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Entrepreneur and investor Glen Tullman shares his business journey and keys to success at our Fireside Chat with Kristi Ross


Entrepreneur and investor Glen Tullman shares his business journey and keys to success at our Fireside Chat with Kristi Ross

In conversation with Kristi Ross, Co-CEO & President of tastytrade, Tullman shared his initial vision for Livongo, the process behind the Teladoc decision, hardtech’s role in the business, and what makes a good CEO.

Here are some takeaways from this fireside chat.

The Livongo Vision

“My youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 8 years old.” 

“When he was diagnosed, I made a commitment to him to help find a cure and keep people healthy until we did.”

“I understood how hard we made it for people with diabetes and other chronic conditions to stay healthy. And I just knew we could make it easier to stay healthy. All the hurdles we put in front of people especially the people who were under-resourced, they just didn’t feel right.”

“It was a very personal experience.”

“When you look at chronic conditions, there are 147,000,000 Americans who have at least one chronic condition, its one out of every 2 adults. This is an enormous market. Every one of us can tell a story of how healthcare is more confusing, complex, and more costly than ever before. We knew there was a business opportunity.”

The Journey of Taking Livongo Public

“An IPO decision is based off a few things. It’s a branding event, going public puts you on the national and international agenda. We were also doing something that hadn’t been done before. We were combining healthcare and the magic of Silicon Valley, this tech enabled type of healthcare.”

“Our customers love transparency. If you’re public, they can see how much money you have and what is or isn’t going away. Going public is also a great source of capital, so it allowed us to do acquisitions using our stocks.”

“It felt like it, for all those reasons, that it was the right time to do it.”

“In each quarter that we have been public, we have been able to beat and raise our numbers. The story that we created It was all based on our members not just liking what we do, they actually love it.”

“When you can create a new experience in the field healthcare, you can do extraordinary things.”

Combined Company Vision & Merging During COVID

“That is with everything going so well, why merge now? And the idea was we saw an opportunity to create the first, truly global consumer centric, virtual care company. And as we looked at it, we said, right now we're solving part of the challenge. And that is for people with chronic conditions. We made it easier for them to stay healthy.”

“People would call us in the middle of the night, and they'd say, I have a sinus infection. And we'd say, well, why are you calling us? And they'd say, well, number one, you're the only people answer the phone in the middle of the night. You're the only people who we trust. And three you're the only people who actually care about solving the problem. So, we said, well, how do we solve that problem?”

“As we talked, we saw, wow, this is amazing. You're international. We'd like to be international. You're already in 50 countries. There's only 25% overlap of our customer base, what an expansion opportunity. And then we looked at it and we said, there's no product overlap. So it was, it was just, it was an unbelievable fit.”

“It was all driven by what people wanted, starting with our members. They wanted one integrated experience and our clients said they can't deal with four or five or six companies during a pandemic.”

Impact for COVID-19

“People with chronic conditions are not more likely to get coronavirus, but if they get it, they're much more likely to have a negative outcome. So, we had to keep them safe at home and out of harm's way.”

“Livongo was already rapidly growing. But what this (COVID-19) did was accelerate that growth probably by four years. And we literally saw the market develop in a way that would have taken years.”

“We talk about empowering people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives. We're not taking charge, we're putting them back in charge, giving them technology to do that.”


Future of Healthcare

“Well, it will be a shift dramatic shift to virtual, but that will allow us to provide better care because all of us understand that first of all, virtual or digital creates abundance. So, we can now provide the same level of care on tribal lands, in an inner-city area, in a rural area that might not be able to see an endocrinologist or behavioral health specialist. We can now do that now; we can do it 24/7.”

“You know, healthcare doesn't happen between eight and five, yet that's how we manage healthcare today. So, we're going to make healthcare available 24/7. You know, when you go on Google or Amazon, you're in charge. You decide when you want to order something, where it's going to be shipped to, and when you want it. In healthcare, it's exactly the opposite. So, we're going to flip that model. We're going to put the consumer back in charge and let them make those decisions.”

“Also learned we have to protect our physicians, both their health and their time, so we should use them more wisely with Livongo. We can actually help physicians identify who to see in a group. Let's deal with folks who really need your attention and care and not try to fit them in a five-minute appointment, but let's spend the time with those folks in a different way. So, we think this is an opportunity to totally redefine how we do health and care, It’s not healthcare, it's health and care.”

Hard Tech Driving Impact

“I think as those people who know Livongo, know that hardware's core to all the services we provide. But I think any time that you have people talking about just hardware technology, you're actually losing what you are.”

“There is a ton of data science behind it, a ton of technology behind it, but the idea is you have to make the experience really simple for the end user. And that's the way we think about it. There's a great quote that says, technology perfectly applied is indistinguishable from magic.”

“I was watching my son play a [video] game, and I asked him, where are the directions? And he looked up at me and he said something, I never forget it. He said, dad, nothing smart has directions anymore.”

“Things should be so intuitive that you don’t have to read something on how to use it. If our members can’t use what we send out, we’ve failed.”

Secret to Success

“Move quickly, try a lot of things, and keep learning is the answer. We all just want to get to the best idea. So, I think you got to check your ego at the door and just say, let's get to the answer. It doesn't matter whose idea it is. And the flip side of that is it doesn't matter if you make a mistake. I've made lots of mistakes, move on. Don't focus on what happened.”

“I think number one is starting with great people. You have to have people who are great, you have to treat them right. You know, we have a continuum. We start with our members, and then we go to our clients, and then we go to our people, then we go to the community. I think building a culture that really drives for members first and then a real commitment to what we're doing is so important. We are changing lives. That's why we work in healthcare.”

“We take having fun very seriously. And if you're going to commit, you're going to put this much energy into the business. Then you also have to have fun doing it. You have to have great people around. It is a beautiful thing to see their commitment and their passion for our cause. And we see that all over the company.”

Why Chicago?

“Well, I think there's a number of things. Midwest values, you know, great people in Chicago, lots of universities, it's an affordable city to live in. You know, I love Chicago. I love the fact that I can bike, run, swim all in the same day. None of which I do well, but all of which I do.”

“We had the best of both worlds. We were able to have lots of folks in Chicago, lots of folks in Silicon Valley, then through an acquisition, we opened a Denver office. And then we have people who, a lot of people who work remotely even before the pandemics. There's a lot of great places to build a business, but you know, I'm, I'm always been, I've always been partial to Chicago.”

Increasing Diversity Within Business

“We used to fund three things and now we fund four: a food pantry, homeless shelter, a battered women's shelter, and now for an organization that focuses on improving both racial diversity and inclusion. We're investing some of our funds in black owned banks.”

“We have a big initiative called She Powers Health to recognize women leaders. Our president of Livongo is a woman. I think businesses have to step up and take an active role in promoting this. Again, we're fortunate to have a number of initiatives and it's about action. We've got to stop talking about things and start acting to make a difference. We have to be very proactive.”

“It isn’t about giving, it’s about enabling. So, we have an initiative that says, let's double the amount of services and products that we buy from Black and African American owned businesses. And then I looked at what we were buying and it's like, that's a ridiculously small number. We have to take a percentage of our overall spend and shift that. And if we can't find the businesses, let's help create the businesses to do this because that's what our task was.”

To watch the whole Fireside Chat, click here.