Abartys Health is a startup from Puerto Rico. It has created a system that allows seamless data flow and communication between insurers, doctors, and patients. Today, it has more than 1 million patients registered, 700,000 providers enrolled and $11 million in Annual Recurring Revenue.
In our 21st episode, Dolmarie Mendez tells us Abartys traction story and how she turned a (very) tough moment in her life into a startup that is saving lives.
Listen to the full episode here:
The notes below are just part of the interview. Listen to the audio to get the whole episode!
THE PROBLEM AND THE SOLUTION
What is the problem you’re solving and what is the solution Abartys Health is providing to its customers?
Today, we give insurance companies and providers a centralized place, where they can exchange information—like their credentials and all the documentation that evidence they are capable and they are up to date with all their license and documentations in order to treat a patient.
A very high percentage of patients in the United States—to be exact 10%—die in the emergency room because they [payers and providers] don’t know anything about that patient. They don’t know if they are allergic to something—to penicillin or latex.
Information about the patients is crucial in order that those patients get the right treatments. So, having the right information from the provider and having it available for the patients are crucial in order to be efficient. Abartys is providing a solution to mitigate the fragmentation in the healthcare systems.
A VERY TOUGH TIME
How did you have the idea to build such a system?
In 2014, I had an infection. I had a shock—a bad reaction to crop—while I was in one of my continuing education trips. I had poisoned food—something that sounds simple to treat. But, if it’s not treated right, it can bring complications later.
I had a sepsis and I spent six months between hospitals. They didn’t know what was happening to me and no one was able to treat me in the right way, with the right treatment.
I said goodbye to my family because they told me I was not going to recover. My weight was 81 pounds—I’m five, three inches. So, imagine, very small. I lost my hair, my intestinal flora. And I remember like yesterday, praying: “Oh, my God, if I recovered from this, definitely I’m going to dedicate my life to collaborate some way to fix this.”
And I remember like yesterday, praying: “Oh, my God, if I recovered from this, definitely I’m going to dedicate my life to collaborate some way to fix this.”
That is the foundation of Abartys Health. After that, I got obsessed with wellness, prevention and making sure I have access to clinical data. That is the essence of our technology: access to clinical data and access to providers’ data.
ZERO MONEY, BUT MANY CONTACTS
How much money did you have when you decided building something together?
We had no money.
I was a vice-president of a benefits management agency at that moment. So, we proved our concept with the clients that we already have in here, managing their benefits. It’s about being strategic and wise about how you move all your stakeholders around you. When you are going to start a company, you need to keep your job, unless you have a good amount of money saved that you can go without nothing.
So, we started conversations with some of our friends, and a friend—of a friend of a friend—put us in contact with some people that could make some recommendations. Then, Lauren realized she had a friend that ran the physicist’s department at the University of Puerto Rico. We explained everything that he wanted to know and his first words were: “You are both crazy.” It was feedback that we were getting from everybody.
We explained everything that he wanted to know and his first words were: “You are both crazy.” It was feedback that we were getting from everybody.
I know a ton of people in the healthcare industry here. So that gave me some perspective and data bank to go on talk and ask for feedback. And the feedback was: “We trust you. If you make that, just call me because I’m going to buy it immediately.”
MONEY FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
What did you do next?
We needed to bring people with a fresh mind or thinking out of the box, that you just explained the problem, they learn from knowledge transfer, and they say: “What about this?”
We built a lab with students from the University. We were not able to pay them. At the beginning, it was just our word: “We cannot pay you.”
Then, at that moment, I spoke with my employer and we had a good number of clients in the company—that were my clients—and they trusted me. So, I told him: “Hey, I have this personal commitment and I really want to do this.” And he trusted me too. He said: “I’m going to fund your project.” That’s our seed investor and that’s where we saw our first capital seed—$562,000.
We used that money to build the company and to start with the technology.
When did you have something to show people?
We used another technology—a B2C product that you can buy online to manage wellness products—and it was like a third-party technology. We got the license and we started with two insurance companies here and employers to give them wellness benefits. We did clinics on side, physical exams on side.
And then we challenged that vendor: “Hey, can we take lab results? Can we process the lab results?” And we did it.
But we wanted something bigger. Because when we finished—after our case studies—we realized that we had the capacities to make this bigger. And then we said: “We’re going to build our technology.”
We went to Parallel18—an international accelerator here—to visit another startup, in the first generation, that had something we thought we could use as part of our solution. When we explained everything to them, we already had the platform to start managing membership. And they said: “You don’t need another startup to do that. That’s an easy thing.”
And we applied for the second generation [of Parallel18] from our cars. I remember we had like one hour left to submit the application and we got accepted. We were very lucky to be part of the second generation.
There, they give you $40,000 without equity and we invested all the money to start paying the guys that were working for free.
WORDS FOR STARTUP FOUNDERS
Usually as startups, we are told: “Don’t show your idea. Don’t tell anything. Don’t talk to everybody.” And you need to be wise about that. It’s not about not talking; it’s about how to talk about that. And it’s something that we did very, very wisely.
The feedback is very important. You need to take that feedback. You need to read about everything. I stayed in the medical office the whole day to look at people and see their reactions. You need to involve in the problem in a way that you have to feel it into your skin. If you don’t live what you’re trying to solve with your startup, honestly, it’s very difficult to achieve your goals. Because it’s a very rocky road.
If you don’t live what you’re trying to solve with your startup, honestly, it’s very difficult to achieve your goals.
Sometimes you’re going to get hit by a bus. And you need to start it all over again, go back and think “what happened here?” and learn from your bad experience.
All of them are good experience, because you’re learning something from it. So, there are no errors, no failures. There is no negative. It just depends on how you learn from it and what are you going to do to mitigate that?
The other thing is that do not underestimate yourself. That is something very important. While we raised capital, I was pregnant—and we raised $1.5 million. At that moment, Lauren and I were single moms. And I remember one investor telling us “Never say anything about your children. You don’t have a family, that is not true.”
And our investors, they love the fact that we are women and we have children. We raised 1.5 million in 2018 while I was pregnant, and now we raised $3 million while Lauren was having her baby.
MORE ABOUT ABARTYS HEALTH
Abartys Health (Website; Facebook; LinkedIn) is a Puerto Rico based technology company founded in 2016 by Dolmarie Méndez and Lauren Cascio focused on centralizing and improving healthcare processes by creating solutions that streamline data, communication, and services for the three major components of healthcare – patients, doctors, and insurance companies. The Abartys Health system provides a consolidated solution to many of the inefficiencies contributing to the almost $1 Trillion loss in healthcare every year. The company has Developed a health technology system that is moving healthcare from the existing dis-jointed state to a centralized hub.
Among the solutions that the company has created for the Healthcare Industry, Abartys has built the first truly shared digital provider data management system to increase data quality, drive down costs, decrease credentialing approval waiting times and to ultimately reduce the total long-term staffing, hosting and integration costs of maintaining and man-
aging multiple applications in support of costly credentialing, online look up and compliant provider directory management.