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“Create a new user base” With Yonatan Amir

As we looked to the next five years and examined the growth potential of our suite of products in the digital health space, we’ve realized that our impact can exponentially greater by connecting to large, established players in the healthcare space. By integrating our technologies within existing platforms, we will create a new user base […]

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As we looked to the next five years and examined the growth potential of our suite of products in the digital health space, we’ve realized that our impact can exponentially greater by connecting to large, established players in the healthcare space. By integrating our technologies within existing platforms, we will create a new user base for ourselves while simultaneously enhancing the services offered by healthcare payers and providers and help them save money and time by streamlining their operations. We made a conscious business decision to impact and shake things up from within the existing system and from what we are seeing so far, it seems we made the right choice!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Yonatan Amir. After being a professional athlete (in Taekwondo) and finishing two academic degrees at the Technion University (a Bachelor’s in electrical engineering and computer science and a Master’s in economics), Yonatan Amir founded the company Diagnostic Robotics in 2017. The company, which is developing an artificial intelligence system for automation and prediction in the medical diagnostics world, based partially on patents from the medical robotics disciplines, sensory systems and artificial intelligence systems that Amir registered. The company currently has 30 employees, which include scientists, doctors and engineers, and its clients include governments, armies, as well as health and security service providers.

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?

For years I trained and competed as an Olympic-level martial arts athlete. With intense training came injury (unfortunately) and I spent my fair share of time in the ER. A large part of that time was spent waiting. I got the chance to see the system up close and I saw the inefficiencies that were wasting time for the physicians, the staff, and the patients. I decided I wanted to be a part of the medical field and began medical school at the Technion. After a short time, I switched from medicine to electrical engineering, computer science, and economics as I realized my true passion for developing medical technology. At the Technion, I met Dr. Kira Radinsky and Prof. Moshe Shoham who would become my cofounders at Diagnostic Robotics and together we started building next-generation medical technologies that incorporate robotics, sensory systems, and artificial intelligence.

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

We have assembled an incredibly strong team of leading developers, data scientists, doctors, and designers who are creating cutting edge products to change the healthcare system. The healthcare industry in the United States is in desperate need of disruption and we believe that introducing artificial intelligence technologies (in order to automate repetitive and monotonous tasks and predict in advance high risk clinical events), into the system will address many of the inefficiencies that patients, providers, and payers encounter on a daily basis. Making the system more effective will save money and time — time patients wait in the emergency room or wait for specialist appointments and time physicians spend on administrative work and on repetitive tasks.

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 I was a student at the Technion, I attended a student event where the general manager of Sequoia Capital spoke and as an ambitious entrepreneur, I naturally went and introduced myself after the event. Since he was already late to his next meetings, he invited me to walk out with him and share my idea for my next startup. I immediately launched into my pitch and a minute later found myself with him in an elevator as I was giving my elevator pitch! He also realized the humor in the situation and immediately began filming me on his phone. I continued talking about our plans and all the change that was needed in the healthcare space and the elevator reached the lobby before I could finish. He thanked me for my pitch and wished me luck, that’s when I learned the importance of brevity and just how short an elevator pitch should be.

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?

I’ve been fortunate to have strong relationships with several mentors throughout my entrepreneurial journey. I met Shai Wininger, a seasoned entrepreneur who has several big successes under his belt (Lemonade, Fiverr), when I was a student. We set up a few meetings to discuss a general product approach, how to build startups from the ground up, and general conversations on design and technology. Shai really helped me understand what goes into founding a startup and what makes a strong product.

As a company (and myself in general) we’ve been lucky to work with Prof. Dan Ariely on the fundamentals of the psychological and behavioral aspects of our line of products (including identifying the drivers and psychological elements of patients in different clinical scenarios) and understanding what makes people tick in a healthcare setting. His input has been invaluable as we develop our products.

On a personal level, my mother has been a strong guiding presence my whole life, she is a strong woman who raised me and my sisters to follow our passions and interests no matter how diverse (my sisters are a criminal justice lawyer and a flamenco dancer while I studied electrical engineering and computer science).

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?

Disruption is a loaded term that can bring to mind innovation, change, growth, and new ways of doing things. Many systems and industries do not evolve or change over time as they should, this can happen for a number of reasons including government regulation, corporate monopoly, or simple complacency “this is how it has always been…” Disruption is a natural part of our market evolution that has existed for centuries under other names. The industrial revolution “disrupted” nearly every element of life at the time and changed the world as we know it, paving the way for future innovation and development. In today’s rapidly changing tech landscape, many new companies are claiming to be “disrupters and the term “disruption” is in danger of becoming oversaturated.

