“Don’t focus on the competition, focus on your customer”
Today’s entrepreneur is Maayan Cohen, founder of Hello Heart, a digital therapeutics company focused exclusively on heart disease.
Through a connected device and mobile app that uses artificial intelligence, behavioral science and personalized digital coaching to change lifestyles, Hello Heart empowers people to adopt healthier behaviors that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Under her leadership, the company has grown to 130+ employees, dozens of Fortune 500 clients and serves more than 1.6 million members.
Cohen is an experienced expert in consumer strategy and behavior. In her previous position, she managed consumer goods and retail at a leading management consulting firm. She has led several successful new product launch projects for industry leaders such as Hyundai, Nestle and American Express.
Cohen has a degree in biotechnology and an MBA.
Companies I founded or co-founded:
I’m CEO and co-founder of Hello Heart, a digital therapist empowering people to understand and improve heart health. We are the only ones digital therapeutics company to focus exclusively on heart health.
Companies I work for or have worked for:
I started my professional career in the Israeli army as a tank and mortar platoon sergeant, where I commanded an all-male group. During my studies, I worked in a non-profit organization and managed “big brother” projects, helping children without positive role models to find their way in the world. I then moved into the business world and worked in management consulting, specializing in strategy and consumer behavior. I started as an analyst and ended up as the head of their FMCG and retail practice. It was the best hands-on business school imaginable – I was able to work on new product launches and ambitious growth projects for industry leaders such as Hyundai, Nestle and American Express.
Company exits (the company you founded):
We hope to IPO in the future, but not yet!
Achievements (made products, won personal awards):
Hello Heart was recognized as one of the best employer health and prevention solutions by UCSF’s Digital Health Awards and named the Most Innovative Digital Health Startup in CB Insights’ annual ranking of the world’s 150 most promising digital health startups. The company has raised $138 million to date from top US digital health companies and is a member of the American Heart Association’s Innovator Network. We are excited to recently receive the 2022 Health Value Award for Digital Health from the Validation Institute.
In addition, Hello Heart’s app showed the highest engagement rate in the category, with continued long-term engagement with the app. The study was recently published in THE PIT Network Open analyzed data from over 28,000 Hello Heart users to show whether engagement with a hypertension self-management program and blood pressure monitor linked to a digital coaching app was associated with blood pressure control over a 3-year follow-up period. One year after inclusion, reduced mean systolic blood pressure was observed in over 85% of users who had stage 2 hypertension at baseline. Greater engagement with the app was associated with lower systolic blood pressure over time. Validation Institute also confirmed a report confirming Hello Heart’s savings, showing a reduction in total employer medical spending by an average of $1,865 per participant in the first year.
My favorite startups:
I am most inspired by companies that are changing the market, those that have revolutionized the way we live our lives, making life easier and better. For example, Netflix has changed the way we consume media and has personally enabled me to be able to watch the shows I love at times that fit my schedule. Similarly, Amazon has disrupted the way we buy almost everything, allowing consumers to get (almost) everything they want and need instantly. These companies are not startups today, but it is inspiring to see how they have truly changed our world. Both also have a strong feedback culture that encourages people to speak up so we can all do better. It is a key principle for innovation.
Why did you start your company or why do you want to innovate within your company?
I needed Hello Heart too. After supporting a loved one through a cancer diagnosis, I identified a real need for a solution for people to understand and improve their health, especially within a fragmented healthcare system that makes it nearly impossible for patients to understand and be deeply involved in their health. . When I came to the US/Silicon Valley, I knew I had the personal experience needed to insightfully develop a digital solution to help others living with chronic illness. Knowing that heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death, I founded Hello Heart in 2013 to help people better understand and manage their heart health in a connected, digital medium, as opposed to traditionally fragmented, outdated healthcare silos.
What is the most frustrating and rewarding thing about entrepreneurship/innovation?
It’s the loneliest job in the world, and if you’re building something really innovative, everyone will tell you that you’re wrong or that it’s impossible – especially in the early days. So the weak tend to be very lonely, but it’s important not to drag your team into a worse state – you have to get back out there and make things work! Ben Horowitz, author The hard thing about hard things: Building a business when there are no easy answersdescribes this as “the fight.” I would say the highs are when you see your vision that everyone thought was impossible actually come to life, when you hear from a user that your solution is changing their life, and when you see a team working together to build a vision and make it a reality.
What is the #1 mistake entrepreneurs/innovators make?
Don’t focus on the competition, focus on your customer. You can beat any competitor – big, small, better funded – if you deliver more value to your customers. It doesn’t matter what they do, it just matters that you provide a better product with high, meaningful value to the customer you’re trying to serve. Don’t forget why you started your company and who you serve!
What are the three best lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
- Rule number one (relevant today more than ever…) is to not run out of money. Fund on time and plan ahead to avoid overspending while maintaining healthy buffers. You and your company must always be prepared for market surprises, product surprises, and financing surprises.
- Rule number two is to find a problem you are passionate about – there will be ups and downs, and the purpose of the work will see you through the setbacks.
- Rule number three is to surround yourself with strong-minded, high-ambitious people who will challenge you. You don’t need five “yous” on your leadership team; you need five different professionals to round out your collective POV.