Mike McSherry: 5 Great Tips Founders Must Know to Start a Successful Business

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Mike McSherry Xealth

Mike McSherry is the co-founder and CEO of Xealth, “the leader in enabling digital health at scale for medical providers.”

Prior to Xealth, Mike McSherry “served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Providence.”

As an entrepreneur, Mike McSherry has amassed “more than 20 years of experience in consumer technology.”

Likewise, Mike McSherry has “also co-founded several companies, including Swype and Boost Mobile.”

Over the past 25 years, Mike McSherry has co-founded 6 startups, with Xealth being the 6th.

In 1997, Mike McSherry left Microsoft to found his first company “over a disagreement with its internet strategy.” Then he began working with people in Australia to co-found a web development company.

This company soon “became the largest in Australia and New Zealand.” At that point, Mike McSherry and his partners sold the company.

Since then, Mike McSherry has devoted himself to doing startups. These include Boost Mobile Australia and US. He sold the US business to Dish Network for $1.5 billion.

Before Xealth, Mike McSherry “co-founded and served as CEO for Swype, a touchscreen keyboard that invented the technology now on 10B+ phones—every iPhone and Android phone in the world.”

At Providence, Mike McSherry was invited to “become an entrepreneur-in-residence to develop ideas for transforming healthcare.”

Check out more interviews with serial entrepreneurs here.

If nobody cared about a better UX, how could we  possibly build a better patient engagement solution? Mike McSherry, Xealth

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Mike McSherry: Xealth is the sixth startup I’ve co-founded over the past 25 years.

The idea for my first company came after leaving Microsoft in 1997 over a disagreement with its internet strategy.

Working with some folks in Australia, we co-founded a web development company in Australia that became the largest in Australia and New Zealand at the time we sold it.

I’ve been doing startups ever since.

Other companies I co-founded include Boost Mobile Australia and U.S. The U.S. business actually sold to Dish Network for $1.5B last year.

However, I also-cofounded Amp’d Mobile which raised $400M but ultimately went bankrupt!

Prior to Xealth, I co-founded and served as CEO for Swype, a touchscreen keyboard that invented the technology now on 10B+ phones — every iPhone and Android phone in the world.

Living in Seattle, I was on the board of a hospital system that merged with Providence, the second largest hospital system in the country.

Providence’s CEO invited me to become an entrepreneur-in-residence to develop ideas for transforming healthcare.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Mike McSherry: Coming into Providence with a consumer tech background, I thought that the hospital patient portal people were expected to use was awful.

We saw a better way to engage patients with digital tools in this app/web portal and jokingly called the idea MikeChart.

We then worked to figure out how doctors could ‘prescribe’ these digital health tools to patients and, subsequently, monitor patients’ activity in these different apps and devices.

This is how the concept for Xealth was born.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Mike McSherry: Our initial concept was building a better ‘MikeChart’ patient portal and we devoted significant time and resources into that approach, which was not received with the fanfare we thought it would.

Some hospital leaders expressed apathy, questioning “how will this make or save me money.”

In the consumer world, a five-fold user experience improvement would lead to exponential value creation.

In the healthcare world, it was seen as an imposition — “if ain’t broke, why fix it.”

If nobody cared about a better UX, how could we possibly build a better patient engagement solution?

I was stubborn enough to beat my head on the wall long enough to convince them of a consumer-oriented experience! It just took a slightly different form.

Know the battle strategy going in.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Mike McSherry: The world of digital health has exploded during pandemic amongst consumers, health insurance companies and employers.

Hospital systems have put in a few band-aid gap measures, but they are still lagging.

That said, they employ over 50% of all doctors in this country. Side note: telehealth is not synonymous with digital health.

Most people trust their doctors and that should not be turned over to someone else. Xealth leverages that to engage patients in digital health adoption and patient care.

We’ve reached almost four million patients across our health system customers with some form of digital health engagement.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Mike McSherry: When Aaron Sheedy, Xealth’s COO, and I were Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at Providence, we initially thought to tackle the high-cost diseases.

We arranged a meeting with the Chief of Oncology and he invited his entire medical staff. We had zero background in healthcare and yet were asking a room of 20 doctors what problems they had that could be solved via technology.

Quickly, it was apparent that we had a $20k/hr brainstorm session with these incredibly smart physicians….and without one of them quitting to join us full-time, we could never learn the challenges of a specific disease state well enough to start a company.

We went back to our software roots, combining user experience and business model strategy.

We get inspiration from mission-driving clinicians helping others. Mike McSherry

Jerome Knyszewski: Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Mike McSherry:

  1. Charge the Hill or Siege Warfare: Know the battle strategy going in. Swype was a fast-off the ground with its technology installed on half a billion phones within two years.

    Healthcare takes longer and requires a multi-front approach. Knowing which you fit into impacts how you manage and grow your team, raise capital and move forward.

  2. Healthcare is full of perverse incentives: There is a shortness of rational economic frameworks, arcane reimbursement and regulatory requirements.

    Also, those who pay for, deliver and receive services are all different stakeholders, complicating alignment.

  3. Hospital systems as customers: With so many different stakeholders, collective intelligence takes significantly longer to make a decision and to execute.
  4. Selflessness is contagious: We get inspiration from mission-driving clinicians helping others.

    Our customers are demonstrating selflessness every day while delivering care. That is strongly motivating and drives us to pay it forward.

  5. Respect the institution; shortcut the tradition: I have tremendous respect for doctors, nurses and medical staff.

    They work extremely hard helping others and nothing should interfere with that. That said, just because you always have done things one way, does not make it perfect.

    Technology can enhance care delivery through automation and remote patient monitoring.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

 

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