Sean Lane began his career as an intelligence officer in the Air Force, spending most of his government service at the NSA solving challenges as a software engineer and technology leader. After serving the U.S. military, Sean started his career as a healthcare entrepreneur, drawn in by the prescription drug abuse problem that engulfed his hometown.
After founding several startups — ranging from big data and advanced analytics to entity resolution — Sean founded health tech AI startup Olive in 2012. Almost a decade later, Olive has raised a total of $902 million (including a $400 million round this summer led by Vista Equity Partners), and their enterprise AI is in more than 900 hospitals in over 40 U.S. states.
Sean joined us for a conversation moderated by VillageMD Chief Technology Officer Mike Roberts to discuss his pivot from government service to entrepreneurship, what’s coming up next for Olive and advice for entrepreneurs.
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Speaker 1: (00:10)
Hello, everyone and welcome to tales from the trenches. A series that matter produces together with a village MD I'm Steven Collins, the CEO of matter. We are a healthcare technology incubator and innovation hub built on a belief that collaboration between entrepreneurs and industry leaders is the best way to develop healthcare solutions. Today's program is part of our tails from the trenches series, where we feature accomplished healthcare entrepreneurs, sharing their learnings, their stories, and the key takeaways from their journeys. We have a great collaboration with village MD to produce this series. Uh, village MD is a Chicago based company. It's a leader in designing and developing and implementing, uh, innovative value based care models around the country. Uh, they recently announced a 5.2 billion investment from Walgreens who they've partnered with to develop at least a thousand clinics in 30 markets over the next six years. Our guest today is Sean Lane, a founder and CEO of olive, an artificial intelligence company that automates workflows within health systems since founding olive in 2012.
Speaker 1: (01:23)
Uh, Sean and his team have raised more than 900 million in their technologies being used in more than 900 hospitals across the United States. Uh, Sean, as we'll learn through the course of the discussion has an unusual background for a, a healthcare technology entrepreneur. He was an intelligence officer in the air force and spent most of his career at the NSA, uh, building software to solve intelligence challenges. After leaving the military, Sean was drawn to healthcare and I look forward to hearing more about that from him. Our moderator today is Mike Roberts. Who's the chief technology officer of village MD. Mike joined the company in 2016 and he and his team are really at the heart of enabling the value based care solutions that allow the company to scale. Thanks everyone for joining us. Uh, Mike will now kick off the conversation with Sean.
Speaker 2: (02:18)
So Steven, thank you, uh, for the warm welcome for both Sean and myself. Uh, I always really appreciate spending time with really incredible, uh, healthcare leaders, across many different, um, capabilities, uh, doing many different disruptive things. So I appreciate the, the warm welcome Sean. It's also very nice, uh, to, to meet you and get to know you just a little bit over the course of the last few days. Um, really looking forward to our time here together. Uh, it's really incredible to, to read about olive. Uh, I know a little bit about them as, as we've talked about, we should, we do share an investor, um, but I'm really looking forward to our conversation today as well.
Speaker 3: (02:56)
Yeah. Likewise, Mike, uh, look forward to it.
Speaker 2: (02:59)
Awesome. So Steven touched on, uh, something that I, I wanted to start with. Uh, you have just this really, I would argue unique and incredible background and this intersection of, uh, um, you know, serving, uh, serving the, the us and the capacity that you have as a captain, as well as, um, you know, sort of in, in the information, uh, services, um, and then sort of traversing into entrepreneurship, um, really very early on, not just with olive, but sort of over the course of your career. I I'd love for you maybe to start with the, the, the, the younger version of Sean Lane. Um, and talk a little bit about what led you to, uh, the military and to the service. Um, and, and where did you find your passion there and then maybe we'll go on to, you know, what, what led you to healthcare?
Speaker 3: (03:45)
Yeah, absolutely. So I, um, as a kid, I grew up in small rural town in Ohio. Uh, but growing up, I always wanted to be a spy that was kind of like the cool, the coolest thing I could think of. And, uh, my dad was in the army national guard and used to bring home lots of books about weapons systems and military strategies. And I would really graciously consume those. And I really had two things. I wanted to be a spy and I, I was really into computers and, uh, really into technology in the early internet and, and coding and, and, uh, really fascinated by that. Um, ended up going into military intelligence after undergrad. Uh, I was an air force intelligence officer. Um, when I graduated, it was when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were just getting started. Uh, so I spent, um, a couple, you know, years in the early days over in Iraq.
Speaker 3: (04:38)
And what I realized as an intelligence officers like technology was, uh, an unfair advantage. Like that was what intelligence was more about less James Bond, I guess, and more pew, um, in that, in that sense. And, um, while I was, uh, in my, under my first couple tours in Iraq, um, they, the, the leaders above me said that I should go to NSA cuz national security agency was like a place that where nerds who wanna be spies go. Um, and it was a, it was an incredible experience. Uh, you know, we were dealing with some of the biggest and hardest technology challenges ever, you know, ever confronted. We were dealing with magnitudes of data that were, uh, mind boggling, uh, you know, hundreds of, not millions of rows of data every second, all from heterogeneous sources. And we were really kind of thrown into this environment where we had to make sense of that data very quickly and then build software applications on top of it. So I had the opportunity to lead software teams and, um, build really incredible products for, you know, uh, this kind of life or death scenarios. And, um, it was a, it was a crash course in technology. And I parlayed that into my first company in 2007, got out in, out out of NSA to start a company, um, with engineers and built products for the intelligence community. And that was really, you know, my first entrepreneurial experience of, of doing that at that company.
