Fixing the Insurance Experience, Sally Poblete, Podcast #118

Sally Poblete is Founder and CEO of Wellthie, an insurance benefits marketplace that connects carriers, brokers, and small business owners. Sally and I spoke about her entrepreneurial and intra-preneurial career that let her to starting her latest venture.

You can listen to it on iTunes here.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Cued up.A massive challenge and expense especially for the food entrepreneur.

    1. Gotham Gal

      All small businesses!

  2. LE

    Remember Johnny Carson ‘how hot was it’ (on the Tonight Show)?Well health insurance used to be ‘how cheap it is’.We had for employees on the gold standard health plan ‘All you can eat! Go anywhere anytime! No pre approvals needed!’ in the 1980’s which cost me $65 per month for an individual and $128 per month for a family for all employees. So of course everyone got full health insurance and even in 1980’s dollars didn’t seem like a big expense. And that was Blue Cross/Blue Shield Major Medical. Later of course they tried to get everyone off that plan but we were grandfathered past when I sold the company. After I sold the company I even got a new plan just for myself ‘as a business’ and put my parents on it very simple. My Dad kept that even though he had Medicare because he could go to the best doctors.

  3. Mark Gavagan

    Having prior employers invest in a founder’s startup, as Sally’s did, seems like one of the strongest indicators of a person’s character and effectiveness.On fixing healthcare, consider Clay Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s Prescription ( http://claytonchristensen.c… ). Even though it was written in 2009 and I’m still in the first half, it’s been eye-opening.

