2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Fig Medical, Cornell University (Johnson)

Fig Medical

Cornell University, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Industry: Health Tech

Founding Student Name(s): Florence Luna, Johanna Schneider

Brief Description of Solution: Fig Medical facilitates the prior authorization process using intelligent automation and predictive analytics.

Funding Dollars: $100,000

What led you to launch this venture? It was a combination of personal passion and sense of purpose in healthtech. My background in finance, coupled with a year of dedicated service in the public sector, provided me with a unique perspective on the pressing need for innovative solutions to address societal challenges. This experience deepened my commitment to making a positive impact, and I realized that entrepreneurship was the ideal platform to bring about the change I wanted to see in the world. My journey as a first-generation American also played a significant role, motivating me to break down barriers and create opportunities for others. Fig Medical, our B2B software startup, emerged to streamline health care access and make a tangible difference in the lives of many. It’s the convergence of my experiences, my values and a burning desire to create a more equitable future that led me to take this entrepreneurial path.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? One of our venture’s most significant accomplishments has been our extensive engagement with customers. We’ve had the privilege of talking to over 100 customers, understanding their pain points and learning where existing solutions have fallen short. This in-depth customer interaction has been invaluable in shaping our product to truly meet the needs of health care providers and clinics. It has allowed us to develop a solution that directly addresses the challenges they face, making their workflows smoother and more efficient. Through these interactions, we’ve gained crucial insights that have shaped our product into what it is today.

Another major accomplishment for our venture has been the remarkable collaborations we’ve established with health systems and clinics. We’ve had the privilege of working closely with these institutions, directly impacting their prior authorization processes and workflows. These partnerships represent a significant milestone in our journey, and we look forward to contributing to improved patient care and outcomes.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? We believe in investing heavily in customer discovery, which is why we recently completed the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub’s Northeast region program. This deep dive into understanding our customers’ needs has been instrumental in shaping our product. We’ve found that it’s crucial to spend ample time understanding the intricacies of the issues our customers face before delving into complex technical buildouts. This approach allows us to demonstrate how we envision the product working and obtain invaluable feedback early in the process. It’s through these iterations and feedback loops that we’ve been able to refine our product and align it with what people actually want.

Our ability to pivot and adapt, to listen to our customers and to take a customer-centric approach to product development, has been our key strength in navigating this challenge. It has allowed us to make the best use of our resources and ensure that our final product is not only technically robust, but also precisely tailored to our customers’ needs.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA program has played a pivotal role in advancing our startup venture. Through my involvement in Big Red Ventures, a club led by Tom Schryver and Thatcher Bell, I was provided with a unique opportunity to source, assess, and invest in early-stage startups alongside other associates and fund managers. This experience supported my focus on health tech investments and helped to align my personal passion with the potential for impactful entrepreneurship. The exposure to a wide array of courses, thanks to the 1+1 program at Cornell Tech, provided me with invaluable insights into the healthtech space. Courses such as Entrepreneurial Finance, Strategic Management of Tech & Innovation, AI for Healthcare, Big Red Ventures and Startup Studio equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship.

What made the MBA program even more valuable was the sense of inclusion and support from peers, faculty and industry leaders through various clubs and networks, including the Johnson Consortium Club, HABLA (Hispanic American Business Leaders Association), Big Red Ventures, and the Cornell Tech Studio program. Staying connected as an alumna allows me to continue contributing to the MBA community by sharing my experiences and helping aspiring entrepreneurs connect with relevant resources and people.

The MBA program not only provided me with the necessary skills and knowledge, but also offered the flexibility, encouragement and ongoing support for my entrepreneurial journey, making it an invaluable asset in the development and growth of our startup venture.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Two founders inspired me as part of my journey.

Christy Johnson, co-founder of Float Health, has a remarkable ability to establish credibility with customers and develop lasting relationships. Her motivating attitude, unwavering passion, and commitment to making a difference have served as a beacon for me. Every interaction with Christy made me feel like I can accomplish anything. She was available to share her experience and knowledge, which has been invaluable in my role as a first-time founder.

Andrea Ippolito, founder of Simplifed, has a wealth of experience in the health tech industry and a strong dedication to improving access to care. I first encountered Andrea during my Startup Learning Series class at business school and was immediately motivated by her work. She has been consistently available and willing to give back, providing me with wisdom and guidance from her own experiences.

Christy and Andrea’s professional accomplishments and dedication to expanding access to care resonates with my personal mission. Their mentorship has also been immensely valuable on my entrepreneurial journey, and I am deeply grateful for their support and knowledge.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The MBA class and club that had the most significant impact on my startup journey was Big Red Ventures, led by Johnson lecturer Tom Schryver and Thatcher Bell. It provided a unique opportunity to source, assess, and invest in early-stage startups alongside other associates and fund managers. Through this program, I gained invaluable insights into the due diligence process and had the privilege of connecting with a wide array of founders and individuals in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The most profound lesson I learned was the incredible diversity of founder journeys. There is no one-size-fits-all path to starting a successful company. Hearing about the various routes that different startups took to reach their product-market fit, when they decided to bring on a full-time engineer and the myriad of trials-and-tribulations they encountered, was truly eye-opening. It underscored the fact that entrepreneurship is a deeply personal and diverse journey, marked by both sacrifice and success.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Tom Schryver has been an integral figure in my academic and entrepreneurial journey. Not only have I had the privilege of taking several classes led by Tom, but I also served as a fund associate and later as a fund manager in Big Red Ventures under his guidance. Tom’s unwavering availability and openness in providing insights and support have been instrumental in my development during my business school experience and as I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey.

What sets Tom apart is his genuine care for his students. I had the honor of serving as his teaching assistant and witnessed firsthand the level of thought and dedication he puts into the classes he leads. His unique ability to simplify complex subjects and use clear, accessible language has been invaluable, especially for students who may not have a deep background in the subject matter. Tom’s commitment to his students’ success and his ability to make challenging concepts understandable have had a profound impact on my plans and aspirations.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? The local startup ecosystem has played a pivotal role in the development and success of our venture. Starting my MBA program in Ithaca, New York marked the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey with a memorable event at a Rev: Ithaca event set against the backdrop of a beautiful vineyard. The faculty who lead entrepreneurial programs, clubs and courses, along with entrepreneurially-minded students in programs like E-lab, were instrumental in providing exposure to the startup space.

The second year of my MBA at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City on Roosevelt Island was equally transformative. The incubator-style program, Startup Studio, was led by an awesome team including Josh Hartmann, Naomi Cervantes, Tyler Rhorick and many others who offered tech/entrepreneurship-focused guidance as we incubated Fig Medical. The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA faculty, mentors and industry leaders associated with the program contributed valuable insights at various stages of our entrepreneurial journey.

Interacting with passionate individuals within the ecosystem who possessed experience in the field allowed me to not only find my co-founder and prospective partners, but also gain invaluable insights into becoming a successful founder.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term goal with Fig Medical is to enhance patient health outcomes by revolutionizing health care administrative processes. We aim to streamline and make these processes more efficient and accurate, reducing the administrative burden on health care providers. Through our platform, we also provide valuable analytics, enabling informed decision-making and ultimately improving patient care. Our vision is to lead in administrative innovation within health care, creating a patient-centered, efficient, and effective health care system.

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