Innovation often emerges from the intersection of diverse experiences and perspectives. Yonatan Adiri’s journey, born in the heart of the startup nation, Israel, is a testament to this phenomenon.
From his roots as the youngest son of immigrants to serving as a diplomatic advisor and CTO to President Shimon Peres, Yonatan’s story is one of transformation, learning, and groundbreaking innovation.
Yonatan is also a member of the founding team of getaround.com and the founder of Healthy.io. The conversation with him provided valuable insights into the entrepreneurial journey, lessons learned, and the vision behind transforming healthcare through innovation.
This blog post delves into the key highlights from the conversation, exploring Yonatan’s experiences in Silicon Valley, the genesis of Healthy.io, and the challenges and triumphs along the way.
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A Unique Heritage
Yonatan’s background is as unique as it is diverse. Born in the 1980s to immigrant parents – a father who came from Iran and a mother who fled Baghdad, Iraq, after the expulsion of the Jewish community – Yonatan’s upbringing was shaped by a tapestry of cultural influences.
Growing up as the youngest of four boys, he witnessed the entrepreneurial spirit firsthand as his father closed his garage at the age of eighty.
Yonatan has an interesting anecdote about his education. At 14, his public school teacher contacted his mother and encouraged her to enroll him in a course at the open university over the summer.
That’s how Yonatan signed up for a statistics and behavioral economics course under Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate. He recalls being blown away by how statistics could methodically make sense of human behavior, which deepened his understanding of the field.
Yonatan spent the next three years deep-diving into statistics and social sciences, trying to build an image of the world. Post the 1999 peace agreements with the Palestinians, the high-tech industry started booming in the country.
Yonatan remembers it as a period when people started working hard and believing in significant opportunities in the new world. After completing college, he joined the army and served as a negotiator for the Red Cross. Soon after, he moved to the US.
Yonatan’s time living alone in New York at the age of 23-24 proved formative, allowing him to break free from familial influences and develop his own worldview.
This period also marked the beginning of a partnership with his future wife, bringing an additional layer of maturity to his personal and professional journey.
Education as a Catalyst
In a departure from the stereotypical Israeli entrepreneur’s path, Yonatan’s journey led him into public service for the first fifteen years of his professional life.
His trajectory included serving as a diplomatic advisor and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to one of the founding fathers of the country, President Shimon Peres.
The unexpected opportunity to join President Peres emerged through a serendipitous series of events. Yonatan’s insights into the dichotomy of foxes and hedgehogs, gleaned from a book recommendation, resonated with President Peres, leading to a pivotal role as the CTO.
This role allowed Yonatan to pioneer the integration of technology and diplomacy, a concept later adopted by leaders such as the British Prime Minister and President Obama.
It also offered him a unique vantage point into global politics – from the White House and the Bush and the Obama administrations to Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, and beyond.
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Singularity University: A Life-Changing Experience
Yonatan’s involvement with NASA Singularity University was catalyzed by President Peres’s introduction to exponential thinking. The inaugural class at the university, facilitated by luminaries like Ray Kurzweil, became a breeding ground for disruptive ideas.
These innovative concepts centered around exponential curves, the law of accelerated returns, and predicting the trajectory of the 21st-century’s second decade.
Early Entrepreneurship and Technological Insight
Yonatan’s foray into entrepreneurship took a bold turn when he joined the founding team at getaround.com, a revolutionary car-sharing platform. The idea stemmed from whiteboard sessions at Singularity University, where the concept of an Intelligent Transportation Grid (ITG) began to take shape.
This innovative approach to autonomous driving and shared transportation envisioned a future where only a fraction of cars on the road would fulfill everyone’s transportation needs.
Inspired by the success of companies like Zipcar and Airbnb, Yonatan and his team recognized the potential for a platform that allowed people to share not only their homes but also their cars.
The vision was to transform personal vehicles from depreciating assets to appreciating assets, thereby revolutionizing the concept of car ownership. Yonatan and his teammates developed an algorithm similar to TCP/IP that proved around two-thirds of cars are superfluous.
