Keeping the Fire: Tim Walbert on Maintaining Company Culture Through Massive Growth

Posted November 7, 2016
by Devon Leichtman
MATTER Associate Marketing Manager

Tim Walbert thrives on growth. As a serial entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry, he’s spent his career helping brands and companies grow. When Tim was named Horizon Pharma’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer in 2008 it was little more than a solo operation, and he worked mostly from coffee shops, taking advantage of the free wi-fi and parking. Fast forward to present day, and Horizon has 900 employees and more than $1 billion in annual sales.

Tim discussing his path through healthcare with Rishi

While he’s traded working from coffee shops for corporate campuses around the globe, Tim has maintained the small-company mindset and hunger for growth that helped Horizon grow so large so quickly. Tim spoke to his appetite for growth and how he managed this transition from small-to-large company when he told his “origin story” to ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah at our recent Tales from the Trenches event, hosted in partnership with ContextMedia and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. Watch the full interview or read our recap below.

With the perspective he’s gained building Horizon, Tim is uniquely positioned to understand both the challenges of a small company bootstrapping its way to the next week as well as a large company working to deliver long-term growth for shareholders.

“The things you take advantage of in a big company are the things you die for in a small company,” Tim said, pointing to resources, employees, connections, and especially money. He remembered several times Horizon was only weeks away from the coffers being completely empty. Thankfully, he said, drawing the biggest laugh of the night, “our investors always stuck with us. They just didn’t let us know that they would.”

“Our investors always stuck with us. They just didn’t let us know that they would.”

Tim contrasted his experience building Horizon with his experience maintaining its current position as a public company. “Now we live quarter to quarter. We have to go out, execute, and convince our investors that [we’re] still worth investing in.” This responsibility to shareholders brings added visibility to everything Horizon does.

“The lights are on 24/7,” Tim said. “When you get to 1,000 people and a billion in sales, you can’t just ‘wing it’ anymore. You can’t use Excel to track your money anymore.”

Though the pharmaceutical industry has a reputation for being traditional, corporate, and slow-moving, Tim repeatedly stressed the need for a strong company culture. He claimed that hiring for culture is more important than hiring for experience when he urged the audience to “hire the right people, [then] teach them the science.” While many entrepreneurs talk about building a strong culture, Tim has made difficult decisions to create the right culture for Horizon. He once fired 80 percent of his sales force because they did not fit the culture he was trying to build.

When pressed for advice he’d give to potential entrepreneurs, Tim was frank. “If you’re not ready to hear ‘no’ more than you’ve ever heard in your life, you’re not ready for this,” he deadpanned.

“If you’re not ready to hear ‘no’ more than you’ve ever heard in your life, you’re not ready for this”

So why do it? Why build a healthcare business when there are markets with significantly fewer barriers to entry? Tim’s response spoke volumes about the internal drive he taps to navigate Horizon through it’s monstrous growth: “You can go build a widget, or you can make a difference in life.”

For more on Tim, see his LinkedIn or the Horizon Pharma website.

Tim, Rishi, and MATTER CEO Steven Collens


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. Rishi, Shradha, and Steven onstage at Tales From The TrenchesShradha 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.

Tales from the Trenches: Eric Langshur of Abundant Venture Partners

Posted July 7, 2016
By Elizabeth Lynch
MATTER Marketing Intern

Eric Langshur, co-founder of AVIA and Abundant Venture Partners, author of Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing, and serial entrepreneur, spoke with ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah at MATTER’s popular Tales from the Trenches live interview series. The two friends talked about the importance of a strong company culture, how to maintain your “true north” in the middle of failure, and the art of personal well-being. Watch highlights from their conversation and read our summary below.

Eric Langshur became a serial entrepreneur by accident. The year was 1998, and the soft-spoken Canadian was climbing the corporate ladder at a global aerospace company when his newborn son Matt was first hospitalized with a serious heart condition. Wanting to give far-flung friends and family members real-time updates on his son’s progress, Eric turned to the World Wide Web, still in its infancy, and built CarePages. Word quickly spread about this novel new “social” use of the internet. Soon, strangers around the world were building personal pages for their own loved ones.  