Speaker 2: (06:07)
Awesome. So I'm sure there's a number of things that you can't tell us that you worked on and it sounds like you're solving, uh, or you had solved problems that were largely around data variation, data volume and decision making. Maybe just talk a little bit about, less about the specific, you know, uh, uh, specifics, but more about some sort of how you thought conceptually back in the day, how you thought about solving some of those problems.
Speaker 3: (06:27)
So the, the big challenge we were confronted with at a high level at NSA post nine 11 is that we realized none of the agencies are really sharing data. And we had built these silos, these fortreses of data and, you know, NSA, NGA, D I a D FBI, CIA, you know, I there's many more letters that I, I can, could probably rattle off, had their own unique systems and very, very valuable data inside them. And it wasn't really until the impetus of nine 11, kind of forced us to start sharing that data when the real value started to get unlocked and the real knowledge around, you know, what we could do, uh, to, to find these threats. And it was at its core, the technology that and unlocked that was graph technology. So the ability to do entity extraction and entity resolution at scale and connect these, these, these disparate data systems together became very, very powerful. So at that point I was, I became like a graph guy and, um, it's really core to everything we even do today at olive. Like the real brain of olive is a, is a knowledge graph. And it's been for me, you know, nearly 20 years of doing the same thing, um, but in different capacities. So that was, uh, that was a lot of the challenge is to bring the data together and unlocking these silos that were not interoperable at all.
Speaker 2: (07:57)
Yeah. Uh, well, well certainly gets olive here in a bit, but, uh, couldn't, can't think of a bigger challenge to be solved in healthcare in many respects. Um, so, but maybe going back to making the decision to leave the NSA and, and go ahead and start your own thing. Just maybe take us through the, the moments in time the, the, the weeks in time as you're making that, I'm sure pretty tough decision. One that maybe you are pretty excited about too, but, but how did you come to the conclusion that you wanted to go ahead and start your own business?
Speaker 3: (08:24)
Well, it wasn't, it was there, you know, the air, the, the air force and then cons subsequently NSA had been really incredible career moves for me as a, as an officer. Um, you know, I was kind of ahead of my peers group. I'd been selected for the pro this program that I was in way ahead of like the norm. So it was like just a few years ahead. I had the opportunity to get, to go to a couple other programs that normally one person doesn't get to do both. And I had that chance. So I really wanted, if I was gonna be a career military intelligence officer, I wanted to try to become a general officer like a general one day. And I was in Afghanistan at the time. And I, I called my fiance on satellite phone and told her the same thing. I always tell her, which is I'm gonna stay longer.
Speaker 3: (09:13)
um, and you, it was really in that phone call, you know, she said to me that, you know, like, is this gonna be normal for the rest of your career? And I'm like, well, probably, um, and we kind of decided that starting a family was gonna be really important to us. And, you know, we, we were real rethinking the idea that pursuit to pursue a career towards becoming a general officer. So the first thoughts I had were, well, I, I can get out of the military. I can get a job at, uh, Northrop Grumman. That was like an idea. Um, I had this kind of offer to be, uh, the deputy of like one of the space operations. And I was like, oh, that sounds pretty interesting. You know, moved to Redondo beach, California, and, um, take on this government contracting role. But then I met this guy who was my counterpart in Baghdad.
Speaker 3: (10:07)
So I was in, I was in Bogram in Afghanistan and he was in Baghdad and, and he had just recently got, got out, gotten out of the military and started a company. And it was a company of a few engineers building similar things to what I wanted to build. And, uh, after seeing that, I thought, you know, that's, that sounds really interesting. What if I could get a few, uh, you know, people I work with to take the leap with me, get out, and then we would form a company and it was a crazy decision. So I got out the same month. I got married. Um, so really got married with no job. Um, had no money to start a company, um, Albany, um, so sold, sold, like all my stuff. all my, you know, my car and I bought a truck on Craigslist for $2,900, which I still have today.
Speaker 3: (10:57)
I call it my startup truck. Um, and that, and, and that, that was like my life of, of really starting from scratch my first, you know, I, my first day of starting the company, I would just go to coffee shops and, and try to figure out what it meant to build a company. Um, but you know, it was really interesting. What I figured out was I could, um, consult to NSA in the same kind of role I was in. And they would pay me like $200 an hour to do that. So I would consult, I would work from 4:00 AM till noon, and then from noon on, I would build the company. So I kind of got, had the, the money to, to keep my, you know, family going. And then, then I would build the company from noon on. And that, that proved to be a, it was a hard time cuz it, you know, you wake up at two and get in to work at four and then you gotta build a company after your day's already in. But, uh, but it worked out and I didn't have to, I didn't raise venture capital or anything like that.
Speaker 2: (11:55)
Wow. Congrats. I, I, I'd love to, um, get back to exactly where you're at right now, but going back to something you had said, I think it's really interesting. You, you had made the comment that you, you had, uh, progressed rapidly, um, while, while in the military and, and, you know, quote unquote ahead of your peer group. And, and I think that, um, doing that sometimes, um, that there's lots of opportunities maybe to think about how that's done, but, but also I've personally found that, um, you know, in, in, in growth companies, as an example, you have a sort of a, a pretty awesome opportunity to just develop skills that sets capabilities, et cetera, to, to advance your own, your own sort of career, but maybe talk a little bit about, you know, how, you know, what, what specifically you did to be able to, you know, get ahead because every time you sort of get ahead, especially earlier in your career, I have a venture to say that you just to have a broader experience, broader perspective, it gives you more opportunity in just multiple, multiple dimensions. And so maybe just talk a little bit about that.
