Corbin Petro has already raised close to $100M to fund her startup venture that is changing the US healthcare system. The venture, Eleanor Health, has acquired investment from top-tier investors like Rethink Impact, Warburg Pincus, Northpond Ventures, and General Catalyst.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Restructuring boards to make them more diverse
- How big Eleanor Health is today
- Three things to look for in the right investors
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About Corbin Petro:
Corbin Petro is an experienced CEO, industry leader, and entrepreneur with a mission-driven, analytic approach to innovation. She is the CEO and co-founder of Eleanor Health, providing evidence-based, whole-person care specializing in addressing the unique complexities of individuals and populations with substance use disorder and mental health needs. Eleanor Health leverages proprietary technology and data-driven insights, compassionate teams, and value-based payment to deliver superior clinical and financial outcomes.
Prior to Eleanor Health, Corbin was the founding CEO of Benevera Health, a payer-provider JV and population health company. Corbin has an extensive background in healthcare, including as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Massachusetts Department of Medicaid (MassHealth), a $13 billion agency providing health care to 1.4 million Massachusetts residents, advising a US Senator on health reform, and roles at Bain and Company, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte Consulting, and American Management Systems.
Corbin is passionate about improving health for vulnerable populations, equity for women and other marginalized groups, and animal rights. She is co-chair of the board of visitors of Fenway Health and on the boards of Reaching Out and the Eleanor Health Foundation. As a former collegiate distance runner, she enjoys long-distance running and biking, and has completed 5 marathons and biked solo, self-supported, across the country. She is active in local and regional politics, currently serving as the Chair and Treasurer of a campaign for Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor.
Corbin is married, has two sons, and resides in the greater Boston area. She was honored as one of fifteen healthcare executives under 40 by the 2018 Up and Comer by Modern Healthcare. She received a BA from Yale University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Specialties: Health care, technology development, and implementation, business creation, value-based care, risk and outcome-based contracting, P&L leadership, analytics, people development, strategy, operations, finance, Medicaid, Medicare, social determinants, patient engagement, long-term care, Joint Venture development, governance, health policy, product development, health insurance.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So I’m very excited about the guests that we have today. It’s been a long in the time in the making you know to really get this episode done. Ah, but you know at the end of the day better late than never so um. So again today we’re gonna be talking about building scaling restructuring boards I mean you name it. You know a little of everything in between so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today corine petra welcome to the show. Thanks.
Corbin Petro: Awesome! Thank you all Ajandra I Love your energy and glad we finally yeah finally got this going.
Alejandro Cremades: So so give us a little of a walkthrough memory lane. How was live growing up in Ohio.
Corbin Petro: Yeah I grew up I grew up in the midwest um, ah in Ohio as as you mentioned and really you know I think I think those early beginnings were what exposed me to to lots of different types of people. Um, how they interacted with the world different economic backgrounds. Um, and really set me up with a foundation of of service which you know health care is ah a great career for somebody who has a commitment to to service to others. Um, so you know that’s that’s sort of my background I was ah um I was ah an athlete. Um, so I ended up. Going to college as ah as a distance runner. Um, you know so really that that foundation of of hard work and really.
Alejandro Cremades: Well,, there’s quite a lot of ah you know relation there between marathons and building companies because obviously building a company is not a sprint is a marathon so have you have you. Have you sensed that perhaps that competitive nature that you were developing back then you know has really helped you. You know as as you’re a founder now.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, so I’m definitely I’m definitely a competitive person. But I think it’s the foundation of hard work right? like any any athlete you’re you’re perfecting your your trade and it’s particularly with running and it was it I was a distance runner. So I’ve run a couple a couple marathons. It’s it’s that foundation of. Hard work and as you see your work play out and and lead to success it sort of solidifies that hard work is a precursor to to getting the things done that you want to get done and you know it’s ah um, it’s 1 of the tenets that I believe strongly and I believe ah. Um, you know a foundation and a life of hard work can be incredibly rewarding no matter what the the career path.
