Ron Gutman is an inventor, investor and serial healthcare and technology entrepreneur, and a Stanford University adjunct professor. He holds a series of patents in AI and Healthtech and won the World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer award in 2014.
Ron is also the co-founder and co-CEO of leading healthtech and digital health company Intrivo. Using the power of AI, scientific research, data analysis and user-centered design, Intrivo is helping millions everywhere stay on top of COVID-19, as well as detect, treat and overcome health conditions rapidly, conveniently and cost effectively.
The pioneering Diagnostics as a Service (DaaS) platform, which underlies the ON/GO Test-to-Trace solutions, was invented by Ron and built by the Intrivo team. In addition to providing rapid test-to-treat technology solutions through its ON/GO platform, Intrivo is constantly expanding its R&D into delivering affordable healthcare solutions to individuals and businesses around the world.
In 2006, Ron founded one of the first health and wellness platforms aimed at consumers. Wellsphere quickly became one of the most popular health websites, reaching more than 100 million users globally before it was acquired in 2009.
Four years later in 2010, Ron founded HealthTap, the platform that connects people with primary care doctors across 140 specialities. Under Ron’s leadership as the founder and first CEO of the company HealthTap grew into an invaluable resource for millions seeking answers to healthcare questions.
During Ron’s tenure, HealthTap partnered QuestDiagnostics to become the first online healthcare platform to offer lab testing services virtually. Ron also created the first of its kind partnership and integration with BUPAoperating in more than 100 countries worldwide.
In 2011 Ron delivered his TED Talk on the Power of Smiling, and a bestselling book. His focus on compassion and gratitude in business underpins all of the work he has done founding and/or otherwise growing companies that are designed to help everyone live happier, healthier and longer lives.
While at Stanford Ron founded the Not-for-Profit Club ‘Live Long & Flourish’. The club brings together a community of leading academics and industry mavericks to work together to identify, develop and scientifically validate new health solutions for life optimization and longevity.
In February of 2020 Ron started to look into diagnostic and testing solutions for what became COVID-19. As the pandemic took hold in May 2020, he developed and launched FestiHealth, the first interactive virtual platform to actively curate live health and wellness activities and bring together knowledgeable and inspiring speakers online.
A FestiHealth online expo took place one 27 May 2020 and included conversations, debates and discussions among more than 1500 healthcare and wellness leaders in response to the burgeoning pandemic.
In May 2022 Ron personally delivered $1 million worth of support to health centers and hospitals in Ukraine as part of On/Go for Good, the philanthropic arm of Intrivo.
Where did the idea for Intrivo come from?
Intrivo Diagnostics was launched in 2020 specifically to address the urgent and increasing demand for high quality COVID-19 tests. By December of that year, we had become one of the first Point of Care COVID-19 antigen test providers to be approved by the FDA.
Nonetheless, my original vision for Intrivo was to bring healthcare to the consumers so that they don’t have to spend precious time, money and effort to seek care remotely. This vision was translated into the ON/GO rapid at home COVID-19 test and its easy-to-use app.
The On/Go solution was purchased by Federal and State governments, leading insurance companies, hospitals and other medical providers, large employers, entertainment venues, and travel operators.
The ON/GO platform makes it possible for population health managers to identify potential outbreaks, act to control them before they spread, and avoid expensive shutdowns while giving individuals peace of mind. Intrivo is expanding its research and development into other areas of healthcare and wellness that can use advanced technology and data driven, cutting edge solutions.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up early and go for a morning run, typically on the beach. Then I have my strength, stretch, and balance workout and top it off with a meditation session with Sam Harris.
I eat a light healthy breakfast with mostly proteins, and drink at least four cups of liquid and green tea.
I check my messages and agenda, and call my key leaders and assistants and then spend most of my day in meetings and calls.
In the evenings I like catching up on news, and the latest in science, art, design, wellness, and computing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Compassion, passion and gratitude (and green tea ;). Way back in 2011 when I delivered my TED Talk on the Power of Smiling, the main themes of the talk really hit their target. I think this is because I live and breathe what I learn in my research – whether it’s in developing something like the first Health Operating System (HOPES) or Intrivo’s DaaS platform or in sharing my learnings on smiling and what it can mean for us as individuals and for society as a whole.
There is incredible power in a simple smile – power to change one’s own life as well as the lives of other people around him or her. It’s been a true delight to tell people about these hidden powers by bringing my own personal story to it – this is how I bring ideas, inventions, theories and companies to life – by making them personal and relevant.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Using tech to make healthcare ever more accessible to everyone – regardless of where they live, how much they can afford to pay or any other metric. This drives everything that I do professionally and philanthropically and it’s tremendously exciting to see what innovative tech companies are coming up with all the time.
Our work in Ukraine is a great example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. I traveled to Ukraine very early in May to provide immediate help and see for myself what the hospitals and healthcare providers really need.
