William Leonard

Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to the Atlanta Startup Podcast. I’m William Leonard, your host and investor here with Valor Ventures. We’re a leading seed-stage venture capital firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Today on a very cloudy and rainy day in the city of Atlanta, I’m excited to sit down with Mohamed Kamara, founder, and CEO of InovCares. Mohamed, really grateful to have you on the show today, man.

Mohamed Kamara

Thanks. Thanks so much for inviting me on. I’m excited to talk about the thesis and then dive a bit into the things that we do. It’s a bit of bad weather today. Well, it’s not as bad as where I came from. I used to live in DC where it’s always raining and snowing. I’ll take this little winter than in the snow.

William Leonard

Awesome, man. Mohamed, we started a relationship some months ago. I say from our first initial conversation, I told myself, “This guy is one of the more thoughtful, creative, and caring entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with.” I’m really glad that you’re here today to tell your story to our listeners. Let’s get into it. I’d love for you to kind of dive into what InovCares is and then move to your journey of starting the business because I think that’ll really help mold a perspective as to why you built this company and emphasize the importance of innovation within modern healthcare today.

Mohamed Kamara

InovCares itself began because it was a personal story for me. My sister passed during childbearing. She was brought to the hospital experiencing hypertension which is a form of preeclampsia. She had high blood pressure which was over 200. But the doctors did not have the opportunity to identify that very early on. By the time it was identified, it was already too late for her. She passed and the child didn’t survive either. She left behind three kids that automatically became in my care. Fast forward, strike two happened in my family. This happened in Sierra Leone. And the staggering statistics are 500,000 women died of pregnancy complications every single year, globally. Now, if you take that back to the United States, that endangers women with pregnancy-related complications, and something has to be done about that. Strike two happened for me and my family, my aunt died of the same condition in Columbus, Ohio. Thankfully, the son survived. Her son is five years old now. And my mother, my stepmother, and my dad are caregivers of the son. Our entire mission at InovCares is to identify factors that contribute to death during childbirth by helping women of color find culturally competent prenatal and postpartum care. Our entire focus is to ensure that the birthing experience for expectant mothers and mothers-to-be goes very smoothly. We connect them to doctors who are culturally competent to deliver humble care.

William Leonard

Interesting. When you told me that story, I was pretty familiar with the difficulties that oftentimes women of color face during pregnancy and childbearing, but to hear how frequent it is, it’s really staggering. I’m glad that you’re building in this space to find a proactive solution. Can you talk to us more about what the application does? Who is the end customer here and how are you getting to that end customer?

Mohamed Kamara

We have more of a B2B B2C approach. Basically, why we choose the B2B B2C approach is cost, right? Customer acquisition is a lot less low when you go to B2B in the healthcare space, and the cycle is a lot less low as well, right? If we consider patients who already have existing relationships with their physicians, in order for you to access those patients, it’s probably best for you to go to those physicians, right? Because I’ve noticed an existing relationship, but from now, our mindset is we sell directly to group practices and individual practices. We provide them with our technology and they pay us on a subscription basis. To use our platform, we have both a patient app and the provider app. When I use the word provider, I mean doctors and other health care providers. We sell directly to them. And then they use the platform to see their patients and their patients are medically under some sort of law providers are medically underserved patients. Patients that may be insured to Medicaid, right? And then eventually, as we scale, we will reach patients with peers in the health system. Usually, what peers I mean, health insurance companies, they oftentimes have Medicaid patients that they manage, will come in and manage the cost of those Medicaid patients by providing prenatal and postpartum care.

William Leonard

Gotcha. this application is live in the app store right now, is it something you have to go and get through your provider?

Mohamed Kamara

The onboarding experience for providers normally will share the application. It’s live on iOS and Android. It also helps when it is integrated into an existing EHR system- Electronic Health Records. It makes for an easy workflow for that physician. Physicians are very, very busy, and they have many people selling to them. A way for us to coexist and not disrupt their usual workflow is to ensure that the app fits into their workflow and the existing EHR system.

William Leonard

Gotcha.You kind of built this application, this interface, to really democratize telehealth and wellness solutions for medically underserved women. Is that correct? Are you solely targeting women right now?