Alejandro Cremades: And in your case I mean you studied on some of the best universities right? So you studied in yale you did history then you went to warden where you got your Mba and you did a letter of um, you know, different stints early on whether it was in consulting or. Perhaps investment banking but you ended up in the world of healthcare. So how did you land in healthcare and why didn’t you pursue. Maybe you know a career in consulting or investment banking if you had like you know, kind of like an insider on on how that would look like.
Corbin Petro: Well, what? what? you can’t see with some of my background is all all of all of those threads of consulting of early. Um my first. My first job was at a health care tech tech company investment banking the foundation of all those was advising healthcare care. Companies. It was always within healthcare. It was learning how the different components of healthcare the different verticals work together. So payer provider med device pharma how they intersect how technology can be an enabler how data can enhance and improve care and care delivery. So. Um, all of that sort of foundation was continuing to it was a great sort of lesson on all the different threads within within health care. Um, that’s that’s sort of my my background in in consulting and I think it’s when you’re exposed to so many different verticals in health care and. You know health care is unique. It’s different than a lot of different um ah industries in that it’s so complex. There are so many different parts of it. There’s a different entity paying than than is getting a service. There’s the consumer but how much you know willingness to pay does the consumer have and I think when you get exposed to all that you realize. All the challenges all the flaws and it almost emboldens you to want to change something I think it’s actually really hard to go right into healthcare as an innovator without exposure to all the different mechanics.
Corbin Petro: Of of how health care works in the United States in particular.
Alejandro Cremades: And talking about the directing you know health care as well. I mean you were in charge of the 13000000000 um allocation you know that was happening there in Massachusetts so what were you doing there specifically.
Corbin Petro: So I was chief operating officer of Medicaid in Massachusetts so medicaid is the um, it’s the program that provides health insurance for the lower income americans so there are fifty states. There’s 50 different medicaid programs. Um, each of those programs are structured a little bit differently and it’s a huge payer within within the healthcare system in the United States so I ran all the operations there I had a big team that focused on you know, making sure that our you know the one point three million um Massachusetts residents who we served um you know had a touch point around how their care was delivered. You know obviously we paid and and created new programs to deliver better care that was sort of my piece there we were we were implementing implementing part of the affordable care act. Um, in my time at the state.
Alejandro Cremades: And at what point do you decide that hey maybe you know I’m not so sure about being in in in the public side of things. Maybe I want to be more on the private side. You know as an operator I mean at what point do you realize? that’s the case and and when does Ben Aver Health come knocking.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, so I mean I love I loved I loved my time at medicaid mission driven. Um, really understanding again. How one of these big payers works from a government perspective. 1 of the things that we did there was we we launched obviously we implemented the affordable care act which in the United States it was the expansion of Medicaid. Um, so we did that and we also designed a number of different ways of paying providers for their services that really encourage them to deliver value oriented care. So you know the value-based care. Um. Emergence really came after the affordable care act and I was enthralled by that and so I wanted to get on the the the private sector side to really put that into action put put in a payment model that incentivize providers. Um. To do the right thing. So benavea is a pay provider joint venture. So it’s a commercial a commercial payer um it was four hospital systems and so it’s really aligning those incentives to get providers to change how they delivered care and as part of that joint venture we spun out a business that supported the providers and the payer in really sort of meeting. Meeting members meeting patients where they are going out into their home addressing a lot of the non-clinical barriers that they had food insecurity transportation housing. It was all those pieces that ultimately you address those things somebody doesn’t somebody gets those things addressed. They don’t go into the emergency room. They don’t go.
Corbin Petro: Um, into the hospital and that ultimately is lower cost for the system. It’s better for for everyone involved so that was that was what that was what came out of medicaid was this, you know very strong interest in putting into into place. A lot of these payment models that we were doing um at the state.