Fast forward two years. It’s January, 2000, and Eric and his wife Sharon have quit their day jobs to focus on building CarePages full time. Then suddenly, the dotcom bubble burst, and in the tough economic times that followed, Eric and Sharon struggled… a lot. But throughout it all, he never lost his “true north,” the reason he started CarePages in the first place.

Looking back on the first year running his first company, Eric recalled how much harder it was to run a small business than it was to run a big one. The passion Eric had for the business and product he created pushed him through the inevitable uphill battle bringing it to existence. With a small business like CarePages, the buck stopped with Eric – the money, resources and relationships were all on him. There was no room for error. Despite early struggles, Eric loved being an entrepreneur and working in healthcare. When asked about fundraising for CarePages, Eric spoke about the importance of the quality of the money and how the influx of donations and touching letters from users moved Eric and Sharon to start a foundation. His mantra during CarePages’ rough patches: “show up, be vulnerable, be authentic.”


After receiving several offers, Eric eventually sold CarePages to Revolution Health, the brainchild of AOL Co-founder Steve Case. Eric was now “hooked on healthcare” and determined to help fix a broken industry. Over the next few years, he became an active angel investor, serving on the boards of various organizations and founding or leading several other startups including RiseHealth, healthfinch, and Frequency 540, before launching AVIA, a healthcare innovation network, and co-founding Abundant Venture Partners, a values-based venture business, with former Starcom Mediavest Group executive Andrew Swinand.

Eric’s core values and personal philosophy that have guided him throughout his business career are woven into his best-selling book, Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing. When asked about the book’s beginnings, Eric told Rishi he was interested in faith and his family’s roots. He was a voracious reader of philosophy, religion, and self-help books and eventually synthesized his thoughts into a framework that formed the foundation of Start Here. His work brings together philosophy, science, and the latest discoveries about the human brain to teach the art of well-being.

Rishi and Eric wrapped up their discussion by talking about the importance of creating diverse teams with “purpose, planning, and effort”; how being “self-nurturing” by prioritizing spending time with friends and family and doing activities like meditation and exercise is critical to well-being; and how bringing energy, love, and joy into the workplace can make work restorative and inspiring instead of draining.

Finally, Rishi posed a question in the minds of many during this election year: “What does the next administration need to do for healthcare?” Eric’s advice for the next president: “Pile tons of money into experimentation, get to market, and use money in comparative analytics. If we drop massive experimentation [on the healthcare system], there would be benefits.”

Be sure to watch the full interview here and join us for the next Tales from the Trenches with Timothy Walbert, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Horizon Pharma, on July 28.

Tales from the Trenches: David Jonas of PharMEDium

Posted May 12 by Ornella Hernández
MATTER Journalism Resident
Medill School of Journalism, Class of 2016

David Jonas, founder of PharMEDium Healthcare Corporation, sat down with ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah at MATTER’s latest iteration in the Tales from the Trenches series. The hour-long conversation revolved around Jonas’ 35+ years of healthcare industry experience including hiring practices, the importance of service as well as product, and the staggeringly high stakes in healthcare. Watch the interview highlights and read our summary below.

Born in Israel, Jonas spent more than two decades at Baxter International as the chief financial officer of renal therapy services when he saw an opportunity to strike out on his own. Baxter had long practiced compounding – mixing drugs for pain management, surgeries, and epidurals – but was planning to cut the business segment loose in 2003. Jonas seized the moment and left Baxter to start a new company mixing drugs for hospitals who outsource ready-to-use compounding products.

Jonas tells Shah about building PharMEDium, sterile compounding, and his journey through healthcareJonas stressed identifying value proposition in the early stages of entrepreneurship. “You have to decide how different you are. You have to define what the customer wants and needs. Understand both the cost and the value,” said Jonas. In PharMEDium’s case, that value came from providing exceptional customer service. “In today’s environment, you can have a phenomenal product, but the service component will make or break your product,” said Jonas.