Speaker 3: (12:51)
You know, I, I, I, it's a great question. I think I can go back to like, um, several points in time when the realization of like how to, I guess, succeed came clear. And it was really through leaders that I had that believed in some of my ideas, right? So like when I first became a Lieutenant, um, you know, I had a, I had a Le I had an I, a leader who I was actually, I went to Miami university undergrad and, uh, my first duty assignment was like to teach there for a couple months before I got my clearance. And, you know, I had an idea, I wanted to build this like leadership reaction course. And I remember, uh, my, my boss at the time, he's a Lieutenant Colonel was like that, just go do it like AB you know, and I did. And it was a wonderful experience.
Speaker 3: (13:41)
And, and I was like, wow, this is interesting. Like, I can do these things that, um, that if given the autonomy can make a lot big difference in a big impact. Um, and that happened several times throughout my career. And, but I had this epiphany when I was in Iraq, on my first tour and we were, we were getting rocketed, uh, which we did often, but like rockets were coming in and you're just kind of, you know, is at night. So you're like sleeping and all of a sudden explosions start going off around you. And it's like, you can't really do anything about it other than just hope one doesn't fall on you. And I got, I, I remember getting like, angry about that and thinking like, somebody's gotta do something about this. And, uh, it kind of hit me at that moment. Like, well, wait a second.
Speaker 3: (14:29)
I think that's me, like, I'm supposed to do something about this. And you realize that there's not a system out there that you can just ride along. Like, it's not like this, this thing is not gonna just happen and you're gonna happen with it. Like you are the system. Like you are the thing that's making it possible. You're the thing that makes it work. So at that, that, that epiphany was interesting for me because, um, I, I focused on that problem. I obsessed about that problem of being rocketed. And I came up with a solution to help us not get rocketed anymore. And I found another leader who was interested in the idea and gave me the opportunity to do it. And it proved to be very successful. And there, there's kind of a, a series of those throughout my life. And I realized like, I, I can change something.
Speaker 3: (15:16)
I can make a difference. I don't have to, it's not the machine that does it. It's like me. I'm part of it. And I had great leaders who gave me the opportunity to do that. And, and I, one of the things I try to do today is be that same leader to others that, that I had the opportunity to have, um, where there's ideas and, and let them go and let them solve problems, let them obsess about is, you know, things they want to, they wanna make. Right. So, and I think that, that once I realized that that pattern worked for me, I just kept doing that.
Speaker 2: (15:46)
Yeah. Amazing. Um, I, I do think that surrounding yourself by tremendously talented people, including leaders is, is just a necessity as it relates to progression and, and entrepreneurship. Uh, well really well said, Sean, um, maybe let's go back to, um, just a few minutes ago. So you're, you're at this, um, you're working effectively two jobs. One of those is, is building company. The other is keeping the lights on for, for a family, uh, which is just, I can appreciate that on so many levels. Um, but, but you're, you're sort of, it sounds like you, you sort of made it work and, and, and I'd love for you to maybe talk about it at some point you're, you're probably sitting there saying, okay, I, I made it work now with my, with my company. What do I wanna do versus with my job that I'm working at from four to 12, and how, how do you make the sort of decision that you're ready to do the next thing, whether it's expand that company or go do something else? What, what was that decision like?
Speaker 3: (16:38)
Well, you know, I didn't know what venture capital was and I didn't, so I didn't even know to go get it. Um, and I didn't, and it probably wasn't a venture backable company anyway, really. Um, but I did it little by little frankly, um, you know, the $200 an hour kind of salary for me at the time was incredible amount of money and I didn't need that much. So, you know, I took some of that and I would invest it into the business. So I hired somebody else. And then, uh, that person did the same thing I did. And then we took that money collectively and hired somebody else. And, uh, we just kept kind of adding little by little, and then we had this product. Um, we had built, uh, a cellular system just to kind of put it broad broadly. And, uh, we thought it was pretty cool.
Speaker 3: (17:25)
It had good software, uh, good software on top of it. And we had, we wanted to sell it. And, uh, we went to Lockheed Martin actually. And they were interested in doing a, uh, like a, a pilot project with this new technology we had built. And we sold the first license of our software for $87,000. I remember. And I was like, oh right, alright, like that's real revenue. Like, let's take that. And then let's go hire some more people. And then we took that same technology and we went to the army and the army, uh, their first, their first purchase was 1.2 million. So we, so then I took that and hired more people. So we expanded very quickly. We ended up growing that to 20 million in revenue, uh, on a yearly basis. So we, we grew it, uh, the software worked really well and we were able to, um, build some really incredible things, but it really was incremental. Like we were always cash flow positive. We were always profitable. We were growing as our company was growing. Um, it was a, it was a cool, it was a cool company. It was a cool op opportunity.
Speaker 2: (18:32)
Yeah. Awesome. So you're at this incredibly successful bootstrapped company making, you know, top line revenue of 28 million a year. And now where do you go from there?
Speaker 3: (18:45)
Yeah, so we, um, you know, I, at heart, I I'm a technologist and I like to build technology and products. Um, so we were building more and more and more products, like really awesome stuff. You know, as I look back at it, I still look at it, you know, with a lot of, uh, pride. And I, I think they were, it was really neat things that we were, we were coming up with. And, um, we had also spun out. We had an OG augmented reality division that we had spun out to build essentially glasses for the military to do augmented reality. This is before Google glass or any of that, but, you know, for facial recognition and voice recognition and, and, uh, general intelligence. And so we spent that out as a separate company. So I had the kind of this holding company starting, starting to be created.
Speaker 3: (19:31)
And then, uh, one day, uh, a strategic, uh, defense company came to us and said, they'd be interested in buying the company. And I was like, oh, that's, that's cool. Like, that sounds like an incredible amount of money. And I went down the path of considering that, well, I, I said yes, basically. And, um, we were going through the integration. Well, not even the integration, like the diligence prior to signing the definitive agreement on that, that sell. And they, then they came up, they, they handed me the list of people that, that they were gonna get rid of. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Like these are the people, you know, these are the people I've been building the company with. Like, I didn't agree to like, get rid of a lot of people like, oh yeah, those are synergies. And that's just what we do.
