‘Find something you’re interested and passionate about. Go as deep as you can’ – HealthTech solution
Nymbl CEO spoke to Cristian Owen for the HealthTech CEO series of the Venari Podcast
Ed Likovich always wanted to be an entrepreneur. ‘I think it was just in my blood to start something new, to be that explorer, pioneer, that spirit of adventure,’ the Nymbl Science CEO tells Cristian Owen, our Digital Health Consultant. Ed didn’t necessarily know, however, that his business venture would be in the digital health space – though he does have a personal connection to Nymbl’s mission. In this episode of the Venari Podcast’s HealthTech CEO series, Ed told Cristian all about Nymbl’s work and recent rebranding, his thoughts on being a CEO, and the future of his company – alongside some tips for aspiring HealthTech founders.
A personal connection to a universal problem
Ed’s grandfather was a Hungarian immigrant who, despite having very little when he arrived in the U.S., became an American success story with a thriving steel production company in Pennsylvania. Sadly, the downside, as Ed explains it, ‘is he had a fall and really suffered from that, and passed away well short of what he should have.’ The experience of having ‘that close loved one who was impacted by a medical condition’ was part of what inspired Ed to establish Nymbl – as well as a growing desire to work on something for older people, who are frequently marginalised in society.
With older adults, Ed saw a demographic who, ‘by and large’, are comfortable and familiar with using technology, especially since the pandemic. ‘I saw there was a population who wanted to take control of their health, who wants to be healthy, wants to do things, but they don’t always know what to do or how to get the information,’ he notes. In an age when you simply can’t – and shouldn’t – believe everything you read, it can be hard to know where to go to receive accurate, helpful medical information quickly – not least when ‘a lot of content isn’t written for older adults in the first place.’
Ed’s belief that elderly people are ‘generally underserved’ in the west was part of what prompted him to create Nymbl, which allows users to take control of their own health from the comfort of their own homes. Making a positive impact on the world is deeply important for Ed, who is quick to note that Nymbl is one of a number of HealthTech forces for good on the market. ‘Look at how many people are falling. It’s one in three in America, it’s one in three in the world,’ he says. ‘There’s plenty of pie to go around for everybody to have something. There are lots of different solutions, just like diabetes management or heart failure. There’s no one company that does all of that. There are plenty of different options.’
The life of a CEO
If you asked Ed’s wife whether he likes CEO life, she’d give you a pretty clear answer – though Ed thinks this is unfair. On the whole, he very much enjoys it – ‘but it’s been a rollercoaster, and I remind my team of this every day.’ For Ed, looking back over the different ‘eras’ of starting a company is interesting and revealing. You start out scraping by, pushing hard to reach the point of making your first sale – ‘and then you get to the point where you’ve got something, you’ve raised a little bit of money. Then you get to the point where you have a small team. It’s like a family. Everybody’s around the dinner table’. Afterwards, with more success and more money, that stops being the case – ‘and it just brings all these different sets of problems.’
Ed likes to be active and hands-on, and so strategizing, delegating, and managing people as increasingly large parts of his role has been a learning curve. This can be frustrating, but Ed works hard at maintaining an even keel in good times and bad. ‘We have 32 people now. They’re looking at me. If I seem upset and agitated, they’re going to be upset and agitated,’ he notes. ‘They’re going to be wondering what’s going on.’
He was reminded of the need to let go during Nymbl’s recent rebranding. They hired a ‘terrific’ independent consultant, then invited feedback from employees at the very beginning of the process. ‘We did these exercises,’ he recalls. ‘What is Nymbl? What isn’t Nymbl? Where do we want to be? What do we want older adults to think about us?’ Ed had to remind his talent of the need to let the marketing experts take the project forward. ‘I feel so bad for people who work in product roles because everybody thinks they know what to do,’ he says. ‘It was one of those cases where I stepped back from creating the new brand, but I didn’t step back from helping to manage the process because we need that, especially in a time of high growth.’
Building for the future
Where does Ed see Nymbl going over the next few years? They are certain to continue as they started – engaging older adults in their health. ‘We started with falls and that’s been successful. We show ROI, we show and prove older adults love the programme – all the things that a HealthTech company needs to show to be successful.’ Ed is delighted to more and more engagement from new and existing users alike. ‘We think there’s a bigger opportunity here to build health programmes that older adults need that don’t require intensive clinical support,’ he explains. While Nymbl will never replace specialists for in-person needs, they can help older adults to take small steps to become healthier and help to prevent incidents. This entails everything from working on balance to prevent falls, to dietary advice and pelvic floor exercises to alleviate urinary urgency. The aim is always to make medical programmes personalised and accessible for a range of healthcare issues.
Advice for the CEOs of tomorrow
When it comes to advising future CEOs looking to found their own healthcare companies, Ed cites something his friend Ben Rubin, founder of Ten Percent Happier, says: ‘When you’re looking, there’s plenty of problems in the world to solve [...] The best way to figure it out is find something you’re interested and passionate about and just go as deep as you can into that, and just try to learn.’ Ruben, whose primary focus is on meditation and wellbeing, spent time living with monks in Tibet; in a healthcare context, going deeper could mean shadowing physicians, riding along in an ambulance, or connecting with the primary care volunteer in an office. ‘Then you start to figure out, look at what they’re dealing with, look at this problem,’ Ed says. ‘And then you can figure out the solutions from there.’
Ed warns against the received knowledge that doctors will implement solutions that HealthTech comes up with, noting that medical professionals are usually too busy for anything outside of their immediate workplace responsibilities. Instead, in the company’s early days, the Nymbl team would canvass opinions from people in assisted living facilities, which gave them plenty of feedback. For Ed, due diligence and research is essential for creating as strong a product as possible. ‘The second you really understand a problem that somebody has, you’ll be able to build something that they’re going to be interested in paying for.’