The Opportunity of Connectedness

Take a big idea, surround yourself with phenomenal people, and execute on an idea. 

That’s how Rod Reasen, Springbuk's Executive Chairman, assessed the success he’s witnessed in the five years since founding the health data analytics company.

Rod believes benefits managers have a unique opportunity to take data from thousands of employers, use an analytics platform like Springbuk to apply rich health intelligence, and that will put them in position to move to true engagement between employers and individuals to improve health.

In this episode, Rod talks about his biggest surprises in moving to a totally remote “work-from-anywhere” workforce and the challenges for an entrepreneurial CEO in transitioning from a startup to a scale-up. “One of the hardest but most rewarding” experiences is learning to pass decisions off to other leaders, then watching them learn and grow.

From watching the healthcare industry for 20 years, Rod has observed an ebb and flow of vendors in the market. New vendors come in with a hyper-specialization, then over time as they become widely accepted, they branch out and become generalists. But one thing has remained constant. Listen to hear Rod explain what the constant is and why he’s excited about the opportunity around it.

Rod also explains the origin story of the name “Springbuk” and how happy he is with the choice over what it was initially called. 

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Theme music: "Overboard" by Stay Outside

Read the Epiosde:

Mike Pattengale: Hello and welcome to Healthcare on the rocks employee benefits with a twist. I'm Mike Patton Gil, senior account executive for Channel Sales.

Jennifer Jones: And I'm Jennifer Jones, population health practice leader at Springbuk. In this podcast, we'll talk with employer benefit advisors, technology, innovators, and other experts in wellness, human resources and healthcare. Our special guest today knows more about Springbuk than anyone he has been here literally since before day one.

MP: That's right, Jen. Rod Reasen is one of the two co-founders of the company and as CEO. He's still the one who sees to it that we get paid, among other CEO type things. Rod, welcome to the show.

Rod Reasen: Well, welcome. And yes, making sure you get paid is obviously a high priority, Mike. So we do want to make sure that happens.

MP: For the record, I did not write that part. I blame others for trying to put me in that position. But no, we're excited to have you along here, Rod. Super excited just to pick your brain a little bit about why you started Springbuk, some of the things you're seeing, and some of the things you're most excited about. So without further ado, I say we fire up some questions here. So Rod, I know you founded Springbuk over five years ago. What has the journey been like for you personally and for the company?

Reasen:  You know, life in general is a big lesson; you're learning, hopefully, every day. And this has been an incredible experience from both an opportunity to take a big, big idea, surround yourself with phenomenal people, and then work to execute on a big vision. And we're not there yet. Lots and lots that we need to go accomplish. But I have to say fun has definitely been at the center of that. But to be able to just watch this little inkling of an idea to get to this point has been extraordinary.

MP: That's great. What would you say the next five years looks like?

Reasen: You know, we had a product kind of visioning session yesterday, and had about an hour with the product team. And Steve, our chief Technology Officer, and Joy (Springbuk president) attended. And then afterward Joy said, “You realize that what you just said is going to take us five years to accomplish?” And I said “Yeah, it's going to, but that's part of the exciting thing. If you run out of runway and what you you're dreaming, then you've accomplished it.” And really that's been the fun part. There's so much in healthcare, broadly, to be able to go do, and the deeper that we get into it, the more we expose, as far as opportunities, the more we realize that we've just begun to scratch the surface.

JJ: Are you gonna give us a sneak peek into that at all.

Reasen: You know, one of my favorite books is Freakonomics. In the startup world or venture world, the “first principles” term is often used. And it's that idea that what are the foundational things that need to happen in order to start building the blocks on top of them. Freakonomics talks about this idea around motivation. And in healthcare, there really are two sides of the market. There's the buyer side of the market, and then there's the delivery side of the market. And we talk about this as a group all the time. But you know, the buyer side of the market is really broken into two categories: government and employer. And the delivery side of healthcare has continued to innovate more from the traditional white-jacket-wearing and blue-cloth-wearing physicians that we think of when we naturally think of healthcare, we think of that caregiver. But healthcare is both the economic side, the buyer and the seller of services. We've chosen to focus on that employer side of healthcare on the buyer side, because first principle says there's no market unless there's a buyer willing to spend money for a value that's received. 

And that's where there's this unification. We've said that the employer sits at this unique spot, in that when we as human beings are healthy we make the right choices. We avoid going to the doctor for good reason. We as employers win because we as human beings spend less money, we're more productive, and we as humans obviously win because we spend less money and we're more productive. We want to be healthy. We don't want to have to go into the medical system. Where I think there's this unique opportunity, building upon where we're at today, is we have all this rich intelligence and we have 1000s of employers that are continually feeding that big engine of intelligence, and it's becoming increasingly powerful to start to make that connection at the individual human level to be able to move to true engagement. And we've been talking about it internally for years. That is upon us. That is the next big phase and I'm really, really excited about what comes with that.

JJ: Yeah, I think what all of this has taught us over the past two years is how valuable our health is, and being well — how critical that is to just maintaining, you know, general health and taking care of ourselves that plays such a big role. 