Speaker 3: (20:15)
Like, that's how we, um, that's how we, you know, make money on these acquisitions. And I, I was like, uh, deal's off. Like, I'm not doing that. Yeah. Um, so I walked away from that deal. And then two weeks later, a private equity firm came and said, well, we would like to buy your company. And they offered more money. And I was like, oh, that's even more interesting. And they were like, we're gonna make, you know, we're gonna invest in making a platform and grow it. And, and, and you, you can go, um, acquire other companies that sounded pretty attractive. So I started going down the path on that deal. And then the, the government came in and said, whoa, whoa, whoa, this technology's too sensitive. Uh, we are gonna buy the intellectual property. So the government actually bought the company, uh, at the end of the day.
Speaker 3: (20:59)
So it was a really weird kind of acquisition that doesn't happen very often. But, um, so we sold the asset, um, out of the company. And then we had this kind of shell of a company and we started to do services work inside that shell, that, that company, that services company actually still exists. Um, they have about a hundred people in their it's operating in, in Maryland today. Um, but it's, it's a separate entity, but it kind of arose out of that asset sale. But then I was like, figuring out what I was gonna do next. You know, we had gone through this acquisition, you know, um, changed our kind of financial situation. And I was looking at like startups and investing. And I started really getting into this idea of growing companies and helping others. I had, we, my wife and I decided at the time, like we wanna help a hundred people become millionaires. That was our, like, you know, by helping invest in these companies. And, and that was kind of our goal at the time.
Speaker 2: (21:55)
Wow, wow. Uh, so much to get into there. I, I wanna sort of keep going forward, but I, I have a feeling I I'd love to come back to a few things, but that's an incredible story. Congrats on, on all of that success. Um, I, I obviously hadn't realized the details there. Um, so you're, let's just pick up maybe from where you're at your, your, your wife and you are fortunate enough to be in the position where you wanna create, you know, sort of opportunities for a hundred, at least a hundred more, more individuals, uh, that, that are, you know, potentially life changing. How, how do you even like start? I mean, I'm sure there's a million ways that you might think about that, but where do you even start with like taking action?
Speaker 3: (22:31)
So we started a incubator in Baltimore called beta Moore, uh, me and a, and a couple co-founders kind of built this idea, you know, an accelerator accelerators were hot then, um, this idea that you could build a, you know, new company and help it along and invest in it and get some equity. And, um, and that was super fun. I mean, that was, it was, it was a walk from my house. You know, we, we lived downtown in Baltimore. Uh, we'd also started a nonprofit there called digital Harbor foundation, which is still alive and well, um, helping teach technology to, um, InnerCity, uh, InnerCity kids inside, not just Baltimore now, but across the country. Um, so we had this like really great setup, uh, to do that, but, um, while all that was happening back in my hometown in Southeastern Ohio, uh, there, they were battling prescription drug abuse and just, it was just a ferocious battle.
Speaker 3: (23:33)
Um, I had friends that were, were getting addicted to opioids. I had gone to a couple funerals of my classmates, uh, and, and it started to impact my family, like my close family. And that became an issue that I wanted to, to, to do something about. And, and frankly, the town asked like, can, can you help us with this? And I was living in Baltimore, had all this stuff going on, everything was great, but I wanted to figure out a way to help this problem. And, uh, went, went to travel back to my hometown and went to the hospital, uh, the only hospital in my hometown and asked if I could just take a look around at the technology and the systems they were using. Cause it, it boggled my mind that we couldn't figure out if someone was doctor shopping for prescription drugs. Yeah.
Speaker 3: (24:23)
Basically what I saw was no, the systems weren't talking to each other, there was no connection between the diff disparate systems. They didn't know who people were. There was no entity extraction, no entity resolution. So I was like, they need a graph. Um, so back going back to my kind of NSA days, I started to build a graph in my hometown to connect everything together so that we could identify when folks were, you know, going from doctor to doctor to try to get opioids. I had started to work with the state to talk about how to do this at a larger scale. And, uh, that's actually what got me into healthcare.
Speaker 2: (25:02)
Wow. Wow. So, so amazing. What a journey. Um, well, let's, let's keep going. Uh, that, that definitely is incredible. So now you're talking to the state, um, you're, you're looking at the, you know, one of the systemic issues of healthcare that is, uh, interoperability and lack thereof, um, and you're dealing with I'm, I'm sure it sort of is weighing heavy on your heart, a, a, a problem, a social, uh, problem in your, in your hometown. And you got a great thing going on back in Baltimore, and you're talking to this state and, and what's, what's going through your mind at that point.
Speaker 3: (25:40)
Yeah. You know, it was interesting because at the time it was, it was really an initiative to help that problem in my hometown. But as I start to focus more on that issue, I realized that the connectivity between systems creates a lot of problems in healthcare. And one symptom is the, the inability to know if someone's doctor shopping, but there are all kinds of symptoms. Um, the clipboard, you know, the, the wooden clipboard with the yarn pen, with the duct tape on it, like that is also a symptom of the same problem of these things not being connected. And so I started, you know, we started thinking about like, how could we do this at a, a, at a better scale? Again, it wasn't really a company at the time. Like we were thinking through how to solve this problem, but the state of Ohio was like, Hey, like we want, we want this to go broader.
