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Unveiling the Future of Digital Health with Vivante Health

Explore the challenges and successes of entrepreneurship in the digital health space with Bill Snyder, CEO of Vivante Health.

Join us in this enlightening episode as we sit down with Bill Snyder, the CEO and Founder of Vivante Health. Propelled by a recent $31M Series B round, his company is on a mission to revolutionize digital health, starting with chronic GI conditions.

Bill shares the founding story of Vivante Health and how their innovative platform transforms the way patients suffering from digestive health issues receive care. He also gives us a peek into the challenges of entrepreneurship, including the highs and lows of fundraising and the importance of building a strong company culture.

We discuss:

  • The 3 things Vivante Health is doing right that sparked investors’ interest
  • The power of transparency, accountability, and collaboration in building a mission-driven organization
  • How his startup is using pattern recognition to improve patient outcomes
  • Bill’s hard-won advice for dealing with obstacles that arise along the startup journey

Tune in for valuable insights from an inspiring founder who built a successful startup from the ground up.

This discussion with Bill Snyder of Vivante Health comes from our show Startup Success. Browse all Burkland podcasts and subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts.

Episode Transcript

Intro 00:01
Welcome to Startup Success, the podcast for startup founders and investors. Here you’ll find stories of success from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastest growing startups in the world stories that will help you in your own journey. Startup Success starts now.

Kate 00:18
Welcome to Startup Success. Today we have Bill Snyder in studio, who is the CEO and founder of Vivante Health. Welcome, Bill.

Bill Synder 00:27
Thank you so much for having me on Kate.

Kate 00:28
We’re excited to talk to you. I’ve seen a lot of news lately around Vivante Health. But before we get into all of that, if you could walk us through what you all do the inspiration, the whole founding story to set the stage?

Bill Synder 00:45
Yeah, absolutely. So at Vivante, our mission is to revolutionize digital health gut first. So we work with and support patients who suffer from chronic GI conditions, like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, and those who are suffering from symptoms but don’t yet have a diagnosis, which is a massive population. And those are people who are suffering in silence. These conditions are really, really difficult to talk about. And so oftentimes, they’re self-medicating, they’re avoiding care or ending up in the emergency room. And so for me, you know, we founded the company in 2021, and the intent was really to help those individuals who are suffering. I’ve seen family members, I’ve seen friends and loved ones go through this process where they don’t know what’s wrong. They’re trying to get help. They’re feeling alone and isolated. And that’s the population that we’re really looking to serve. And we’re really excited because we’re doing that across the country now.

Kate 01:36
That’s great. I mean, just personally, my husband went through something like this a few years ago, I can’t tell you all the tests, doctor visits. I mean, I’m guessing, can you give us a sense of like the numbers because I know, he alone must have wasted thousands on different problems with diagnosis and tests and things like that. And then as you talk to people, everybody knows somebody with this story.

Bill Synder 02:03
100%. And I think that the numbers are always shocking to people, one in four individuals in the US suffers from a chronic gi condition. (Kate: Wow, that many.) That many, which is wild. And then when you think about it, that’s from those who are suffering from these chronic digestive conditions. But all of us suffer from some type of Gi stress at some point in time. And oftentimes, we don’t know, is this something really serious? Where do I go for help? Do I see a primary care physician? Do I see a gastroenterologist? A lot of people say, Do I ignore this? Is it just kind of a passing issue? And so it’s a huge number of individuals that are impacted. And then for us, we just see so many more that come to us undiagnosed, that really don’t know where to go.

Kate 02:43
Got it. And I’m guessing for healthcare companies, this is an expensive problem, right? Because it is so hard to diagnose,

Bill Synder 02:50
Hugely expensive, it’s expensive for the patients themselves, in terms of out of pocket costs. It’s expensive for the health plans, because it’s a leading cause of emergency room visits. It’s a leading cause for duplicative doctor visits. So that patient journey you mentioned, is very standard. We see patients seeing a number of different providers getting a number of different tests done. And so oftentimes, it’s almost a diagnosis by elimination. And so very high costs. And then some of the high cost biologic medications for these conditions are very expensive as well. And some are phenomenal for patients and work really, really well. Others are sometimes prescribed is unfortunately, a first line of defense, when maybe there’s a lot more that we can do to reduce the symptoms and get the patients feeling better.

