If you can’t set your ego aside to ask the hard questions, and exercise discipline to listen to what your users are asking for, you are going to have trouble. Be humble enough to know when you might not have the answer.
Chloe Alpert is the CEO and co-founder of Medinas Health, whose mission is to help reduce a portion of the $765bn in yearly US health care waste through its trusted pre-owned medical equipment marketplace and digital asset management software. In 2019, Chloe won the $1 million grand prize at the Global Creator Awards Finals and in 2018 she won the $360k grand prize at the Regional San Francisco Creator Awards. Chloe also won the 2017 $500k Forbes Under 30 Global Change The World Competition. In addition to Medinas, Chloe also founded Happy Pay, a financial consumer promotions company that enables businesses to acquire customers through turnkey monetary competitions and creative campaigns and notably offers a record £25M jackpot. Chloe also founded and owns Savon Body, an online soap company.
Where did the idea for Medinas Health come from?
In 2015, my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I spent many months in and out of hospitals, and while there I noticed how often wasted medical supplies appeared on bills. I saw rooms full of unused equipment. The year after that, I met someone who started a medical nonprofit that took millions of dollars in surplus, unused medical supplies from hospitals and donated it overseas for use in clinics. Together, they painted a picture of a health care industry with massive supply chain inefficiencies.
After a year of researching hospital operations and the secondary markets for medical equipment, I concluded that a technology-driven solution aimed at streamlining the health care supply chain was sorely needed. Medinas is that solution. Our software replaces a bloated tangle of confusing, expensive legacy products. We allow hospital personnel to easily manage their assets, figure out their worth, and remarket or redeploy unneeded assets with one intuitive software product.
By helping hospitals and hospital systems know what assets they have, what those assets are worth, and whether those assets are still needed onsite, Medinas helps ensure hospitals only spend money on equipment and supplies they actually need. That knowledge and transparency saves our hospital partners millions, which in turn helps reduce healthcare costs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The challenge of being a startup CEO is that there is no typical day. You wear a million different hats, and are constantly being pulled in tons of different directions. In any given day, I might find myself working on product management, finance, investor relations, marketing, sales support, or any of another ten projects that all have to happen immediately. As you can imagine, the dynamic nature of the role can make it very difficult to plan and optimize productivity.
My solution, imperfect as it may be, is to get up early and spend a couple of hours working before the rest of the team arrives. Being on the west coast, it lets me keep in touch with our east coast team and customers. Most importantly, though, that alone time lets me focus on the long-term strategy of the company and get much needed thinking time to make sure I’m setting the company up for success.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get obsessive about a topic and go in and try and understand every single aspect or angle of it. For example, when I was still conceptualizing Medinas, I dove in head first by Googling medical equipment and cold calling hospitals. Once I accumulate a solid base of knowledge, I begin reaching out to people to have conversations. Talking with smart people and reading body language to see what resonates about a topic is a critical part of bringing my ideas to life. Talking to as many people as possible and figuring out what they really want and need is the quickest way I know to get a product out into the world.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Healthcare IT is fascinating right now. There’s a massive existential shift happening where hospitals are finally moving away from their old onsite IT setup and adopting more cloud-based software. This shift opens up the entire health industry to innovations it has been sorely lacking.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I love my Moleskine notebooks. Every day for the last seven years, I’ve written down the date and scribbled my to-dos and notes. Over time, I have compiled a running account of my daily life and work that I can look back on.
I also find taking ten minutes a day or so to connect with people over Twitter is a great way to connect with interesting people to expand my network and get a sense of what’s happening in the world.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That everything is going to be OK. I started my first startup at age 19, and by 23 it had failed miserably. I was facing a huge amount of debt from winding down the business and didn’t know what my next move was going to be.
I ended up launching Savon Body which went viral. That success let me pay off my debt and is still profitable today.