PharMEDium set out to provide a drug compounding service which included procurement, sterilization, mixing, packaging, and distribution. This meant building expensive facilities and infrastructures and hiring a core team. Jonas was deliberate in bringing in the right talent to augment the business, and bought 500 contracts from Baxter. “We needed people with an entrepreneurial spirit, who enjoy change, but also adhere to standard operating procedures. No cowboys,” he said.

Patient safety keeps Jonas awake at night, and loose cannons terrify him in the high-stakes drug compounding industry where any mistake could be deadly. Maintaining quality control and sterile procedures that comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is fundamental to compounding, and PharMEDium excelled at it. Today, the company has about 70 percent of the market, according to Crain’s Business.

PharMEDium was able to become the market leader in sterile compounding by fostering a meticulous company culture. With success, however, comes accountability. Jonas recalled an incident involving a competitor whose contaminated batch of steroid injections caused meningitis and resulted in more than 60 deaths and about 750 injuries in 2012.

“This is unacceptable when a customer is trusting you,” said Jonas. “In 2003, The Drug Quality and Security Act passed and clarified the regulatory environment that we were subject to. This brought in all the investors,” said Jonas. This investment buzz continued, and in Fall 2014, PharMEDium was preparing to file their initial public offering. Rishi Shah, David Jonas, and Steve Collens at MATTERs Tales from the TrenchesAt the 11th hour, Jonas “got an offer that was too attractive to pass up,” and AmerisourceBergen acquired PharMEDium for $2.5 billion in November of that year.

“In the last few years, I started spending time in private investment, VC, and in bringing my healthcare experience to the table,” said Jonas. He had founded JVC Investment Partners in 2000 and currently serves as its president. His son Jonathon Jonas, who is a partner of JVC, sat front and center in the auditorium to listen to his father.

Rishi asked which market is most ripe for disruption. Jonas said that the U.S. is, but that Israel is the best for biotech – in particular, cardiovascular tech and neural modulation. As a born and bred Israeli, Jonas will now look back to his home country to invest in the IT business. Watch the full interview and join us for our next Tales from the Trenches on Thursday, June 23.

Tales from the Trenches: Norbert Riedel and Joe Moskal

Posted April 14 by Devon Leichtman

Last month, MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series welcomed Norbert Riedel and Joe Moskal, the leaders of Evanston-based Naurex, which was recently acquired by global healthcare giant Allergan for $560 million. ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah interviewed the pair about their successful (if oddly coupled) partnership. Watch the full video of the event or read our recap below.

In 1983, Joe Moskal, a neuroscience PhD, built a nonprofit research institute dedicated to studying depression and other conditions of the central nervous system. At the time, in many circles, depression wasn’t accepted as a true medical condition, so Moskal had to fight against the stigma and the largely-held belief that his work wasn’t valid.

Moskal founded The Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics at Northwestern University where he developed drugs to treat conditions related to the central nervous system including depression, surviving on grant funding while maintaining close ties with the private sector. While running the Falk Center, he met Norbert Riedel.

Riedel was Baxter’s chief scientific officer and head of Baxter Ventures where he scouted academic labs for potentially disruptive technologies to fund. After funding a few of Moskal’s proposals in the mid-2000s, Baxter Ventures led Naurex’s Series-B funding round in 2012, and Riedel joined Naurex’s board. In 2013, Riedel stepped down as Baxter’s chief scientific officer and became Naurex’s CEO the following year.

Dtt2uring the conversation, Riedel shared his view that Baxter could never be as innovative or entrepreneurial as he wanted it to be without working closely with universities. Moskal chalks up his commercial success to his research’s independence from Northwestern – something he was only able to maintain with funding from Baxter. Had he only focused on developing peer-reviewed research and obtaining government grants, he would not have been able to shape his research into commercially viable drugs affecting the CNS.

Together, Riedel and Moskal were able to develop treatments for conditions affecting the central nervous system. One such medicine is rapastinel, an adjunctive therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Their clinical trials showed efficacy a mere two hours after a single dose was administered to a patient, with relief lasting up to a week. The relief was twice as robust after one dose than after four weeks of treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, the most widely-prescribed treatment for depression in the US. Not only that, but rapastinel didn’t have a single serious side effect after a large number of clinical trials. The FDA granted the drug Fast Track designation in 2014 and Breakthrough Therapy designation in 2016.

