There’s a lot that Founders can learn from the fundraising journey. There’s a particular kind of grit and expertise that VCs look for in founding teams.
When NFX first got to know Incredible Health in 2017, the company was only an idea. Since then, they’ve had great success. Today, they’re announcing a $15M Series A led by our friend Jeff Jordan at Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from NFX and our friends James Joaquin at Obvious Ventures, Charles Hudson at Precursor Ventures and others. They are also announcing a national expansion.
This is a team and marketplace that Silicon Valley’s top investors believe in. Over 150+ hospitals throughout California use Incredible Health, including world-renowned institutions Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Stanford Health Care, and large health systems like CommonSpirit Health, Adventist Health, and many others. Hiring permanent nurses on their platform takes less than 30 days, 3X faster than the national average of 90 days — which is reflected in their excellent NPS scores.
…but like every marketplace, it took time to get going initially. For Incredible Health, it all started with the principle of “finding the fast moving water”.
Incredible Health’s co-Founders, Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock, came to us initially with an idea to build a healthcare marketplace. While there was clearly Founder-Market fit for them and also some sort of opportunity in the industry, we couldn’t get comfortable with the specific idea. When we looked deeper into the drivers of their marketplace, it was clear to us that the ASP was too low because they would either be disintermediated or the repeat usage would be too low to justify the estimated CAC.
One of the things I shared with them that I learned through trial & error as a Founder myself was the thought that: “If you aren’t in the fast moving water, you’re in the wrong place”. Finding the fast moving water in a market can make all the difference.
However, there is often a painful truth for Founders in every piece of good advice. For Iman and Rome, deciding to pursue fast moving water meant abandoning all the work they had put into their existing business. Their existing business had a few things working. It was moving a little … but it wasn’t in fast moving water. They would have to abandon a boat that seemed viable in search of fast moving waters.
Not many teams have the fortitude and vision to do this successfully.
The heart of any company is its people. Before starting Incredible Health, Iman was a trained doctor, the granddaughter of Sudanese entrepreneurs, and also has three immediate family members who are surgeons. What kept Iman up at night was the drive to use her understanding of both the medical and business fields to build a company of consequence, one that truly impacted the world for good. She and Rome met working together at a startup. Rome is an elite MIT engineer who also came from a family of nurses. For both Rome and Iman, revisiting who they were as individuals and reconnecting with this shared lineage was the beginning of something powerful.
We knew the idea would be most potent if it started with who they are as people. This is Founder-Market fit and it should be an important part of your discussion with yourselves and with investors Are you the best team of people to solve this problem?
Second, we moved to the idea frameworks stage. We vetted variations of ideas through the lens of market size and whether Iman and Rome had a unique insight 10x better than what was currently available. The Founders started interviewing family members who were doctors and nurses. The doctors complained to them about how difficult it was to hire nurses, and the nurses complained that it took them on average 2-3 months to find a new job.
When they did market research, they learned that the nursing shortage nationwide is 3x larger than the engineering shortage. Healthcare is the largest employment sector in the U.S. and yet the existing recruitment tools are from the 1980s & 90s. Thus was born the idea for a hiring marketplace between hospitals and nurses that can grow over time to encompass all of healthcare hiring in the US.
Third, we helped them identify a memorable name (we believe names matter far more than most realize) and to identify their customer segments, their initial marketing tactics, and onboarding flows. Once they had a few customers and transactions in the marketplace, we introduced them to the team at Obvious Ventures. I’ve known James Joaquin for 18 years as one of the most thoughtful investors out there. He has a long career as an entrepreneur and technology executive. He immediately understood Incredible Health’s business and invested within a matter of days. The team at Obvious became immediately supportive in helping Iman and Rome navigate the next 18 months of experimentation, product, and customer development.
18 months later, I introduced the Incredible Health founders to Jeff Jordan at Andreessen Horowitz. Jeff is someone I regard highly and we share much of the same thinking on marketplaces and network effects. Jeff was the CEO of OpenTable and President of eBay, and is an early investor and board member at Airbnb, Instacart, Pinterest, Lime, and Offer Up. He deeply understands marketplaces and network effects. Jeff announced today that he is leading the Series A for a16z, and that Incredible Health is expanding nationally.
Now the team at Incredible Health is in a position to scale a dynamic marketplace which is itself poised to have a lasting impact in all our lives and communities by supporting the nurses and hospital staff that support us all.They’re on a mission to help healthcare workers live better lives, and find and do their best work.
The story of Incredible Health demonstrates the type of fortitude that you need in these early, precarious stages of company development.
The truth is that startups are equal parts psychology, numbers, and engineering. But above all, your greatest leverage as a Founder is in you. We invested in Iman and Rome for who they were. That was it. And they have leveraged their healthcare knowledge and psychology to find the highest value for hospitals and nurses nationwide.