The medical field is a great example, innovation and disruption in the medical field comes at a slower pace than in other fields because of stringent government regulations and rightfully so — when people’s healthcare is the issue, lives are at stake and no one takes this lightly. Validation, verification, regulatory supervision, privacy and security are key pillars in order to secure the quality of products that may have a significant impact on patient’s lives and well beings. In the startup community, everyone wants to create the best new product that will “change the world”. There are many factors that can make or break a new product — local laws, government regulations, competitors, etc. Founders would be wise to focus on the quality of their product, their product-market fit, and how well they answer challenges. True disruption comes from mass adoption of a product and if the product isn’t great, nothing will be disrupted.

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

  • “As a CEO you should ask yourself every day what are the most problematic areas and the biggest problem of the organization, and divert your effort there” — I think of this advice every week as I look at the tasks ahead of me for the company for the week. This helps center me and focus my energies on what is most important for the company rather than the urgent and often less important tasks that jump up every day.
  • “The problem/assumption you are avoiding from confronting, is probably the high-risk fundamental issue that will fail an effort/project eventually” (therefore you should confront the raw unpleasant trues as soon as possible) — this advice is probably hardest for me to follow. It reminds me that I need to tackle the most annoying challenges first and that if I am avoiding something, there is probably a reason for it and I should push through and solve it. Once you solve the more challenging problems, other things seem to fall into place.
  • “You only have 24 hours a day, the most effective way to win the race is creating a strong management team of leaders, that will push the organization forward” — I got this piece of advice from a fellow entrepreneur when we closed our first initial funding for the company and were ready to start hiring. He said that from now on, we would succeed or fail based on our team and that every hire needed to reflect our drive, skill, and passion. I remember this every time I interview a candidate, especially for a management position. Our management is incredibly talented and skilled but mostly, they share our passion for cutting-edge technology and improving healthcare. The strength of our team allows me to focus on the big picture issues that will drive our company forward while they handle daily operations.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

We take a multi-pronged approach in our lead generation — our stellar business and sales teams work together with our board and advisory committee to develop strong relationships with leading healthcare institutions around the country and internationally. We are fortunate to have strong partnerships in place with key players including, Mayo Clinic, Anthem, and these relationships help foster new ones. Our management team speaks at industry conferences (mostly online these days) and publishes often, this helps us raise the profile of the company. At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we created a platform to help governments and healthcare institutions fight the pandemic. As our platform was adopted by the Israeli Ministry of Health and all the HMOs in the country, we worked in collaboration with Deloitte and Salesforce on the international distribution of the platform to governments around the world. This partnership helped expand our brand awareness and led to very strong, high quality leads.

How are you going to shake things up next?

As we looked to the next five years and examined the growth potential of our suite of products in the digital health space, we’ve realized that our impact can exponentially greater by connecting to large, established players in the healthcare space. By integrating our technologies within existing platforms, we will create a new user base for ourselves while simultaneously enhancing the services offered by healthcare payers and providers and help them save money and time by streamlining their operations. We made a conscious business decision to impact and shake things up from within the existing system and from what we are seeing so far, it seems we made the right choice!

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?

As our company has grown, one of the biggest challenges for me has been to find personal enrichment time for myself. Reading for pleasure has become somewhat of a luxury, so when I do read I try to focus on books that are interesting to me personally but that also enrich me as an entrepreneur and a CEO. Ben Horowitz’s book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” was incredibly compelling and I find myself returning to it again and again. When you are at the helm of a successful startup company, you need to actively ignore the hype around your company and products and focus on what really matters, I’ve quickly learned that the line between a successful unicorn and a flameout is incredibly thin. In his book, Ben shares his insights from years of experience in developing and managing startup companies. His tips and tricks are helpful and you can always relate to his experiences and apply lessons from the book to everyday business decisions.

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

Not necessarily a “life lesson” quote, but my favorite quote is “not all who wander are lost” said by JRR Tolkien. I think of this quote often when I think of the different paths life can take you until you reach your goal. My life continues to take different paths then expected and I am constantly surprised with how things work out. As a teenage competitive martial arts athlete, it would have never occurred to me that the path I was on would lead me to entrepreneurship but I wouldn’t change a thing.

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?

I don’t know that you would necessarily call it a movement, but I am a strong believer in equaling the playing field for everyone and that starts with education. Studies show that children from underprivileged backgrounds are more likely to succeed with a strong education from an early age. I would like children from all backgrounds to have the opportunity to get a STEM education. Sparking an interest in math and sciences at an early age helps forge a clear path to continued education in those fields and eventually to jobs. The trickle down effects of increased STEM education would be felt in underprivileged communities around the world, inspiring future students and helping to raise new generations with the ideas that all doors are open to them and anything is possible.

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