Network aggressively and authentically.
It quickly becomes clear that John Brownlee is convinced a few simple technologies in the hands of patients and health care providers can lead to a better health care experience, and improved outcomes. In fact, he makes a convincing case that that they must lead there, or we’re in big trouble! He founded the Health 2.0 Twin Cities chapter in 2010, and appears to be relentlessly seeking spaces where digital health entrepreneurs and established health care players can work together to get new ideas vetted, tested, and scaled.
John has spent his entire career in health care. He has worked for life sciences companies like Sanofi-Aventis and Medtronic, and has run his own entities like Formation Consulting (Six Sigma consulting for healthcare sales organizations) and Quinnian Health, a telemedicine technology and services company he founded in 2008 and sold in 2011.
John Brownlee lives in a suburb of Minneapolis with his wife and two boys. He’s an avid golfer.
What are you working on right now?
I’m CEO and co-founder of a digital health startup called clear.md. Our technology allows health care providers to connect with patients through short, clear, single-topic videos they can create themselves. We bundle these videos into “vidscriptions” (video prescriptions) so providers can share their expertise with patients before, during, or after in-person consultations. This process helps health care providers attract new patients, improves satisfaction for existing patients, makes clinic visits more efficient, and positively impacts clinical outcomes.
Where did the idea for clear.md come from?
Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment and totally forgot what they said? I had an experience like that in 2011 and I started to think about physicians “prescribing” their expertise through short, single-topic videos delivered to your smart phone. That was how it started.
How do you make money?
We charge a subscription fee to health care organizations who use our service.
What does your typical day look like?
Every morning (unless I’m traveling) I have breakfast with my two little boys and help get them on the school bus. The extra work I could be getting done in that time isn’t nearly as important as seeing them off each day. That’s where the consistency in my days ends. I make sales calls, contribute ideas to product development, work with the team on improving our operations, develop strategic partnerships, talk to investors, and do a lot of networking. It’s harder for me to leave the office at the end of the day, but I try to be home for dinner each night.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My partner Brian and I are idea junkies. At clear.md we keep lists of ideas for everything from product enhancements to business challenges we know very little about, but we’re pretty sure we can solve. If you’re looking for a business idea please call me…we have a drawer full of them. A few of them are actually pretty good! Our challenge is to keep the ideas at bay and focus on what we need to deliver to our clients, so we try to be careful with new ideas.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Wearable health sensors will change the way we live for the better.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The President of a company I once worked for told me to “stop trying to hit home runs”. I understood his point because he’s made a comfortable life for himself as a singles hitter. However, I’d like to win the World Series some day with a walk-off dinger to the deepest part of right-center, so forgive me if I’m not interested in laying down the proverbial bunt. So, yeah, that job sucked.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would learn to code. If I could code I would never sleep.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Network aggressively and authentically.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started a tech company without a technical co-founder. I learned that I’m good at thinking about how to use technology to solve problems, but I’m not as good at managing the development process. I have a stud technical co-founder this time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Software that budgets the amount of email you’re allowed to send within an organization so people will think twice before cc’ing everybody on everything.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would love to help large organizations to be more intentional, organized, and transparent about how they engage with startups, especially in health care. Many entrepreneurs chase investors rather than customers and/or strategic partners in part because big organizations rarely have a strategy for investigating and piloting new ideas. We need the big guys to play a more active role in enabling innovation.
Tell us a secret.
The thing I look forward to the most each year is watching “Love Actually” with my wife – after the kids are in bed – on the night we decorate the Christmas tree. One of my favorite things.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Google powers our entire business.
Insight.ly is the CRM I’ve always wanted.
I don’t know how I would live without tripit.com.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers. Because it’s just ridiculously brilliant.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday. My 7-year old son kicked a punt in the front yard that went about 40-yards. Not sure how he did that.
Who is your hero, and why?
Two of them: Charles Lindbergh (because he combined guts and preparedness like no other), and Winston Churchill (because he had the vision and charisma to save the world).
Why are you an entrepreneur?
Because dealing with infinite possibilities every day is a good way to work…and because I love wearing my Chuck Taylor’s to the office.