Alejandro Cremades: And we see at this point you had access to to really seeing you know Healthcare from from many different angles and and I guess at what point you know, do you realize? hey I think that it’s time for me, you know to go out it on my own because. As they say ideas they take time to incubate. You know they’re they Doormant. We don’t even know that they are there but there is perhaps certain triggering events that push us over the edge to to take Action. So What do you think was that in your case to really you know, get started with Alien our health.
Corbin Petro: Well at my time at benavera. What I really loved about it was the patient facing work. So we built out a team that went out into patients’ homes and what we discovered in that work was that so many of the different things that ah that a patient was dealing with. Was really impacting in the root cause of their high costs in the healthcare system of them going into the emergency room so they may show up on a data feed. Um or in our algorithm because of poorly managed diabetes. Let’s say but you go out to their home and you realize oh no, this person has addiction. This person has. Um, mental health condition but that wasn’t being surfaced and it wasn’t being addressed and so it really made me realize there’s ah, there’s a major opportunity to to improve. People’s lives by addressing the root cause of of their their challenges with with their health and so much of that sits with you know. Nonclinical components as well as mental health components and so it was really that that said you know there’s no one doing this There’s no one who’s really addressing. Um these these issues in an you know ne evidence-based whole person way and and led me to to create Eleanor Health
Alejandro Cremades: So what happened next? What were the early days like yeah.
Corbin Petro: So I part I partnered with with investors early on in in incubating. Um the company found my co-founder Dr and Zingga Harrison so really found my my clinical counterpart. Um, and she is really the mastermind of of designing our our clinical model where i. Sort of try to figure out how the high the finances work and the business model and and the mission so early days I mean the 2 of us right? That’s always how it is um, trying to figure out what is the what’s the right path forward and how do you design something that works the early days are really lonely as ah as a startup Ceo and founder. Um, because you’re in our model where it’s b two b to c we’re trying to sell to health insurance companies. Um, and then ultimately obviously so we’re so we’re directly serving patients so we have you know thousands of patients who we who we serve but you’re trying to sell the payers before you’ve really. Proven anything right? Um, you have to you have to sell with them sell to them a concept. Um, and it’s really hard. It’s really lonely and um, you get a lot of nose or a lot of comeback when you have Xy and z um. And so that you know to get that to get the story right? It’s important to get investors. Um, it was important for us to get investors so that we could prove out our clinical model.
Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll talk. We’ll talk about that because I mean there’s there’s quite a lot of things that I like to ask you there but but before doing so so that the people that are listening get it What ended up becoming the business model of ilaner of Alien our health I mean how do you guys make money.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, so we are ah basically a medical home model. So We’re a whole person care delivery model for people affected by substance use disorder and and mental health needs and so typically we have value-based and um, risk-based arrangements with Payers. So We ultimately. We want to get paid if we make people better. Um, the way the Healthcare system works is is it pays based on the number of little tiny things that you do and so many of those little tiny things that you do don’t make people Better. We don’t want to get paid based on doing a lot of little things that don’t help people get Better. We Want to get paid. If we help people improve their health and so it’s changing the payment model What that means is we’re often taking risk on all of a patient’s healthcare costs because what we find in our caramel is once we start helping a person get better. They’re not going to the emergency room. They’re not going to. You know an inpatient stay. And they ultimately cost less when we’re engaging with them and helping them get better and that’s that’s really,. That’s how that’s how the model works. That’s how we um, that’s how we’re we’re successful is doing what we know helps get patients better and getting getting paid for it.
Alejandro Cremades: And how much capital have you guys raised to aid Corbin Petro: .
Corbin Petro: Ah, we’ve raised $85,000,000 um, from ah a great list of investors we closed our series c in april it was led by by general catalyst we brought on a couple new investors there as well rethink impact and north pond. Um, and then we’ve we’ve had some great investors who’ve continued to to support the business along the way. Um, town hall ventures was was our earliest investor warburg pinkus led our our series be. Round. Um, we also we also investment from echo health ventures which is ah a strategic um as well as a couple other strategics horizon which is um, the health plan out of new jersey emerson collective which is. A great investor so we have a long list of investors and the longer the list the more the more you have to to please that that group but really any investor who’s come on is um, you know they understand health care. They’re very mission driven and they’re supportive of. But they know it takes to prove out a completely new way of delivering care and a new way of being reimbursed for for health care.
