Maayan Cohen turned her passion and skill set into a fast growing health-tech startup that is saving thousands of lives each year.
On the Dealmakers Podcast Cohen shared how her life led her to this calling, lessons in leading, how to pick your first cofounder and hires, and finding your speed spot for fundraising.
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On The Front Lines
Maayan Cohen has made a habit of putting herself on the front lines all of her life. If it wasn’t stepping up to solve massive health care issues at scale, it was running in the potato fields as a child.
Born in a small town in Israel, Maayan enjoyed a pretty free life growing up. She loved investigating plants and wildlife. An early dive into her interest in science. At 16 years old she put herself on the frontlines as a first responder EMT.
She volunteered to ride the ambulances and be the first on scene to help save peoples lives. Rather than running from danger or being intimidated by the challenge she took it on head first.
Cohen says she would be jumping on ambulances in the middle of the night, to arrive at a scene with someone laying on the floor. Then in many cases successfully resuscitating heart attack patients.
It is clear that there are many advantages of this type of character and mindset when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Maayan also says that she gained a high value for life and understanding of how fragile it was at an early age. Something which compelled her to spend her time doing what she was passionate about. Because you only live once, and life can be much shorter than you expect.
Her ability to convert that passion into action was also fueled by her EMT work. She learned that no matter the crisis or situation, you have to be objective, work with the resources you have on hand, not allow yourself to overthink things, and to just be decisive. A mentality that has certainly paid off for her.
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Of course, you can’t build a startup to scale with a massive impact alone. Even using technology to automate, you still need a team. To be a successful founder and CEO you have to be able to manage that team very well to execute on the mission and objectives.
Maayan picked up these leadership skills when she went for her mandatory military service. She says signed up for a frontline role, while her friends signed up for hi tech United in the Israeli intelligence. . So, as an 18 year old girl, she was given the responsibility to be a trainer for field platoons. To command soldiers. Many of them who were men that were older and much bigger and more experienced than her.
Despite their initial impressions, she had to learn how to lead, manage and harness them to achieve what needed to be done. No matter their personalities.
She also got to drive tanks, shoot heavy mortars, and literally break through walls. All of which has certainly aided her in her more recent entrepreneurial pursuits.
After her time in the military service Cohen went back to study biotechnology. Then one day passing liquids from one jar to another in the lab, yet again, she decided being that type of scientist just wasn’t for her. It was too slow. Too repetitive. It lacked engagement. So, she switched to doing her MBA instead.
After her degree she went to work in consulting. A common training ground for startup founders. It is a crash course in a variety of business skill sets, industries, and leadership strategy and decisions.
It gives you the opportunity to work inside many big organizations, and to essentially test your theories and strategies with their businesses. In many cases having to save them from crises.
This also provided her experience in creating decks and M&A deals.
At 25 years old Maayan’s boyfriend began getting a lot of headaches. The doctors ran tests and said he was fine. The headaches didn’t stop.
Eventually, she made him go to the hospital to get checked out more thoroughly. A few hours later he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and found out he was already close to losing his eyesight.
For the next two years she became his live in caregiver. She collected medical records, tracked his vital signs, and tried to decipher his labs to see what direction things were heading in. Even with her science background she acknowledges that it was challenging. It was hard to get much time with doctors to get questions answered.
She dug into the research and found many of the combined factors that impact health, including cancers and heart conditions. That includes exercise, nutrition, social support, and more. Information you don’t get from your doctor.
Thankfully her boyfriend got better and went into remission.
So, she decided that she wanted to step up and do something about these inefficiencies and health challenges at scale.
This gave birth to her startup Hello Heart. A digital health, software startup. One which she describes as a win, win, win. A “solution that helps people understand and improve their heart health.”
They already have more than 50 large employer customers, including many Fortune 500 companies. They are producing big savings for payers, are preventing catastrophic health events, and are empowering patients to manage their own health better, at their convenience, from their phones.
To date Hello Heart has already raised $70M in capital, and has grown to 130 employees.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Maayan 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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Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- The most important books for entrepreneurs
- Her top advice for founders
- How to build your network to raise capital
- Tips on team building and choosing your cofounder