Kate 03:36
Got it. So explain to us what Vivante Health does and, get into the details, because it sounds like this could be really exciting.

Bill Synder 03:45
Absolutely. Thank you. So we are a tech-forward people-first platform. And so we are a technology-driven platform that then connects patients with a coordinated care team. And so our platform is available via the web or app, very easy for individuals to enroll, they start by giving us some basic information. And we do two things with that information. First, we assess the risk of the patient. So is this an individual who needs help? Maybe they do need to go into the emergency room, maybe they do need to see a doctor right away? Or is it somebody who’s just trying to understand what’s going on, and we can spend our time doing some symptom reduction techniques. The second thing that we do with that information is we build an evidence-based clinical pathway within our technology. And the reason that’s important is these conditions are also different. So patients that come to us and say I’ve been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and I’ve been seeing a doctor for five years and I’m on a medication, but I’m looking to feel better between visits. Very different from a patient who comes to us and says, I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t seen a doctor in a year but I’ve got abdominal pain and cramping. And I’m not sure where to go. And because of that, it’s really important for us to be able to understand the member and then build these pathways that are based on the member need and what is the right kind guidelines to support that individual. And then within those evidence based clinical protocols, we’re giving them access to a fully coordinated care team. That’s health coaches, registered dieticians, internal medicine specialists, and gastroenterologists. So they’ve got a team of people supporting them and looking at, okay, what are the things that’s going on with this individual, and what are their unique needs where we can have an immediate impact. So it’s connecting them with that team and then we offer some other aspects of the solution as well things like digital therapeutics, so we offer cognitive behavioral therapy for patients who suffer from IBS. So clinically validated, fully modularized on-demand for individuals to go through that process of CBT. We’re licensed in every state to practice medical nutritional therapy. So really understanding the diet. And what we see is our ability to identify trigger foods, remove those trigger foods that lead immediately to reduce symptoms is unbelievable. 89% of the individuals surveyed said, working with GI Thrive, we’re able to identify specific trigger food that helps reduce their symptoms over the course of 12 weeks. So really exciting.

Kate 06:05
Wow. That’s, that’s really impressive.

Bill Synder 06:09
I will say we have a very impressive care team. They’re absolutely phenomenal. And so their ability to work with and support our members has been incredible.

Kate 06:15
Can somebody listening just go and sign up for this? Or how does that work?

Bill Synder 06:23
So it’s a good question. Right now we work specifically with employers and health plans.

Kate 06:29
Okay. So you have to go request this from your employer to offer next year with their benefits or see if your health plan is partnered with you?

Bill Synder 06:39
That’s absolutely right. What we’re seeing is the employer adoption, and the health plan, adoption of our solution has been astronomical. And so we have seen, you know, the unbelievable benefit leaders across the country recognize the need. And so we’re signing up with a ton of employers across the country. And same with the health plans. They’ve seen the cost, they’ve seen the impact that we can have on members. And so we’re really fortunate that we’re growing really fast through those channels.

Kate 07:02
Yeah, I mean, that’s proof right there in what you’re doing. On your end, a lot of it must come down to the data, right, that you’re seeing. Are you seeing like different symptoms, patterns and things like that? I mean, is that helping?