Speaker 3: (26:38)
So we decided to form a company. Um, and again, like I was traveling back and forth from Baltimore to, uh, my hometown. And then while I was in my hometown, you know, there was really E economic decline that was happening in my, in my hometown. It's a small town it's on the river it's, uh, but it was very, uh, de depressed. And, um, I wanted to help the like economic situation too. So I started to like open up some, like a restaurant, like little things like that and inspire some like entrepreneurship in my hometown. And I started actually that services company that the defense services company, I opened a branch in my hometown so that we could have software engineers in my hometown, which is very different, um, kind of demographic of, of, of worker. And while, while I did that, the, this governor sent someone down to do the ribbon cutting from his team and the person on his team that he sent down for the ribbon cutting was a guy who was on sabbatical from Sequoia capital.
Speaker 3: (27:45)
And so this guy shows up in my little hometown, uh, gala police, Ohio, and for the ribbon cutting. And we meet for the very first time. And he was like, what are you up to? And I was like, well, I got all this stuff going on in Baltimore that I'm excited about. I get an incubator, I've got this augmented reality company. I got all these investments, but I'm building this internet of healthcare in my hometown. And he was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, stop everything that you're doing. He's like, don't go build another small company, go build a massive company and change the entire industry. He's like, I'm leaving. You know, I'm gonna leave Silicon valley, I'm moving to Ohio. Uh, one of my partners gonna come with me from Sequoia, we're gonna build a new fund and we wanna invest in your company. And we want you to build this, this internet of healthcare idea, uh, based it was based on identity predominantly.
Speaker 3: (28:37)
We wanted you to change the industry. I was like, whoa. So I had never, ever contemplated a living in Ohio again, frankly. Like I just never assumed I would come back and I never contemplating building a big company. And it was, it was very different way of thinking, like, cuz I had thought, you know, build a company for, you know, with 20 million revenues, sell it, do it again, do it again, do it again. Um, but I never thought like what if you built a company not to sell? Like what if you built a company that would be around for decades and maybe a century and like what if you had an R and D budget of a billion dollars? Like imagine the things you could do, the, the problems you could solve, how you could fundamentally change an industry with that kind of, uh, technology capability. And uh, it just got in my brain and I thought, I, this, I gotta try this. And um, you know, I told my wife like, what do you think about Ohio? uh, that was tough. That was tough. Um, yeah, not, not part of the plans to move to Ohio for sure.
Speaker 2: (29:40)
Yeah. Amazing. So, uh, so much in there as well. So you started out by bootstrapping and thinking about making, you know, a couple people into a couple more into a couple more into tens twenties, 30 a hundred people and then selling. Um, but, but I have to imagine that part of that is there's some, some, and, um, just thinking about like, this is mine, I have this, um, versus taking in having to deal with investors or deal with, you know, others, um, that are part now part of your, for lack of a better term cap table, um, maybe just like how long did it take you to sort of process like, like, is this a good idea? Like, do I really wanna do this, you know, with some third party or do I not like just maybe take, cause that's I have to imagine it was part of the, the decision making.
Speaker 3: (30:29)
Yeah. It really, really is. And you know, I think as I, as I look now to others who are starting companies, um, I find that this is probably one of the hardest things. Um, and it's really deciding what you want to build from the beginning. So I had one investor came second, but had he said, there are two kind of companies out there, zero million dollar companies and zero billion dollar companies. And I was like, oh, that's an interesting way to say it basically like there are companies that could be worth a hundred million dollars, like incredible companies like employing so many people great for an economy, great for everything. Um, I mean these are really important, valuable parts of our economy, but the decisions you make and the people you hire and the things that you do, the, the, the way you, you spend resources that you have, and even the metrics that you find important are different in zero million dollar company that a zero billion dollar company, you know, zero billion dollar company is we're gonna build this thing for scale and growth and it's gonna be worth potentially billions of dollars so that we can employ thousands of people so that we can have build some of the most amazing products, you know, that's ever been made.
Speaker 3: (31:44)
And like, I think early on you have to decide which one, because the decisions you make are gonna be very, very different. And I, I had already done the other, like the other company I'd already built, like the smaller company. That was again, fantastic experience. You know, even today we go back to the alumni and talk to them. They, it was a great experience for everyone. Um, but I wanted to try the zero billion dollar. Yeah. You know, company, I wanted to try to build something that would grow fast, uh, that, you know, would, would pass up the opportunity to build a hundred million dollar company in exchange for building the multi-billion dollar company, which is a very hard decision to make. And, uh, so I kind of bought into that early on to say, like, that's what I want to do. Uh, that's what, because I just believe that healthcare needs a tech company. Yeah, yeah. Like a, a real formidable tech company. Yeah.
Speaker 2: (32:39)
Awesome. I love that. Um, so you, you made, you sort of go through that process and making that, making that decision you end up saying, yeah, this is a great idea. Now you have all of this hard, you know, blood, sweat, and tear work that went into the things that you've done, um, that now you're gonna have to figure out what do you do with, so, so how do, how do you go back through that process? And, you know, personally, maybe I might feel like I'm disappointing others that are sort of embedded and that follow me or whatever it might be, but just how do you go back to sort of those areas of your life and say you're making a different decision and, and sort of go through that process. Was that, was that a challenge? And then how'd that work out?
Speaker 3: (33:15)
Yeah, it was tough. It was so tough. So I went back to Baltimore and, um, I was at a dinner and at the dinner, uh, there, the, there was like newspaper folks there from like Baltimore sun. And it, I said like, this was before actually this was be, this was the dinner happened before I went to Ohio. And then I, at that dinner, I was like, I'm all in on Baltimore. And, and there was like a little article in the paper. Like Sean Lane is all in on Baltimore. I literally come back and I like, I'm leaving Baltimore.
