The Redox Podcast 43: Olive’s Journey to AI through Robotic Process Automation

Posted December 7, 2021
By Miona Short

The Redox Podcast | Olive: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Redox Podcast_Sean Lane: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Niko Skievaski:
Welcome to the Redox Podcast, where we explore the intersection of healthcare and technology with some of our industry's most notable contributors. I'm your host, Niko Skievaski, in my day job, I'm the co-founder and president of Redox, where we're on a mission to enable the frictionless adoption of technology and healthcare. We started the show to share what we're learning and hopefully allow you to skip some steps as you embark on your journey through making healthcare a little bit better. So without further ado, I welcome you to the Redox Podcast.

Niko Skievaski:
Hey, everyone, we've been absent for a little while, but don't fear it's because we have a new series in the works, and that's part of that! I interviewed Sean Lane, founder and CEO of Olive. And after this insightful and inspiring interview, I realized that it was really worth putting out here on its own. So here it is. I met Sean back in 2015 when Redox was a very young company and Olive was actually called Cross-Checks, back then. You'll hear his story of how they went from multifactor identity management to workflow automation using AI bots at Olive. So without further ado, here's my conversation with Sean. Just to start off with give us like the four-minute story on who you are, what you do, your vision for all Olive.

Sean Lane:
Four minutes, OK!

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
So I am Sean Lane, CEO and founder of Olive, you know, I grew up in a small town in southeastern Ohio, and very rural town, I was really into technology as a kid, I was like one of those sit-in-your-basement-and-code kind of guys, and, but I was really into military strategy and wanted to be a spy. That's like, that was my dream. My dad was in the Army National Guard, and he would bring home all these manuals and books about the military ao I would read up voraciously on that and that was my dream. So I ended up going into military intelligence through the Air Force after undergrad, went to Iraq right after that, spent a year there, really learned that intelligence was, it was good to be a technologist in the intelligence community and to know how to build software teams, know how to build software was like a superpower, and I really thrived in kind of my intelligence career, ended up going to NSA, the National Security Agency, which was like the place where nerds go, who also want to be a spy and had an absolute life-changing time over the several years that I worked at NSA. And really this incredible crash course on technologies and learning how to build teams and build technology and use the latest and greatest stuff, and we were dealing with the biggest big data problem in the world. So that was like my training ground. Got out of that in 2007, started my first company selling intelligence, you know, selling a software to the intelligence community, sold that in 2011, and that's when I got pulled into healthcare. Back to my rural hometown, they were struggling with a ferocious fight with prescription drug abuse and asked if I could help, knew nothing about healthcare, but it was determined to do what I could. My family and friends had been really affected by that, looked at the literally walked into my hometown hospital and looked around the technology and systems they were using, and I walked out and said, healthcare doesn't have the internet, and that's the problem. So that's been my mantra ever since. We've really started, at that point, I started to pull together a system to connect everything together, to bring the data together, to identify all the people, places, and things so that we could effectively communicate and did that for a few years. Got some venture capitalists who believed in the vision and wanted to build a multibillion-dollar company, which was a new thing to me. But it took us a while to really figure out how to turn that idea of building the Internet of healthcare into something that would resonate with our customers and to build a product that they would want to buy, that would help them do whatever they needed to do. So we had about twenty-seven failed products in the journey to our twenty-eighth and the twenty-eighth is Olive.

Niko Skievaski:
Did you realize what, did you really count like, was it actually twenty-seven?

Sean Lane:
I went back retrospectively and counted them all. Now, varying levels, some were, some were mock-ups, some were fully functional and deployed in one hundred health systems, it just varying levels of product maturity. But twenty-seven in total, all with brands and names and concepts and mockups. And I mean, it was just a is a very exploitive time of product-market fit, trying to find product-market fit. And one of the observations that led to the right product was that every health system we went to had hundreds of people sitting in cubicles doing the exact same thing over and over again, and I realized that they were the human routers of healthcare's internet, and they were taking data out of one system and putting in another, and they were moving information and they were transforming information, and they were basically performing these repetitive tasks that machines should do. And that's when it hit us that we should create an AI worker, as we call it, a software robot that could sit in that seat and perform those workflows and become a router, an AI router versus a human router in this internet of connectivity. So we went to hospitals and said, would you hire Olive to do these workflows? They said yes, and it kind of just grew from there. And fast forward to today are, we're really about creating that internet of healthcare. We're about connecting the unconnected. We're about revealing life-changing outcomes by really automating the business of healthcare. I mean, we are and want to be healthcare's automation company and we want to create that internet of healthcare that we've talked for so long about, we, we're now in over a thousand hospitals and 70 some odd major health systems, 12,000 employees around the country. Olive does the work of approximately 40,000 FTE of human routers. And we are constantly expanding into new areas. So we're enterprise-wide, we're providers and payers for everything from rev cycle to finance, supply chain, pharmacy, and across the board, and we are introducing, you know, platforms so that other companies can build on some of the automations that we've created. We're really excited.