Mohamed Kamara

We are passionate about our focus on women. We know that 80% of healthcare decisions are made by women. Oftentimes what we’ve seen in our users is they will come in and they will bring in their kids, right? It’s a mother and child. Oftentimes they will bring in their husband as well. It becomes a ripple effect. But we focus our attention on the mother, then there’ll bring in their child and the family along as well, because our biggest advocate is on the mother, right? 80% of healthcare decisions are made by women so we focus on them.

William Leonard

And is it solely for women who are pregnant? Or is it women who were seeking to get pregnant as well?

Mohamed Kamara

In general, if a woman is either expecting to get pregnant or seeking to get pregnant, or even just women that are looking to stay well, they need a community of other women that are curious about their well-being. I will give you a very useful case here. One of our very first patients that we had a chance to take care of was still a nurse practitioner experiencing infertility issues. She tried everything and we were her last resort. She found us online booking.com, booked with one of our competent physicians, and they spoke for about 30 minutes. He sent the treatment plan for her to try for infertility. She went and tried it, a few months after she said, “I am pregnant.” Nine months after John, a three-year-old now was born alive and well. But then out of that wonderful experience of birthing, a child was the fact that she wanted to come back to the platform to lose the extra pounds. She was experiencing postpartum depression. She came back to the platform to connect with other moms that are going through similar experiences. It’s far beyond just pregnant moms or expectant moms. It’s also a woman’s app that allows women to connect to competent doctors.

William Leonard

It sounds like you’ve built this app that’s really bridging the access to telehealth for these medically underserved women, but it’s also a community as well for women who can just share thoughts, ideas, experiences, tips on how to navigate some of the everyday difficulties that they’re facing, right? 

Mohamed Kamara

Correct. Exactly. 

William Leonard

Awesome. When you think about the state of modern healthcare for underrepresented individuals, where do you see the industry right now? Is there a lot of advancement and innovation in the space? Is it pretty antiquated? What’s your viewpoint on the industry because you’ve been building InovCares for I feel like over two or three years now. You’ve been in the space, you’ve been able to see the competitive landscape, and you’ve been able to see companies that have been successful. What’s your take on the industry right now as of September 2021?

Mohamed Kamara

Antique, yes. But progress, yes, is being made. The progress was the fact that, unfortunately, COVID happened. As soon as COVID happened, telehealth adoption increased and there were very, very key specialty primary care doctors, right? Usually, a PCP bag was 6,000%. And that’s astronomical. That’s huge, right? Because of that percentage, usually, they’re very slow to adopt. Healthcare is very slow to adapt to technology, but the need for telehealth has increased. What caused that problem as well, too is after that increase, we saw that spike, a lot of physicians started saying how can we stay on edge? How can we reach patients online? How do we communicate with our patients that I don’t want to even come into the office anymore because they’ve been told don’t come into the office because of safety? You see the growth there continuing. We’re going to continue to see the growth while it’s gonna dip as well, right? However, the adoption is going to continue with the new laws and expansion of Medicaid in several states, but that’s going to continue. I’m hoping this space, especially in the spaces that we serve which are the medically underserved, the Omnibus bill is one bill that needs to be passed. When that bill passes and crossing our fingers here, it gives an extension of care for the mother for six weeks, right? When care is given to the mom, the child gets care for six weeks to be able to get care while in postpartum. However, the mom’s Medicaid is cut off at six weeks. That needs to change because the mom needs the same care that the child is receiving. Hopefully, that expansion of care continues to grow. And then the other thing as well, this is the thing that insurance companies are very concerned about, it costs a mom $3,000 to birth a child, right? That’s what it costs. Now, it costs the health system before 28 weeks $190,000 to birth a child pre-term. 28 weeks, that’s staggering. They need to find a solution to manage that costs. How can we ensure that we identify the factors that lead to death? Hypertension and diabetes. These are the conditions that will actually cause those complications. How can we identify them very early on and treat them before they become very expensive and risky, and lead to death? That’s what happened to my sister. The $190,000 that it costs a health system before 28 weeks, health equity is an important topic for health insurance companies and health systems. Now, how can we manage costs effectively to enrich the lives of patients before it gets too risky? So that’s where we step in.

