Update: In July, 2015, Welkin Health closed their $2M seed round, with participation from Rock Health, Asset Management Ventures, Great Oaks VC, iSeed VC, and others.
Treating patients who suffer from a chronic disease costs the U.S. 86% of its healthcare dollars, and Chase Hensel is out to change that. As the co-founder of Welkin Health, Chase and his team are creating effective tools for case managers to maintain relationships with patients with chronic disease—ultimately, bettering the care continuum and decreasing the need for costly visits and services. We caught up with Chase to find out what inspired him to become an entrepreneur in digital health, and lessons he’s learned along the way.
Name: Chase Hensel
Location: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Welkin Health co-founder and CEO
How long have you been a founder? A little under two years.
What inspired you to found Welkin? I was finalist for a fellowship and my project focused on privacy-preserving data mining as it relates to HIPAA – the way legislation is written doesn’t protect privacy (in a statistical sense.) During my first job in college I built robotic experimentation equipment for a cardiac biomechanics lab. (Specifically, I was building a bioreactor that manipulated rat tissue.)
After school, I started my career working on Google News and then Google Street View. Life on those teams taught me how build consensus amongst a bunch of really smart (but opinionated!) people to deliver some pretty cool products. After a few years at Google, my co-founder (and Welkin Health CTO Gideon Wald) and I decided we wanted to work on something more socially impactful—specifically, in healthcare. Due to the US’ move toward a pay-per-performance healthcare model, we were convinced there was an important business to be made in improving the tools used for chronic care management that could positively affect millions of people.
How has your life changed since you started a company? Before Welkin, I was living in a 200-year-old Chinese courtyard in Beijing. Since Welkin, I moved to San Francisco, adopted an elderly dog named Monster, and started a crash course on the healthcare system. I no longer fly 100K miles a year for work and am instead spending much more time in care organizations talking to case managers, patients, and administrators.
What was your first paying job? Cashier at a Whole Foods when I was 14. (As a result, I knew what a radicchio was at a very young age.)
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Treat your co-founder relationship like a marriage. Spend more time than you would expect communicating, and regularly check in about your feelings. This has had a profoundly positive effect on our company culture.
What’s your proudest moment? Either my college graduation, or when Welkin hit 10 team members (it doesn’t feel like that long ago that we were two people working above an autobody shop). I haven’t decided yet.
What are you reading? Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, HealthcareITNews, Clinical Innovation and Technology, MobiHealthNews, and anything published by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the California Healthcare Foundation. I also skim Vox and FiveThirtyEight.
What’s your current workspace look like? The office couch with Monster at my side.
What’s your fave productivity hack? Given my background, I should be way better at this, but I’d say Priority Inbox and Gmail labels – they help organize the deluge of email I get on a daily basis. Also Slack and Asana have been great for Welkin.
What do you do with your “free” time? I still take Chinese classes 3 times a week, and I also do Crossfit.
If you weren’t a founder, what would you be doing? If I hadn’t founded Welkin Health, I’d still be living in China working for Google.