Niko Skievaski:
Awesome. I have so many questions to follow up within different areas of that. Yeah, when we first met, you were talking about the Internet of healthcare. So that was what? 2014, I think? 2015? So yeah, from my perspective, you've had a consistent vision there, but how do you figure out, like how did you go from product integration to product innovation to figure out actually what to build and get it to a point when where you knew that that was what to scale and like, what was the feedback that you got that made you figure out the twenty-eighth product was the right one?

Sean Lane:
Well, start backwards with the feedback. The unit economics are pretty clear as you start to look at these businesses and you know the good old-fashioned SAS metrics that most of these companies are judged upon, those are really telling. Things like, you know, customer acquisition costs, things like payback on CAC, CAC to LTV, what are our margins? What are our ASPs, average sales prices, and they're very, you know, ultimately you can determine what your market's going to look like and your growth rates, and then you can start to do that math. So it's really about financial intelligence, driving this picture of product-market fit because the products with product-market fit tend to look really good on those charts and the ones without it tend to, you have to squint to really see it.

Niko Skievaski:
Interesting.

Sean Lane:
And then the other thing was a mentality. I think our mentality was we didn't want to create a zero million dollar company, meaning we didn't want to build one hundred million dollar company, we didn't want a product that was good and but not something that could be the, as Jeff Bezos puts it, the lemonade stand that would basically enable investments across a broad range of things. We wanted our product to be able to fuel that, to fuel innovation, to fuel expansion, to have the free cash flow, to create new business units and expand into other areas, other markets, and the twenty-seven preceding all of certainly weren't that. But when we started selling Olive, it was very clear, very fast that it was different and that.

Niko Skievaski:
Of course. Yeah, what did that feel like?

Sean Lane:
It felt like the product being pulled off the shelf versus being pushed was one thing. It was clear that our pricing was way too low, our ASPs, even though higher than anything we had sold in the past, was still way too low. The other interesting thing is like, I think Olive and I are soul mates in a way because I always, I have this, I love to solve problems. And that was part of the reason there are twenty-seven products before this because I would go to one part of the hospital and they would say, here's my problem. I'm like, OK, I can build that, and I would build that, or my team would build that. I would draw a cradle, a drawing, and they would build that. But I love solving those problems. And but it was a very distinct product, and then you're managing distinct products. Whereas Olive is a bit of a Swiss Army knife, I mean, you're talking about a, an AI worker that effectively can do whatever a human worker could do and could go into supply chain, and, but the core technology is the same. So we really were soul mates from that perspective. Olive is a problem-solver. I mean, we have core technologies that can go into any department, any part in the enterprise, so it matched really well with me. And I think that mattered because I didn't have to say no when someone was, you know, from the pharmacy would come in and say, this is a big problem that we're having because I was like, I can automate that. And automation became our thing, not the software that did pharmacy automation. It just became automation in general.

Niko Skievaski:
Awesome. So I want to talk to you about how you think about scaling the product organization, like specifically balancing making progress on this wider vision and all of this kind of getting into more and more spaces and doing more and more things balancing that versus like the never-ending backlog of customer requests and tech debt and all of that.