Basically, a lot of people get knocked down and give up, but it takes a lot more grit to fail and then try again. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. You have to keep grinding.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
For women in tech and female founders, there is absolutely gender bias that works against our success. I think everyone agrees on that much. But here is where I differ: I don’t think it is okay, in any way, to blame your lack of success on institutional sexism. Or really, on anything but yourself. That’s a cop out. Yes, women have to work harder. And yes, the margin for error is slimmer. But put in the work — be better than your male counterparts — and success is there for the taking. If there’s an extra ten stairs to climb, you can either complain about it, or start climbing. While you’re at it, work on leveling the playing field for the next generation.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Check your ego. Ego is a powerful tool, and obviously every founder has some type of ego to believe themselves to be the right person to solve a problem. But if you can’t set your ego aside to ask the hard questions, and exercise discipline to listen to what your users are asking for, you are going to have trouble.
Be humble enough to know when you might not have the answer. If your ego prevents you from realizing that the person you’re talking to is more knowledgeable than you, smarter than you, or has experience you lack that gives them an insight you wouldn’t reach, you’re in trouble. An entrepreneur who is always trying to show you that they’re the smartest person in the room, or that they know all of the answers is an entrepreneur I wouldn’t bet on.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Most people look at the tech sector, and they think you need to create something that has never been seen before; that you need to offer some major disruption. I think the mainstreaming of the term “disrupt” in the startup lexicon has been toxic. If you shoot for a huge disruption, your odds of missing entirely skyrocket. And as a result, only a tiny handful of companies that try to invent or reinvent a business sector are successful.
My strategy, which is a mantra I repeat daily at Medinas, is to look at existing business models that already work and use tech to make one or two specific innovations that give us the edge over legacy competitors. Take that edge and get it to market — and scale — as fast as possible, and you’ll have a real shot at success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At 23, I had spent 3 years building a business. Ultimately we had to shut it down, I didn’t have the right team or cofounder in place and we had an unhealthy culture. I’ve learned that when a business is successful, people want to be around you, but if you fail, no one really cares. That failure allowed me to find out who my real friends are and helped me develop the grit and perspective I’ve needed to be successful. I’m fortunate that got an experience at age 23 that most people get in their late thirties.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Great businesses start by solving a problem. One of my problems is handling large financial transactions online. If I want to spend $50 on amazon, or $500 on airbnb, there are dozens of solutions for that. If I want to spend $50,000 on a car or $500,000 on a house, I’m still writing a check, using ACH, initiating a bank wire, or going to an escrow company. A company that modernizes large transactions in a simple, transparent, and high-trust way would be a game changer. I’d be a customer.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought new pillows from Casper and I love them. There is an old aphorism that out of sleep, work, and play, you can only ever have two out of three at the same time. As a startup founder, I sometimes feel like you can only have one: work. So I’ll take all the help I can to maximize the few hours of sleep that I do get!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We all use Trello, Slack and Zapier daily. Anything that organizes the monumental task of running a startup, cuts down on email, or saves time by automating activities is a big win in my book.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE” by Phil Knight is a great read. It paints a realistic picture of entrepreneurship. TL;DR: It isn’t glamorous. it’s hard work.
For a tactical business book, I’d recommend “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It teaches people the essentials of good storytelling, which is more important than most people could imagine when it comes to being a founder. Every company starts as an idea. To build a bridge between that idea and reality, you need to tell a compelling story.
What is your favorite quote?
“To be effective you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find out what’s true. If you are too proud of what you know or of how good you are at something you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential.”
― Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
“Why do you believe what you believe? What do you think you know and how do you think you know it?” ― Eliezer Yudkowsky
• Healthcare is opening itself up to tech solutions that are making the traditionally slow-to-tech industry a hotbed for innovation.
• CEOs should check their egos and treat every opportunity as a chance to grow and learn.
• Women working in tech face an inherent gender bias, but shouldn’t use that bias as an excuse for their setbacks. Women need to work harder and smarter to level the playing field for themselves and future generations.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.