Rob Morelli and Saro Cutri – Co-Founders of WhichDoc

Saro Cutri graduated from Cornell University’s College of Engineering in 1997 and worked on Wall Street for 14 years. He is the proud father of 3 beautiful little girls and resides in New Jersey with his wife. After starting his own business with WhichDoc co-founder Rob Morelli in 2009, he officially became infected with the entrepreneurial bug.  He has been unable to find a doctor to cure him of this affliction and still lives with the disease.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1999, Rob Morelli spent 12 years working on Wall Street. He left the big bank environment in the middle of the crisis to start a trading and advisory company with WhichDoc co-founder Saro Cutri.  He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife (a physician) and 2 beautiful daughters. Born and raised in Staten Island, NY, Rob’s passion for transforming how we access healthcare is matched only by his passion for hair gel.

What are you working on right now?

We are working on adding an “ask & answer” feature to our site.  Users will be able to more directly query their friends to find specialists in specific geographies and then have the information stored for the rest of their networks when searching in the future.

Where did the idea for WhichDoc come from?

We are ex-Wall Street executives that started a small advisory/trading business during the darkest days of the credit crisis.  We had 6 employees and were confronted for the first time with the costs and confusion associated with providing adequate healthcare for our families.  That got us focused on the industry in general.  When we wound down our business in late 2010, we decided to take a crack at improving the patient experience; starting with helping patients choose better healthcare providers.

What does your typical day look like?

Hard question!  It varies so greatly in a startup from month to month.  Recently we have been focused on trying to market our business.  A site like ours becomes more valuable with each new user we bring on board, so we need to spread the word.  We are being very careful with how we spend our now very limited founders’ dollars, so we are marketing by personally reaching out to people who might find our business interesting. We also spend a lot of time streamlining the features of the site to be simpler and more user friendly.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Typically, we bounce ideas off of each other as they come up.  We’ll usually let a discussion (euphemism for argument?) sink in and come back to it a day or 2 later with clearer minds.  From there, we’ll write down a slimmed down version of what was proposed.  We just recently brought on a fantastic CTO who now gets into the mix with us to figure out what is realistic/feasible.  He’s our development engine, a huge key to implementing any new ideas/features and has huge input in the process.  All that said, this process never seems to be the same twice.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

People using the social graph to filter out search engine manipulation.  Referrals coming from trusted sources are not motivated by profit, so you know the results you get are pure.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Saro: we’ve been blessed to have had fantastic career experiences thus far. If you want to go way back, I worked at a deli when I was in 8th grade and had to mix the tuna fish by hand. This isn’t horrible unless mayonnaise makes you extremely nauseous!

Rob: I worked in the stock room of an “environmental cleaning” company, basically a toxic waste cleaning crew, the summer after my junior year in high school.  Guys used to get dressed in hazmat suits to clean up mini oil spills and other things like that.  Luckily, I was not trained (or old enough) to be part of that crew.  My role was to load the 18 wheelers with the clean and empty barrels– from 5 AM to 1 PM.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We would have initially built our site with much fewer features and iterated more rapidly.  We had a vision and completed it before launch, but it cost us time and some flexibility that we wish we had back.

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

Constantly question all of your product features. The cliché is “your mother is not your test market,” but it matters to be brutally honest about what is working and what isn’t. Oftentimes, these are hard conversations at first but they lead you forward to improvements.

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

Someone needs to figure out how to create more price transparency in healthcare and incentivize patients to think about themselves as consumers.  We say all the time that healthcare is an incredibly large industry that does not apply free market principles.  Patients don’t think of themselves as consumers because they lack the tools they use to make informed decisions when judging other products.  Patients don’t know what healthcare really costs and they don’t have a great way to compare the quality of the services they are “purchasing.”  We are working on helping them compare quality of services.  Someone needs to step it up on making costs clear.

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  • Twitter: When we first started researching healthcare IT and thinking about early versions of WhichDoc, we were able to be fully immersed in the healthcare 2.0 conversation within just a few weeks of following the right people.
  • Google Analytics: We are stats junkies.
  • Tied: Dropbox and GoToMyPC: We spent a lot of money setting up our own servers at our last business in order to share each others’ files and have full remote access.  Now files are shared in the cloud and we can remote in to our desktops for a fraction of what we spent.  With lots of kids, these are tools that allow us to see our families more than we’d be able to otherwise.

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

MicroTrends by Mark Penn.  It is a fascinating book about demographic trends in America and the personalization of service businesses.  It helped us realize that unlike in the past, you don’t have to control huge market share to be a relevant and important business in the new economy.

What’s on your playlist?

Saro: Black Keys, The Clash, Cypress Hill and The Sounds, to name a few.

Rob: I’m not as creative. You are talking to Mr. Top 40, so right now you’d find a little Flo Rida, a little Maroon 5, some Wiz and some Gym Class Heroes.

If you weren’t working on WhichDoc, what would you be doing?

Fishing, poker, reading, we have no idea. The further from Wall Street we get, the harder it is to remember what our professional lives looked like before WhichDoc.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • @KevinMD: A doctor who blogs on social media and medicine.  He often cites patients’ feelings, which, believe it or not, is an oddity for the talking heads in this industry.
  • @BrainPicker: Always interesting and quirky links. We could spend all day reading these and wondering why we’re so boring.
  • @HumbleBrag: Laugh out loud funny and always reminds us to self edit.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Saro: This morning. My middle daughter is potty training–and missing a lot.

Rob: Just now. I’m pretty sure Saro told you MicroTrends was his recommended book as yet another subtle way of reminding me I borrowed it from him a year ago and never returned it.

Who is your hero?

Charlie Rose.  The man gets to have long and interesting conversations every single night.

What’s it like working in the very serious medical industry?

We don’t consider ourselves a medical company.  Take a look at our twitter feed @Which_Doc  to get a sense for what we mean.  Health and healthcare are serious topics that bring a lot of anxiety to people; we are dedicated to trying to make WhichDoc as social, friendly, funny and warm as possible while providing a much-needed service.  That’s our goal. If people want to diagnose themselves, we aren’t the site for them. However, if people want to humanize the search for and interaction with their doctors, we think we are a very valuable tool.  We deeply believe that if patients have more information to make actionable decisions to change providers they aren’t happy with, then the industry will have to become more service focused.

What’s it like changing careers so drastically in your early/mid 30’s?

It’s exciting.  There is no doubt it can be scary at times; not having a paycheck when there are kids at home and bills to pay can be daunting.  We would argue that it raises our games and makes us laser focused on being successful.  No disrespect to many of the brilliant, but younger entrepreneurs out there, but failure there is a singular personal event.  Failure for us potentially impacts many more people. It’s a challenge we relish, though.


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