2020 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: MyOwn Communications, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

MyOwn Communications

MBA Program: University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Industry: Healthcare/Communication Services

Founding Student Name(s): Chihao Tsui, Ricky Rosati, Kevin Sun (all Class of 2020 at UNC Kenan-Flagler)

Brief Description of Solution: MyOwn is an open-source provider directory and integrated communication platform that expedites the secure transfer of clinical information between healthcare providers. Think of it like a HIPAA-compliant Slack that comes pre-loaded with a provisioned directory of every healthcare provider and resource in the country.

Funding Dollars: $11,000

What led you to launch this venture?  Having worked in clinical practice as a physician assistant for over a decade, I have an intimate understanding of the care delivery space. I have worked with various provider organizations on strategic and performance improvement projects including the development of one of the first Orthopedic Walk-in Clinics in New Jersey. In 2018, I enrolled in the full-time MBA Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler to develop a stronger understanding of the business of healthcare.   There I refined my business acumen, developed a stronger set of leadership abilities, and came away with a diverse set of perspectives that will empower me to become an impactful healthcare leader.

At MyOwn, we are developing a system-agnostic communication platform that expedites how healthcare providers communicate and share information amongst one another. Our mobile and web-based application decreases dependency on outdated or non-compliant channels and modernizes how clinicians collaborate and manage patients. Our product features are built through our Universal Provider Directory, an open-source listing where verified providers can update practice information and market the relevant services that they offer to their local communities. In addition to providing trusted and up-to-date provider information, the directory serves as a communication portal by which HIPAA-compliant messages can be transmitted and patient health records can be shared. Individual providers who utilize our platform improve both their visibility and connectivity to community health resources so that patient care can be expedited and managed more efficiently.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Recruiting a team.

Most startups fail due to a lack of execution or resources.

Thus far in my startup journey, I have been most proud of the team’s ability to continually recruit talented mission-driven individuals who are committed to improving healthcare. Early on, I was very lucky to recruit my MBA classmate, Ricky Rosati, as chief strategy and marketing officer. Ricky and I bonded during a Global Immersion Elective (GIE) on healthcare to China and Japan where we often discussed the various inefficiencies and inequities of healthcare around the world.

Ricky brings with him a tremendous amount of experience in tech consulting and was a critical addition to the team. With him on board, we were able to recruit another MBA classmate, Kevin Sun, to round out our leadership team. Kevin is an experienced developer with both enterprise and startup experience who will lead product development as our chief technology officer.

Over the past several months, our team has continued to grow and presently consists of a full-time developer and six highly ambitious student interns who support our early-stage marketing and development efforts. Each team member brings a unique skillset and perspective and is committed to improving the care-delivery experience. Having the support of our entire team has made navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship infinitely easier.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture?

Through its Entrepreneurship Center, UNC Kenan-Flagler offers an expansive entrepreneurship curriculum that thoughtfully combines classroom and experiential learning. As a new venture, we were very fortunate to be a part of Startup UNC, a year-long class designed to help students learn about entrepreneurship through the development and commercialization of their own ideas. The course was instrumental in the development and understanding of our product and market and helped us tactically develop a business plan and refine our pitch. Startup UNC also facilitated an introduction to Launch Chapel Hill, an accelerator which provided both funding and support to advance our business. Through UNC Kenan-Flagler, our team has been afforded with an abundance of entrepreneurial resources in Chapel Hill and the wider Research Triangle area, which provided us with the necessary tools to succeed as a startup.

In addition, it is also important to highlight the many healthcare resources available through UNC Kenan-Flagler. The Center for the Business of Health has done a tremendous job of cultivating a diverse learning experience that brings together students from the business school, the medical school and the school of public health. Students are exposed to different stakeholder perspectives that ultimately help nurture a deeper understanding of healthcare issues.

Collectively, the MBA program has provided our team with the necessary foundational tools to scale a successful healthcare startup.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Ken Montgomery, M.D., head team physician of the New York Jets and inventor of the Zimmer/Biomet Aperfix Implant

Dr. Montgomery is my former supervising physician, mentor, and friend. I had the pleasure of working with him for nearly a decade and I learned the right way to practice medicine. He taught me to always put the patient first and to continually strive to develop sustainable treatment strategies.

In addition to being a skilled clinician, he was a serial entrepreneur. He was the inventor of the Aperfix Femoral Implant (a landmark technology in ACL reconstruction surgery) and orthopedic surgical techniques. In addition, he founded and led strategic and educational initiatives, most notably OrthoNations, a non-profit organization which aims to advance orthopedic care internationally.

Like all clinicians, Dr. Montgomery is driven to improve patient outcomes. What differentiates him is his leadership and ability to work with others to advance his goals. It has been inspiring watching him develop innovative ways, both clinical and non-clinical, to improve care delivery.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Technology Strategy and Business Innovation taught by Professor Al Segars

The class introduced students to emerging technologies and framed innovation through the lens of opportunity and execution. Professor Segars provided us with tools and techniques to diagnose existing business challenges and encouraged us to ask “What is possible? Not ‘What is probable?’”

As it relates to the problem that we are currently solving, healthcare communication is a huge problem that many companies are aiming to tackle. Most current solutions fall within the “What is probable” category and are siloed within well-funded organizations and do not adequately connect the entire healthcare system. Smaller practices, nursing homes, home health aides, and other valued members of the healthcare value chain continue to struggle to find efficient solutions to expedite care. As such, we aspire create a larger system-agnostic network that ensures that any and all healthcare providers have access to modern communication and care management tools.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Don Rose and Scott Albert were our primary instructors and informal mentors through the Startup UNC class. Don has tremendous experience with the commercialization of new technologies and Scott brings decades of experience in venture capital and startup investment. Their application of real-world experiences to a structured business school curriculum was extremely helpful in transforming our business from a back-of-the napkin idea into a viable, early-stage business. The countless hours of guidance and feedback helped to refine our unique value proposition and outlined definite steps to bring our product to market.

How did the pandemic impact your startup plans? When COVID-19 escalated this spring, many existing communication deficiencies were widely exposed as traditional patient care transitioned outside of the walls of large hospital systems. Organizations struggled to pool resources and to mount a coordinated response because secure, medical-grade communication remains largely siloed and inaccessible to all providers. The pandemic further affirmed the urgency and critical need for a system-agnostic communication platform.

As a company, we have taken the COVID challenge in stride and engaged with providers to better understand how our product can help to address COVID-specific challenges (pandemics and other public health emergencies). The team onboarded a cohort of summer interns and converted to a virtual working environment in our effort to launch our product to a group of pilot users in New Jersey and North Carolina. In addition, we have submitted applications for COVID-specific grants and other sources of funding.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our goal is to improve patient health outcomes by building a secure, nation-wide communication network that empowers healthcare providers to communicate and share patient information more effectively.

To that end, we are committed to:

  1. Ensuring all healthcare providers have access to modern communication and data sharing tools
  2. Continually developing innovative solutions to decrease the administrative burden of care coordination

In the future, we believe that our platform can provide the foundation for a secure, fully interoperable provider network that facilitates efficient provider collaboration and allows clinicians to spend more time on direct patient care.


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