Sean Lane:
I mean, it's, I would say that if you want to build a company, you know, I'll go back actually to say, decide what you want to build. And I think that's the most critical thing in the world. Like, if you want to build a, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars of value company, then the answer is very different than what I'm about to say. Our goal is to build a company that will be around for decades, will live beyond me, will, will be healthcare kind of technology company, a healthcare technology company, for a long, long time. So given that we can't just be satisfied with what we're doing today, we have to continue to innovate constantly so despite everything that we're doing and we're up against, we still are investing in the future no matter what. We have always done that and always will do that. We will consistently invest in what we think is next as we're working with what's going wrong. We have just as many issues and problems as every single, every single small company on the planet. But we still continue to take on new things and grow because we want to be ahead of where our customers needs are. From a product perspective, the pendulum swings, and I think we do this deliberately like we go to very forward-thinking product stance, to a very forward-thinking growth stance, to a very forward-thinking product stance. And so we're like, we're like pushing the envelope on product and innovation, and then we're pushing the envelope on growth and expansion.

Niko Skievaski:
Does that pendulum coincide with like the fundraising cycles?

Sean Lane:
I think it coincides with our strategy … drives and all drives the fundraising cycle. But our strategy, we say what our strategy is going to be and we spend about two years on it. And so we're kind of, we have a couple of years of executing strategy and we then foresee the next one and we come back. But growth gives you the right to spend an exceedingly amount money on R&D. Like, if you're not growing, you can't do that. So we have to grow to be able to continue to hire as many engineers as possible to build the best products that we can. And the reason the company is growing as fast as it is is so we can build the best products in the world. And that's it, because we need to continue to grow in order to have the ability and the resources to hire as many engineers as possible to build the best product. So it's kind of like this, that's the relationship of growth and product is that, you know, growth enables an investment in R&D that it oftentimes is higher than other companies, which is our that's our advantage.

Niko Skievaski:
Mmhmm. Do you use a specific framework in figuring out how much to invest in R&D, like a percentage framework or horizons or, teah, think about that.

Sean Lane:
Typically, don't look at the average comps of average companies. You know, we look at the comps of the best companies on the planet, and then sometimes we're like, where are they in their state? So like, let's say, for example, somebody like Amazon or Snowflake or something like that spends 30 percent on R&D, 30 percent of revenue on R&D, like, for example, then we would say, like, well, we're private, so we can probably spend more, so let's aim for something higher than that. So we're overspending. My goal is like, I don't want anyone else to be able to spend more money on people than products. So like, we want to overspend our competitors so that we can achieve, you know, we can get the best people to build the best products while we can, so long as we're growing, we get the ability to do that.

Niko Skievaski:
Nice. Yeah. So you mentioned a little earlier, too, that you're as you felt product-market fit happen, as you felt the product being pulled off the shelves. You also had to iterate with the business model and change that. How do you think about coming up with a business model, about charging customers and how do you test it and iterate upon it?

Sean Lane:
Yeah, but it is part of the strategy and we thought of it that way from the very beginning when we started with Olive's business model, it was based on an AI unit, which was similar to the compute unit that AWS uses, and it was cool. We really liked it, I really liked it.

Niko Skievaski:
Sounds confusing.

Sean Lane:
Well, it's, I think that you should really not be afraid to be misunderstood. I think that's an important thing because I think the best companies aren't afraid to be misunderstood. And that means don't be afraid to come up with something bold and different, even if it risks some confusion early on. Because once they're there, then it becomes a huge moat. So I didn't, I wasn't worried about the confusing element of it. I was worried or what pulled us away from it was more of it was very consumption-based. And so we were getting small ASP. People were buying one AI unit to get in the door. So our ASPs at the time were $20,114 on average, which was one AI unit, as we priced it. So we then moved to these reservoirs of consumable, what we call kilowatts and kilowatts, where like kilowatt-hours of electricity. So the more AI workers you had in your enterprise, the more kilowatts, kilowatts so they would consume. So that became our methodology. I think it's still the superior methodology that will come back to us at one day. But unfortunately, our kind of pricing and execution was, it was the company was too early to handle that level of sophistication, could not handle that. So it didn't work in the market. So we moved to a more just subscription-based model, right-sized for the right job. And now we have come to a business model that's based on a currency that we've created called Pi. So the way it works is a customer buys the current from us, called Pi, Pi stands for perpetual impact, and then they use that currency in our marketplace to buy whatever they'd like. Any of our products, any of our SKUs, any of our partners, any of our partner products and SKUs, and they can cash that Pi in. If they buy a high volume, they get a certain exchange rate. And if they buy it a lower volume, they get a certain exchange rate. So they're incentivized to kind of buy more of that currency. And what that does is it allows us to create one contract. There's not a new MSA every time you're doing something new, not not a new conversation and a new paper for every single product that you come out with, that one contract handles every product, past, present and future. It enables all of our partners, all of our platform transactions, everything. And so all they have to do is buy more Pi and transact that Pi inside our marketplace. And then we do it, we do kind of an ROI calculation at the end to show them kind of what they're getting for every, for every one Pi they spend, how many U.S. dollars are they getting in return? So that's, that's how we do it.