Allergan acquired the Naurex name and the company’s lead compounds for depression, but the entire Naurex team reconstituted under a new company name, Aptinyx, and are currently working on using the same platform to develop breakthrough therapies for neuropathic pain.

In giving advice for building a biopharmaceutical business from the ground up, Riedel and especially Moskal stressed the incremental nature of entrepreneurship. They raised numerous rounds of funding over many years before developing the company to a point where it was an attractive acquisition target. He emphasized “taking small swings,” claiming that “the name of the game is to stay in the game.”

The pair shared words of wisdom about the importance of failure: the sooner entrepreneurs fail, the sooner they stop working on bad ideas. Building a network was crucial to Moskal, who mentioned mentors and colleagues who provided invaluable feedback throughout his career. With regards to the healthcare industry, both hammered home the importance of staying focused on the patient. If you have a unique, differentiated product that eases real patient pain, the money will follow. Just ask Joe Moskal.

Tales from the Trenches Interview Videos

Our Tales from the Trenches series, presented by ContextMedia and Pritzker Group Venture Capital, brings successful healthcare entrepreneurs to MATTER where they are interviewed by ContextMedia co-founder and CEO Rishi Shah. Watch the full interviews below, as entrepreneurs from across the healthcare ecosystem shared their paths to success in building a healthcare business. Want to learn more about our events, including upcoming Tales from the Trenches? Join our mailing list.

Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal of ContextMedia
August 11, 2016

We turned the tables at the most recent Tales From the Trenches and put Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal of ContextMedia in the hot seat. For an hour, Rishi and Shradha were interviewed by our CEO, Steven Collens, where they talked about building ContextMedia from the ground up, what the freedom of taking no venture capital money has allowed them, their vision for the next ten years, and the power of media. Watch the highlight video here or watch the full interview below.

Eric Langshur, Abundant Venture Partners Co-Founder
June 23, 2016

Eric Langshur, co-founder of AVIA and
Abundant Venture Partners, author of Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing, and serial entrepreneur, spoke with ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah at MATTER’s popular Tales from the Trenches live interview series. The two friends talked about the importance of a strong company culture, how to maintain your “true north” in the middle of failure, and the art of personal well-being. Watch highlights from their conversation and read our summary.

David Jonas, PharMEDium founder and CEO
April 27, 2016

David Jonas sold his sterile compounding company PharMEDium to AmerisourceBergen for $2.7 billion. He sat down with Rishi to discuss his 35+ years of healthcare industry experience including hiring practices, the importance of service as well as product, and the staggeringly high stakes in healthcare. Watch the full interview below or read our summary.

Norbert Riedel and Joe Moskal, leaders of Naurex
March 16, 2016

MATTER board member and former Naurex CEO Norbert Riedel joined Rishi onstage along with Joe Moskal, the researcher behind the medical breakthroughs in treatment of depression that Naurex developed. The three discussed their disparate yet converging paths through healthcare, and how their collaboration can be a model for the ways in which academia can work with the private sector. Watch the full interview below or read our summary.

Griffin Myers, Oak Street Health chief medical officer
January 21, 2016

Dr. Griffin Myers of Oak Street Health joined us to discuss value-based care, how relationship-based care benefits both doctors and patients, his path from emergency medicine to entrepreneurship, and more. Watch the full interview below or read our summary.

Jeff Aronin, Marathon Pharmaceuticals CEO
November 18, 2015

MATTER board co-chairman and Marathon Pharmaceuticals CEO Jeff Aronin visited MATTER to discuss his tenure at Ovation Pharmaceuticals, which sold to Lundbeck for $900M in 2009, and his decision to found Marathon soon thereafter. Watch the interview below or read our summary.