Alejandro Cremades: Now I know that as you were saying you know you got to police everyone but also typically you know when you are receiving money they want to see it. You know on your board and you’ve done seed series, a series B and now most recently the series C but I understand that you went through a restructuring of the board. So give us give us a little of ah of an insight as to you know what happened there and what was that process of restructuring it.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, so you know I I took a step back after you know, probably right as we were wrapping up our our actually it was right before our series b and you know I looked at the board and I looked at what we were trying to do in our mission and how we founded the company we founded the company on equity and diversity. And was sitting on a very um, a board that really lacked diversity so it was myself and um, think 5 or 6 um males and really wanted to add diversity to the board diversity experience diversity in. All the other ways that you can define diversity and so as we as we went into our series b um, really started to have conversations around what’s the right makeup for the board. How do we bring on the right independent. Um, so we we ended up bringing on an independent Kyle Ruffan Yellow who’s who’s a woman. Operator. Um, so the other the other piece was that our board was all investors investors bring bring a great perspective but it was it was overweighted um toward investors and you know people who hadn’t run run companies. So um. So the the other thing I did is I really you know I really just addressed it head on with the board where I wanted to change the gender makeup try to bring on operators and and so warber pinus who led our around we worked together to pick an outside operator to sit in their board seat.
Corbin Petro: So that was the other change that took place. Um, and so K Christtina Manelli sits sits on our board as as the representative from from Warbett Pincus and she’s a um, she’s an operator um and and then we ah. Ah, Andy Slavitt sat on our board. He’s very well known within the health care space but he went to work for the Biden administration and so we had an opportunity to again put another operator on and so we put Rachel Wintaker on um a female operator as well and so we very quickly turned the board from being. I don’t want to say it was not productive but it was you know is lacking that diverse perspective. It was pretty heavily weighted on the investor side and we really brought in um, really rich operators who’d been there. Um, who understood the dynamics that we were facing whether it was building teams. Um, you know working with payers designing the right approaches and technology and so it really changed the dynamic of of the board and I I talk about this because I don’t think a lot of founders particularly women know that they have um they have some agency in. In defining what their board looks like particularly if they’re raising capital and they have multiple term sheets on the table being able to sort of use that as some leverage to to make some of these changes to the board board diversity isn’t just.
Corbin Petro: You know a pet project. It’s good for business. It makes us a much more productive company. It. It brings in different perspectives that are incredibly valuable to the to the Business. So I went from I don’t want to say like hating board meetings but I didn’t find them to be enriching to. Looking forward to meeting with my board and getting their feedback and getting their thoughts and perspective and really leaning on them to help in the areas that I needed support. So it was It was a big um mind shift and it was a big change in in the company that I’m pretty proud of.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s incredible and and and that says a lot about you as well Corbin Petro: because when you go or when you are able to to enroll people in in such a transformation I mean the the level of communication that you need to use is is remarkable because typically you know. Ah, folks that have invested on that are sitting on the board. You know they they want to have that control and they want to have that influence on Voice. So that says a lot about your level of communication and the trust that they had in you.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, and I think I think most investors um in my experience they just want to be helpful and so sometimes sometimes they think that’s being on the board and there are certainly some as as you said who want control. Um. But I think for for many they understand that maybe it’s not them sitting in that seat if they’re if they’re humble enough to to take a step back if they really you know all I want to do is make Eleanor Health successful that is my primary goal I don’t have ego in it I just want to make eleanor successful and I think if. A lot of board members feel the same way as well. I mean they they want the company to be successful. Sometimes there’s a control piece. But for many um I think they they can get on board with not being in that seat if they think they can still be helpful.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now for the people that are listening to get an idea on the scope and size of Eleanor Health today I mean anything that you can share in terms of number of employees or anything else. Okay.