Niko Skievaski:
I can tell you, you are not afraid to be misunderstood because each of those were quite complicated. And what I thought was interesting is that the first iterations of the, of the business model were very supply-side oriented, in the sense that you were looking at, what is the cost of production and how can we associate revenue to costs. Now, it's well, so there's the bottom-up pricing, which is like cost-plus and top-down pricing, which is kind of what value are you adding to the customer and how can you associate the price with that, which I feel like is more the Pi model of their buying credits and then you're showing them the ROI on that. And the ROI might be different based on how they spend their Pi, right? If they buy an AI unit for a certain area versus if they work with one of your partners for to automate something else.

Sean Lane:
Yep, that's right. And also it depends on the exchange rate that they bought into.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah, because if they buy a bunch of Pi at once, they're going to get it for a lower exchange rate.

Sean Lane:
Yeah, so their ROI is going to be higher.

Niko Skievaski:
And just to make sure I ask the question, because you did, you did call it a currency, we're not, are we talking about a cryptocurrency here? You got it on a distributed ledger now?

Sean Lane:
No, we do have Sergent Chatterjee, who's the chief product officer of Coinbase, on our board. But we do not. It is not a, it's not blockchain, however, it's similar to like V-Bucks or Robux, if you're familiar with those.

Niko Skievaski:
I'm not.

Sean Lane:
Like Roblox and Fortnite.

Niko Skievaski:
Oh yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.

Sean Lane:
You buy credits.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah. Very cool. Yeah.

Sean Lane:
It is actually a huge hack that allows us to go faster than most companies when it comes to contracting. So we, that's why we can expand. Like, for example, I'm not telling you the numbers, but the Q, but last quarter, eighty-five percent of our bookings were expansions.

Niko Skievaski:
Amazing. And because they're buying credits, they're kind of pre-purchasing, so it allows you to collect cash earlier, which is obviously helpful for growth, makes the contract simpler if you're not having to figure out what they're buying. I don't know if that's a good transition or not, but I wanted to ask you about fundraising. So Olive has raised, gosh, almost a billion dollars now, that's more than any other company that I've ever talked to. How do you think about fundraising and when it makes sense to raise money? And how do you think about a different stages of the company?

Sean Lane:
Yeah, I think there's, the overall view that I have is that we are, I mean, look, if you look at the kind of market cap charts of the greatest companies on the planet, they're like little squiggly lines for a long time. And then there's this move and we're at such a small and early stage of the company, really what we're doing is making sure we have the resources to accomplish our vision. That's it. And we need to continue to grow and we need to continue to build the vision and introduce that vision to our customers. So I think about financing as a way to make sure we have the resources to accomplish our vision and our strategy, whatever that may be. If we had a small vision and strategy, we'd raise a small amount of money. We happen to have a very lofty vision and strategy, so we're going to have to raise a lot of money to have the resources to do that. And you know, investors are like they're of all shapes and sizes, and some want to be part of that and some don't. Some invest on different criteria, some invest on those big visions and bold kind of ideas, and that's the ones who are typically the right ones for us. That's our vision. So like, we will continue to resource the business to make sure that we can accomplish the vision that is decades from where we can still see, like I was telling someone recently, if we just built what we want to do now it'd take 20 years.

Niko Skievaski:
Mmhmm.

