Matti Perilstein

Co-Founder of Eternally

Matti Perilstein is the CEO and Co-Founder of Eternally, a health tech startup on a mission to disrupt end-of-life care. Matti grew up watching her mother driving nurses around New Jersey in her Volvo station wagon as a director of a home health care business. When people were experiencing the decline of loved one’s health, they called her mom. Fast forward to Matti’s 10+ year career in healthcare management consulting, Matti watched as her clients – health care systems and payers – struggled to provide the same level of support to patients and their families. No one had quite succeeded in properly incentivizing advance care planning within population health management or determining how to improve the end-of-life care experience for their patients.

Matti met her co-founder Patrick FitzGerald at Matti’s former consultancy when Patrick was conducting an entrepreneurial audit of all the ideas that were in people’s notebooks. When Matti pitched Patrick her idea to revolutionize end-of-life care in America, it began a process of Lean Startup iterations and steps towards ultimately building a business. Matti ended up leaving her management consulting job to pursue her concept full time in the summer of 2020.

Where did the idea for Eternally come from?

Eternally is my brain child. During my time in healthcare consulting I saw the lack of time and attention spent on capturing a patients’ end-of-life goals of care and understanding how to best support them in the healthcare setting. When I met my co-founder Patrick, we began building Eternally using both of our skill sets to bring this idea to life.
Eternally is here to radically improve end-of-life care. This is something that impacts everyone in the world and yet, we are still using bizarrely antiquated methods of planning and preparing for it. Most importantly, most Americans don’t feel they have the access to someone who can help them with planning. Eternally starts by making it easy; we provide personalized Advance Care Planning to patients around the country. Eternally’s one-on-one patient conversations are facilitated by expert clinicians who help patients complete their living will/advance directive from the comfort of their own home (via phone call or telehealth video); driving our mission to enable this support for everyone, anywhere, at any time.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Patrick & I usually start texting each other items about the day around 7am, the team shows up at 8am and tend to wrap up the office at 6:30. One thing I am most proud of is every day at 12:30pm, we have a team standup. Sometimes we fantasize about where we want to go on vacation post-pandemic or how the weather is impacting our commute but in a short time, we tend to cover the bulk of our business and what needs fixing or acceleration. We try not to take our work home as we pride ourselves on having family time but we are often texting throughout the night as things come in.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I thrive when we are bouncing new ideas around. Many times Patrick and I will be found in the office in a heated discussion about possible new ideas. We are both passionate and stubborn, so we both push each other when we really believe in our idea. This helps to bring our ideas to life because we are not afraid to beta-test new concepts. We keep attacking problems from every possible avenue until we are satisfied with the result.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Nappuccinos: The perfect nap. Following Daniel Pink’s method from When, find your lowest energy point in the day then down a cup of coffee and set a timer to nap for exactly 25 minutes. The caffeine takes about 25 minutes to engage in your bloodstream, so drink up right before you lie down. Naps between 10 and 20 minutes measurably boost alertness and mental function without leaving you sleepier than before. When you wake up, the caffeine is beginning to kick in and you’ll be ready to tackle the world.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I try to make the most out of every day. This may sound trite and cliché, but I make a game out of it. I know how long it takes me to do various things, and I build my day around this knowledge. This leads me to setting alarms at random times. For example, in the mornings I know exactly how long it takes to get out the door each day, so I’ll set an alarm for 5:13 or 6:37 depending on what I’m doing in the morning and when I have to be somewhere.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My advice is to not be afraid of that first step when trying something new. Make it a little one and just keep moving. You will find your way eventually, but fear of the bigger picture prevents you from looking at what’s right in front you.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Jim’s cheesesteaks. As a native Philadelphian, I’ve tried them all. Everyone has an opinion here and I stand by mine. They have the right bread, the perfect amount of meat, and will give you the most Philly treatment.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Take feedback critically when pitching your idea. Don’t be so defensive of your baby. If it’s early on, it’s probably very ugly. Don’t diminish your vision, but remind yourself that if people are asking questions, it’s a really good thing!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Pivoting quickly. Getting bogged down by a bad idea can drown your business. Drop the dead weight and move forward. We have measures for success that we hold ourselves to and when things aren’t working, we call each other out and move on to something better.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It is really difficult to partner with health systems. There is a crazy amount of contract negotiations, security vetting, and insurance requirements (all for good reasons). However, when we did get our first contract, we dropped the ball with communications. Eternally was rolled-out from the top-down. C-Suite to Provider Leadership to Office Management and then we stopped. We should have kept going and made real connections with all of the practice staff and team members. The opportunity to provide patients the resource of an advance care planning conversation for free is so important, and yet we lost in the last mile when the Medical Assistant or Nurse Practitioner in the room was not sharing the opportunity the health system was providing to connect with Eternally. From that point forward, we started embedding ourselves in the checklists and process flows of the health organizations we partner with around the country.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We talk to seniors aging alone every day, and two hurdles that we continue to hear is how they might assign a healthcare proxy without someone in their lives that they trust with this responsibility and who they might ask to sign their living will as a witness, especially in the age of COVID. We have seen examples of non-profits in Canada that offer these support resources however, there is still no resource to help this demographic in the United States.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A lift ticket! I love skiing and recently had the opportunity to escape to Elk Mountain for the weekend with friends.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

OneNote. I capture all meeting minutes, to-do lists, and research in OneNote. Instead of ruffling through old notebooks, I’m able to recall important meeting take-aways, specific facts, or anything from any day just by searching by keywords. My team still gets shocked by my ability to recall specific meeting details in an instant.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph about the story of Netflix before it was Netflix. My co-founder and I read it together and many of the concepts the Netflix team experienced hold true for us. For example: “no doesn’t always mean no” and “the Canada Principle”. The former is self explanatory and the latter can be explained best by Marc Randolph: “If we took the amount of effort, manpower, and mind-power Canadian expansion would require and applied it to other aspects of the business, we’d eventually get a far greater return than 10 percent.”
We have our own “Canada problems” every week. But having the guts to go 100% in on our business plan and not being distracted by shiny new objects is what will drive us to be the market defining business I know we are capable of building.

What is your favorite quote?

“Difficult difficult lemon difficult”. While building Eternally hasn’t been Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy, nothing life changing usually is.

Key Learnings:

  • Always take the time to take a step back and reflect on what you’ve accomplished.
  • It’s okay to laugh at past mistakes.
  • Don’t be afraid to take that first step or to put yourself out there.
  • Everyday is a new day – make the most of it.
  • Ideas aren’t created in a vacuum; brainstorming is crucial.