Chris Hill, Spotlite CEO
October 26, 2015

Chris Hill was the CEO of Spotlite before it was acquired by Rally Health – he managed to sell Spotlite for profit only two years after founding it. Chris joined Rishi onstage to discuss his journey through entrepreneurship, the benefits and enrollment platform he built, and more. Watch the full interview below.

Glen Tullman, former Allscripts CEO
September 28, 2015

Glen Tullman, former CEO of Allscripts, spoke with Rishi about his entrepreneurial path, his personal drive, and his current business ventures, including his startup Livongo, which helps people live with and manage chronic conditions. Watch the full interview below or read our summary.

Mert Iseri, Swipesense CEO
May 26, 2015

Mert Iseri joined MATTER to talk about Swipesense, the product he began working on while an undergraduate at Northwestern. He discussed the process of building a product, completing a pilot, and finding customers and scaling. Watch the full interview below.

Tales from the Trenches: Griffin Myers of Oak Street Health

Posted February 25 by Devon Leichtman

Want to know what value-based care really looks like? Read on.

Dr. Griffin Myers, founder and chief medical officer of Oak Street Health, was a featured guest in MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series. He and ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah discussed how and why he created Oak Street, a network of value-based primary care clinics for older adults. Watch the full video of the event or read our recap below.

Griffin has always wanted to take care of people. After earning his BS, MBA, and MD degrees, Griffin was practicing emergency medicine when he had the idea for Oak Street. He saw firsthand that the healthcare system was failing one population in particular: low-income seniors.

Dr. Myers then found himself playing the unfamiliar role of startup founder. He made a deal with his co-founders Mike Pykosz and Geoff Price that if he raised the money to start Oak Street, they would quit their jobs together. He did, and they did.

Since Oak Street’s first clinic opened in September 2013, it has expanded to 15 locations, where 600 employees treat 11,000 patients. Since Oak Street’s revenue comes from the pool that Medicare would normally spend on hospital bills, their care is designed to keep patients out of the hospital. Incentivizing providers to facilitate best patient outcomes has worked: Oak Street patients are admitted to hospitals a staggering 45% less than their cohort.

This value-based care model has created a dynamic where Oak Street’s sickest patients receive the majority of their energy and resources. Myers estimated that the sickest 10% of patients receive 78% of Oak Street’s dollars. Here, Dr. Myers relies heavily on the risk assessment and resource management he learned in emergency medicine. Oak Street can improve lives and decrease cost of care the most in their least healthy patients, so that’s where they spend most of their resources.

Oak Street also practices relationship-based care, so physicians and staff form strong bonds with their patients and see them frequently. This has been so successful – Oak Street’s net promoter score is 91, while the industry average is 3 – that Dr. Myers predicts the healthcare industry will adopt relationship-based care over the next 10 years.

Dr. Myers was torn when asked “what’s next”. He loves providing the best care possible to as many people as possible, and recognizes the sea change in healthcare that Oak Street is ushering in. But he misses practicing medicine. He misses taking care of people directly. Emergency medicine was his first true calling, and Griffin wonders how long he can stay away.

The next event in our Tales from the Trenches series will be on March 16 at MATTER from 6–8pm, featuring Naurex’s President and CEO Norbert Riedel and Chief Scientific Officer and Founder Joseph Moskal.



Tales from the Trenches: Jeff Aronin of Marathon Pharma

Posted January 17 by Devon Leichtman

Jeff Aronin, CEO of Marathon Pharmaceuticals, was a featured guest in MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series. Marathon develops, manufactures, and commercializes drugs for patients with rare diseases, also called “orphan drugs”. Before founding Marathon, Aronin served as CEO of Ovation Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Lundbeck for $900M in 2009. He and ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah discussed how he got into healthcare; his work, management, and investment style; and pharmaceutical industry trends and challenges. View the entire interview or read our summary below.


jeffaroninAronin discovered his passion for pharmaceuticals while shadowing a physician. The doctor was treating an epileptic pediatric patient having regular seizures. The doctor had few options to stop the seizures other than to remove a portion of the child’s brain. When the doctor mentioned this surgical option to the patient’s family, they were devastated, afraid their child would have developmental issues. As a last resort, the doctor gave the child medication to curb his seizures, which — remarkably — worked, so the child was able to avoid the disruptive and potentially life-altering surgery. Watching the family’s relief and celebration, all thanks to the drug, Aronin had found what he wanted to do with his life.