Sean Lane:
So like, we have decades out vision and we just want to make sure we have the resources on an ongoing basis to accomplish that. So I'm not interested so much in like valuation and things like dilution or any of that, that stuff doesn't really factor in to me, it's all about, do you have the resources to accomplish the vision or not? What's the R&D budget? How do you make sure that that stays high? How do you make sure that we're growing fast enough to keep that high enough to build things that matter? So like that's, that's kind of the way I think about it. Now throughout the whole lifespan of the company, I've had so many experiences with fundraising. I'm sure, you know, I've shared some with you and like it's just it's been quite an experience from the very early days. I mean, Series A was, there was just one investor who changed our mind to think bigger, you know, we were thinking small. I mean, I had just sold a company. That company was doing 20 million in revenue, and I just thought I would do that again. And this investor changed our mind to say, let's think bigger, let's do something that matters, let's build a company that will be around for a long time and potentially change an industry. And I was like, OK, let's do that. So there was no other option. That was it. There was one option and we did that and great move I think. I think that we and we're still very, very close to that investor. And then after that, I'm like, OK, I'm in Columbus now. Where do we, where do we go from here? And it's like, well, you're going to have to go to Silicon Valley because they're not coming to Columbus yet, nor are they really investing much in companies in Columbus. So I would camp out in Silicon Valley for 30 days, and that was so I'd go out there. I'd get an Airbnb, Airbnb for 30 days wouldn't come home even on weekends, and my goal was always to come home with a term sheet and I would leave Silicon Valley with a term sheet of the partner that we wanted to work with. And so I did that Series B, did it again for Series C, did it again for Series D, and then after that, you know, the company is now in the growth stage, right? So more zeroes behind the years and growth rate is being proven and it became different, it became more conversations about, you know, just bigger numbers and not having to kind of spend 30 days out in the valley. Actually, I did do that for the E, so I'm still, so B, C, D, E, 30 days, Silicon Valley. And then the pandemic hit, and we've done three rounds since the pandemic, all via Zoom, all much bigger numbers. But I think my days of camping out in Silicon Valley are over. But wow, what an experience.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah. So it might not be necessary to travel for fundraising anymore, but or are you saying that it's because of your stage now that it is, isn't as necessary?

Sean Lane:
I can only speak to the state, like in our stage, it's not necessary.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
I don't know if it's still necessary for early-stage companies.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah. Why did you raise so many big rounds and so such close succession? Because it's not like you went through that all of that funding already, right? Like you're, yeah, was that based on market dynamics and just availability of funding or investors that you were really interested in?

Sean Lane:
Yeah. So market dynamics. I always take the, if all of is a motor, like an engine, I always take it all the way to like the eight thousand RPM where it's still working, but like things are starting to rattle and like potentially fall off and it's like, but it's still working. And I realize that our tachometer had started to come down because the market was asking for more and I thought we can push this harder. So we changed our forecast and said, no, we're not going to double, we're going to triple. And we changed our trajectory because the market was wanting more. And another big thing changed because usually there's something limiting it. Sometimes it's the market. In this case, it wasn't. Sometimes it's just the I can't get the people fast enough to build the things to give it to the market. And what had changed really significantly during the pandemic is we very early called work from anywhere as our policy. We call it the grid, it's a whole thing and we did, when we did that, the floodgates of talent open. So now we had a bigger market demand and we had access to more people. So we're like, I can run this engine at a much higher velocity. So we stepped on the gas, tachometer back up to seven thousand, eight thousand RPM and but we needed resources to do it. So we went through the resources faster, we needed more resources. And then I would say after a few months of that, we realized we needed even more. So we push the gas again. You know, we went from one hundred and eighty people before, right, right at the time of the pandemic to, we're at twelve hundred today. So just give it, put it in perspective, like incredible, incredible, crazy growth. And you know, we're still I mean, we've raised enough now so that we can still step on the gas for a little while without having to bring in more resources. But we're not slowing down, that's for sure.

Niko Skievaski:
Do you even put letters behind those rounds anymore?

Sean Lane:
I don't remember what letter we're on, it's amazing.

Niko Skievaski:
E, F, G.

Sean Lane:
We're on H, I'd have to ask. I just kind of forgot.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah, that's wild. So yeah, you mentioned earlier, you have around twelve hundred employees. Talk to me about culture and how important it is to accomplishing the vision and how do you think about scaling it? You know, I think it's very different to scale culture when you're at one hundred and fifty versus at twelve hundred, right? How are you thinking about that across the organization as it grows and then, you know, even beyond, because you're not done.