William Leonard

You hit the nail on the head there that the costs of childbirth and you think about the inequities that come along with that cost and who it really impacts the most, dominates those medically underserved women. I’m glad that you all are stepping in here. There is a lot of pending legislation around care rights as well. I’m excited to see some of that legislation come into action, and really change the trajectory of healthcare, modern health care for underrepresented and underserved communities. I want to transition here a bit, Mohamed. You’re an entrepreneur in the healthcare space at a fairly early stage. My question to you is, as other founders who are maybe pre-seed or seed, as they really think about solidifying their business model, whether they want to be B2B or B2C, you mentioned cost as a big factor as to why you build that B2B B2C model, but what are some of the other factors that early-stage founders in healthcare should consider in terms of business model and who they want to sell to?

Mohamed Kamara

If you go in and raise a million-dollar in pre-seed in this space, most of that costs then will be, if you’re a smart boss, thankfully we were smart enough on how to manage and build the technology because we had our in house team, my tech team. All of our spin-offs, we raise money, right? It’s going to be on hiring sales, the sales cycle for insurance companies, traditionally, is to have 12 to 18 months to close an insurance deal. I will reveal for that close, maybe you will get access to 100,000 of their members that are medically underserved. This or Medicaid, that’s a spike, that’s a huge spike, then you’re managing a large population. You take that back though, you have to be very cognitive and said in the meantime if your company dies, the startup where we have the real company dies, what are the smaller layers that you can peel? You can talk to healthcare providers and onboard the other markets. Because there’s a two-sided marketplace for us, we have patients, we have providers. The doctors are the first ones we onboard, they’re a little more, their sales cycle is a little less lengthy. It’s usually four weeks, or sometimes, one day, two days depending on the need, right? It’s a little bit less lengthy, you get the physicians onboard, we train the physicians to be culturally competent. Both black doctors, Latinx doctors, and white doctors, we train them. You onboard physicians first then when you get that insurance deal, like a big deal that will produce lots of members and employers, your physicians are ready to take care of those members. Instead of going directly to speak to consumers and insurance companies, I’m using this new relationship, put it into B2B first, angle with the healthcare providers, which you can close faster.

William Leonard

I mean that that sales cycle of 12 to 18 months that could really impact your sales funnel velocity, especially as an early company. That’s great advice. You gave a good list of things to keep in mind there. But you know, stepping back from a general company building perspective, what are some other insights or advice that you have for early-stage founders building a startup, in general, doesn’t have to be specifically healthcare, but what are some of the insights in that bias? I see you’re excited to talk about this.

Mohamed Kamara

I mentored a couple of other companies as well here. Atlanta, I always knew that I was going to come here. I was living in DC and some of the companies have done an incredible job here. I was an Entrepreneur In Residence in Goodie Nation. I see very early on some of these companies, recently have raised 1.5-1.7 million and some of them have done an incredible job. These are the companies I saw very early on were just an idea. One of the insights I’ll share is to go test first. Go out there, talk to users, and let them teach you what to build. I think it’s very important. And that’s what I did, at least for my company. I went in and talked to users first. I talked to those physicians, and they tell me exactly what to build. I went and built it and said, “Hey, I’m building what you told me to build. Are you going to buy it now for me?” And they were willing to because I listened to exactly what they want me to build. 

William Leonard

I want to ask you what’s the practical step there? Because it’s like, go out and talk to your customer first. Are you reaching out through LinkedIn? Are you actually going to the physical clinics? Like what were the actual practical steps to speaking to these customers? Because I’m sure as a small startup with just an idea, it’s not easy to get in front of executives and pick their brains. What are some insights around that?

Mohamed Kamara

One key way for me was that I attended some healthcare conferences. One of the first physicians that we got in his practice, I met him out of Johns Hopkins Carey Healthcare Business Conference. We met there, and I reached out to him afterward and shared my story. He’s like, Billy, that’s all efficient, highly secure, high-risk patients, right? Medicaid patients. You can watch my practice. That was one conversion. We saw 1000 patients in his practice. And then he referred us to another practice because he focused on doing a good job of that one single customer, you do a very good job of value, you reduce the error, it was the level of those patients, and then they refer you to others, right? Those referrals, that’s how we’ve been able to. Now, the other way as well that we do podcasting, so a lot of healthcare providers and an executive, I will either send a LinkedIn message through, and then they will respond, or I would say something, they’ll take a couple of months, they will respond, and then I’ll tell them about the podcast. Can you come to my podcast? From there the conversion happened. They find out about what you do beyond just amplify my voice because people like to talk about themselves. And then I authentically shared by your peers. 

