MIT Sloan MBA Karan Singh opted to take a different path to launching a startup. Rather than spending red-eye nights and hernia-inducing days agonizing over business plans with his cofounder, Anmol Madan, he ate nutritious breakfasts, practiced yoga, and spent time hiking with his wife. “The general startup approach is unhealthy,” he says. “We wanted to toy with this concept of health neutrality–that you leave Friday evening better off than you came in on Monday morning.”
The 30-year-old concedes that it didn’t always work–the pace could be ruthless, and there were doubtless a few pizza-fueled all nighters. But Ginger.io’s premise–to tease health insights out of patients’ smartphone data and turn them into useful information for doctors–promotes wellbeing, and the founders figured they should mirror that mission in their own lives.
Singh, a self-professed tech geek who grew up in the Bay Area, discovered health care as a consultant. He enrolled at MIT Sloan in 2009 with a plan to connect the dots between technology, health care, and big data. This set of interests led him to Madan, a PhD student in MIT’s Media Lab. Madan’s research on tracking students’ smartphone usage to detect illness formed the basis of Ginger.io. But instead of simply tracking students, the two eyed larger populations, such as people suffering from diabetes or depression.
While Karan expected to find innovation in MIT’s labs, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that it permeated the business school, too. “Even in the MBA program, there were people willing to take a kind of contrarian track or view to challenge the normal paths of consulting or banking,” he says. The school’s selective Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program proved particularly fruitful. It attracts a particular type of student–those willing to try new ventures, sign up for business plan competitions, and take on side consulting gigs, Singh says. He took courses in the program and formed close friendships with other founders, including the MBAs behind Lark and Sanergy. “That community has been really, really powerful–more than anything else, that was the most important,” he says of his classmates. “When I have any key issues or questions around HR or compensation or an investor, I can turn to them.”
It’s a great resource pool to have, considering the company has already raised $8.2 million in funding. That is just the beginning, according to Singh. “There’s no reason why everyone who has a phone, ideally a smartphone, shouldn’t have the Ginger.io application installed to stay connected to their doctor and get better care,” he says.