The Startup Savants business podcast series continues to shine a spotlight on the startup world. The podcasts feature interviews with founders, who talk about their motivations, challenges, and the genesis of their ideas. Ranging from fields as diverse as healthcare to the hospitality industry, the Startup Savant podcasts are an ideal educational tool for anyone contemplating entrepreneurship.
In this episode, hosts Ethan and Annaka chat with Troy Bannister, who is the founder and CEO of Particle Health. Troy has an extensive background in various medical fields. He believes his company has come up with a solution to what he identified as a major pain point in the healthcare industry.
From EMT to Entrepreneur
Troy’s entrepreneurial journey began in business school when he volunteered for Seattle’s EMT program. It was an experience that made him contemplate a medical career, one he did not ultimately pursue. Nevertheless, he went on to get a master’s degree in biophysics and physiology. There was a growing awareness that a crucial application of digital technologies in healthcare would be providing access to clinical data.
“When I looked back on my whole career, I just saw this consistent issue where … nobody had access to clinical data … and the issue spanned the entire healthcare ecosystem. I thought, ‘This is a problem worth solving.’ I jumped in and put my boots to the ground and started going.”
This epiphany was triggered by two events. The job in a VC firm had him working with three companies, each building a data integration system for the same hospital. The redundancy was obvious. Secondly, at a conference, he heard then Vice President Biden lament the difficulty of getting the medical records of his son Beau Biden transferred from one practitioner to another.
Troy says the Particle Health solution is comparable to financial services company Plaid’s data transfer technology.
“The best analogy today is if you’ve ever used Venmo before, which I’m sure you have, there is a company behind Venmo called Plaid. Some people know Plaid, some people don’t. Plaid is a large network of integrations to all the banks in the United States. That infrastructure is what Venmo uses to move $5 from your bank account to $5 of your friend’s bank account. That doesn’t exist in healthcare. There’s no unification of the systems. What Particle does, is very similar. It’s an API, just like Plaid, that connects to all the practices, hospitals, clinics, labs, and now increasingly digital health companies and shares data across all of them. It’s directed either by providers or consumers or whoever’s using that tool that we plug into.”
A Jump Into the Deep End
Troy quit his day job without a plan, simply, he said, having felt the urge “to have free agency … to take my own risks and either pay for those risks, or cherish the wins that I did fulfill.”
The notion of starting a company hadn’t occurred to him, but “I just knew this wasn’t the right place for me.”
He agonized over his decision to quit “paced in circles for two weeks … was eating beans and rice and ramen every day, freaking out, just like freaking out, like, ‘What am I doing? Why did I do that?’”
Eventually, the cessation of regular paychecks and the resulting lack of a safety net was what pushed him into starting a company.
“I think this is a lesson that I would teach a lot of people that are interested in starting a company. The minute you don’t have a backup plan is the minute you develop a really good plan.”
One challenge was deciding on a target market. Who should this data be sold to? Troy had a preference for selling to providers who kept you out of the hospital, rather than those that simply prescribed medications.
Getting his show on the road was a tough and tortuous business. The unemployed ex-VC associate spent six hours a day in a cafe so he could use the Wi-Fi there to make telephone calls. He made calls to “a mix of three stakeholder types” — to health care people who might know how to gain access to clinical data, to potential customers, and to investors.
These initiatives finally bore fruit. Particle Health secured seed funding in a round led by VC firm Collaborative Fund. Troy says successfully raising funds requires, first, creating credibility, either by having a working product or being part of an accelerator program or something similar. The second requirement is getting personal introductions. Cold calling, he says, is “not the way to go.”
Particle Health went on to raise $12 million in April 2020 and $25 million in July 2022, bringing the total outside capital raised to $39.3 million.
Startup Savants Podcast
The Startup Savants podcast, created by The Really Useful Information Company (TRUiC) explores entrepreneurship with a series of penetrating, visceral interviews of founders. Imperative for anyone thinking of starting a business, each episode shows how these ventures went from idea to actuality.
Hosted by Annaka Voss and Ethan Peyton, the Startup Savants podcast pulls the curtain back on the startup world. If you want to know what it takes to nurture a startup to success, tune in.
This episode of the Startup Savants podcast featured Troy Bannister, founder and CEO of Particle Health. Troy talked about his journey from unemployed dreamer to CEO of a million-dollar enterprise. His company is aiming to make clinical data more accessible. Troy also offered a couple of tips on raising outside capital. No reaching out to strangers on LinkedIn, he warns. Always get a personal reference. Tune in for more entrepreneurial insights as hosts Ethan and Annaka continue their exploration of today’s startup savants.