William Leonard

There’s not one real strategy. It’s just exposure, right? Exposure in leveraging referrals from doing a great job and getting that exposure. It kind of shows the full circle trajectory there. That’s really interesting. You mentioned that you always knew that you wanted to be in Atlanta, and we’ll touch on that in a few because I definitely want to dig in there. But what have things been like for you all this year, in terms of big wins, big product development? What does success look like for InovCares thus far this year?

Mohamed Kamara

This year is interesting. We took in our first check on Jumpstart Foundry which is our initial investor back in April. We got into another program that gave us 20k and underloaded capital. We got into Google For Startups. We’ve been able to bid, showed us one company that they were willing to do a Google Developer story on. And so that story itself appears in October, and that will air in the Google Developers YouTube channel, which has a million followers, and it will also be on a Google front page. You have a lot of traffic to the user for the consumer side, right? Which is really an awesome thing for all of us. We’ve been able to grow, we brought in 3500 patients and 120k in revenue so far. We’re doing the hard stuff the hard way until we get a big contract. 

William Leonard

That’s awesome, man. I’m excited to see Google News and watch the video on YouTube for sure. We’ll have to make sure our listeners can see that as well. When I first spoke with you, I think you were still in Silver Spring in the DMV area. But you’ve since relocated to, I’m biased but the best city in southeast Atlanta, of course. Mohamed, what was the driving factor behind relocating out of the DMV to the southeast to Atlanta, specifically, why did you make that move?

Mohamed Kamara

It has to be a couple of things for us. You look at the economic landscape, right? Diabetes, I love our people, but we like sugar, and we love our meals. Usually what that leads to are diabetes and hypertension. Grady Hospital is a health system that has some of the worst statistics when it comes to birthing child maternal rates, right? I look at some of all those statistics. I’m like, okay, it makes sense. Atlanta it is. I love that I can serve the people that look like me, medically underserved. They’re here. And it just makes complete sense to be down here in the south. And so that’s how I identify that hey, I need to return here but I also love the culture. DC is unique, but it’s no Atlanta. Atlanta, you feel as though you’re home. You’re serving people that that looked like you, that have been needed that you’re trying to break into market internals breaking into these health systems that are here as well. They’re all trying to address the same problem. The maternal health crisis is staggering and high. And it just made sense to make the move. 

William Leonard

I think you’re the third person I’ve talked to in the last three months that have located from the Northeast or out west to really build their business here, and you talk about the existing infrastructure, like enterprises, health systems, the culturally diverse nature of this region. Those are the key underpinnings as to why so it’s really exciting to hear that you’re here. I think you were recently accepted into the ATDC as well. That’s been such an amazing program for a lot of companies, not only in the city of Atlanta but in the state of Georgia. I had one of the FinTech catalysts, Kristin Slink from ATDC on a few episodes ago, and she spoke about what the key value on value adds are that they bring to a lot of companies that they work with so I think you’re in good hands over there for sure. I’m excited to see their growth and trajectory over these next 12-24 months here, Mohamed. I really appreciate you joining me for this conversation today. I’m excited that you’re one, here in Atlanta, and two, the specific customer type that you’re targeting. The health benefits and the health value adds that you’re seeking to bring to them and I think you’re gonna build something really special here in the city of Atlanta. Listeners definitely keep Mohamed on your radar. How can our listeners kind of get in touch with you to learn more about InovCares?

Mohamed Kamara

By the way, thank you for that question. William. To just validate that he loves Atlanta, congratulations again on a new home. The man loves Atlanta and is here for the long term with his new home, which is super exciting. People can find us on inovcares.com. There’s also an iOS and Android app. My personal email is mkamara@inovcares.com. I respond. Finally, you can also find us on different podcast channels as well. We do what we call the Inovcares Empower Patient Podcast. We’re on there. Please reach out. We’d love to chat with anyone that has any insight or is personally impacted by this. We’d love to chat with you.

William Leonard

Perfect, Mohamed. Thank you again for joining me today, man. We will certainly be sure to have you back on the podcast here soon, all right?

Mohamed Kamara

Thanks, William.

William Leonard

Cheers.

Lisa

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