Adrian Aoun’s story is a tapestry of entrepreneurship, innovation, and a profound commitment to addressing critical issues. As he navigates the intersection of technology and healthcare, his journey serves as an inspiration for those daring to dream beyond the confines of the present.
In this blog, we explore his journey, starting in Paris and ending up establishing the world’s first AI doctor’s office, Forward.
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Growing Up in Paris and, Later, the US
Adrian’s life is a tale of two worlds—Paris and the United States. Growing up with a mix of cultures, he found himself straddling languages and accents, making for a unique and sometimes challenging childhood.
Despite the initial struggle with his French accent in an English-speaking environment, it was this very challenge that set Adrian on a path of discovery—one that involved an unexpected companion: computers.
In his own words, Adrian recalls, “You start playing around with your various toys, and one of the toys that I played around with was called a computer.” Little did he know that this early fascination with computers would shape his future endeavors.
The Teenage Entrepreneur: Building Websites and Beyond
Even before heading to college, Adrian embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 13. Starting with the humble venture of building websites, he teamed up with individuals much older than him.
Adrian remembers going to the local Rite Aid and getting business cards printed out on one of the little machines.
Over time, the business evolved from creating websites to developing online software. They built tools ranging from online real estate platforms to suites for K-12 schools. These tools enabled them to manage calendars, field trips, and schedules and turn in homework.
While these things are standard in today’s society, at that time, they proved Adrian’s early recognition of the scalability of software. He also realized that hosting websites, building the data center, and running the infrastructure was more scalable.
So Adrian and his co-founders pivoted the company in that direction.
The journey wasn’t without its challenges, with Adrian reflecting on the early struggles and the decision to pivot toward hosting websites, which eventually led to the successful sale of the company post-college.
Microsoft, Myspace, and the Quest for Impact
Adrian’s trajectory took an unexpected turn as he found himself working at Microsoft, “a big behemoth tech company like an 800-pound gorilla.” The experience was valuable and educational, and he learned how to maintain focus on the end goal if you want to build things from scratch.
However, Adrian soon realized that the corporate giant’s scale came at the cost of personal impact. Aiming for more influence and a desire to see tangible results, Adrian transitioned to Myspace, then the leading website globally.
However, the stint at Myspace was short-lived, marked by a misalignment of talent and a realization that impactful work requires a different environment. This led to Adrian’s decision to return to his roots—entrepreneurship.
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A Chance Encounter with Bill Gates: Lessons in Frameworks
A pivotal moment in Adrian’s journey was a chance encounter with Bill Gates, one of the tech industry’s most iconic figures. Gates, known for his ability to provide insightful frameworks, left a lasting impact on Adrian’s perspective.
One of Gates’ teachings, “People always overestimate the amount of change that will occur in 1 or 2 years and underestimate the amount of change that will occur in 10,” became a guiding principle for Adrian.
Starting on the Path to Language, Grammar, and AI
Adrian talks about realizing that language and grammar are more about the human brain picking up patterns. Teaching computers to read and understand language and grammar may not be possible, but you can use these patterns well enough.
That’s how Adrian and his team ventured into deep learning, applied it to natural language, and started the whole AI revolution. He recalls that they weren’t the only ones who started on this path. However, Adrian’s concepts attracted interest from Google.
As it happened, several of Adrian’s investors were executives at Google, specifically Marissa Mayer, who ran search at Google. She encouraged Adrian to join hands with Google and create an enormous AI division to become the world’s experts. After extensive due diligence from Google’s team, the giant acquired Adrian’s company, Wavii.
The Birth of Alphabet: Innovating Beyond Google
After a relatively short stint at Google, Adrian faced a crossroads. Feeling a lack of impact, he made the bold decision to leave. Adrian had a lot of incentives to stay for at least the next couple of years, and Google had the world’s best engineering and technology.
However, he was more into innovations, research, and shipping products.
A surprise meeting with Larry Page at Adrian’s going-away party turned the tables. Page, recognizing his frustration, spent hours discussing the future and ultimately proposed a collaboration that birthed Alphabet.
Under Adrian’s leadership, Alphabet set out to address some of society’s most pressing challenges.
The concept was to create Alphabet companies—innovative ventures with the potential to revolutionize industries. Adrian played a pivotal role in jumpstarting Alphabet’s AI division, making significant investments and acquisitions that set the stage for the AI revolution we see today.
Their objective is to identify and come up with solutions for some of the biggest problems in humanity using their skill sets. The group was called Javelin, and its approach was to arrive at quantifiable metrics to define and measure society’s problems.
They also developed a metric to measure the success of their efforts.
Adrian and his team applied these metrics to issues like the physical infrastructure of a city, healthcare, education, food, connectivity, clothing, and more, weighed with the assistance of AI.
A Personal Turning Point: The Catalyst for Forward
In the midst of Adrian’s flourishing career and groundbreaking work with Alphabet, a personal crisis struck—his older brother fell ill. This pivotal moment prompted Adrian to reevaluate his priorities.
