September 9, 2016
While on the road to finding the global Startup Of The Year, we’re on a mission to feature and highlight as many rising stars as possible. From tech and hardware, to entrepreneurs improving the accessibility of health information, each month dozens of new startups try to breakout and create an impact in their industry. This week we spoke to Savonix founder and CEO Doctor Mylea Charvat.
Meet Savonix from San Francisco
Savonix is a mobile neurocognitive assessment and brain health platform for healthcare organizations. The 30-minute assessment delivers psychometrically validated results in multiple domains of cognitive and emotional function at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional clinician administered tests.
If asked about your core values, what would you say when asked why do you do what you do (as an organization)?
Charvat: “Transparency, Integrity, Accountability, Collaboration, and Positivity.
I am personally committed to advancing the integration of behavioral health data into mainstream health and wellness. The inspiration for Savonix came when my husband was severely injured in a tragic accident and I experienced first-hand the difficulty in attaining the vital health data he needed to achieve recovery – including cognitive screening.
I realized that if access was so difficult for us, despite my medical background and all of my connections, it must be virtually impossible for others with no training, expertise or network. When we reached out to the spouses and parents of other patients, I learned that our experience was not unique and the challenges were widespread and intractable.
In the fall of 2013 I made the decision to walk away from over a decade of work and the prestigious career trajectory to a professorship to found Savonix. With this decision I committed myself, instead, to addressing the pervasive challenges in access to neurocognitive assessments and the dire need of millions of people for regular, accessible and affordable tests.
As we have hired our team the experience has been that each person has a reason why they are at Savonix. Perhaps a parent suffered with dementia and they struggled through the hours of testing with traditional methods or were denied testing due to access or cost limitations. Perhaps their child has struggled with learning problems and they know that a gamified screen is painless and even fun for the child compared to hours of screening in a clinical environment that is frightening and stigmatizing. Each person I talk with has a story and a purpose for being involved with Savonix – each of those stories represents a unique reason for why we do what we do every day at Savonix.”
What has been one of your largest challenges as an organization, and how did you overcome it?
Charvat: “Hands-down it is that I am not a technical founder nor am I a financial or sales expert. As a first time CEO and solo founder I knew I was both the company’s greatest asset and risk. So I decided early to hire a seasoned team and form a board very early in the company’s life to surround myself with smart people that knew things I did not, like agile development, the healthcare market, enterprise sales, building complex financial models, and lean startup methodology.”
In one word, how would you describe yourself as a leader?
What is the best piece of advice or quote you've ever received regarding running a business?
Charvat: “My independent board member and now chair of our board, Penny Herscher, told me early on that four things belong on the desk of the CEO: Capital, Customers, Culture and Strategy.
She also told me to ‘hire grown-ups' into key positions so that I am surrounded by people that know more than I do. Both have proven to be invaluable.”
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Charvat: “I often remember what it felt like when we were told Mark would not walk again after his injury. So many people face hopelessness like that, not because medicine cannot offer an answer but because they cannot afford basic things like cognitive screening necessary for their treatment and recovery in diseases from diabetes to physical injury. We were fortunate, and it was a privilege that paved the way to Mark’s amazing recovery.
No one should have to choose between healthcare and food or face bankruptcy due to illness or disability – and yet that is the reality for millions of Americans even after ACA. You should not have to be married to a Stanford Medical Fellow to be offered the opportunity to be healthy. Every day I am motivated to make Savonix a meaningful part of solving the access and cost issues in our corner of healthcare and to break down the barriers of cost for others so that high quality medical care is no longer the realm of only the well to do and connected.”
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