Indu Subaiya, Health 2.0, Woman Entrepreneur

Images-1Sometimes it just takes time or the right turn to find your sweet spot.  I have heard from countless people who journeyed to the tech start-up communities of SF and NYC that for the first time ever they knew they had found their people.  Indu Is definitely one of those people and her education through medical school kept her focused on disrupting the medical industry which is in need of massive change. 

Indu spent her earlier years growing up in Bangor before her family moved to Long Island NY where she went to high school.  She went off to Cornell University for undergraduate as a biology major with the thought that she would always be in medicine.  A typical statistic, Indian American family that admires doctors and tells their kids that they should become a doctor.  In high school, she ran the debate club, wrote for the newspaper and was an organizer of a variety of events.  A total self-starter over achiever with the goal always being medical school.  After graduating Cornell, she continues onward as expected to Stonybrook Medical School. 

It wasn't that Indu didn't love medical school but by her fourth year she knew that being a doctor wasn't what she really wanted to do. She thought that perhaps she could be a psychologist or a neurologist but Indu really felt that you had to get up every morning and be passionate about what you are doing and the passion wasn't there.  The structure and culture of the medical world for an extravert like Indu didn't fit.  You can't be a rebellious doctor. Her peers and professors were amazed that she had no desire for a residency and wanted her career to go in a different direction.  How could you not be a doctor?  Her father was so concerned he told her that at least she could always drive a taxi.  Funny enough, everyone else was so worried about her decision to change the direction of her life except for Indu. 

During her fourth year rotation in ICU, she would do searches on health care jobs in California.  She found a consulting company that focused on biotech life sciences in the Bay area and gave them a call.  After graduating medical school, she got on a plane and found herself in a complete life shift working in the Bay area.  It was 2000.  The boutique consulting firm was helping biotech companies get to market.  It was an incredible experience because of the broad exposure it gave Indu.  She was able to be involved with several stages of growth and the life cycle of these companies. Indu felt as if she was in her elemement.  She loved the community, she went to every conference, she embraced the culture.  She was able to wear several hats and get her chops wet running a division that focused on the pharmaceutial industry and clinical patient outcomes.  The radical notion that you can get information from patients on how they feel after taking certain drugs and the impact of that.  She is still passionate about that topic today. 

She decided that in order to really be an expert in what she was doing, she should go get an MBA as she thought that understanding the business side was important to her success.  She took a 3 year degree so she could work during the day and go to school at night.  It was exhausting.  After two years she decided to jump ship at the medical consulting company and spent the third year working for a hedge fund with a focus on health.  It was a great decision to get a MBA and learn about the biz side but working in the hedge fund industry was not.  The hours were insane and it was primarily a male industry.  She got to see that mindset and that was enough. 

She took a breather and got married and then took a few months off.  Indu had a meeting with a guy who had been a client of both the consulting and hedge fund firm and told him that she was thinking of starting up her own company.  He said, go on your honeymoon and when you come back, let's talk. I will be your first client.

She came back and told him about she needed someone to help her think about product and design.  After years of consulting she really wanted to build something.  She had left medical school, gone to get a MBA and in her heart she knew that she wanted to be an entrepreneur.  She had been incubating an idea for what she thought was web 2.0 meets health-care. 

The flexibility on how we communicate and share information with ourselves should be able to make the leap to communicating with your doctor.  She wanted to bring tech to the medical community through a software program with an easy user interface.  It was 2006 and Indu goes to a health community meet-up in the Bay area to see if anyone else is thinking about what she is thinking about.  She meets Matthew Holt who has been writing a blog about the health care industry.  He knew about health-care and she knew about running a business.  He was writing policy wonky stuff and they got to talking about and formed a connection.  Many conversations later they decide to do a small conference called Health 2.0 and the company was born. 

It wasn't what she expected, as is it ever?  At the time she was also working as a Venture partner working with a medical records start-up that connected doctors to their patients including running her consultancy firm.  So between her consulting contacts, the venture arm and the idea for Health 2.0, they were able to get Yahoo, Google and Webmed to talk at the conference.  The two of them knew nothing about putting together an event.  They were writing the script every day.  They decided to charge $1000 a head and before they knew it they had 500 people who had signed up and then they had a wait list.

Indu still remembers the first day of the conference.  Walking into the rooms and having an Israeli medical entrepreneur come over to her and say I am so excited that other people are interested in these topics around health-care.  Two months later they opened a bank account, created a LLC and she continued to consul for a few months before making the leap to be a full time entrepreneur.  The heart and soul of her business is the conferences.  Currently they put on conferences around the globe where on average 1500 people attend from Berlin to China to India to Paris. 

The other divisions of her company are in incubators around developers.  The Fed gives them money to stimulate health IT mandates in the country.  For instance, the Government has decided that we need to find a solution for tele-medicine in rural Virginia and they work on making that match.  Through a grant they have created an incubator arm, for companies to create health-care solutions.  This creates economies, jobs and companies.  The other division is focused on market intelligence as they are tracking over 1500 companies that fall into the web 2.0 space.  The criteria is health tech companies that are using or building software that is adaptable for the medical community, it must be user friendly and they must use data to make intelligent smart decisions. 

Indu might have been one of the first to jump from medical school into the tech world but she might have started a trend.  She currently mentors many others who have decided to take her track.  Talking with Indu is inspiring because she is working in an area that is going to undergo significant change in the next decade.  It has to.  Having smart people like her involved in educating people around the globe by creating conferences where conversations can take place and ideas form is a start.  Yet having an arm where companies are seeded so they can begin to form and grow is essential for change. It is like the tag line of Health 2.0, the innovation community. 

She has a one year old child and is learning about the balance between motherhood and being an entrepreneur.  The company is virtual as she lives in LA and Matt lives in SF.  As Indu says, what ended up happening in her career is serendipity but at the end of the day you have to trust you gut and she did. Worse comes to worse Indu can always fall back on driving a taxi but I am pretty damn sure that won't be necessary.





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Comments (Archived):

  1. Andy Ellis

    Healthcare is both the most attractive and intimidating sector for me to think about diving into from an entrepreneurial perspective. It is so important, so huge, and terribly inefficient. The fact that people as bright and well rounded as Indu are actively trying to bring people together to tackle challenges with healthcare delivery is incredibly encouraging.I’m finishing up my DMD in Boston this month and heading out to Travis Air Force Base (near Napa) for a 12 month residency. After that, I owe the USAF 3 additional years and I’m excited for my opportunity in the service and providing care to Airmen. Would I necessarily have signed the same papers today that I did 4 years ago? I’m not sure but I think so. As much as I am thrilled by the prospect of making a broader impact on healthcare via a startup in the industry (whether it’s dental, medical, patient/provider relations, etc) I feel as though I need to become better versed in how the sector works from the inside. I have worked my way through high school-college-grad school inside of restaurants and felt comfortable addressing a tangible need I saw there because I understood the bigger picture pretty well. Long story short, I want to become actively engaged with groups looking to dissect the medical industry as I practice my trade to learn how I can help the whole and I am pumped that Indu and others like her are creating spaces for these issues to surface and be acted upon.

    1. Gotham Gal

      there is no doubt that your connection to the tech industry leaves you with a greater knowledge of what disrupting an industry really means. i hope that you are able to truly make am impact along the way as you go through your residency.

  2. Dan Munro

    Great post! @boltyboy:twitter will love the reference to “writing policy wonky stuff” … 😉 Point is – they are a great team – with pitch perfect timing. Hopefully more to come on other women entrepreneurs in healthcare!