  4. Bryce T.

    Fixing the Insurance Experience, Sally Poblete, #118″I think the first job working in healthcare for this elderly population, it just, it made me feel so good…I was making a tangible impact in people’s lives, and I thought that was really cool, and that there’s some meaning and purpose beyond getting revenues and getting profits.”“I went from a very cushy office with an assistant with a nice view, to working at a Starbucks, trying to figure out, what am I going to do. But it’s the best decision I ever made.”________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________0:37 JW: “You’ve always been in healthcare. It’s your whole career.”0:43 Where did you grow up? Grew up in the Philippines. Born and raised there. Raised by single mom and grandmother. Came here at age sixteen. Parents thought would benefit from a U.S. college education.1:03 Raised by an extended family. Mom and dad had been in U.S. for a decade before coming to the U.S. after high school. Raised by grandmother, uncles, aunts. “That actually formed a lot of my interest in healthcare, having grown up with my grandparents.”1:48 Did you go through different times when you were in the Philippines, in terms of government? The Marcos Regime. “I was too young to kind of really understand…I just remember not having much.”2:19 When you came to New York, was it mind boggling? “My mind exploded both in terms of the abundance that is here, but also just the culture change.” 3:04 But you eventually figured it out. “I eventually got into NYU, and when I got into NYU I felt at home.”3:39 At NYU, studied business. “I loved it, I ran for president of the entrepreneurial exchange club, I was president of the student council for two terms. I just really found myself there, and found energy in all of the opportunity.”4:04 When you got out of school did you start working in the medical space? Father owned home health business in Trenton serving inner-city aging adults. Dad’s small company provided healthcare to them at home. 4:34 At 21, Dad said, “here are the keys, you must know something because you graduated with a degree in business, so you figure it out.” “I’ll say that was a very formative job because at 21 I was responsible for a payroll of 200 people.”5:55 How long did you brut that out? “I did that for about four years. I turned it around. We got into new sources of revenue and grew the company. But, I wanted to go back to school, so I went to Wharton and got my MBA in healthcare management.”6:16 At Wharton. “Throughout my time there, I was always seeking startups and always seeking ‘where can I build,’ I realized early that I had that DNA, and that I just need to be in a creative building environment.”6:45 Between first and second year found internship at a startup called Medscape. After graduation worked for another health insurance startup, Health Markets.7:28 Did you ever think about a different vertical? “No, I didn’t. I think the first job working in healthcare for this elderly population, it just, it made me feel so good…I was making a tangible impact in people’s lives, and I thought that was really cool, and that there’s some meaning and purpose beyond getting revenues and getting profits.” 8:37 On healthcare industry. “It’s enormous, and any different angle of that industry you can find a way to make a difference. It’s also very broken as we all know.”9:21 Working at startup post college. “Did whatever needed to be done to build an insurance company.” Did marketing, product, business development, operations.9:59 Decided to start a company based in the Philippines recruiting nurses. “I wanted to build a call center based in the Philippines with nurses and then I would run the operations here and connect with healthcare companies here.” “I felt that there was so much benefit for the U.S. based companies to do labor arbitrage with nurses in the Philippines.” “A year into it, I did not get anywhere. I couldn’t get the traction with sales. And I think, thinking back, my timing might have been a bit too early.”11:12 JW: “I will say that’s the one consistent theme that I see more with women founders, is that they don’t let go. I think it’s really important at one point to say, it isn’t working, and it’s okay that it’s not working.”11:50 Wanted to figure out how healthcare is paid for in America. So, got a job at the local BlueCross BlueShield. And climbed the corporate ladder. Stayed for eight years.12:37 How did you like being in corporate America? “I learned different skills. I was building, so that satisfied my DNA. I was an intrapreneur.”13:28 Also around the time of regulatory change. “Now is probably the time to start a company again.” 13:57 JW: “I think that statistically, most women entrepreneurs…start companies older, when they have enough under their belt and they feel that they’re ready to make the leap.”14:17 At the time, had second child, was forty years old. “I just couldn’t get out of my head that this was the time. I had all of these ideas.”15:29 “I received all of these EOBs (explanation of benefits) from my insurance company, and we had good insurance, and all of this paperwork, and it was all convoluted…and I said, if I as an expert having to deal with this crap, what about all the other people who don’t know which end is up. I felt like I had to take the expertise that I had gained over the decade to doing something.”16:02 “I just decided from that point that I would start a new company. I wasn’t quite sure what and where, but I just knew that if I didn’t do it then, that I probably never would.”16:52 “I went from a very cushy office with an assistant with a nice view, to working at a Starbucks, trying to figure out, what am I going to do. But it’s the best decision I ever made.”17:05 How did you start? “I basically started from that concept of people can’t understand what they’re buying. They don’t know where to go, what to do. And so I wanted to fix that first experience that people have with their insurance.”17:25 “In terms of customers and how I got into it, I just basically called my network. So having been in the industry, and I said, this is a problem for you, and how can I help.” “It was a more organic way of starting rather than a perfect idea that I went to go get venture capital for.”17:54 JW: “You were really solving a problem that was in your life, and then looking at it in other people’s lives. And kind of through that were able to do your AB testing in order to figure out what exactly was the hole.”18:17 “What was key, was I got a client.” “He looked at the slides and he said, yeah I need that. Can you build that for me?” 18:51 So tell us exactly what it does. “What we do is, we automate the distribution process, buying and selling of insurance. So we are the online digital retail store for insurance companies.” 20:12 Are you doing business now with large enterprise companies or is just the marketplace you’re focused on? 21:34 On raising money. “Raising money has not been my favorite thing to do. I bootstrapped for a couple of years.” Founder of where summer interned, was first investor. 22:08 Couple of years ago raised Series A with institutional investors. “Long long arduous process.” “Ultimately found partners who are in insurtech, so they understand insurance, they’re from the industry…patient, and also understand the pace of change in the industry.”23:29 “But then going into this next chapter of our evolution, contemplating this B to C entrance, now I’m thinking maybe that’s a different set of investors we want to attract going forward.” “I have a lot of vision for really bringing a whole health and wealth marketplace to small businesses.”24:22 You have been in this world for so long, how do you think you solve healthcare? “I do think it takes a village. I do think it takes a combination of innovators and incumbents to work together. I do really like how Amazon and Walmart and others are entering the industry. Because it is creating a lot of pressure for the big behemoths to change, both in the insurance space and the pharma space as well as in the delivery space. So it is creating that tension and competition and really encouraging lots more entrepreneurs to get in and create new solutions and really asking for the incumbents to be more open and humble about what it is that they do well and things they need some help on so that they can bring in more of that outside influence to help shake things up.”26:43 Proactive healthcare. JW: “Why aren’t we giving people the ability to talk to psychologists, or make sure you’re working out all the time, or eating healthy, or all these things that cost money now that won’t cost as much money later.”

  5. Steph

    Sally has achieved so much in life, it is phenomenal! I felt really proud listening to this podcast. https://www.theguardianonli

    1. Gotham Gal

      She certainly has