Jeff chose to build and run small to mid-size pharma companies rather than large ones, because big pharma companies:

  • Have a difficult time moving as quickly as smaller, more agile companies.
  • Face pressure to focus on conditions that affect larger numbers of patients, thereby driving up development costs and competitive risks.

Aronin gave similar investment advice as other entrepreneurs who have been featured in our Tales from the Trenches series: he invests in talented people who are solving real problems, and believes everything else will fall into place. He also stressed that while capital structure is important to healthcare ventures, the customer population should define a firm’s strategy, not the capital.

cloundspotter21According to Aronin, “The single most important thing you do as an entrepreneur is hire your team.” He went on to say that the first 10-20 employees of a startup are arguably more risk-tolerant than founders, because they are quitting more stable jobs to chase
someone else’s dream. He also advocates having extensive conversations with a prospective employee’s references, to triangulate his or her capabilities and workstyle.

Rishi asked Jeff why, after selling Ovation, did he decide to use the same business model again with Marathon? Why not go after a new challenge? To Jeff, the answer was self-evident: once he had found a profitable way to improve health outcomes for patients with rare diseases, he never wanted to do anything else.

The next event in our Tales from the Trenches series will be on January 21 at MATTER from 6–8pm, featuring Dr. Griffin Myers, founder of Oak Street Health.

Tales from the Trenches with Glen Tullman

Posted October 5, 2015 by Devon Leichtman

On Monday, September 28, serial entrepreneur and former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman spoke at MATTER in the third installment of our Tales from the Trenches series. ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah interviewed Tullman about his personal drive, current ventures, and business insights. View the entire interview or read our summary below.

Here’s what we learned about Glen:

  • He doesn’t sleep much. “Why would anyone want to sleep when there are so many exciting things to do in life?”
  • He listens to 2-3 e-books per week (at 2x speed because it’s more efficient).
  • He subscribes to 35 magazines, which he scans to look for cross-industry trends.
  • Once, when running a marathon with a business partner, Glen brought a list of topics to discuss. On mile 20 they were still going through the agenda.

For sure there’s something genetic going on here… but in addition to that, Glen spoke about how his mother played a key role in nurturing his drive and entrepreneurial tendencies. To wit: at age 10, Glen had an idea involving solar panels. His mom was so encouraging and supportive that she let him cut a hole in their roof to pursue it. Perhaps not surprising then that he went on to help found SoCore Energy, a successful solar company that produces panels which don’t require any drilling in order to put them on a roof!


We also learned from Glen why he decided to build another startup, Livongo, after leaving Allscripts and focusing for a while on investing activities. One of his sons has diabetes, and once woke up with critically low blood sugar. Within minutes a Livongo specialist monitoring his blood sugar called the younger Tullman, coached him on what to do, and waited on the line ready to dial 911 in case anything went sideways. Tullman survived, and told his father that “it felt so good not to be alone” during the ordeal. Livongo has received venture backing from Kleiner Perkins among other firms, and will develop this platform to help people living with a number of chronic conditions including diabetes.

Glen also spoke about how he thinks about building businesses.

  • On hiring: look for cultural fit, passion, and people who have failed before and know how to recover.
  • On firing: do it quickly not just for the sake of the business, but for the sake of the individual who isn’t growing in a position that’s the wrong fit.
  • On sales: The CEO him/herself must be the company’s top salesperson and evangelist. Salespeople must be consultative and learn what customers want. The best salespeople do the “lonely work” before the call — learning about the organization and point of contact and sending materials in advance.
  • On investing: invest in people, rather than ideas.


Thanks to Glen and Rishi for this terrific conversation, and thanks to ContextMedia and Pritzker Group Venture Capital for underwriting MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series. Next up: entrepreneur Chris Hill on October 26.

Photo credit: Greg Rothstein, @cloudspotter