Corbin Petro: Sure we’re um, we’re we’re in about 7 states. So we we have ah um you know an in-person and virtual care model. So as I mentioned we do deliver deliver care. It’s through a you know, ah community-based team approach so we have psychiatrists. Um, physicians nurse care managers peers therapists. Um, we are out in the community. We. We do have a physical footprint so we do have in-person clinics. Um a lot of our care is delivered virtually so we’re in 7 states we operate in seven states we have about 35 clinics in those 7 states. And we’re just under 400 people. Um in in those in those markets obviously strong tech team building technology to better serve our members use data um to to better understand our our community members. Um. And yeah, so that’s that’s sort of our size. We’re obviously growing. Um, ah, as as there continues to be a need and interest from payers in our in our model.
Alejandro Cremades: Now Imagine Corbin Petro: that you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of einor health is fully realized how does that world look like.
Corbin Petro: Well, um, first and foremost we want to change the standard of care for for people, you know, affected by substance use disorder and mental health needs and we want to change how how it’s paid for so we want providers who are doing right for their patients. Being paid being paid for the impact that they’re having. Um, so if I were to wake up Tomorrow. It would be a world where people aren’t fired from treatment because they relapse in ah in a relapsing and remitting Condition. So You think about somebody with diabetes. You know going into diabetic shock no doctor would then say oh well, you’re You’re no longer in treatment but it’s totally standard for somebody who is um has a substance use disorder to relapse and then to be kicked out of treatment that is that is the standard. Um, so it would be for people not to be kicked out not stigmatized to have. To you know in-person and virtual care to have access to the medications that they need in an evidence based way and for the providers who are doing it doing it right and doing right by their patients to be to be paid for the for the work that they’re doing.
Alejandro Cremades: Because how how big of a problem. Are we talking about I mean oh is he a substance abuse and and and mental health I mean I mean that sounds like pretty big to me but they in terms of like to make it more tangible Corbin Petro: . Ah for me and and and also for folks that are right now tuning in. What kind of prone are we looking at what’s what’s the size of this problem.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, so in in the United States um you know there’s between 20 and 40,000,000 americans who have a substance use disorder. Um, so I say between 20 and 40000000 sort of depends on how you how you define it and the latest numbers say 40000000 that includes. You know, cigarettes nicotine and then all all substances. That’s a pretty big number. It’s you know what? what we say is it’s you know 8 to 10% of the United States is affected by substance use disorder the challenge is what comes with that. So people with a substance use disorder 80% have another mental health condition 70% have another physical comorbidity. So. It’s really the substance use disorder exacerbates these other conditions and and so not treating it together ends up being that these are incredibly costly. Um. To the system they’re going in and out of the emergency room. So those costs are incredibly incredibly high in the hundreds of billions. Um, for the total cost of care for people who are affected by substance use disorder.
Alejandro Cremades: And how have you seen perhaps the Healthcare ah because obviously Healthcare is incredibly regulated and you know many of us you know would hope that that that that that that the regulation you know, kind of like catch us up with the times that we’re living in too. But. How have you seen you know the Healthcare system you know evolving to towards the times that we’re in.
Corbin Petro: Yeah I mean I think first and foremost obviously covid meant that a lot more virtual care was delivered and and I think covered also was a you know a good recognition that we all are affected by mental health issues and so the surfacing of those mental health issues people talking about the anxiety. The isolation the trauma that they’re experiencing that has been good to reduce stigma for people to talk about the things that they’re they are impacted um by and I think the regulations have followed in some ways. not not always at the same pace. So first you know. Reimbursement for virtual visits. That’s pretty standard now where before it was not always reimbursed or reimbursed at a lower level that will further encourage people to um and providers to provide virtual care. Um in our space. There’s a regulation that says you have to come in person for some of your medications that was suspended. Um, as part of as part of covid and there’s a question on whether that will continue so requiring somebody to not have to come in person would continue to expand access but it all it all comes and fits and starts because there’s always there’s always companies and people who will abuse. Um, the openings that that the regulatory world has had and so I think what we’ve seen in covid as well is a number of different sort of pillmill like companies emerge that are just dispensing medications at a rate and through non-evence based practices that don’t that don’t make sense and that could be harmful.