Alright, so for our next question, I'm going to take you back a couple of years here. So, like 1000s of other companies across the country in 2020, you and the executive team made the decision to send all employees home for what we were originally told would be for two weeks on March 13. It was a Friday the 13th, I remember that. And here we are almost two years later — all still at home. What would you say has been the biggest surprises in moving to a remote workforce, good or bad?

Reasen: Oh, I say the number one surprise, it has been the readiness to adopt a new paradigm in work. Both not just at Springbuk, but as I read and I talk to other CEOs. This last two weeks I've been in a CEO mentoring group, I've been part of “port co” — what I call portfolio company — board meetings with several of our venture funds. And over and over again, at the C level, what I've heard is the surprise at which organizations like ours have adopted at the human level, the employee level, have adopted this new era of work from anywhere. And it truly is a paradigm shift. The idea of going back into an office, punching a clock from eight to five, you know, the banking hours, I think that day and age has changed. And I think for the better. So that's probably my biggest surprise.

JJ: Do you enjoy being at home?

Reasen: As I stand here, in my, in my attic, these shelves actually came from my office. Many of you that have been in my office, we had that office downtown. This was my office. So I've kind of tried to replicate that from a video perspective. I've learned more about how to put lighting; I've got these two umbrella lights over here. And it's still unfortunately cast, you know, glare on my nice, shiny bald head. But you know, it's the strange things that you learn during these times. Like how far do I stand — I stand when I do video calls because your posture is right versus sitting. Just weird things that you learn over this time. But driving downtown Indy, I was spending 45 minutes in the car one way and an hour and a half a day, you do the math. By the time that Friday came, I had spent an entire workday in a car. So now you know, post-COVID, and I'm calling this post-COVID because that's very hopeful and dreamy that we're finally over that hump and in a post-COVID world. Now I get an entire workday back because I can work from home. So I love it from that perspective, but I do miss, you know, the physical interaction with the team.

JJ: What are the biggest challenges you've had to go through as CEO, as a startup that has transitioned into a scale up?

Reasen: In leadership, in order to scale, the leader needs to scale himself or herself. In an early stage startup, when it's you and three or four people, you make every decision. And learning to pass those decisions off and being open to people making a decision that you wouldn't have made but that's directionally correct, has been hard. But I think one of the most rewarding too because you see leaders grow underneath you. That's been phenomenal and exciting just to watch the scale of an organization because of the people.

MP: Some of us that have been here a little bit longer, I've heard you share that Springbuk wasn't always going to be the name or wasn't always the name of what we now know as Springbuk. Can you share what you almost went with and how happy you are that you did not go with that name?

Reasen: Well, you know, if I say this, then you have a whole bunch of people out there that might be named this person, and then they're gonna feel really rotten that we didn't choose them. Mike, so you really want me to answer this question?

MP: Alright, well, I'll rephrase my question. How happy are you that we went with the name Springbuk and not TOD?

Reasen: Oh, now you've thrown it out there. It's now out. Well,

MP: but it's on me, not you. So...

Reasen: Well, to be clear, it was going to be The Opportunity Dashboard. Yeah, even when you go back to that funny thing that we almost named the business, The Opportunity Dashboard or short, you know, acronym TOD, and eventually became Springbuk. The whole, even at that premise, if you think about the real root of that, we were looking for not just taking information and putting it into a display format, what we were ultimately trying to do was take data and turn it into an opportunity to make a decision. So I am very glad that we chose the word Springbuk, which is obviously a South African animal. But sorry, for anyone out there that’s named Todd, that we didn't choose your name.

MP: Rod, can you elaborate a little more for our listeners on how you came up with Springbuk as the name.

Reasen: So I had sold my brokerage firm in 2010, to Brown and Brown, publicly traded, and had gotten to this point where you realize in the consultancy, you're trading your time for the value that you can provide, but you're only going to be able to scale yourself so much before your time runs out. And we felt like there was an opportunity to do something a little bigger. And what the consultant space teaches you is that you need good information to be able to provide value to the customer in the form of advice. And without that good data and information, you are somewhat speculating, which is really dangerous to do when it comes to giving advice. And so we went on this journey, and it took some time spent some time in Africa. And during that time, took my wife and two oldest girls at the time of the four kids and had an opportunity to go to a game lodge, in Namibia, Africa. And we saw these animals called springbok. And it didn't really click at the time, of course, you know, years later, we start to go through this naming convention. And you go through everything. Anyone that's ever had to name a business, you can name it after yourself — that's real original. Or you can try to come up with a name. 

And then there's all of this URL battle. Do you own the or dot whatever. And so there's all of that going on. And through the process, we go through colors and animals and all this stuff. And it just hit me that you know, we want to be an organization that's fun. That's intuitive. It's agile, because we're a software company, and we want to be different. And I said, you know, there's this animal called springbok. I don't know if that makes sense. But they're, they do this thing called pronking, where they jump and kinda like dance. They're a very fun animal. If you watch them watch a YouTube video, they’re bizarre in a fun kind of way. But they're also one of the third, I think they're the third fastest land animal in the world. So it kind of just fit that, hey, there's this animal that's very analogous to what we're trying to build as a software company, which is to be different. And so that's how the name came about.

