This week, a health-minded start-up seeks help recruiting more software doctors. –Dan Beyers

The entrepreneur

Kristen Valdes has been in the health care industry for more than 16 years, starting her career as a contractor for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She worked to stand up a new effort called program safeguard contracts to fight fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. From there, Valdes joined Baltimore health start-up XLHealth, a disease management organization that was eventually acquired by United Healthcare four years ago. She stayed on at United Healthcare to integrate XLHealth’s plan and expand key programs across the United population.

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Valdes eventually left United Healthcare to launch her new Baltimore-based health start-up: b.well.

The pitch

Kristen Valdes, founder and chief executive of b.well

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“In our country, we spend 86 percent of our health care dollars on chronic conditions, most of which can be completely avoided. We want to help consumers become empowered to take part in their health care before they become sick and help them to avoid chronic disease. B.well is a first-of-its-kind personal health management platform.

“A good way to think about it is that consumers have an aggregator for key elements in their life; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram for social, Mint for financial, and now you have b.well for health, a one-stop-shop for all of your health management personalized for you. Whether you change insurance carriers, change jobs, change providers or change connected wearables, b.well consumers have access to all of their health info in the palm of their hand past, present and into the future.

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“Our platform was designed around four pillars of healthcare: 1. Comprehensive Personal Health Records, where we collect and maintain records including family history, health risk assessments, medical records from your doctors, data from wearable devices, etc. 2. Personal Health Journey, for which we’ve created a gamified system that rewards users with incentives like discounts from community partners for meeting health and fitness goals. 3. White-glove Concierge, to make access to health care easier through telemedicine where you can talk to a doctor on our platform within 15 minutes, schedule health care appointments, create favorites lists for your doctors, and check prices at pharmacies. 4. Health Tribe, data and information sharing so parents, children and family members can help each other manage their health.

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“We have health plans and employers who are paying for our subscription service to provide to all of their members and employees. For individuals, the cost is $10 per month for a family.

“Right now, our biggest challenge is finding the right skilled developers for our technology platform. Our technology ‘stack’ is used a lot more in Silicon Valley and some other regions, so we don’t have as much luck finding those skillsets in this region. How do we find the top talent we need?

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“Another challenge is fulfilling the incentives. Our partners – fitness studios, nutrition companies, food delivery, etc. — are extremely excited about what we’re doing and feel we fill a very clear void in the marketplace for consumers. But a lot of these places are set up for direct-to-consumer sales, so when they offer b.well users discounts or free things, it has been difficult to set up how we will fulfill those, in part because a lot of our partners are used to going through third parties.”

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The advice

Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

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“Clearly communicating b.well’s strengths and differentiators in the market will help you attract that top talent. Developers are in such a high demand now that they want to go with the start-ups with the biggest opportunities. As you’re realizing, you might have to get talent from out of town and manage those hires virtually. Continue to be creative about where you look for developers. Turn to universities for recent graduates and young talent.

“At the same time, be very focused on what you do. The most compelling value proposition of b.well is offering individuals the ability to keep all of their family’s health information and scheduling in one easy-to-access place. Stick with that.

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“Delving into rewards and coupon incentives could take too much of your energy away from your core offering as a health management platform. To get enough incentive partners up and running will be challenging, plus until you have enough users cashing in on that part of your platform, it probably won’t be that valuable for your partners so they might not be very motivated to fulfill the incentives. Consider partnering with another company already offering incentives through retailers and other companies.”

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The reaction

Valdes

“Great advice on finding talent, we will work on relationships with local universities to see if we can recruit top talent.

“The gamification portion of our platform relies heavily on incentives being available. We’ve unfortunately been unable to find a company who offers rewards that are aligned to evidence-based medicine guidelines and focused on wellness and prevention but we will keep looking!”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.

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