Corbin Petro: To patients and so it’s that push and pull that you know where regulations open up. Also there’s a business opportunity and there’s some entity that may that may abuse that so we’ll see we’ll see as things go forward, but um, that’s always the unintended consequences that that happen when the regulatory bodies. Pullback um is that they then feel like they have to tighten up when they find when there are some bad actors and in the space.
Alejandro Cremades: Got it now imagine I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time. Perhaps I bring you back in time to that moment where you are maybe thinking about launching something of your own and imagine you had the opportunity of. Having a chat with your younger self and giving that younger self one piece of advice before launching a business but would that be and why given what you know now Corbin Petro: .
Corbin Petro: That’s a great question. Um, well I don’t think I do anything different differently I don’t think you know in terms of I felt like I was called to do this and this is the best use of my time is is supporting this mission. But. You know I think um, thinking thinking smart about the types of investors that you that you bring onto your cap table you know’re especially in the early days you’re going to be working with them for a really long time and so making sure that you understand what those dynamics look like I think as ah as a you know second time Ceo. But first time. Sort of raising venture dollars I don’t think that was as clear to me and so you know being thoughtful if if you’re able to about what that looks like and so I probably would have spent you know I probably would advise myself to spend a little more time there and maybe spend a little bit more time. Bootstrapping a little bit longer. Um before taking taking that capital I think um, you know, just it it. You know can help shape of course the business and drive growth of the business. But um, you know just being thoughtful about that.
Alejandro Cremades: So Just to follow up on that because I love that if you were to have the opportunity of being more thoughtful and let’s say to expand the question and and you had 3 trades that you would look for in an investor because I mean every founder needs to raise money and I’m sure that there’s a lot of people. Are right now listening like thinking. Oh I Wish you know I could you know get the insights from Corbby as to what would those things you know that she’ll be looking for now that she’s had the time to go around the block for so many you know, financing cycles. What be the 3 things that you would look for in an investor if you had to do it all over again.
Corbin Petro: Well, um I would talk to other founders for sure about their I’ve talked to other female founders with their experience. Um, because I think investors you know they they get they earn reputations and those reputations very based on whether you’re talking to another investor who is you know. Peers with with them or founders who have worked with them so I would spend some time understanding how they engage as an investor at the board level. Um, you know what?? what? What value they bring is I think the other piece is you know we we just went through a period. We’re not in it now but money money came pretty freely and so what you want on top of that. Money is value. So what? What value can an an investor bring. So I think having those conversations you know I often give this advice to um to to founders is you know in in the Healthcare space. There are a number of strategic investors. Um, and what I would say about strategics. Is you know, make sure you have that commercial contract sign before you you you sort of partner on the investment side I think strategics can be incredibly valuable. Um, if if it’s coincides with ah with a commercial contract. But if it doesn’t coincide with a commercial contract and. That commercial contract can’t get over the line. It actually can be a negative to the to the business.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow I Love that I love that having the commercial site done before the investment you know comes in I Really love that Corbin Petro: . So for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do So thanks.
Corbin Petro: Yeah, well I’m on um I’m on Linkedin Corbin Petro: petro um I ah email is Corbin Petro: at eleanorhealth.com pretty good at responding to email I can’t always promise to respond to everything I’m better on email than I am on Linkedin but um, those are those are probably the 2 best ways to.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well corvin thank you? So so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Corbin Petro: I mean.
Corbin Petro: Awesome! Thank you all Handra appreciate you having me.
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