, maternity's a big issue. You guys are already the leader in the space. We pulled the company and we said, oh, Hey there, you know, we already have 300 of their people on our platform. Um, and we went and that was our first employer customer. And then it just kind of went from there. Things are radically different now than they are than, than they were then in terms of the competition and, and everything else. Um, that being said, you know, creating something that has no users that has a value proposition for employers and trying to go out and sell an employer to believe in you, you know, is a very, very difficult proposition, starting with the proof that you have consumer users that people use your stuff that, you know, that peer reviewed paper, it takes longer, but there's tremendous value.
Speaker 3: (49:03)
And to be able to differentiate that way is really key.
Speaker 2: (49:06)
Great. Um, let's see here. Okay. Let me ask you this. What would Paris tell his 20 year old self?
Speaker 3: (49:17)
Oh, we we've talked about this question and it's still hard. I still don't have like the, the perfect answer. You know, I mean, I think, uh, I think that the, the, the thi you know, whatever wisdom, wisdom, just like getting old and like just being simpler and like asking easier questions that are, that are more answerable, right? Like what you do matters more than what you accomplish, you know, if that makes sense, right? Like, you know, looking back like we had a fantastic exit, but I'm a lot more proud of the way that we treated people and who people could be every day as part of the culture than how much money we made, right. Or how much money I have now. And I think when I was younger, I didn't understand the importance of that. And especially at good start, you know, I focused on growth.
Speaker 3: (50:08)
I focused on investment. I focused on these metrics that mattered externally. Um, and didn't do the thing. Didn't, didn't act in a way, or didn't lead the company in a way that made me proud about the company that we created, or like the work that we were doing. Um, and thinking about good start that, you know, ultimately, or thinking about Ovia, which was ultimately, you know, a better outcome. Um, but it's also something I'm a lot more proud of and really spending the time thinking about who do you wanna be and what legacy do you wanna leave versus what do you want to accomplish? If that makes sense?
Speaker 2: (50:43)
Yep, totally does. There are a couple people that want some sort of follow up from you. One person says, how do we get in touch with Paris? If we believe we are building something, he'd be interested in learning more about
Speaker 3: (50:53)
Awesome. I, I like that. That's someone who's gonna be successful. I'm on LinkedIn, um, you know, Paris, Paris, Wallace, I, um, and I'm the only bald Paris Wallace in the world, apparently. So you should be able to find me on LinkedIn pretty easily.
Speaker 2: (51:06)
And another person says, um, love your approach to company building and hiring. Although I grew up four as an ex apple PM, middle aged cisgendered, white male founder. I wanna overcompensate for being even a bit myopic who are the best advisors I could reach out to that would help us build the best place to work on solving that metabolic health crisis.
Speaker 3: (51:29)
Ooh, I love that question. Um, I, I, off the top of my head, I don't, I don't have, uh, the, the, I don't, I don't have a great answer for that off the top of my head. Um, more philosophically though, I would say like, you know, it's not like, oh, set it up like this, and it works like it's how you respond in the moment that matters. Right. And so, you know, it's great. For example, you know, at Ovia after George Floyd happened, we had a company, we had a, we had a company meeting I'm, I'm, I'm working on it, but I'm pretty uncomfortable talking about like racial issues and, and these things. And so I gave maybe the most pathetic intro to this kind of town hall ever. Um, and some things were shared in, in that town hall that were game changers for the company forever.
Speaker 3: (52:28)
I mean, it, it like really like, like it went over, it went to two hours supposed to be an hour. We CA you know, everyone just kind of canceled everything, you know, no one dropped. We had everyone in the company for that entire time. There were tears. I mean, you know, we like went in as colleagues and left as, as a family and, you know, and, and it took a lot of courage of the people around me, who I knew shared that commitment to be able to have that open town hall, to be able to address it right, as an issue to, to, to bring people. And ask them to invite. So I would say, you know, if you want to get it right, I don't think there's a, there's a playbook. It's about making sure that you're surrounded by people that you can talk to in the moment that have experience in it, or that have frankly, just the, the passion or, or the, or the right, uh, uh, ideas, um, to give you that advice into really, as things come up to make the right decision.
Speaker 3: (53:18)
And then the other thing is right. Like you're gonna screw it up. And I think being very clear about that and being very clear, I mean, the way that you, you, you ask that question I think is, is right. If you have that level of vulnerability with your company and saying we're in it and I'm gonna screw it up and I need everyone's help on getting it right. That's gonna, that's gonna be a lot more valuable than getting a few advisors that you talk to that say, Hey, here's some frameworks that you can potentially use if these issues come up.
Speaker 2: (53:45)
Yeah. That's, that's actually fabulous. Um, a lot of people wanna, they have some issues with your LinkedIn and apparently you need an email to be able to verify. So I'm not sure what that
Speaker 3: (53:56)
Is. Oh, wow. Okay. My email it's ver it's like, uh, what is it? Tell me how old you are without saying your age. My email is just Paris, Wallace, gmail.com. So you can email me or use that for LinkedIn.
Speaker 2: (54:09)
Okay. That should help a lot of people. Yeah. Um, so I mean, there are definitely some other questions that I didn't hit. Um, but we don't have a whole lot of time left. Um, so perhaps, maybe might be able to answer some of these later, um, and give some follow up to the, um, panelists. Um, what haven't I asked you, what have I missed that we should know about you?
Speaker 3: (54:32)
Wow, that's a good question. I mean, you know, I, I do think it's, it's interesting. I'm an entrepreneur residence at, uh, at Harvard business school currently, which means I get to talk to a lot of students who are thinking about starting ventures. And so I've talked to probably a hundred students over this last year who are, you know, in various stages of the, of the formation process. And I guess, you know, what I'm learning now through pattern recognition is the people who are successful, the people actually go out and do it. The people who I, who resonate the most for me are people who find something a cause a problem, a group that they really care about and then build something around that versus folks who just want to be an entrepreneur or folks that believe in a certain type of business model. Um, you know, and I, I, I think that's definitely my story, right, is like, you know, that passion, I think really shows through.
Speaker 3: (55:32)
And even though I'm, I'm not the person that we were solving it for. I think that really drove through and was able to attract things. But you know, when you're on your journey and when you're thinking about, um, you know, what you want to do, I think that the, the why really matters, right? There's a, there's a lot that's been written on this, but this idea of people start with the why and then create facts to get to the yes or no, kind of after that. Um, and I think it's really about deep self-reflection and that deep resonance with the problem you're trying to solve, or the group of people that you're trying to help. Um, that's really gonna allow you to be successful over the longer term.
Speaker 1: (56:11)
Great way to wrap things up, uh, Paris really, really enjoyed listening to your perspective on, um, really critical business issues, your, um, your insights, and just generally getting a flavor for who you are as a person and your, uh, and your personality. I really appreciate that. And, um, and Sheila, thank you so much for leading the conversation and facilitating and pulling out, uh, these, these stories and these insights, uh, from Paris. So, um, thank you both. Um, thank you all for joining us. If you enjoyed today's conversation, you might be interested in some of our other upcoming programs. We have one on August 4th, specifically focused on health equity. Um, you can learn, uh, about that one as well as our other upcoming email@example.com, uh, and, uh, to all of you, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.