Ajay Gupta: “Live with passion”

Through our work in support of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned how to capture the early signals of human-to-human transmission of disease and have designed a data-rich, blockchain-powered, AI-enabled platform that can identify pandemic, endemic, and emerging disease outbreaks — as well as provide guidance for launching an effective response. As a part of my series about […]

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Through our work in support of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned how to capture the early signals of human-to-human transmission of disease and have designed a data-rich, blockchain-powered, AI-enabled platform that can identify pandemic, endemic, and emerging disease outbreaks — as well as provide guidance for launching an effective response.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ajay K Gupta, CISSP, MBA.

Over a 20-year career in cybersecurity and information technology, Ajay has seen companies create true competitive advantage from successful management of security and technology initiatives. At the same time, healthcare is burdened with outdated technology infrastructure and inefficiencies — which are often measured in human lives. Ajay decided to take his understanding of technology and implementation to disrupt and innovate healthcare.

In launching HSR.health, Ajay leverages the best of tech to transform American healthcare into a system that innovates healthcare delivery achieving improved quality, lower costs, and health equity. Under Ajay’s leadership, HSR.health pivoted to support COVID response in the US and globally. And through its lessons learned has developed insights into how health risks impact broader markets. The company is developing a digital Pandemic Early Warning and Response Platform to identify and mitigate impact of future pandemics.

In addition to his work at HSR.health, Ajay Chairs the Health Domain Working Group for the Open Geospatial Consortium, the global standards setting body for all things Geo; serves as the Secretary of the Board of Directors of Holy Cross Health, a multi-hospital social safety net health system in Montgomery County, MD; and is on the Board of Governors for his alma mater, the fearless University of Maryland, College Park.

If he isn’t using the HSR.health geospatial platform to map disease rates against social factors to identify solutions to population health challenges, such as the opioid epidemic or maternal mortality, you can find him at sporting events (#LetsGoNats, #ALLCAPS) or behind the mic bursting eardrums while belting out his favorite pop music tunes from U2, Sting, George Michael, or Imagine Dragons.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In my cybersecurity career, I did a lot of work for financial, technology, and health sector clients, mainly health systems. One thing that always struck me was that the hospitals almost uniformly had the least sophisticated IT infrastructure — but they had the most at stake. Our lives, families, and entire communities are dependent in a very real way on our hospitals.

To me this digital divide represented a significant problem. As the world becomes more digital and technology adoption increases across all age groups, hospitals have to keep up. And yet, hospitals need to continue their main focus on constantly increasing healthcare quality.

So, in my mind, the burden of creating a tech-enabled & tech-improved health system falls to us in information technology.

We need to adapt our technologies to fit into the existing workflow of a health system in a way that enables, rather than conflicts with, their necessary focus on patient care.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Responding to this question is a challenge because I really feel that every day reveals an interesting story.

At age 27, I led a gubernatorial transition team workforce on cybersecurity and data privacy. This was a very exciting opportunity and really opened my eyes to the very real trade-offs governments have to make between security and privacy, cost-containment, and enabling public services.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Live with passion.

Always live with passion, which means to me that no matter what we are doing — building tech solutions to save the world, doing a press interview, or taking our daughters on college visits, get into that activity in that moment and give it your full energy, your full passion — because none of us know which moment will be the one moment of our lives we’ll never forget.

Let’s make sure we remember the Best of ourselves.

For me, I want to remember myself with energy and passion!

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

We are building an all-digital Pandemic Early Warning & Response Platform — to stop pandemics before they occur.

Through our work in support of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned how to capture the early signals of human-to-human transmission of disease and have designed a data-rich, blockchain-powered, AI-enabled platform that can identify pandemic, endemic, and emerging disease outbreaks — as well as provide guidance for launching an effective response.

How do you think this will change the world?

This will be the tool that will enable collaboration among countries — without removing any one nation’s sovereignty or making any nation dependent on any other.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

This isn’t applicable to our idea so much, but one thing in general we as a society should think about is the power of data combined with modern data analytics. Today companies and governments are able to learn so much about us that they can then effectively predict — and then control — what we think. Today’s digital environment allows companies to track us online and offline, learn our behaviors and habits, start to predict our activities — and then by controlling the content we are exposed to, can start controlling our thinking.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Early on in the pandemic, there was simply a lack of clarity on the current state of the pandemic, the transmissibility and virility of COVID-19, and most importantly, on how best to respond. There was no authoritative and reliable source of such information or guidance. This was partly due to the fact that the Coronavirus was novel and such information simply didn’t exist, and partly due to political factors.

But this was also due to the lack of a transparent, global platform that could collect data, freely share data, analyze data, provide guidance, and allow anyone to see and validate for that analysis and guidance for themselves.

We realized early on that this is a solution the world simply needs.

Essentially, the road to agreement should foster disagreement.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

More wonderful press coverage like this.

Seriously, in our conversations with global public health officials, there is always buy-in and concurrence with our idea and our technical approach. We need more opportunities to expose people to what we are doing. As more people hear our idea, we see it catch on, and we are confident it will catch on globally.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. There is a lot of good advice around — and I do mean lots of GOOD advice. Sometimes you have to be selective in what you actually take. For instance, when we first started to build a pitch deck we heard from a lot of friends who had successfully been through the process on what content to include in a pitch deck. And we put everything in. Before we knew it, we had over 40 slides in our deck. There was no way anyone was going to read that. We had to learn how to be selective in the advice we take.
  2. Limit how you use consultants. It may cost more to hire people, but it typically works out better in the long term & is more valued by investors. Employees are hard to find and retain, but the in-house capabilities and skills gained by building your team and doing things yourselves is well worth the added cost.
  3. Fail Fast. No one likes to fail — especially with any venture into which we put our hopes and dreams. One thing we’ve learned is that the loss from failure is actually less than the loss from inaction — because by not doing anything and by being too slow, you don’t learn anything. So, Fail, Learn, Pivot, and Try try again.
  4. Discovery. It’s key to research the market when launching a new product or service. We learned only recently that one way to do this research is simply by calling professionals in the field to ask for their insights. Okay, it’s not “simple”, you do have to identify individuals first, you have to be focused on what you want to ask them, what you want to learn, and you have to get people to talk to you. But it is more cost-effective than hiring market research consultants.
  5. Listen. It can become easy to think we know what our potential customers want. We’re doing market research, we may come from the industry, we’re building the technology — but that doesn’t mean we really know another person’s true pain. So listen. Whether in casual conversations or sales presentations with a customer — stop talking (hard for me, I’ve been told) and listen.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Believe in yourself. You are the greatest You the world has ever seen.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Because we can stop pandemics before they occur, HSR.health represents the greatest Impact Investment opportunity of all time. At the same time, our Platform, leveraging blockchain, AI, and geospatial tech, will enjoy near endless revenue opportunities through offering health risk analytics to industry.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My personal profile: linkedin.com/in/ajayguptacissp

HSR.health on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/health-solutions-research-inc-

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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