Sean Lane:
Yeah, I mean, culture is an interesting, another interesting thing that I'll say that in general, I've learned and I'm still learning, but I've learned so much since those first days of the company. I hope that I've grown as a leader and I hope to continue to grow as a leader, and so many people have taught me so many things, the previous employees, previous executives, current executives, board members, you name it, friends, whatever. I've learned so much. My wife, I mean, I've just learned a ton and grown I think, so you know, I was in my early thirties when we started the company, now I'm in my early forties, it's just, you know, it's a whole decade of growth and that's also shaped our culture, I think, too, because we used to, I used to think of culture as a proxy for what does the office look like? And how is it arranged? And how are people treated with perks? And that's a pretty early stage view of, and I don't mean early stage as a stage of company, I just mean like as early stage of personal growth view of culture. My current thinking, which will probably evolve but where I am at today, is I believe culture is a consequence. It's a consequence of your actions like it is what you do every day, it's the behaviors that you choose, it's the decisions you make. That's it. You don't prescribe it, it is a result and it's a result of the action. So you work on the actions you work on the behaviors, you work on the choices, you work on the decisions people make every day, and your culture will be a consequence. You don't decide what the culture is, you shape the behaviors that drive it. And I adopted a leadership methodology kind of framework that was really an amalgamation of things I have learned called love to lead. And it has, I hope, shaped some culture. And it's still in the early innings of doing that, and I hope that it continues to it. The whole idea is like, you have to love in order to be a leader and a leader's number one job is to build other leaders. So it's like every one of the company is a leader and your job is to make new leaders. And then we look at it's an acronym. Actually, like everything is a leadership problem. Otherhood is like one of our principles, it's like motherhood or brotherhood. It's a way of constantly thinking about how your actions impact others, how your decisions impact others. V is about vision. We strive to understand everyone's vision. Like, what is your vision for this podcast? You kind of gave, you talk to me about that before we started, which I enjoyed, and I want to help you achieve that vision. So that's kind of what we do is we hear everyone's vision and we help them achieve it. It creates nice consequence, nice culture. And then the E is expectations, like we believe that expectations drive emotions. So, you know, oftentimes when you're upset, it's because you had, your expectation wasn't aligned with reality. So we try to be very crystal clear about expectations. Not to take emotion out of the workplace, but to be just very, very abundantly and sometimes even like, you know, it's almost like we're overstating, or overstating expectations. But yeah, so that's love to lead framework.

Niko Skievaski:
I love it. Is that something you came up with or is that like, can you find a book on love to lead framework?

Sean Lane:
It's something I came up with, just, an amalgamation of things people have taught me. It's not, they weren't, they're not my original ideas. They're just my original putting it together.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah, yeah. And that that love acronym, leadership, otherhood, vision, expectations, is that would you call that like your values as a company or what do you call that? What is that?

Sean Lane:
Oh, we have core values that are different, but that's our leadership methodology.

Niko Skievaski:
Gotcha.

Sean Lane:
Everyone's a leader, so it becomes the way to shape the behaviors. But the core values also shape behavior. So we obsess like lives depend on it, value. We move with a sense of urgency, in every, everything that we do. So those are like core values like, that's kind of a taste of that. Now, we had 11 core values before.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
And in an effort to not worry about being misunderstood, but actually, you know, it's funny, the 11 core values, people actually remembered them pretty well, but we decided as we grew to to start to shape that. So we did.

Niko Skievaski:
Nice. Well, did you cut some? Did you cut them down? Did you like upper-level them?

Sean Lane:
Yeah, we could, we just shorten, we shorten the core values.

Niko Skievaski:
Gotcha, I literally did the same thing, like in the last six months we had, we had 10 and I basically brought it up to three. And some of, the old ones kind of are nested under the new ones. But yeah, same, same sort of thought of like, we like these values, but it's not as clear as it could be. It's not as succinct.

Sean Lane:
Right. Exactly.

Niko Skievaski:
Talk to me about just like being a founder. You know, people talk about how being a founder can be a lonely journey. What is your support system look like? Who do you turn to like?

Sean Lane:
It is a, you know, it can be lonely. I'm like, it's a dream. This is a dream come true for me, though. Like, I just want to be clear, I was just walking to where I work. It's not, it's just a it's a place that I rent that I work in, but it's, just walking in here this morning, walking around town, it's like, this is just amazing. Like, I'm having the time of my life, this is incredible. I'm really enjoying what I do, and I think I've learned to have a better support system. I definitely talked to Chris from Drive Capital three times a week, so he's a really important part.

Niko Skievaski:
He's like one of your, your first investor, right?