Bill Synder 07:17
it’s helping a ton. And so for us, it is. And just going back to that process, and when you think about the process of an individual going into multiple doctors, unfortunately, a lot of our providers are so burdened right now that they have maybe 15 minutes to spend with a patient. And in some states, it’s six months to get in to see a gastroenterologist because they’re so burdened. And they’re doing great work, you know, they’re there to support their patients, but oftentimes, they just don’t have time. And so for us, what we’re able to do is track those members longitudinally and work with them on an ongoing basis. And then to your point, start to leverage pattern recognition and say, Hey, we’ve seen a lot of patients like you. And here are some things that really have had an outsized impact in terms of symptom reduction. Let’s try these and see what happens. And then the other piece that we’re really focused on is making sure that we’re additive to the care ecosystem. So we’re not trying to push out any other providers, we’re trying to bring people together, exchange information, and make sure that we’re keeping the patient at the center of the care.

Kate 08:15
That’s really good to know. So switching gears a little bit, because there are so many founders listening. You’ve had a lot of success, obviously, it sounds like you’ve partnered with a lot of health plans and employers, which is no easy feat. And then I noticed and we’ve talked about your Series B, $31 million, which is incredible. Can we talk about that a little bit and what that experience has been like? Because for a lot of people listening, that’s the dream?

Bill Synder 08:45
Absolutely. I think I’d start by saying, I’ll definitely talk a little bit about how great that was and has been, I also will highlight, you know, everyone posts all the good news. And so if you’re a founder, CEO, listening to this, rest assured, there’s been really, really rough patches, just like everybody. And so I think it’s it’s tough because you go on social media, and you listen to all the success that people have had. And I’ve got stories for days, in terms of issues and struggles. We have been in a great spot. And I think that for the Series B, we’ve got these two incredible new partners that joined from a venture perspective. And we also were fortunate that all of our existing investors, for the majority, participated and were excited to do so. And I think for the raise, what they saw was a huge market with great market potential in terms of the need from patients that we serve, I think that they saw from us a strong foundation, so strong unit economics. We’re able to optimize care efficiently, we’re able to create these great member outcomes at scale. And so I think that they were excited about that. And then I think they also recognize that we’ve built an incredible team. And so we’ve really focused on attracting great talent from across the country. And that’s kind of in every seat at the Vivante, we’re really proud of the organization that we’ve built. And so I think those three things really got people excited about what we’re doing, and really see the opportunity for growth ahead in the future.

Kate 10:07
That’s really exciting. You mentioned one point when we spoke earlier that culture played a lot in this and the success. Can you talk us through that? Because I don’t think that’s always what people expect to hear.

Bill Synder 10:22
Yeah, absolutely. So I will say that we are really fortunate that we are a mission-driven company. And so people that come to the Vivante come because they believe in our mission. And so people will join because they themselves have been impacted by these conditions or they’ve seen their loved ones impacted by these conditions. So when they come in, they’re like so excited to work on this. And that I think, is really important and super helpful for us. Because that gets us through those difficult times. That’s where people power through and push through, because they know what they’re building is something special, and it’s impacting members’ lives. And for me, when I talk about culture, and I did a welcome Intro call for a bunch of new hires earlier today, one of the things I highlight is it’s not my culture, and it’s not our People team’s culture. It’s our culture, that every individual joining the organization should shape, should mold, should impact the culture. And I asked them, I say, I asked you to be an active participant in continuing to protect and build our culture. Because as we grow, and as we scale, it’s going to be so important for us to stay focused on that. And that starts with mission. And then it really develops from there. But I think that’s something that we are so fortunate to have these people who are so passionate about solving this problem. That certainly helps us.

Kate 11:36
Yeah, that’s so mission, you mentioned as an attribute and passion, anything else that you look for around culture that you try to encourage within your employees? Both are great, but yeah, yeah, the success you’ve had, I’m thinking there are some other things there are,

Bill Synder 11:53
There absolutely are, you know, we are very upfront about what we look for and about the type of people we’re looking to join the organization. And so I talk a lot about transparency, accountability, and collaboration. And I talk about a piece of that is that accountability piece, and I talk about the fact that we really do look for people that are going to come in, have an impact, and be high achievers. We’re upfront about the culture that it is. We’re building an organization, we’re tackling this massive problem. And what that means is, there’s a lot of work to be done. We are very much, you know, always looking to the future, and what can we do? How many more people can we impact? And so with that can come long hours, it can come difficult problems solving unique situations. And so I think that we’re very upfront and honest about that. And we want to make it a great place to work. We want people to feel empowered, and we want that collaboration, we want to be transparent with people who are coming into the company. But we’re also upfront, that is a culture where we hold each other accountable. And we work hard, because it is an important mission.

