Alex Zacney and LJ Troilo of ivee: “Make your first dollar before your first million”

Make your first dollar before your first million. Many founders get so caught up in hockey stick projections and looking to the future that they forget to build the business in the present. As founders, we know it’s tempting to ponder what the company will look like in 2 years, but a startup requires all […]

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Make your first dollar before your first million. Many founders get so caught up in hockey stick projections and looking to the future that they forget to build the business in the present. As founders, we know it’s tempting to ponder what the company will look like in 2 years, but a startup requires all energy to be devoted to the present. Without it, you will get lost before you even get off the ground.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Zacney and LJ Troilo, Co-founders and Co-CEOs of ivee.

Zacney began his career at 14 by helping to vet vendors for Penn Medicine and by 16 became one of the first employees of Alphalytics, a health data management platform. He then went on to consult other health tech companies.

Before ivee, LJ founded a digital marketing agency and created social media campaigns for ESPN. He then left a full-tuition college scholarship to start a video sharing platform and designed proprietary ad tech.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

We met in high school, where we were some of the only students who had a passion for entrepreneurship. During our four years, we would swap updates on our current endeavors; synergy between us was always very apparent.

After graduating from high school, we were catching up one day at brunch. Both of us had just left our previous startups. A third friend joined us who had just received IV therapy. He told us about how incredible he felt but went on and on about how terrible the booking process was. We looked at each other and had this eureka moment. We realized that there were significant inefficiencies in the way that individuals book and receive not only IV therapy but most health services.

We left brunch and immediately began researching home healthcare solutions — to no surprise, little to none existed on a large scale. IV therapy was the perfect trojan horse to enter the market, especially since most competitors were started by doctors paying little attention to user experience. Our backgrounds — Alex’s in healthcare and LJ’s in marketing and user acquisition, made for a solid skillset to build upon.

Three weeks after our initial brain jam, we wrapped up our pre-seed round, and ivee was born.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

ivee’s vision is to bring unprecedented accessibility and customer experience to the healthcare space. We do this through our platform, which empowers patients to order and receive health services from the comfort of their couch. Home healthcare is a genuinely incredible solution, saving time, money, and resources for all parties involved.

Home healthcare has always been the name of our game. However, until the COVID-19 crisis, home healthcare wasn’t feasible on as nearly as large of a scale as it is now. Several paradigm shifts make what we do possible on a remarkable level, such as increased telemedicine reimbursements, the CARES Act, and home infusion legislation. We are creating an entirely new way for patients to receive quality care, where and when it works for them.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When Alex and I had our first meeting with investors, we had a great pitch, and everything went well. After the meeting, as we were walking out and saying goodbye, I walked straight into a pole in front of everyone. I learned the valuable lesson of looking where I was going while walking.

We learned many lessons when we were first starting, and continue to learn everyday. The real reason why we chose the story above is because one of the biggest lessons we have learned so far is to remember to have fun with the process. We believe as long as we’re accepting and learning from our mistakes (and even laughing at them), we’re able to grow and show up at our best for our business.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Nick Pirollo is an incredible friend and mentor to both of us. Nick’s experience ranges from co-founding Scholly, architecting products like Gradifi and Hater, and being the VP of Engineering at First Republic Bank.

He has helped LJ at every stage of his entrepreneurial journey, from leaving college to pursuing building startups. When we began brainstorming the initial functionality of ivee, Nick stepped up and led some incredible product discussions that shaped our platform’s foundation. Since then, Nick has overseen the platform’s development and currently resides as the CTO of ivee.

We believe that the key to choosing good mentors is not only finding individuals who have experience in places you’re still gaining knowledge, but also aligning with individuals who share your core passions and values.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

We are whole-hearted believers in disruption, and we don’t think there’s any system or structure that will always be immune to disruption. Those that have “withstood the test of time” will, in all likelihood, be disrupted at some point. This question is centered around the idea of a short-term horizon and a specific vantage point. Disruption usually occurs within an industry or institution when it becomes inefficient, bloated, stagnant, or generally unable to meet consumers’ needs with the services it is offering. Disruption alters the system or structure, allowing it to more adequately meet customers’ needs and desires. Inefficiency is the fault of the incumbent, and should not be looked down upon.

However, these disruptions can be painful in the short term — the offshoring and automation of manufacturing labor of high-income nations is an excellent example of this. While painful, especially for laborers who have dedicated their lives to trade, it is the most efficient outcome for the nation and world economy as a whole. It creates millions of jobs in impoverished nations while simultaneously lowering key input costs. Another example is e-commerce’s disruption of the retail shopping industry. While this has greatly hurt the in-person retail and real estate industries, it is a more productive path forward for the population as a whole. Additionally, we would argue that pain resulting from disruptions are the product of other industries or institutions not adapting to the new landscape that has been laid out before them.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Make your first dollar before your first million. Many founders get so caught up in hockey stick projections and looking to the future that they forget to build the business in the present. As founders, we know it’s tempting to ponder what the company will look like in 2 years, but a startup requires all energy to be devoted to the present. Without it, you will get lost before you even get off the ground.
  2. Relax. In the first months after the launch of the service, many things aren’t going to go as planned. Assumptions will be proven wrong, and the business will have to pivot to survive. This is natural, and if done correctly and quickly, the business will be far better off. Adapt and stay level headed, and the business will be fine.
  3. Be human. People love worshiping or idolizing the ascetic founder who denies themselves pleasure to pass some sort of culturally imposed purity test. This is nonsense. It is vital for a founder to get out and enjoy their hobbies to take the edge off.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have our sights set high on how intensely we want to penetrate the healthcare industry. We believe home healthcare has the potential to rapidly grow in popularity. We envision a future where ivee makes receiving health services at home the rule, not the exception.

Imagine a single mother who needs to schedule routine wellness checkups for her children. Instead of arranging travel, hiring a sitter, and going through all of that unnecessary coordination, she can just schedule an in-home appointment with a practitioner committed to helping her family. Identifying and eliminating these friction points is something that keeps us up at night.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Two books have made an intense impact on our entrepreneurial thinking: Zero to One and The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Inspired by the innovation philosophy in Thiel’s Zero to One, we truly started ivee to do something completely new: migrate healthcare to the home, not just for the elderly, but for everyone. Regarding The Hard Thing About Hard Things, we used its guidance to grow as managers, as we now have many full-time employees. The book describes the experiences and lessons learned from Ben Horowitz in being a startup CEO and is one of the best books on management we’ve ever read.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

To be completely honest, neither of us has a particular “life lesson quote.” As our inspiration comes from various sources, there’s not just one that can truly define how we like to guide our lives. However, there is one quote from Peter Thiel’s Zero to One that resonates with us: “Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.” As noted above, we’re big believers in doing the “undone,” and this quote accurately encapsulates that sentiment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If we could inspire one movement, it would be eradicating the healthcare system’s inefficiencies for all individuals, which is the purpose of ivee. Healthcare is something that should be as frictionless as possible and unfortunately, quite the opposite is true.

We match patients to health professionals and allow them to receive individualized care when and where they need it most. By providing health services at home, we can dramatically improve the lives of patients. We are excited to see other companies innovate and join us in shattering the status quo.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow ivee’s journey on Instagram @iveeapp. To follow LJ’s day to day, you can follow him on Instagram @lj_troilo. Alex isn’t much of an IG guy, but he’s very active on Twitter; you can follow him @alexzacney.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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