Back in the US, I’m working to get other start-ups in the healthtech space to band together to deliver what’s needed in that war-zone. The brave people of Ukraine are in the forefront of protecting Freedom, which is near and dear to my heart, so I’m feeling a true mission to help them as much as I can.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Early on, I developed a habit of putting people at ease. Whether it’s a pitch situation with 40 business leaders, a press interview or any other interaction, the habit of engaging people through smiling and friendliness has helped me achieve so many things as an entrepreneur.
Also, actively and deeply listening and learning from people around me (even when I teach a class) helps me grow and become a better leader every day.
For success, entrepreneurs need to have more than a great idea and appropriate financial backing – they need to understand humans and humanity at a very granular level.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Slow down and don’t get distracted by the lure of quick wins and chasing adventures. Very early in my career, I became focused on securing high reward, quick wins. And while they certainly brought joy in the moment, I found they ultimately left a void. It became clear I needed to find deeper meaning and far longer lasting impact and satisfaction in my endeavors.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with working with a healthy sense of urgency, and I absolutely still take the kind of calculated risks that were commonplace back then. However, my approach when I was younger missed something. I now strive for holistic, tangibly transformative and – most importantly – sustainable solutions[DH4] for systemic and endemic problems.
I always tell my students and employees to enjoy every moment, take the lessons they learned when younger and implement them in their current reality. Insights that I’ve learned over the years – start with a mission – solve a real need and/or “want”, help everyone around you feel good.
Waking up with a clear mission in mind will get you through the tough times and keep you highly motivated for a long time. Don’t expect everything to be easy but if you stay focused and you truly believe you can have an impact on other people in a positive way, this will keep you going strong every single day for the entire journey.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Healthtech as a sector has a unique challenge – to create the kind of accelerated evolution that will fast-track solutions to massive problems, but at the same time to ensure that big mistakes aren’t made in the race to find these solutions.
I work in a field that needs the long-game approach – whether you’re an investor, an inventor or an entrepreneur. A deliberately future thinking approach is absolutely vital when errors or shortcuts can directly affect the health and wellness of people.
Companies in this space should keep the focus on helping people, but ensure they follow the Hippocratic Oath – to do no harm.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always take a step back and look at the big picture without assuming I already have all of the answers.
I constantly adapt my thinking to changing circumstances and check my assumptions. What used to work in the past may no longer work now. The approach I took yesterday may well be out of date for several reasons even today – we live in a world where change is constantly accelerating in three dimensions: Pervasive, Perpetual, and Exponential; I explained all of the above in depth in an article I co-wrote with Aneel Chima for Harvard Business Review titled “What It Takes to Lead Through an Era of Exponential Change”.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Recognizing that leadership is about true collaboration and working to engender a feeling of psychological safety among everyone involved. We all need a shared purpose to excel and a strategy of distributed cognition surrounding an overarching mission has helped to grow every business I have been involved with. At Intrivo, this drives everything we do.
Taking the time to build a product that really works and solves a real need and or want before you scale and monetize it is also a useful strategy to follow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Starting with massive ideas like ‘change healthcare’ or ‘have a significant measurable positive impact on people’s lives and helping them live happier, longer and safer lives’ have always been at the core of my personal entrepreneurial mission.
Early on, I realized that I had to pay attention to the smallest details, and apply a true empathy and artisanship to everything I build in order to turn that mission into products and services that help people live better lives.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An AAA-level multiplayer computer game for kids and adolescents that in order to win and accumulate gear to move up the game’s levels, kids need to complete real-world physical activities; climbing 100 stairs gets you a shield; completing 1000 steps gets you a sword; and so on.
The integration with wearables is pretty simple already, so it’s not even a major technical fit to accomplish. The combination of letting kids continue to enjoy computer games (I sure did when I was a kid) and engage in physical activities is crucial for their development and for acquiring healthy habits.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Best $100 spent was in supporting educational institutions. The kids are our future and we need to invest in their education and health/wellbeing more.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The Apple Watch and the Oura Ring are my favorite daily technology tools – they help me track and improve the most important underlying sources of energy I have to do everything I do..
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg. Full disclosure: I know BJ personally from Stanford, but does not take in any way from the brilliance of his theory. In the book BJ lays out how to achieve the biggest things by taking the tiniest steps. No matter how “big and scary” your goal is, once you break it down to super small steps, it becomes attainable. (By the way, it’s also so true for project management – don’t build your plan based on goals, or KPIs, but rather break it down to tasks, single-function tasks and work through these; when you’re done with the last task, voila, the goal has been achieved.) It’s a brilliant book, I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who wants to either change things in their lives or adopt new behaviors.
What is your favorite quote?
When Albert Einstein was asked for general life advice, he said: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
- Be mission driven – if you are working for a goal that is bigger than you, you will maintain energy through the difficult times.
- Learn how to understand human need at a granular level.
- Learn how to lead well in changing times.
- Don’t get distracted by quick wins – focus on the end goal.
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.