Speaker 2: (33:50)
Speaker 3: (33:51)
It was hard. Cause like all these people, I just built this, you know, this incubator with, I just built this accelerator. I had just built this nonprofit with, and, and all these things that were going on. And I was like, Hey guys, I gotta go. Um, I gotta go to Ohio. And it was like, what? Like, what is that? You know, it was a really, it was shocking. Um, and, and we, and it was, it was a tough decision, tough decision to do that.
Speaker 2: (34:21)
Yeah. So you, you do go through that process. You do make the decision. You, you are moved back to Ohio. Yeah. Um, you clearly have, have a passion for the work that you had started. Yeah. And now it sounds like you have these, this sort of mindset of, you know, really, how do I make a, a dramatic impact broadly on the, on the healthcare system. Uh, but you mentioned something in there is that you really started, you mentioned IOT, but then you also mentioned really starting with identity, maybe take us back to the, the early days and sort of how you're thinking about product market fit.
Speaker 3: (34:53)
So it's really, I mean, I know it seems so completely night and day different from what we do today, but it's really the same core idea of this internet of healthcare and the way that I thought about the identities. Um, so entities and general people, places and things in order to create a, a, a data sharing system based on a graph, you need to do entity extraction on people, places and things. And when entities have IDs, like in this case, a person has an ID, patient ID, all the data can, can have a re all the, all these nodes can have a relationship to that person. And the data kind of comes together in this beautiful way that allows you to do analytics that allows you to share data with applications that allows you to just perform what you would actually expect on, on the healthcare data that we have.
Speaker 3: (35:42)
Uh, like for one of the biggest graphs that you, that most people know about is, is Facebook. Like the graph that they have is how they connect all these things together. Um, and, and, you know, maybe they don't use it in the way that most people would love, but like that, that gives them incredible capabilities and power of, of, of how to use the data. So at the core, the company, but the idea was let's ensure that we can do identity resolution so that we can connect these records together so that we can have connection points between the systems. The tough thing is it's hard to sell a graph. Like if I go to a hospital and say, I have a graph, they're like, is that like a chart or, um, and just selling database or selling that is, is, is too intangible. So we gave it away to hundreds of hospitals for free.
Speaker 3: (36:39)
And we got these connections on data, on people across, you know, 70 million identities. But when I, when I was there, I kept noticing that they had these cubicle farms effectively, uh, where people were doing the same thing over and over again, and these repetitive kind of tasks. And it really dawned on me while I was there visiting all these health systems that, uh, these were human routers, like their job was to route data outta one system into another outta one portal, into another out of one piece of software into another. And, and they were using, you know, keyboards and, and mice and fax machines and email as their routing engine. And, and I realized I stepped back and I was like, how big of a problem is this? And I was like, okay, there's 16 million employees in healthcare. It's the number one employer in the entire country.
Speaker 3: (37:32)
And the estimates are 25% administrative costs. So 4 million human routers and at 4 million human routers, what, what shocked me was, that's like nine, almost 9 billion hours of human capacity, like where you and I could be doing something different. You know, 8.6 is the number billion hours of human capacity wasted every single year. And about a trillion dollars of cost. I was like, wow, if we can use the, know this knowledge graph that we have to automate this, this routing process of data and these workflows that are crushing the, the, the employees of healthcare, I think we could make a big difference. And, and that's where we started coming up with the idea of building an AI worker. Um, and, and the cool thing about it is that it's not just a automation or like a, a script. It is a worker that has all that data plugged into their, into, in this case, her brain.
Speaker 3: (38:34)
So all the data from all the connections of all the systems of all the workflows is in one brain. And now these workers have access to that as they're working so they can work accurately and faster and more efficiently. And the cool thing is too, that that gets smarter and smarter and smarter and smarter. Every time we add a customer, every time we do a workflow and it, so it's kind of this infinite scale of, of wisdom sharing. Um, so anyway, that's how the idea came to be, but let, that sounds great, but let me go, let me talk about like, why that was incredibly hard. , um, that's not what we were doing at the time we had, as we were trying to give away this free identity product. We, we also found that checking in was, was a pain. Like when you check in, in the lobby and the lobby management was awful and you'd have to sign the clipboard and they call you up and you need to do all the process.
Speaker 3: (39:31)
So we said, well, we can make that better. Cuz we have all the data. So we built this checkin system called Q, uh, Q U U E and Q was, you know, beautiful iPad on a stand. And it did like all this great check in. And we had deployed like 200 of these. Uh, we were all in on queue and, but the problem was, I mean, a lot of people loved it, they're paying for it, but the unity economics weren't good. Meaning like the, we were spending a lot to sell them. We, it would take us two years to recover what we're spending to sell the margins. Weren't great. The at sales price, weren't increasing the average sales prices, uh, and the market was kind of small. So I had an option to, I had a decision to make, I either built this a hundred million dollar company, like certainly could have built, could have sold it for a hundred million dollars.
Speaker 3: (40:23)
I mean, it was a, it was a good company or kill it and go for the bigger win. I would assume with this new AI worker product. Now, the AI worker hadn't been built yet. And it was just an idea that had been percolating for a while. Um, but there was a day. So the day came, uh, when I kind of pulled the executive team together and said, we're gonna kill the queue. We're gonna stop doing that. We're going to downsize. We're gonna preserve the capital we have, and we're gonna build this new product called olive. And, um, people did not like that. Uh, that was not a popular at, at the time was not very popular. Uh, so we lost a lot of people, um, during that transition, but I just, I don't know, it is just an instinct that this is what we, this could build a big company and, uh, we did build it, uh, barely made it almost ran outta money. We luckily had a first customer who paid us $2 million for some reason. still forever grateful for, for that. Um, we didn't, I mean, it was barely even a product at the time and we had the capital to keep, keep surviving and luckily all of flew off the shelf and, and the first year we had booked a couple, you know, a couple more million of revenue. People were loving it and, uh, you know, the, it grew from there, but yeah, it was a tough, tough pivot.
