Angel Investor: “Nobody cares about your idea, if you can’t get a product made, raise money or get employees to work for you for sweat equity then you aren’t an entrepreneur.” The comment felt severe at the time but it had a profound effect on how I operated. Right after hearing this, I found a development partner, brought on board senior advisors who could make a meaningful impact, and found excited and engaged advisors.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Baumgartner.
Jason Baumgartner is the President and CEO of BEKHealth Corporation. His company is accelerating drug development by providing the industry’s most advanced EMR data processing, feasibility and patient trial matching solution.
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?
Well, I grew up in a rural town in central Pennsylvania where playing sports and being outdoors were the primary lifestyle drivers. I went to college with no particular interest other than playing baseball. When it came time to decide on a major, I was drawn to biology because there seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions yet to be resolved. The biology and chemistry classes I took were exponentially harder than any other classes, which for some reason drew me in even deeper.
I graduated from college during the period when there was a race to sequence the human genome so I joined a cancer-based genomics company. We worked around the clock and I had the chance to work with truly brilliant scientists. After receiving an MBA, I transitioned into healthcare consulting where I was fortunate to work with leading innovators such as Genentech and Amgen. Yet, instinctively building and deploying solutions was what I always enjoyed so I transitioned into healthcare technology.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Even though the number of clinical research trials is increasing 20% yearly, the efficiency of executing these trials has actually decreased. When you combine a 20% increase in trials with a negative operational trend line, the model just isn’t sustainable. The core reason research operations haven’t improved is the pre-screening and enrollment of patients relies on manual processes. This puts significant strain on the research staff at trial sites.
So to accelerate the development of new therapies for diseases such as COVID-19, cancer, and Alzheimer’s we need to identify and enroll patients at least at 2–3 times our current levels.
Our solution automates many of the inaccurate, manual and administrative tasks that burden research teams. The BEKHealth solution automatically and precisely matches patients to clinical trials at the point of care. It is the most advanced system for ingesting EMR data, conducting trial feasibility, and identifying protocol eligible patients for clinical trials. By removing manual tasks, researchers can allocate more time to enrolling and seeing patients.
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?
One common mistake many entrepreneurs make, and I certainly did, is trying to raise money too early from the wrong investors.
After launching our solution and gaining real traction, I set up a roadshow with investors in Silicon Valley. And this included five meetings a day back-to-back. The process can really be debilitating mentally since most people say ‘no’ before someone says’yes’. In retrospect, I spend too much time during these early presentations focused on the business problem we are solving, and not enough on the operating plan and use of funds.
The lessons I’d pass along to anybody raising money are:
- Focus on the investors (angels or VCs) who understand your space and have a shared belief it’s a problem that needs to be disrupted.
- Present a detailed operating plan on how you will achieve specific milestones and how this will translate in a return for an investor
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?
My daughters are my most impactful mentors. They provide a level of strength and confidence I’m constantly attempting to achieve.
When my oldest daughter was five she told me she wanted to be on Broadway. We enrolled her in an 8-week acting class. At the end of the session, there was an agent showcase. She performed a song and a monologue in front of 20 agents in a small room. A week later she had a highly reputable NYC agent and one month later we were on set shooting a movie with some of today’s most accomplished actors.
As of today, she’s done seven productions which have exposed me first hand to the best directors, producers, and actors in the industry. From this I’ve learned (1) they all work beyond hard, 16 hours a day for months at a time; (2) their attention to detail is remarkable and they are willing to iterate until it is right; (3) everybody knows their role and comes prepared to execute it flawlessly; and (4) there is a mutual level of respect for other production participants.
So I figure if my daughter can demonstrate such persistence and confidence, why can’t I? These two traits are absolutely necessary when starting a company.
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 easy for us to define and monitor. Are we having a significant impact on patient enrollment in clinical trials and are we speeding the time to market for innovative therapies so more people can access them?
Disruptive products also need to enhance an end user’s workflow or experience. There are a lot of companies I see in healthcare that seem interesting from a conceptual level, but practically and workflow-wise they will actually add burden and stress to users.
So the two questions I’d ask about any product are:
- Will the solution enhance end-user experience and workflow?
- Will the solution significantly impact a key metric in the market?
If the answer to both questions is yes, then it’s disruptive. If the answer to either is no, then it’s just an interesting business.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- My grandmother: “As long as you have your health.” She said this often which has particular resonance during these times. Physical and mental health is often underappreciated as an entrepreneur yet it is an important aspect of success.
- Angel Investor: “Nobody cares about your idea, if you can’t get a product made, raise money or get employees to work for you for sweat equity then you aren’t an entrepreneur.” The comment felt severe at the time but it had a profound effect on how I operated. Right after hearing this, I found a development partner, brought on board senior advisors who could make a meaningful impact, and found excited and engaged advisors.
- Advisor: “Keep going.” In the early days of the company there could be weeks go by without any positive news. Yes we were advancing the product but weren’t signing deals as fast as we’d like. The small tap on the shoulder from industry leaders and words of encouragement would provide a boost of energy and get me to the next milestone.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Well, the first order of business is to scale rapidly so we can impact more patients. There are ~8,000 research sites in the United States alone so we have work to do to meet the demand of the market. We also have plans to expand into the EU and India.
In the next three months we are launching the next generation of our solution which will be far better than anything people have imagined possible.
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?
My go-to podcast for inspiration is called “How I Built This” by NPR. The podcast interviews successful entrepreneurs and provides a realistic take on the trials and tribulations of starting and scaling an organization. The “Facebook” story is too overplayed in the media and really doesn’t provide much helpful guidance in starting a healthcare technology company so I find the stories of real struggle both uplifting and insightful. In the podcast, you learn the founder has an overwhelming belief in the product and a determination to see the execution through.
In terms of books that impact my thinking, I prefer biographies because they provide a first-hand account of the habits and ethics successful people live their lives by. For example, I read David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman in my mid-20s. Truman had consistent habits. He walked two miles every morning no matter where he was. He ate the same breakfast, napped in the afternoon, wrote letters to his wife and friends, and was sleeping by 10 pm. A lot of successful people don’t live a life of glamour, they grind and do it day after day.
I recently read Bryan Cranston’s biography, which is a wild story. He’s considered by many to be one of the most talented actors. Again, his story consists of highs and lows but, ultimately, the key to his success is to dive into each opportunity with full vulnerability and passion.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Decision is the ultimate power.” In a lot of ways we forget that as humans we control our own destiny and have the power to choose what we do and with whom we do it. If we make a decision to do something based on logic and emotion, then we are empowered to proceed and don’t need outside validation.
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. 🙂
Right now, I’m focused on accelerating the development of new therapies so we can drastically improve the care of our society’s health. Biopharmaceutical companies could play a much larger role in providing new technologies to support the research sites they rely so much on for their profits.
How can our readers follow you online? My primary social media interface is LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jason-baumgartner-113591/. I’d be happy to answer any additional questions at [email protected]
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!