Tales from the Trenches: Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal of ContextMedia
Posted September 26, 2016
By Devon Leichtman
Associate Marketing Manager – MATTER
How the Entrepreneurial Wunderkinds have Brought ContextMedia to National Prominence, and Where They’re Taking it from Here
Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal founded ContextMedia in 2006, and in the 10 years since they’ve bootstrapped it into a 400-employee company with more than $65 million in revenue and offices in Chicago and New York. Rishi and Shradha discussed their remarkable success with MATTER CEO Steven Collens at MATTER, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, and ContextMedia’s Tales from the Trenches speaker series. Watch highlights from the conversation and read our summary below.
Rishi and Shradha built ContextMedia to “do well by doing good.” They provide educational resources to patients and clinicians at the point of care, providing the technology, educational content, and advertisements. ContextMedia reaches patients at the point of care, when they are most likely to make buying decisions.
What Rishi and Shradha are doing is working. ContextMedia has seen eye-popping growth, both financially and in their reach across the country. They add an additional 1,200 to 1,500 physicians to their network every month. Rishi and Shradha made some deliciously audacious statements about ContextMedia in the interview. Rishi told the crowd that he wants to build “the most impactful company in the world,” laying out his ambition to make ContextMedia an international healthcare giant. By 2020, they hope to serve 150,000 practices, about 70% of all practices nationwide. When Steven asked him where these ambitions came from, we got a telling look into what makes Rishi tick: “nobody dreams of making a middle-market company.”
“Nobody dreams of making a middle-market company”
To keep up with their rapid growth, Rishi and Shradha have quickly scaled their workforce, but always with an eye toward strengthening their culture. ContextMedia has hired more than 400 people according to strict cultural guidelines. They have built a culture of autonomy, comfort with ambiguity, and “communal competition”: ContextMedians are fueled by competitive fire, but can collectively channel it to accomplish company goals rather than turn it against each other. Shradha also stressed the importance of hiring reflective, thoughtful people, saying that the tech world is too often filled with “too much doing and not enough reflecting, thinking, ideating, dreaming.”
Though Rishi and Shradha have made the occasional hiring mistakes, they’ve managed to maintain ContextMedia’s autonomous and communally competitive culture despite their ramping scale. Echoing advice from previous Tales speakers, Rishi and Shradha preached a “hire slowly, fire quickly” mantra, encouraging attendees to deal with a hiring miss as soon as possible, before company culture begins to suffer. Rishi summed up ContextMedia’s hiring philosophy when he advised the audience to “only hire people that you’d work for.”
“Only hire people that you’d work for.”
The strides ContextMedia has made to this point haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2009, Rishi was the youngest person to ever make Crain’s Chicago 40-under-40 list and Shradha was named to the list in 2012. Shradha was named Prominent Woman in Tech at the 2015 CityLIGHTS Awards, while Rishi was named CEO of the Year at the 2016 Moxie Awards. Together, the pair received the 2016 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
The pair recognize that they have a long way to go: ContextMedia has grown so quickly in part because of the massive number of patients who still don’t have access relevant information and educational resources at the point of care. As ContextMedia grows, Rishi and Shradha notice this hole – and their company’s ability to fill it – all the more.
“The bigger we get as a company, the smaller we feel,” Rishi said. “We want to 100x this.”
For more on Rishi and Shradha, follow him and her on Twitter. Attend the next Tales from the Trenches, where Rishi will interview Rob Butler of Maestro Health on October 27.