Kate 12:52
Yeah,it sounds like it’s very rewarding, like your teams must feel a lot of sense of accomplishment and things, I’m guessing.

Bill Synder 13:00
They do. And they are incredible. And they’re just doing incredible things across the board. So I think that they are recognizing and seeing the impact. And just as an example, we had an all-company summit last November, and the first day, the first session was bringing in some of our patients came in and did just a Q&A and shared their story. And there weren’t many dry eyes in the audience that day. And it’s incredible because you have people that maybe aren’t patient-facing, we do a lot of that, we bring our patient stories to the forefront for the organization, because it’s important for people to see the impact they’re having that really is life-changing.

Kate 13:38
Definitely. I appreciate you sharing that. I also appreciate when I asked you about the successful fundraise, you said it hasn’t all been big wins. I mean, if you could just touch on some of the challenges, I think that would be helpful for the listeners to hear.

Bill Synder 13:55
Oh, boy, there’s, there’s a long list there. You know, I think one of the things that I’ve found, and I’ve got this great group of founders and CEOs that I also connect with, and I think that one of the things, it’s a lonely job. And I do think, you’re oftentimes doing context switching where you’re going through, maybe it’s a difficult fundraise, or you’ve just got a really big issue with a big client. And you’ve got to switch into an all-hands call, where you’re talking about the future of the organization, what you’re doing. And you always want to strike that balance of being transparent of letting them know hey, and that’s something that I mentioned we do where we’re like, red, yellow, green, here’s where we’re struggling, here’s where we need to focus. But you do need to show that energy and that focus that there will be a solution to any problem, and it’s just a matter of figuring it out. And I think as you do that more and more, it does become lonely. And so I think that there’s you know, the power of finding like-minded people that you can connect with, that you can talk to I’ve got a built a great network of friends. And that’s been largely organic, because you meet people along the way who are building companies and you say, hey, I’d love to check in every quarter and hear what you’re experiencing. And I’ve really built some incredible relationships that way. Because yeah, the challenges are endless. The difficulty with fundraising, whether it’s a client, or whether it’s a team dynamic issue that you’re working with, at the end of the day, you know, all the most difficult things are likely going to hit your desk.

Kate 15:29
Of course, and I can see we’re having like a circle of people that are either going through similar experiences with their startup or people you really trust would be so helpful. You seem like you are made for this role you’re passion about it is pretty exciting to listen to. Can you just quickly share your background with us? And what led you to this? Because your excitement is is really powerful.

Bill Synder 15:59
So thank you. Yeah, absolutely. So I kind of grew up in healthcare. I started with Humana right out of undergraduate and spent over 12 years there and went through their leadership rotational program, because I was interested in healthcare. And I was interested in how broken it was. Senior year I took a behavioral economics course that was focused on healthcare. And it was interesting because all the incentives are misaligned. There wasn’t transparent sharing of information, all this stuff that we know today. But I went through my time at Humana, which was phenomenal, I really learned the business of healthcare there. And I ultimately ended up running the Chicago office. And it was just a great experience all through. But on the weekends and in the evenings, I was doing entrepreneurial things I had worked with a student and we built patients to provide our app, so a direct app for patients providers. And what I found was while I loved my time at Humana, I loved the people at Humana learned a lot there, where I was getting my energy was weekends and nights, building these new solutions. And so I decided to go onto the entrepreneurial side, I worked at a great organization Virta Health in the diabetes space. And so I joined them when they were in stealth mode. And there I was focused really on the health plan work, and then setting up some of our early-stage commercial operations. And really enjoyed it, I’m still connected to that team today. But then also knew I wanted to do my own thing and was recruited into a previous company by some institutional investors to really help bite size out a bit and fix it. And then in 2021, really the best step into digestive health was was founding this organization. And so as you said, I’m really excited. I feel like I’m fortunate to work on this problem every day.