Sean Lane:
First investor, board member, so lead director, I mean, he's been there since the beginning and is a confidant. I talked to my executive team. I talked to both executive teams because, as you know, I'm also the CEO and founder of Circulo, right, you know that Medicaid insurance company?

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
So both executive teams there, talk to other board members and investors. I talk to friends. I, you know, I have a tight group of friends that, that I can share with, other founders to a degree. I mean, we meet, we have a great group that meets about once a month to share stories. And you know what I found there is that even if you meet with other founders, sometimes there's still loneliness if your stage is very different than theirs.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
Like if, if you meet with someone who is series A-ish or seed round stage or seed stage and then you're like E or F or whatever, you know, like this, the relatability is tough because your problems that you're dealing with, maybe they're not, or maybe they are, and maybe you have dealt with theirs so you can share with them, but you don't feel like they, you know, someone knows yours, so. I think meeting with founders of similar stages is helpful because you can relate with the problems that are affecting you today. So that's been a big part of it. And obviously my, my family at home, you know, like my, my wife and kids is probably my number one support structure by far.

Niko Skievaski:
Yep, awesome. We are running short on time, you got to hard stop, I imagine, maybe?

Sean Lane:
Actually, you know, I have today is no meeting Wednesday.

Niko Skievaski:
Oh, love it. I did it but in a Tuesday, so.

Sean Lane:
We instituted this. I have external meetings, but no internal meetings on Wednesday, which is an awesome opportunity to spend some time. So I don't have a hard stop exactly at one.

Niko Skievaski:
Let me ask you a few sort of concluding questions then, all of this been fairly acquisitive. You acquired Virata, Empiuric, maybe others, why would you acquire a company and how do you think about making that decision?

Sean Lane:
Well, we go back to strategy, so we create a strategy, it's a multiyear strategy. We work off those multiyear strategies. It's a very deliberate process of coming up with strategy. Our strategy, coming into where we are today has been in place for two years. It was called the five strategic maneuvers. It was a very clearly articulated strategy and we had, we've used that strategy to do everything that we've done all the strategic decisions, including acquisitions, and we're rolling out a new strategy soon for strategic imperatives. So that's going to be what guides us into the future for the next couple of years or however long it makes sense. There's no timeline really to these strategies, there's more of a completion and milestone-driven approach. So, you know, every one of these acquisitions was tied to strategy. We acquired Virata because we were automating one side of prior authorizations, and we wanted to automate on both sides with the payer and provider, and we wanted to open up the payer market. And that's what Virata did for us. It opened up an entirely new market and allowed us to automate kind of both sides, if you will. So we stood up an entire business unit to focus on that, and we are now rolling out a host of products on the payer side of the market, which is has been incredible. We acquired Empiuric because we were doing a lot more work into the clinical space, specifically around surgeries and supply chain and understanding what supplies to use during what surgeries, cohorting surgeries, doing analysis on different illnesses and disease like procedures and Empiuric had a lot of, had done a lot of work in that space, and we wanted to accelerate our move into that market. So we acquired Empiuric and it's going to, it will be the foundation of our final strategic maneuver of the five, which will lead to a new business unit around it's called we call it hall of no's, which is a little bit of insight into what that's going to be, which, which will be live by the end of the year. And then we also acquired Clearinghouse. I don't know if you if you saw that, but we are now a fully functioning Clearinghouse so we can send claims, process claims, remit claims, edit claims. And it's going to be the foundation of a lot of, of the pipes. So we're building the pipes, if you will.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah.

Sean Lane:
For data transmission. And that was because we wanted to connect the disconnected and we wanted to share information between providers and payers in entirely new ways. So that was what drove that acquisition.

Sean Lane:
You mentioned earlier that you, your first company, you were acquired. How, how do you think a founder should think about being acquired? Should it be a goal of theirs? Should they seek acquisition? Should they just do their hardest on their vision and see what happens in the market?

Sean Lane:
Well, I think they should do whatever they, whatever drives them. I mean, really go back to that asking yourself what you want to do and what you want to be as a company and a founder needs to ask that question. I mean, you know, there's always the times when you get acquired because things aren't quite working the way you wanted them to, and it's one of the better options out there, right? That's, that is a reality that happens, it's a better reality when you think, in my view, this is my personal view, that you think that your vision can best be accomplished under the resources of another company and as long as they'red shared vision, then that can be really powerful. I tend to think that the former scenario doesn't work as well, like when companies are under duress or no, they've become, their growth has slowed, so they become uninvestable to a degree, there's not much outcome, so their exit opportunities are limited, that tends to not be the best case. The ones that I like are the ones where a company with a shared vision is acquiring the market leader who has every option on the table. I mean, acquiring a company that has term sheets from investors and everybody wants in and then that's the one. That's how I think those work the best.