Speaker 2: (41:54)
Wow. So let's maybe go back to that. There is such a great challenge that, that you, you described, um, so eloquently, um, at that point I imagine you have is, is, is you have external investors, you have Sequoia whomever on your board, is that right?
Speaker 3: (42:10)
Yeah. So drive capital with the guys who left Sequoia.
Speaker 2: (42:15)
You're not only having to have, we'll get to the, the really hard executive and employee conversation, but you're having to have a conversation with, with your board. And, you know, you're talking about, you know, how, how, you know, you have the successful company, but you wanna shut it down to do something that's improvement. How, how does that conversation go?
Speaker 3: (42:32)
You know, I, I go back to what I said earlier about, like, I've just been super lucky to have leaders who have believed in these ideas and let, and, and you know, enough to say, do it. And, uh, saying goes with the most influential person, you know, kind of investor on the board was Chris Olson from drive capital, um, co-founder of drive capital. And, uh, it was a tough, it was a tough conversation, but I laid it out. Uh, it talked about why the technology was, uh, uh, was a moat. It was actually very hard to do and do it well. I talked about the market size and the potential that it had, uh, and, uh, talked about why I think we could get there with the capital that we currently have. And, uh, frankly he believed in it and supported the decision. And, uh, yeah, I mean, it was, again, it was a hard, hard decision because not only was, were we abandoning, like being this product? I mean, I, I actually, after making the decision within a few days, found a buyer to take the asset and I, and I sold it for $0. So I said, here's 280 implementations with revenue. It's yours take it, it's gone. I just wanna focus on the future. Um, so anyway, it was like a tumultuous period for sure,
Speaker 2: (43:59)
Totally Kyle. So then maybe let's go back to your internal meeting. You're, you're talking with your executive team. You're, you're ultimately having to make a on how to, you know, think about the business going forward. You're you you're contemplating eliminations as part of it, but it sounds like there are also some, some voluntary, uh, eliminations as a result, just maybe go through, have you ever had to go through that before obvious seen it? It would have to be likely in a different capacity, but like I have to imagine that was so incredibly challenging knowing that you're dealing with human beings on the other side of that.
Speaker 3: (44:28)
Yeah, it was brutal. I mean, the first, the funny thing that, that conversation I had with the executive team was not the first one. It was the second, um, a year earlier, we had, we had a couple products that were, that we were working on in the market and assessing their, whether they would make it. And we had made the decision to focus on Q and we got rid of some other stuff. And at that time we downsized. So we had gone through a year earlier, you know, what people would constitute as a RIF, a reduction in force. Um, we went down to kind of bare bones operation. We had built back up from that. So these, you know, my team had wa was, you know, kind of had the battle scars of just going through that. And I came to them a couple months after that.
Speaker 3: (45:18)
And I said, I actually don't think this product's gonna work. I wanna try this other thing. And I didn't even call it all of it the time it had, uh, what was the name? It was, um, uh, it, it was the, the name was the initial meant AI. I can't remember what the name was, but, so I have this idea to do this automation, automation work, this AI worker, and I presented it to team two months after we had just riffed two months after we had decided to focus. And they basically were like, shut your mouth. Like,
Speaker 3: (45:49)
Absolutely not. You are crazy. We're not doing that. And I was like, okay, okay. Okay. So I backed off for like 10 months. And then even after 10 months of scaling this thing, I came back and said, no, we're doing it. Like it it's, this is a done deal. So, you know, we had to go back to that same reduction force. And, uh, you know, if you look back at the first four years of the company and those people who were there during that time, it was a tough, tough experience because not only was it, did it come with all the other, the other things that startups come with it came with these really hard decisions being made of stopping products, shutting them down very quickly. What, what could seem to be abrupt, running outta money, constantly reducing our staff, you know, going from a hundred to 30 to 60 to 20, uh, which was, that was what we did. Um, and then there are a few that are still here, uh, at all of, through all of that, which is amazing. There are, there are several who are, you know, um, that, that moved on in our, what I consider, you know, so critical to our journey. Um, they made a lot of sacrifices along the way, and, you know, we, we honor that, you know, and we, the only way we can honor that is by, by being successful now.
Speaker 2: (47:09)
Yeah. Wow. That's amazing. Um, so maybe talk a little bit about, you know, in terms of olive today, you, you, you you've mentioned that, um, you, you went through this incredible journey, uh, lot of ups, lot of downs, um, and you, you sort of made the cross, the chasm on, on taking venture back or venture capital. Um, yeah. And now you, you know, just closed a, a massive round earlier this year. Um, it sounds like really the many levels, the, the amount of runway that you have in front of you is just so, so far out there. Um, what do you think the, the next chapter of olive looks like if, if you've got this incredible system and I'm not looking for, to, for you to divulge secrets, but as you think about solving healthcare, if you will, and being, being the technology company and healthcare, how, how do you think about the next series of steps?
Speaker 3: (48:03)
So, I mean, olive has grown incredibly since that 2017 massive pivot and reduction in force. We now have 1200 people. We grow at almost 120. We, we grow by the size of our company every month. That back in the next days, um, you know, we've raised about a billion dollars. Uh, we have a thousand customers, I mean, a thousand hospitals. It it's, it's, it's been incredible to watch it grow, but what we have not done is kinda rest from a product perspective. We, you know, we made some pretty bold moves. Uh, last year we opened up the payer market. So we're doing providers and payers. Now we did that through an acquisition. We, we, uh, purchased a clearing house. We're now a full functioning clearing house. We do the financial transactions. We process 80 billion of, of claims a year. And that's a small amount compared to what we will be doing as we convert all of our customers to our clearinghouse.
