Regard is a fast-growing health-tech company committed to enriching the practice of medicine. Regard’s first product is an AI-driven medical co-pilot that assists doctors and nurses in their clinical workflow, to ensure no common condition is overlooked and save time with the note-writing process. To date, Regard has been used on over 30,000 patients and has diagnosed over 420,000 medical conditions missed by providers. Calibrate first invested in Regard’s seed round in 2020 and recently supported their $15.3 million Series A. We sat down with Regard Co-Founder and CEO Eli Ben-Joseph to get his insights into overcoming early-stage challenges, getting product-market fit right, and signing your first customer.
What drove you to start a company?
After I graduated from MIT, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and gravitated into consulting. As someone who has always loved technology and building things, I realized right away it wasn’t for me. So I started applying to med school because I thought I could make a difference in the world as a doctor. But there was a little voice telling me to listen to what was really exciting to me, and that was how technology could solve society’s pressing problems. I thought, how can I apply technology to medicine to make a world-changing impact on humanity’s progress? I ended up getting a masters degree at Stanford and there I was surrounded by an entrepreneurial ecosystem and became determined to start a company. I reached out to long-time friends Nate and Thomas and we spent many hours brainstorming what the doctor of the future might look like. Thus, Regard, formerly known as HealthTensor, was born back in 2016.
What is the first big hurdle you faced and how did you overcome it?
One early challenge was figuring out exactly what to build. We had a vision that software, and AI in particular, could play a significant role in the way medicine works, but we weren’t sure exactly what our first product would look like. So we spent eight months doing research–talking to hundreds of executives at healthcare companies, doctors, and nurses to understand the medical ecosystem and where the problems were. We saw we could use technology to make an impact on diagnoses–since doctors all reported being overworked and overburdened combing through tons of notes and clinical data to diagnose patients–and then we spent the better part of two years building and testing our first product.
Looking back to your company’s earliest days, what is one thing you would have done differently?
I would say our biggest mistakes were not hiring and fundraising faster. As a founder, you occasionally have self doubt and, in the early days, we often wondered whether what we were building would really be desired by customers. Instead, we should have trusted our gut and just gone full steam ahead with hiring and fundraising, so we could bring our product to customers faster. In the end, our customers absolutely love our product, but it was hard to predict that when we were building the foundations of our platform.
On the flipside, what is one thing you got absolutely right?
We took our time to figure out exactly what our first product would do, the problem it would solve, and who would use it. In other words, we didn’t rush product-market fit. We really got that right and have never had to pivot.
What is one milestone you’re particularly proud of?
Our team has worked incredibly hard the last five years and I’m proud of many milestones, but one in particular springs to mind: signing a deal with Torrance Memorial Medical Center as our first major customer last June. Doctors at the hospital had been testing our product on patients for over a year, but this was a greenlight to have doctors regularly use our product on real live patients, and we knew this was no small feat. In the healthcare space, having doctors trust your product enough to use it on patients every day is an incredible achievement and we are very grateful that our technology impacts so many people’s health and wellbeing.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new founder, what would it be?
Trust your gut. If you believe it, you can build it.
What does success mean for you?
To me, success is creating something that positively impacts the progress of humanity and touches millions of people worldwide. I think Regard will indeed do that, because we are helping patients get better and more accurate diagnoses, so they can get the care they need to live healthier lives. Sometimes, the right diagnosis is even a matter of life and death. And we are also helping doctors and nurses who are suffering some of the worst burnout after the last two pandemic years. If our product makes their lives easier and helps them provide better care, that is a big success.
How did you land your first paying customer?
We found a medical director at Torrance Memorial and just cold-emailed him to pitch our product. To our surprise, he responded and we began corresponding. When we demoed the product, the team was very enthusiastic about how it could help doctors and nurses, and then began a year-long collaboration with Torrance Memorial to finetune our product based on their feedback. At the end of that year, they signed a contract and became a paying customer.
What did you learn from your first paying customer?
Torrance Memorial is far more than a customer; they have been a true collaborator and have provided so much valuable input into our product development. They are the reason our product exists the way it does today, because they provided us with access to actual patients and doctors to test it in the field. They helped us iterate and prototype our product inside a hospital, and that experience was fundamental to our success. It is a true privilege for a startup to have such a great early customer.