MP: I love that. Thank you. 

JJ: And that goes really far when when we're asked a lot of times, “so where does Springbuk come from? Where did that name come from?” And I think to equate that to the animal for the values that you just mentioned. It goes a long way to again, as a software company, a tech company, particularly around healthcare, to be agile and nimble. That says a lot as far as when we explain that.

Reasen: Well, good. I'm glad it stuck. It's definitely different.

JJ: Yeah. So tell us what's been, you know, one of your favorite memories throughout the Springbuk journey.

Reasen: I'm the type of person that's always looking forward, I very rarely look back except for to, I love history. And I love studying history to see how people zigged and zagged through various decisions. And I think it's just interesting that we, we don't forget our history that we learn from our history. So if one of the fun I think memories was we had just raised our Series A; we were at Keystone at the crossing office. I think we had seven employees, and we were going to 27. And Phil and I looked at each other and said, “Where are we going to put all these people?” And so we asked our landlord, could we just borrow the office across the hallway until we can find a new lease space and this office across the hallway was in demo mode. So imagine walking into a traditional commercial office space but you walk in and there's some drywall on the walls, some of it’s insulation that showings, some of it's like drywall dust on the ground and then the carpet was filthy from having some of that construction work done with the drywall. And then the perimeter around the carpet. about 24 inches had all been cut up, so there was a strip of carpet that had been taken up and all you could see was the concrete covered with mastic glue. And that was our office. And you know, we had these cheap chairs that we could afford at the time. And those are, those are memories that you don't forget. Talking in a conference room that's a closet, literally a closet that you're squeezing a couple chairs into. So I think those are fun to look back and to see how far we've come from, you know, the mastic blue open and dirty carpet on the floor to where we are today.

JJ: And you talked about the future as far as how you like looking forward and knowing or thinking about what's happening next. So tell us what you're most excited about as we are heading into 2022.

Reasen: So I'll set some context and then answer the question. And, you know, for the team, you know, I love the story of Apple, when Steve Jobs came to the floor, his stage, and introduced the iPhone. The context behind that was that prior to the iPhone being launched, he approached Gentleman by name of Guy Kawasaki and said, I've got this idea of building a platform called a phone. We're going to go directly after a known market with a known user base who likes to do things a certain way. So think of that as a paradigm, it was called the Blackberry. And we had buttons on phones. And I want to change that paradigm. And I want to change it to a touchscreen. But also I would actually go create this entire app store. And Steve Jobs went to Guy Kawasaki and said I want you to go talk to software developers and convince them to build on this platform that does not exist today, there is no proof that it will actually be a success. And he did. And he convinced hundreds of software developers to build these apps for a phone that didn't even exist in the market. When he did, if you've if you've studied out any of those first 100 or so software development companies that were the first app makers, those app makers are now — many of them are worth billions of dollars, because the platform that was created in the form of the iPhone. 

So that's I think where we sit today, one of the unique things about being in the analytics space is that we are in a true Swiss bank agnostic position in the market. And what's fascinating to me is to watch how the industry, through the years, and Jen, you and I've watched this for 20 or so years in the industry, how the market goes to hyper-specialization. So you have folks focused on a single disease state and then they get to a certain size and they start to add disease states to their product mix through acquisition, or through new product innovation, and then they become this generalist. And then what happens is the generalist can't focus and so you have new hyper-specialization that comes into market. It's an ebb and flow in the market. What is the one thing that is consistent, several things that are consistent, but one of the things that is consistent through that entire journey is data. And I think that's what's most compelling about our opportunity. It's what's most exciting about our opportunity is that whenever you dissect one of those point solution, digital therapeutic vendors in the future, the data historically just disappears. It doesn't have to anymore. And we think that's frankly one of the most exciting things. And as you know, one of the biggest opportunities for us is to take that information and continue to keep it connected, versus it just falling off every couple years.

JJ: We know you've been listening to our previous episodes, so this question should not come as any surprise to you. What is the biggest twist you've seen an employee benefits during your career?

Reasen: The biggest twist is probably offering Netflix and movie and food subscriptions is probably the biggest twist that I’ve seen. I never would have thought that we would be offering, as employers, movie and food subscriptions to your home. But I don't think that's going away.

MP: Yeah, it's interesting. I haven't gotten my subscription covered. Nicole, expect an email from myself, Jen, or Marcus Kammrath here shortly on that one. Rod, thank you so much for your time of day and for coming on the show.

Reasen: Thank you both for what you do this. This is fun. Being able to engage like this is a whole new dynamic to what we do. So thank you both.

MP: Yeah, we'll be sure to do the next episode in person, hopefully, and can get a little more collaboration that way, but always fun to pick your brain and get time with you, Rod.

JJ: And that's it for this episode of “Healthcare on the Rocks — Employee Benefits with a Twist.” Thanks for listening. And if you've enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. That helps others find the show and let us know what you like.

MP: And remember to hit that subscribe button so you don't miss an episode. To find previous episodes, visit our brand new website at Until next time, Cheers!