Up & Running with Joe Connolly of Visana Health

March 29  

Joe Connolly spent nearly a decade in medical devices R&D and strategy, most recently with 6 years at Boston Scientific. At Boston Scientific, he led a strategy & innovation team that mapped disease states, patient pathways, and health system barriers that hindered optimal patient care, and partnered with top-tier health systems to implement a digital health solution that improved patient outcomes and reduced cost. He has over 10 patents, a BS in Bioengineering from Clemson, and a MEng in Biomedical Engineering from Duke.

Give us your company’s elevator pitch.

Visana Health’s digital health program empowers the 176 million women suffering from endometriosis with clinically-proven methods that improve pain resolution by 88%. We save self-insured employers and insurers money by avoiding 85% of surgeries and reducing time-to-diagnosis by 10 years. Since launching in Feb 2020, Visana Health is being used in 6 academic medical centers.

What led you to found your company?

My mom suffered from endometriosis for two and a half decades, and I saw her agony first-hand. I have intense memories of her being bedridden for multiple days every month screaming in pain. Her pain was so intense, she would vomit. She wasn’t getting proper care from doctors: she’d often be told the pain was “all in her head” or she’d be called “hysterical.”

After researching the disease and talking to hundreds of other women with endometriosis, I saw millions of others dealt with the same systemic issues. My career goals center on creating positive change in the world, and after seeing the issue with my own eyes, I knew I had to try to fix it.

How do you balance leading a startup with your everyday life?

As a leader, I strongly believe I first have to take care of myself in order to take care of my company and contribute meaningfully to the world. For me, that means carving out time every day for eating healthy, exercising, and trying to get 8 hours of sleep. I also do my best to carve out a 24 hour time period over the weekend to dedicate to enjoying life outside of work.

What’s one thing people get wrong about startup life?

Startups are lonely.

Most people know about alluring breakout companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Google, but you don’t hear much about the early days in small startups. Early stage startups aren’t trendy offices, ping pong, and free lunches. You’ve got to keep your head down and try to tackle your massive, never-ending pile of work.

What’s the best advice you received in your career?

The encouragement I received from friends & family to start my company. Leaving a great career at a fantastic company was extraordinarily difficult, but I’m glad I took the jump to follow my dreams. It’s been so rewarding to see Visana’s impact on patients.

What’s the worst?

“If you build it, they will come.” I think this is particularly wrong in healthcare, where you can make an amazing product that patients like, but no one will pay for. Many healthcare startups fail because they lack a solid go-to-market strategy and don’t understand the complexities of health economics & reimbursement. At Visana Health, we know we have to bring an economic value statement to our customers. 

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community?

We’ve got everything you need in Medical Alley that you need to succeed: the largest insurer, world-class providers, the best medical device companies, companies targeting employee health & wellness, and a burgeoning digital health scene. There are very few places in the world that can compete with the human capital available in Medical Alley. Plus, we’ve got a great quality of life, competent local government, and a low cost of living.

What is the next big milestone for your company?

We’re collecting clinical, economic, and engagement outcomes from thousands of patients to prove our incredible success from our first cohort is scalable. Then, we’ll move on to raising our first major round of funding.

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