Niko Skievaski:
Mm-hmm. That makes a lot of sense. Ok, last question. Let's inspire people now. Why should someone get into healthcare as an entrepreneur? It's a tough space. It's regulation, bureaucratic. Yeah. Why should they enter?

Sean Lane:
Well, I mean, the mission is the most rewarding mission in the world. I mean, this is a life-or-death industry. Every single person on the planet is affected by this industry. It's an industry of both excruciating pain and completely awesome discoveries. It changes the course of humanity, it is incredibly important, and we are also at the cusp of becoming the leaders of technology, like I believe that healthcare will lead. Healthcare will lead, other industries will look at healthcare and say, what new technologies is healthcare doing that we can adopt in our enterprise? Not the other way around. It's been the other way around for a long, long time, and that's, that is changing and will change. So I think if you want to work in an industry that affects humanity in enormous ways, that has huge consequences to people's personal lives, and be at the forefront of the latest technology on the planet, then healthcare is absolutely for you.

Niko Skievaski:
Amazing. But you said that healthcare doesn't have the internet, so how can we be leading? Are we making something even better than the internet?

Sean Lane:
We're getting the internet. I mean, this is the thing. I mean, look what the internet did to the world. I mean, look at the massive connectivity that it provided, the equity of wisdom, the equity of knowledge, the equity of data, the equity of being able to start a company, right? AWS, change the ability to start a company. Clouds change that. I mean, the ability to get on a platform and build an app that goes into the pockets of two hundred million people. The internet created trillions of dollars of economic value, the internet is coming to healthcare, so like, we can't even predict the amount of incredible economic value that's about to be created and more importantly, the solutions that are going to change everything. And we're just getting to the beginning of that. I mean, we're at the beginning of that. So this is going to be like the wildest ride over the next few decades, and I can't imagine not being part of it.

Niko Skievaski:
Oh yeah, I'm right there with you. I'm so looking forward to following your journey and doing this again. As we both grow older and maybe when we have gray hair, we can look back at this and think we were right. It was at the beginning.

Sean Lane:
Getting there.

Niko Skievaski:
Got a couple, nice, cool man. Well, this was awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. I think we'll be able to use this a bunch of different ways and obviously we'll talk up all along the way and send people to your website and continue to promote. So appreciate it.

Sean Lane:
Awesome, man. Good to see you.

Niko Skievaski:
Yeah, you too.

Niko Skievaski:
Thanks again, Sean, for sharing your perspective, your story, and your wisdom with us, I really appreciate it, and can't wait to see where all of those in the years to come. As I mentioned earlier, we've got some new things in the works on the podcast, so stay subscribed, watch out for that. And as always, thanks for listening to the Redox podcast.

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Move fast, and automate things. That should be the unofficial mantra of Olive. With nearly $1 billion dollars in funding, they are a dynamo in health tech. In this episode of The Redox Podcast, Olive’s founder and CEO, Sean Lane, takes us on a ride from the visit to his hometown that sparked his hunger for healthcare innovation to the one idea that changed everything. Olive has a big vision for RPA in healthcare, and they plan to get there…fast.

Culture is a consequence; it’s a consequence of your actions. It is what you do every day. It is behaviors that you choose. It’s the decisions you make. That’s it. You don’’t prescribe it. It is a result.

Sean Lane, CEO of Olive

Key Moments

0:00 Sean’s history and the false starts that led him to Olive

9:40 What Sean thinks about growth and scaling the product organization 

12:27 Olive’s framework for investing in research and development 

13:26 How Olive tests and iterates on its business model… and cryptocurrency?

18:54 Having raised 3 rounds during the pandemic, Sean reveals Olive’s approach to fundraising

25:20 Olive’s philosophy on cultivating its internal culture

29:57 Sean shares his support system

32:23 How Olive decides on acquisitions

34:57 How a founder should think about being acquired

36:20 Why entrepreneurs should enter healthcare.