This article is a part of a special series on the Wharton Business Plan Competition (WPBC). Today, we talk to Matt Tanzer (W’02, WG’12), Chief Commercial Officer of RightCare Solutions. RightCare Solutions was started by three Wharton founders and took first place in the 2012 WBPC.
Wharton Journal: What was the inspiration behind starting RightCare?
MT: Have you ever had a family member or friend get sick, go to the hospital, and then spend the next weeks or months bouncing in and out on a seemingly endless rotation of hospital visits? I’m no stranger to this situation either, and it was heartbreaking to see my loved ones suffer when they were readmitted mere days or weeks after their original discharge. Every year millions of Americans become trapped in this vicious cycle, costing the healthcare system billions of dollars. Hospitals need tools to identify these high-risk patients proactively and technology that connects providers and patients all along the care continuum. Every patient should get the services they need to have the highest quality outcomes, and RightCare’s built software to deliver on that.
WJ: How did RightCare get its start?
MT: In 2004, Dr. Kathy Bowles, a researcher and professor in the School of Nursing, was investigating the root causes for why older adults were being readmitted to hospitals at alarming rates. One of the researchers on her team, Eric Heil (Eng’05, WG’12), was a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In the seven years apart Kathy turned her research into a cutting-edge predictive modeling tool while Eric built a successful career in venture capital. They reunited at Penn when Eric enrolled in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives. Recognizing the growing need in the marketplace for software technology that helps clinicians lower readmissions, improve patient outcomes, and reduce health system costs, they formed RightCare Solutions.
WJ: What was the status of RightCare (operationally) when entering into the Wharton Business Plan Competition?
MT: Kathy was awarded roughly $5M of NIH-funding to develop what is now thee core IP of our software. By the time the BPC began, we already had peer-reviewed clinical data underpinning our company. And with the help of our Wharton classmates, who provided frank and brutal assessments of our plan during the early stages, we had a concise pitch deck. We began to line up meetings with potential investors, and had initiated negotiations with Penn on obtaining an exclusive license to commercialize Kathy’s research.
WJ: What did the team decide to do with the awarded funds?
MT: We put the awards towards creating our website and related marketing collateral, exhibiting at conferences on healthcare quality, licensing software development tools, and a host of other activities. On top of the cash award, the in-kind legal and accounting services were huge. There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer or accountant, and the competition helped us avoid that early pitfall by pairing us up with two prestigious firms in Duane Morris and KPMG.
WJ: Did you know that you would end up working with Eric Heil (Eng’05, WG’12,) and Mrinal Bhasker (WG’12) right away?
MT: For me, RightCare started out as nothing more than class credit. Yet, the more I learned about the havoc that readmissions wreaked on patients, their families, and the healthcare system at large, the stronger my convictions became about RightCare. How it was not only a viable business but was a challenge that I simply had to tackle. Once that belief took hold, the thought of working alongside Eric and Mrinal as professional colleagues was just icing on the cake.
WJ: How did the dynamics and responsibilities of the team stay intact when RightCare started to scale and how has it managed to stay intact?
MT: One of the reasons our team has clicked so well since the beginning is that between the three founding management team members, our skills and experiences are incredibly diverse and complementary. Eric learned as a venture capitalist how to form companies and raise money. Mrinal had built and exited healthcare technology companies in the past, and was most recently the Chief Architect for Maryland’s Health Information Exchange. I had spent the early part of my career focusing on commercial operations and analytics, which have been critical to our company’s early growth. We trust each other, and we hope that foundational value persists as our company scales.
WJ: Tell us about RightCare’s early fundraising experience.
MT: Just because someone is willing to invest in you doesn’t make them the best investor for you. We spent a lot of time at the outset trying to identify investors who do more than just write checks, ones who could also provide mentorship for our management team and open doors to potential customers. Fortunately, in Compass Partners and Domain Associates, we found two such investors.
WJ: On game day, what would be your most valuable advice for those pitching in the competition?
MT: Don’t let the thought of winning or losing overshadow the fact that this competition, in and of itself, is an incredible opportunity. You get tangible, concrete feedback on your written business plan from the successful entrepreneurs who serve as judges. Wharton Communications professors help you refine your message. You pitch in a live-fire pressure situation in front of several hundred people. My advice is to savor this moment and get as much out of the process as you possibly can. And if you’re still not convinced, think about Warby Parker, Baby.com.br, and Graphene Frontiers. None won the BPC, yet all are startup phenoms doing amazing things in their respective industries.
WJ: What are some really important trends in healthcare technology right now?
MT: Two trends come to mind. First, health data is being collected more routinely and in more detail than ever, enabling big data and analytics techniques to become more widespread, especially on the provider side of healthcare. Second, growth in mobile technology has given rise to a variety of consumer engagement apps, telehealth programs, and remote patient monitoring devices that can connect patients to providers along the continuum of care. What gets us really excited is the potential for developing “Coordination Central” care transitions software that combines those two elements: using evidence-based data to guide the right patients to the right interventions, ultimately helping health systems improve patient care, achieve better outcomes, and lower costs.
WJ: What’s next for RightCare?
MT: We’re fortunate to have had two top-tier health system partners right in our backyard in Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, both of whom piloted and adopted our software. Having achieved robust readmission reductions at both organizations, we raised a Series B round to scale our commercialization and product development efforts, and are now in active discussions with providers all over the country. Our vision is to provide a software platform that every hospital in America can use to match patients with resources that will result in the highest quality outcomes. And with the support of Wharton and its community of professors and alumni, we’re on our way.