2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Healnergy, HEC Paris


HEC Paris

Industry: Healthcare

Founding Student Name(s): Mariana Arnaut

Brief Description of Solution: Healnergy is a cancer care digital platform that makes life easier for cancer patients and healthcare providers. Our survivorship care platform navigates patients in remission through their day-to-day life with cancer. By answering to a short questionnaire about their cancer, treatments, side effects, emotional well-being, and lifestyle, patients are given a bespoke care program that includes well-being recommendations, educational content, and access to Care Guides with whom they can talk and ask questions.

Funding Dollars: n/a

What led you to launch this venture? I’m passionate about innovation and well-being. Doing the MBA triggered me to look deeper at what problems in the world I could try to solve. I have several cancer cases in my close family and friends circle and have personally witnessed the gaps of the healthcare system. After a lot of research and reflection, it made sense to pursue a venture in the digital health and oncology field. I feel like my personal experience motivates me to move forward with it, and to be extremely ambitious and resilient.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Seeing the interest that exist in our solution. We talked with many users and getting our solution validated by them is incredible. When a cancer caregiver tells me: “I wish that my mom, who recently died of cancer, had access to Healnergy.”, it fills my heart with joy and motivation to carry this venture forward. We have two healthcare providers interested in being our launch partners in early 2023. This confirms that there’s a need and that we solve it.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA has helped me launch Healnergy in three ways. First, it gave me time away from my job at KPMG to think about what I want to do with my career and what type of leader I want to be. Secondly, it gave me access to a best-in-class academic knowledge and experience. During the MBA I got a refresher of the core areas of business management, and I apply this knowledge daily: financial modelling, marketing, management, strategy, and accounting. I must confess that, in the last few months, I’ve checked my MBA class notes several times! Thirdly, it opened the doors to a huge network of students and alumni around the world. It’s incredible how sharing the HEC brand can make a cold LinkedIn message much better: 100% of the alumni/students I contacted replied to me.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? I can’t say that there was one specific founder/entrepreneur who motivated me to start Healnergy. I’m in constant search for other founders’ stories to learn from them. Recently, I’ve been inspired by the story of ClassPass’ founder Payal Kadakia and of Bumble’s founder Whitney Wolfe Herd. The startup ecosystem is dominated by men: female founders raised just 2% of venture capital money in 2021. Hearing stories of strong female founders that go against all odds gives me the drive and grit to continue to work on Healnergy.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Michel Safars’ Advanced Entrepreneurship class was the most helpful class for me. He is a very experienced and motivated professor, and the way he focused his class on talking more about the soft skills of entrepreneurship rather than talking about what are the cool startups trends right now, really prepared me to situations that I have gone through while launching my business. His most valuable lectures were about how to create a winning strategy and business model, what to look for when recruiting the founding team and what it means to be a startup founder and CEO (the behind the scenes – the unglamourous version).

All of this was getting applied in parallel: we went through a startup simulation. For 3 months, I was the CEO of a startup that was commercializing an image analysis software developed by Institut Pasteur. My team included three other students that had the roles of CTO, CFO and CMO. If I must pick one key takeaway, it was this hands-on experience of being a startup CEO. I started working on Healnergy right after that term, so I had the recipe of “how to build a startup from the ground up” in my head from the simulation at HEC.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Mehdi Medjaoui, who taught a class called “Zero to One” that was part of HEC’s Entrepreneurship specialization, has been tireless as an advisor. He recently stopped teaching to focus full-time on his own startup, Alias.dev, so his experience as a founder couldn’t be more relevant. He has a tech background which complements a lot my skill gaps.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Being part of the startup ecosystem is so important. I have the chance to participate in two ecosystems: the French one (since I live in Paris) and the Portuguese one (where I am from). Networking is key for the development of a startup. It helps with accessing talent, investment, and new opportunities. There’s nothing better than a warm intro to a potential key hire or investor. It sets the mood for that relationship and puts you on a successful path. Personally, I’ve been trying to network as much as possible with fellow healthcare founders in France and Portugal. Learning from their stories, validating my assumptions, and sharing our networks has been extremely helpful.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? A survivorship care platform is our entry point to a larger vision. We want to be the default cancer care platform that makes life easier for patients and healthcare providers. Cancer is for life, and so is the support our platform provides. We want to help cancer patients at each step of their journey: prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and remission. In the next 5 years, we plan to expand our presence across Europe.


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