Stephanie Tilenius successfully led her first startup through an IPO and also ran an $8 billion operation for eBay. Now she is taking on the healthcare space, which makes up 20% of the GDP in the United States.
During her appearance on the Dealmakers Show, Tilenius talked about the toothbrush test when picking a startup idea, tech and healthcare, fundraising, effective board dynamics, and company culture. Plus, the prescription for launching a successful startup.
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Running A $1B P&L
Stephanie Tilenius was born in Ohio. Where she says life was all about good values, and playing outside, without devices.
Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area was a little different, and she has certainly witnessed how it has changed over the years.
For college and business school, Tilenius headed across the country to the East Coast. Ending up living and working in Boston for over 10 years.
After obtaining her MBA, she went to work with Intel. There she began tackling the problems in pharmacy benefit management and chronic disease with her first company, Planet RX. Which she took public in late 1999 before it was ultimately acquired by Rite Aid.
Next, Stephanie was introduced to Meg Whitman, who she was seeking out as a mentor ahead of starting her next venture. Meg was the President and CEO of eBay and convinced Stephanie to come join them.
Over the next few years, Tilenius worked with leaders such as eBay, and Paypal, as well as with Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google. She helped build Paypal’s merchant services and mobile tools. Then became SVP at eBay to conduct a turnaround. During which she was managing $8B in P&L.
Over these years, she learned a lot about innovating through problems, saw the possibility to change the world, and the personal impact technology could have at scale.
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The Toothbrush Test
Google is famous for only focusing on large-scale projects. If it wasn’t something that could be scaled to 100M users, it wasn’t relevant there.
Larry Page also had ‘the toothbrush test’. Meaning that if people wouldn’t be using a product twice a day, then it wasn’t really useful.
Stephanie says that these experiences also showed her that regulatory investment could become a strategic moat and advantage for a business.
Next, a combination of events came together to trigger the launch of her next venture, which already operates at a great scale, with users on their app five to seven days a week.
She had joined Kleiner Perkins as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR). Her father had also been suffering from chronic health conditions. Including diabetes, COPD, and depression. She found no one really helping to manage these issues on a daily basis, or addressing their underlying causes of them.
She began working on ideas for a technology platform with connected devices that would provide more consistent, daily healthcare management.
When she showed one prototype to two VCs, they told her she had to pursue it. She had the passion for it, and certainly the experience.
Stephanie’s current venture is Vida Health. A mobile, virtual healthcare platform for preventing, managing, and overcoming chronic health issues.
They are a primary and enterprise health tech company, working with insurers and employers. Including the likes of Cisco, Walgreens, Boeing, Prudential, and Northrop Gruman. As well as Medicare.
They are now a Series D company, with 600 employees. Working to lower the costs of care, in a $4T industry, that makes up 20% of the GDP in the US. They’ve already raised $200M in capital for their venture.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Stephanie Tilenius was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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The Prescription For Launching A Successful Startup
Stephanie’s top advice for launching a business is to “be stubborn on the vision, but flexible on the details. Hire the best people, build a really strong culture, and change the world together. Then put processes in place to really try to get 1% better every day.”
When it comes to hiring and building that great culture, she says that it sounds easy to go out and hire your first 10 employees, set a great example together, and let that trickle down as they hire more people under them.
In practice, she has learned that you must be much more deliberate about building your company culture and maintaining it. “Like a garden, and you need to constantly tend it and update it and improve it, and you can’t just let it rest on its own and assume that it will grow.”
This means taking time to set your values and talking about your mission, vision, and how your values play into this. They also celebrate those living out their values in their all-hands events and use storytelling to drive it home.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- How Vida Health is changing the healthcare space
- Effective board dynamics
- Servant leadership and leadership styles
- Growing yourself as a leader