Speaker 3: (49:02)
Um, we added clinical analytics and, and clinical automation. So we're moving into that world. They're basically, we have the entire enterprise now that we are transforming through automation through these AI, this AI workforce. We have an AI workforce of 75,000 FTEs right now working every single day, um, which is, which is pretty awesome. Um, and then we have a strategy moving forward. So our strategy actually, I, I put it on my background here. So we have these four strategies. We're very deliberate about strategy. Um, for the past two years, we operated on a strategy called the five strategic maneuvers. And it basically created over the course of two years, five business units. And those business units is what led to our, our growth. And it was all, it was the rubric through which our investments were made. It's our decisions were made. Um, and our new strategy is, are these four things.
Speaker 3: (49:57)
So first is fortify the foundation that's really about, um, delivering on our vision to the customers who have believed in us. You know, we have customers who really took a bet on us, believe in our vision, and we gotta close the gap between vision and reality. Now, this is true with every company, but there are things we want to do. And there's like the reality of where we are today. And we've gotta close that gap. We've gotta get those, those visions in the field, operationalized and deployed. Um, and, and that's like our first part of our, our strategy moving forward. The second part is build the network. So we, we have olives now in, you know, like I said, a thousand hospitals, uh, but in order to build a really successful network so that you, as a patient have a very consistent experience, uh, we have to grow that network larger.
Speaker 3: (50:48)
Um, so basically we look at where olives are and where olives are not, and we go where olives are not, and that's part of our strategy. So you'll see us open up new markets, new areas, uh, install on desktops, install on servers, install on different logical places throughout the stack, as well as getting into practices and, and different, uh, different sizes of providers and types of providers, not only in the United States, but probably globally. Um, the next one is behave like a platform. So I believe that there's really no true platform in healthcare. Like there's a lot of people talk about it, there's platform E type things out there, but to behave like a platform means that you want 10 competitors building on it. You want eight different, you know, weather apps like, you know, or 80 different weather apps. You want a, you want a lot of openness.
Speaker 3: (51:45)
You want anyone to come, you wanna create a marketplace that has distribution, um, that has developer tools like, and the developer has to be like really important. I believe that the next kind of big technology creations are gonna come from hundreds of thousands of developers and dorm rooms and, and basements and garages and other companies, not just all of, like, we've only created 75,000 FTE worth of AI workers, but with the platform, thousands of developers can create thousands and thousands more. So we wanna really introduce this platform. We, we opened something called the library recently. Uh, we now have almost 50 companies building on the li on this platform, uh, and we're distributing through our, through our system. And then the last piece is, um, of our strategy. Moving forward is about information assurance. And I know this is like not normally part of a strategy.
Speaker 3: (52:37)
It's usually like, oh, I have sock to, or I have high trust or whatever. We're not talking about compliance. I'm talking like about going a little bit back to my roots, where our customers are being attacked every single day by foreign adversaries and cyber criminals. Like it is their reality. And I don't think they have the technology to equip them to properly kind of discover and defend against cyber threats. So I want to, through our platform, help them do that. Um, I want to help protect our customers. That's one, two. I want every person to know where their data are and where it's going and where it's been, and then have control over it. So if your data's going from a, you know, hospital to an insurance company, you should know about it, and you should have a say over that. Um, and then the third thing is we, we want to create super high trust, like a level of encryption and, and, and com compartmentalization and security. That goes well beyond any of the minimums out there. So that's, that's our strategy for the future.
Speaker 2: (53:41)
Awesome. That's really, really neat. Um, so there's, there's been a handful of questions that have come in. I do wanna get to one just cuz we're sort of on topic on it. Um, I think I know this, but I'm curious, uh, one of them is just simply where did the name olive come from?
Speaker 3: (53:57)
Uh, so I was like, I wanted to create a name that was a person and a thing. Like I, I'm a kind of touring AI, like I, I, I I've subscribed to that, that version of artificial intelligence. So I think the touring test of not knowing the difference between a human and a machine is important. Um, and then I also, like, I like the brand apple, I think it's a cool brand. I think it's an awesome name. So I was looking up like all these different names. I looked up one word fruits and, uh, olive is a fruit and I was like, oh, that's a cool name. It's also a person's name. And it's a thing. And it has the word live in it, which is super cool for healthcare. Yeah. And you say it all of the time without realizing it. So it's instantly familiar and then the O itself is pretty iconic. So, and, and the other, the other little hidden thing, I don't think many people know this, the O is actually a circuit. A circuit is the most nuclear element of work. Like when you do a workflow or process, you're, you're completing a circuit. And with all of the, circuit's not complete, like the idea is like, our work is not done. Yeah. So it's like the incomplete circuit in the, oh,
Speaker 2: (55:06)
Fantastic. I did not know all of that. So thank you. Um, Sean, we're at time, uh, I could go on for another hour. Uh, uh, hopefully it would be willing to as well, but unfortunately I know that we've got our time, uh, is now at, at the end here. I really appreciate the conversation. It's always incredible to speak to such amazing, uh, individuals with such amazing stories. Uh, I'll be honest. And I think it came across in the, in the chat. It's like when, when is, uh, who's gonna pay Sean to do the biopic, cuz I do think that, you know, you're sort of background and, and, and uh, journey is, is movie worthy. So I wish you nothing but the best. I do hope to stay in touch with you personally. And I think you for your time today, Sean, thanks again
Speaker 3: (55:44)
So much, Mike. And thanks everyone else for, for listening. I appreciate it. Take care.