Andrew joined us on the Venari Podcast to discuss what he’s learned across his career
Was Fount CEO Andrew Herr destined to work in healthcare? ‘If you look at my background, it probably wasn’t unlikely,’ he admits. His father was a doctor; Andrew reckons that if he lived his life ten times, he would have been a doctor five times, ‘and the other five probably doing what I do today.’
Andrew joined our Senior Consultant and Digital Health specialist, Cristian Owen, on the Venari Podcast to discuss his career to date, and what he’s learned from launching his own company. As it turned out, both sides of Andrew’s family informed his professional path: his mother’s kin have a strong military background, and so it was natural that he was drawn to studying at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service as it combined various areas of interest for him: science, technology, and national security. Andrew did further postgraduate studies in immunology and health physics before he received a call from the university’s grad centre about an opening for someone with knowledge of biology, national security, and written skills. It turned out to be ‘a studies programme on the future of human enhancement for the secretary of defence’s private think tank in the U.S. military.’
Andrew describes his ending up in such a seemingly perfect position as ‘serendipity and interests combined’. His singular academic background was certainly a factor, as was his already being in Washington D.C. – ‘the city you’re in can matter’. The job offer was a unique opportunity to delve into the impact of high-pressure situations on the physiology of elite unit performance. ‘How do you lead teams under high stress in combat? And how does the leader’s behaviour change the physiology of the subordinates?’ Andrew asks. ‘What are opportunities to enhance our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, war fighters, in the future? What are potential threats to us?’
The role allowed him to work on everything from research and development to clinical trials, as well as readying products for deployment. Andrew acknowledges that the experience was crucial for him ‘to be able to think about where to go from there and how to build Fount in a way that we could help a lot of people.’ He admits that he ‘loved the mission’ and many of his colleagues, though struggled with the slow-moving bureaucracy inherent in the job – especially when contrasted with the dynamism of ‘certain special ops pockets’.
In the end, the question of how to scale his efforts and help more people led Andrew to establish Fount. He already understood how to assist C-suite or elite special operators but wanted to find ways to do so in numbers ‘for people on the factory floor’, moving beyond clinical trial experiments to focus on what works for individuals. ‘What we do is we run these experimentation-based protocols,’ he explains. ‘It could be blood work, wearable data, how you feel’ – which will then inform how the findings are applied. Andrew realised that doing this for enough individuals would create ‘a very unique data set’, which could be used for other readings and ‘AI models that could then scale this to millions of people because we could build an elite digital coach. And so, understanding a path to helping millions or tens or hundreds of millions of people as opposed to just the elite of the elite, that's what really pulled me towards the opportunity and, frankly, the mission to build Fount.’
What does the future hold?
Fount is currently running a high-end coaching service, though Andrew recognises that, at $1,500/month for a six-month subscription, it is not cheap. Still, the data generated in those six months is now ‘powering the very early versions of what we call Fount AI’, a digital coach which will be more affordable than the elite service currently on offer. ‘The AI revolution is helping us do it faster. And also we’ve learned so much about how to run these programmes from our coaching service that we’re going to launch the beta version of this by the end of the summer’.
Fount AI will be on the market by the end of the year; the company also has plans for products that will alleviate the symptoms of jetlag, PMS, and even hangovers, as well as offerings centred around fertility and immunity services. ‘We’re going to be launching a series of these products that make these insights and this technology available’, Andrew says, ‘and then culminating in this coach that can help you sort of figure out nearly any challenge: energy, focus, mood, sleep, gut health, all these major things in people’s lives.’
What does Andrew advise for healthcare gurus of the future?
Having a clear idea of which area of healthcare you wish to enter will determine how you should approach things, Andrew notes. For health programmes at state level, like the NHS or US health insurance, understanding who pays for things – as well as who is paid to use them, and the various dynamics involved – is crucial. ‘A lot of people think, “Oh, I can give this app to a paediatrician, and it’ll help them make a better decision.” But if that app gets in the way of seeing more patients, it often is just a burden, and it doesn’t end up working out.’
Andrew notes that many people enter the wellness space having made changes that worked for them, ‘but then they assume that those same changes will work for everyone else.’ His technical, data-driven background helps him to look past a ‘one size fits all’ to healthcare, and he advises anyone looking to launch their own healthcare brand to ‘run it based on experimentation [...] It’s okay that it works for other people and not for you’. This approach might bring you outside traditional structures in the industry, but that’s okay, says Andrew: ‘If I believed staying in the system was the right approach, I’d still be trying to work with the Pentagon right now [...] We need to build a new system around the current one, which is ossified and not serving people.’