From Silicon Valley to Healthy.io
Yonatan reflects on the decision-making process that led him and his team to establish a clear path for the company’s success. He emphasizes the importance of integrating into Silicon Valley to build a company, highlighting the need for commitment and contribution from team members.
A key moment in this phase was the negotiation of an equity-sharing document that allowed the founding team to raise proper capital and lay the foundation for getaround.com’s success. Eventually, the company became NASDAQ listed and is a pioneer in the field.
Getaround.com achieved a $1B valuation and unicorn status by the time it went public.
The Birth of Healthy.io
As Yonatan transitioned from his role at getaround.com, he found inspiration in a unique intersection of factors: a personal realization and the advanced healthcare infrastructure in Israel.
He recounts a pivotal moment when his parents faced a medical emergency in China, leading to the idea of leveraging smartphone cameras for medical purposes.
The concept of the “medical selfie” was born, and Yonatan saw the potential to revolutionize healthcare by integrating deflationary tech predictions into the field of digital health.
The Long-Term Vision for Healthy.io
Yonatan outlines his vision for Healthy.io, aiming to turn the smartphone camera into a clinical-grade medical device. By deploying artificial intelligence on the camera, the company seeks to democratize healthcare by making diagnostic processes more accessible and efficient.
The goal is to become a hub for vision-based medicine, encompassing everything from urine testing to chronic wound management.
Yonatan emphasizes a patient-centric, long-term approach, positioning Healthy.io as a resilient company capable of navigating the complexities of the healthcare industry.
Yonatan reveals how they needed $3M in seed funding but ended up raising $200M and also acquiring their biggest competitor from Silicon Valley. Health.io released a prototype that is being used by more than a million people.
Storytelling is everything, which is something that Yonatan Adiri 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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As Yonatan estimates within a decade, any image-based medical process will be integrated into their AI system. Health.io has processes similar to the microfluidics people used during the COVID.
In the future, smartphone optics will not be limited to cameras, but phones will also have hyperspectral sensors, which can prove to be groundbreaking for healthcare.
Lessons Learned and Unforeseen Challenges
Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Yonatan acknowledges the importance of patience and resilience. He emphasizes that certain processes cannot be accelerated and that unexpected challenges often emerge from unforeseen angles.
Drawing from personal experiences, he advises aspiring entrepreneurs to plan for the unknown unknowns and build a resilient company culture.
Yonatan underscores the significance of having a team capable of navigating crises, citing instances where strategic surprises threatened the business.
A Future in Public Service and Innovation
As Yonatan steps into a new phase, transitioning from the role of CEO to president at Healthy.io, he expresses his commitment to contributing to innovation and entrepreneurship in the public sector.
With a wealth of experience, Yonatan sees an opportunity to apply his learnings to benefit the future of Israel. The interview concludes with a glimpse into his future endeavors, focusing on the intersection of public service and technological innovation.
Yonatan Adiri’s journey from Silicon Valley to the creation of Healthy.io exemplifies the power of innovation, resilience, and a long-term vision.
His insights offer valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and provide a glimpse into the transformative potential of leveraging technology for the betterment of healthcare.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- Yonatan Adiri’s diverse background, from the youngest son of immigrants to diplomatic advisor and CTO, highlights the role of unique experiences in fostering innovation.
- The integration of technology and diplomacy during Yonatan’s service as CTO to President Shimon Peres pioneered a concept later adopted by global leaders, showcasing the intersection of diverse fields.
- Yonatan’s entrepreneurial journey, including being a member of the founding team at getaround.com, reflects the transformative potential of ideas born from innovative thinking, like the concept of an Intelligent Transportation Grid.
- The genesis of Healthy.io emerged from a personal realization and advanced healthcare infrastructure, demonstrating how life experiences can inspire groundbreaking solutions in unexpected areas.
- Yonatan’s vision for Healthy.io involves turning smartphone cameras into clinical-grade medical devices, utilizing AI to democratize healthcare and revolutionize diagnostic processes.
- Yonatan’s emphasis on patience, resilience, and planning for unknown challenges underscores the importance of building a resilient company culture for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Yonatan’s transition from CEO to president at Healthy.io reflects a commitment to contribute to innovation in the public sector, showcasing a blend of entrepreneurial experience and public service for the future.