Fueled by the desire to transform healthcare and driven by a sense of urgency, Adrian founded Forward in 2017.
Forward’s mission is ambitious yet profoundly human: to redefine healthcare as a product rather than a service. Adrian envisions a world where healthcare is accessible globally, powered by technology, and devoid of traditional barriers.
The Forward CarePod, a futuristic AI-driven doctor’s office, is a testament to this vision.
Revolutionizing Healthcare: The Forward Model
Forward’s approach to healthcare is a paradigm shift. Starting with a high-tech doctor’s office, Adrian and his team observed, learned, and innovated, gradually migrating every aspect of healthcare to hardware and software.
The goal is clear—to empower consumers with direct access to care, unencumbered by intermediaries.
The Forward CarePod exemplifies this vision. An autonomous healthcare hub equipped with advanced sensors and AI provides users with an interactive and personalized health experience. It’s a step toward putting healthcare back in the hands of users and patients.
Essentially, the Forward CarePod has moved healthcare into apps that can scan and take a bunch of readings. Next, the app provides a treatment course via a prescription or a plan. The app is also connected to equipment and directs users on how to use it.
As the technology advances, it will offer a range of products such as blood tests, EKGs, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic services. Ultimately, Forward will be available as a platform that’s an operating system compatible with the apps people can build on it.
The idea is to power the new wave of healthcare, similar to how Apple has powered the mobile computing wave.
Investing in Dreams: Building a Community of Visionaries
Adrian’s journey isn’t just about personal success—it’s about cultivating a community of dreamers and visionaries. As both a founder and an investor, he has aligned himself with those who share his passion for leaving a positive impact on humanity.
Forward’s investors are not merely financial backers but partners in a collective vision to transform healthcare and create a better future. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Forward has attracted funding worth $325M according to Crunchbase.
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The Perils of Entrepreneurship: A Founder’s Struggle
Adrian Adrian’s journey as an entrepreneur comes with a stark acknowledgment of its challenges, particularly the toll it takes on one’s sleep.
He candidly advises against pursuing a founder’s path if one values a good night’s sleep, emphasizing the constant stress and the perpetual items on a founder’s to-do list.
Despite these difficulties, Adrian’s commitment to his vision and the world he dreams of propels him forward. Adrian’s dream diverges from the present reality of life expectancy. Reflecting on our current average lifespan in the mid-70s, he questions how humanity arrived at this point.
Taking a historical perspective, he traces the evolution of transportation over the last 5500 years, highlighting the exponential progress from walking five miles a day to space travel of 125 million miles. In contrast, he notes the stagnation in healthcare progress, challenging the status quo.
Tools of Progress: The Role of Tools in Transformation
Drawing parallels to the transformation in transportation facilitated by tools like the Industrial Revolution, Adrian emphasizes the lack of similar tools in healthcare. He underscores Forward’s mission, which aims to provide the necessary tools for rapid iteration in healthcare.
By allowing ideas to swiftly manifest into reality, Adrian envisions a future where diseases are eradicated, and human life extends well beyond current limits. Adrian outlines Forward’s mission as enabling individuals to move seamlessly from concepts to reality.
Drawing parallels to the role of operating systems and infrastructure in technology, he positions Forward as a catalyst for innovation in healthcare and a future where humanity may live for a thousand years or more.
The Importance of Problem-Centric Approach
In imparting advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Adrian emphasizes the primacy of the problem over the solution. He contends that while ideas may evolve and change, the core problem remains constant.
A focus on solving significant problems ensures that the journey can withstand the test of time.
Adrian parallels Google’s mission, highlighting that even a tech giant like Google has only scratched the surface of organizing the world’s information, underscoring the endurance that comes with tackling substantial problems.
Adrian Aoun’s journey is still unfolding, with Forward at the forefront of a healthcare revolution. His relentless pursuit of impact and a deep understanding of technology and human needs position him as a catalyst for change.
Adrian’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs and is a reminder that the intersection of passion and purpose can lead to transformative innovation.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- Adrian Aoun warns potential founders that the stress of entrepreneurship can jeopardize one’s sleep, urging careful consideration before embarking on this challenging journey.
- Adrian envisions a future where human life extends well beyond current limits, drawing inspiration from the exponential progress in transportation over the centuries.
- Despite rapid advancements in transportation, Adrian laments the slow progress in healthcare and positions Forward as a catalyst, aiming to provide the tools for swift iteration and innovation.
- Adrian draws parallels to historical tools like those from the Industrial Revolution, emphasizing the need for similar transformative tools in healthcare to expedite progress.
- Forward aims to bridge the gap between idea and implementation, envisioning a world where diseases are eradicated, and human life surpasses current expectations.
- Adrian’s ambitious goal is not merely to extend life but to eradicate diseases, challenging the status quo in healthcare and pushing for a future of unprecedented longevity.
- Adrian advises aspiring entrepreneurs to fall in love with problems rather than solutions, citing the enduring success of companies like Google that tackle significant issues over time.