I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Lane CEO and Co-Founder CrossChx. Sean is a serial inventor, investor and entrepreneur with a deep background in technology. A former Air Force Intelligence Officer and NSA Fellow, Sean served five tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq before founding Battlefield Telecommunications Systems (BTS).
What is your backstory?
I’m an Intelligence officer by training. I spent most of my career as an intelligence officer in both the Air Force and NSA. We were collecting heterogeneous data every second, and my job was to analyze and store that data and to build software on top of it. I did five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was a great experience for me. I got out in 2007, started my first software company. We built tools for the intelligence community, ended up growing that company to about 60 employees and sold that company in 2011. After that I was investing in startups and started a nonprofit in Baltimore, MD.
One day I got a call from my hometown in Southeastern Ohio and they said, “We’re having a big problem with prescription drug abuse. It seems you’re a successful tech entrepreneur; maybe you can help figure a way to use technology to mitigate that problem.” I had a lot of friends and family that were affected by prescription drug abuse, so I traveled to my hometown and the CEO of a local health system let me take a look at all of their data. When I looked at that data, what I realized was that healthcare was essentially missing the internet, so there was no way to share data among different systems, there was no way to uniquely identify patients. All that led to essentially these data silos and without that information, you couldn’t really know somebody else was prescribing prescription drugs or have a comprehensive, complete view of patients.
I set out to build the Internet of Healthcare and I started with a identity resolution solution that we put in our hometown. Not long after that, I met a couple venture capitalists from Silicon Valley and Sequoia capital, who said, “Leave Baltimore and come to Columbus. We’re going to build a billion-dollar company.” I said, “Sure, I’ve never done that before.” So I moved to Columbus and we started CrossChx.
What do you think makes your company stand out and is there a story as to why you think it stands out in that way?
It’s a very unique company because we have a big, bold vision that we will carve a trillion dollars out of the cost of healthcare and increase the quantity and quality of life. That mission is something that is bigger than life, if you will. We won’t stop at anything less than achieving that. I think that alone sets us apart; we’re very different in that we’re not in it to make a hundred million dollars and we’re not in it to look at profit margins today. Our goal is to fundamentally change an entire industry. I think it’s going to be one of the great tech companies in healthcare over time and I think that the impact it’s going to have will change the industry forever.
What are you working on right now as far as any new or exciting projects?
Our company is completely focused on a product called Olive, which has artificial intelligence capabilities that enable her to work in hospital systems and act as an employee. Olive makes healthcare more efficient, makes data move more fluidly, and ultimately will carve a huge cost out of the system. But in order to scale that, we’re working on a technology called Pupil, which I’m pretty excited about. The idea of Pupil is that it can invisibly monitor the workflows of humans in order to determine which workflows are often repeatable and can be done by Olive. And if we can do that across an entire health system, we can streamline a lot of the processes and allow the humans to stop doing the robotic tasks they do today, but instead take on more meaningful and creative tasks like direct patient care.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive in the tech space?
I think I would tell the CEOs to make sure they have alignment on the vision and hire great people, and continue to hire the best people you can. Empower those people, give them the authority to do a job that makes their lives a mission. And of course…don’t run out of money.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you’re grateful towards who helped you get to where you are right now?
I’d say first is my wife. She’s first and second, third, fourth, and fifth because there’s no way I could take on these tasks without that support structure. Trying to grow an industry-changing company might take 10 years of sacrificing time and a lot of short-term happiness for what we want to achieve, and I couldn’t do that without my wife.
Have you used your success to bring some sort of good to the word and, if so, what was that?
I founded the Digital Harbor Foundation in order to develop a workforce in Baltimore — basically teaching inner-city kids about technology and making that part of their lives so it can one day become part of their careers or their journey in the future. It’s pretty indicative of what I think is important for a leader because I started that organization, got it somewhat assembled, then I found a great leader to take it over, and that was the secret to its success. Now, it’s probably one of my greatest achievements and one of the things that I have personally worked on the least because I found a great leader to take it forward. It shows you that finding the right people and empowering them really is what makes things successful. Your own sweat equity only goes so far.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
I would say I don’t have a favorite quote — I don’t really have “favorites” of anything — but one quote I do like goes along the lines of, “Make sure that your success is consequential,” so you want to make sure that if you are successful, the success that you have actually means something. The consequence of failure is generally nothing, but the consequence of success needs to be worth it. You should do things that are big enough to make it successful, otherwise it’s not worth doing.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, entertainment, etc. read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Probably it would be someone who is running a billion dollar tech company. Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff — somebody like that. Somebody who I could ask a couple questions to just to see if there’s any strategies for companies starting to scale.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I used to sit with my board and my cofounder to make strategy slides, and I would name the presentation by how many bourbons we’d had. So we’d have the “two bourbons” slides, and it’d be pretty normal strategy, and then we’d have the “five bourbons” slides, and they were always the most interesting and audacious. All of our biggest ideas have been “five bourbon” ideas.
Can you share the top ways that technology is changing the experience of going to the doctor?
If I had to answer that specific question, I would say that the biggest way technology is changing that today is through telemedicine because it’s making it so that you don’t have to go anywhere or actually go to the physical location of the doctor. The biggest impact technology will have on going to the doctor is the Internet of Healthcare and we’re building that today with Olive. We’re building a future where Olive is logged into every enterprise system in healthcare, which means Olive has access to information but also understands the business rules and logic, sharing that information as well as who the patient is. She can do entity extraction at scale and be able to understand concepts within the data. When this exists at scale, then a patient will never have to fill out a form when they walk into the hospital. You won’t need to worry about scheduling between different physicians and hospitals, referrals will be automatic, there will be no fax machines, all the data will be liquid and available to the patient. Data will be available to do things like clinical trials across the universe of patients, so drugs will come onto the scene faster. We’re putting these routers in place today — very intelligent routers in order to create a network that will create that future.
Originally published at medium.com