Kate 17:38
Absolutely. What a great background. And you know, we have a lot of VCs who invest in healthcare and whatnot on the show. And it’s amazing how exciting it is what technology is going to be able to do, you know, around health over the coming years. I mean, don’t you see it, especially, when we talk about AI and data and all of that. But I mean, you’re a perfect example of it.

Bill Synder 18:01
100%. And then when you think about GI like we talked about that patient journey, and these nebulous conditions, it’s like this, this outsize opportunity for us to collect a lot of data, leverage pattern recognition, and say, okay, we can shortcut a lot of that and help the patient get to the right care more quickly. And I think that is absolutely unbelievable. And I agree with you, I’m a huge believer that technology can really change the face of healthcare. And I think we’re just going to see more and more of it.

Kate 18:28
From the app you developed early on to now the platform of Vivante I mean, the ability to communicate efficiently, right aggregate data, I know for me, like when I think back to early days, now I can email doctors, I can log into my chart, see everything it helps manage. I mean, this is all really exciting when you agree?

Bill Synder 18:48
100% I think the ability to exchange information to collect that data, to recognize patterns in patients, to empower the patient too so that they have that information, and they’re armed with it and conversations with healthcare providers, I think is so helpful. On the provider side, you know, it’s giving them access to more information on what’s going on with the patient on a day to day level, which you know, they’re hungry for. So it’s an incredible advancement.

Kate 19:12
So going back to gut health as we wrap up here, and you mentioned one in four and the thousands of dollars that get wasted and the burden it puts on healthcare plans and on individuals.. You talked about having patients come in and talk about success stories. I mean, you must be seeing some really compelling trends with what you’re doing.

Bill Synder 19:36
It’s been incredible. I mean, we see out of the patients that we survey after we work with them. 91% have said thanks to our solution that their symptoms have been reduced. 89% have said hey, the team at Vivante has identified a trigger food that I’ve now removed which is causing a decrease in inflammation. We see a huge population that has cited decreased stress and anxiety thanks to working with us, we see improved quality of life. And then we’ve been able to show reduction, emergency room visits, reduction, duplicative doctor visits, better medication adherence. So it’s been, it’s been absolutely incredible.

Kate 20:11
Yeah, great metrics all around, we always wrap up the show you shared a lot of advice. But any other advice you can give to the founders listening that are, you know, looking at you with your successful series B, and this great culture and product that you can share?

Bill Synder 20:28
You know, I’ll reiterate the importance of building a network, I take the time to do that and think about it and think about people that are maybe at the same stage as you maybe some that are a little bit further along. Because it is really important to have that group where you can go to and share, Hey, these are the things I’m working on. These are the problems I’m running into. And I think that’s super important. And I would say self-care is really important when you’re going through a journey and building. And there’s a ton of obstacles along the way. You know, you got to take time for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of the organization and the people that you work with.

Kate 20:59
Great advice. We’ve been talking a lot lately on this show about founder well-being, right? Not just mental health, but all of it exercising, eating right. And I think you’re right, that gets lost a lot in the journey for these founders. So for people listening that maybe want to bring Vivante Health to their employer or learn more, where do we go to get more information?

Bill Synder 21:20
www. Vivante Health.com.

Kate 21:26
Great. Well, I really appreciate you being here today, Bill. What an exciting story. I know. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more exciting things in Vivante Health’s future.

Bill Synder 21:37
Thanks so much for having me today, Kate.

Intro 21:40
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