Not your grandmother's healthcare (but maybe it should be)

Realizing that insurance companies should put people before profits, Clover Health, founded by Vivek Garipalli 00B, works to deliver more informed care to elderly patients and their physicians.

By Elizabeth Cobb Durel

CB Insights, 2018 Future of Fintech Conference, June 20, 2018: Interview With Vivek Garipalli and Drew Armstrong


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Vivek Garipalli 00B came to Emory University thinking he would follow in the footsteps of his parents, both physicians. “I was always interested in biology and health care in general, but had an entrepreneurial type mindset,” he says. “The two year business program [was] really interesting to me, but I could still do what I needed on the science side to maintain the option for medical school.”

But the business side eventually won out and in the fall of 1999, Garipalli left Emory at the beginning of his senior year to start a business with a friend. “It was a total failure,” says Garipalli. “It was like nine different things. We were going to build websites for small businesses, and it morphed to five other things and ended that we were going to be an eBay for services. Then that didn’t work for various reasons.” When the business finally collapsed for the last time, he headed back to Emory to finish out his degree. 

That experience, coupled with his time at Emory, set Garipalli on his path in the business of healthcare. Now the co-founder and CEO of Clover Health, he has married his interest in medicine with his love of business to improve the health of America’s seniors through proactive, personalized care powered by Clover Health’s technologies and data insights. “We help them and their physicians make better decisions around proper medications, proper treatment plans, which lowers costs over time,” says Garipalli. “If you're able to better manage chronic conditions, which drives about ninety percent of health care cost in the elderly, it can lead to a reduction in emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”

Vivek Garipalli

CB Insights, 2017 Future of Fintech Conference, June 26, 2017: Fireside Chat with Vivek Garipalli and Drew Armstrong


Why did you choose Emory?

Well, the honest answer is, it's a school that accepted me. I was looking at the Emory acceptance rates today and was shocked. When I applied, Emory had something like a 50 percent acceptance rate. It’s nice to see where the school has risen to in the last 20 years. The institution has been very much on an up and to the right from an awareness, reputation, everything. Folks like me are probably beneficiaries.

In layman's terms, what does Clover Health do?

Our focus is on the elderly population and specifically within health care. Once you get to 65 or 70, health care and health insurance becomes probably your most or second most important purchasing decision annually. The average 70 year old is going to the doctor six times a year, getting multiple lab tests. So we said, well maybe there's an opportunity here for us to develop a consumer product where we could assemble information on this population. Then use that information to actually help them and their physicians make better decisions around proper medications and proper treatment plans—which lowers costs over time. Initially we thought we will just build the software and we'll sell this software to insurance plans, but we soon realized [insurance companies] think about the world from a finance perspective, rather than a health care perspective or a clinical perspective. So we decided to start an insurer. [Our members are] buying an insurance product from us and we cover all their health care costs. We are providing their physicians a ton of personalized information so they can make better decisions.

How do you respond to failure?

Learning from failure is really important. You can’t let past failures make you freeze or make a safer decision out of abundance of caution. What you want to do is just be able to make a better decision. As you get older you probably will still fail. Some of them might be bigger and more spectacular, more visible failures, but you'll be learning bigger and more spectacular lessons along the way.

What advice do you have for people that want to be you?

While it's important to be long-term oriented, it's really around staying in the moment, focusing on your task at hand, and always ensuring you're continuously learning. Your career path is defined by all your experiences and what you've learned along the way. If you can't keep that curve going up, it's very hard to keep elevating your career.

Biggest differences between your college years and today's college experience?

There is a lot more palpable pressure now with the hyper information sharing and communication that exists, whether it's social media or whatever. I think life was easier for me and generations before. I don't think it's reasonable to expect individuals of college age to create that same strength of mind while having all the crazy stimuli around them.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?

Follow your passions. It's just terrible advice. There's a ton of suffering along the way of finding your passion and excitement.

Could you tell me more?

Think about someone who becomes an Olympian. I don't think that they are that excited waking up at 5:00 in the morning every day and doing a thousand laps, but it leads to successes. When they're on that podium crying, I think it’s sort of how that’s the end result to all that suffering along the way. You should definitely expect that whatever you're working on, you're probably going to hate most of it. But are you learning doing it? Are you having a lot of challenges? Is it tough? Those are the skills that you want to develop in your 20s—being able to deal with failure from a mental perspective, working with difficult people, solving hard problems, doing boring nuanced work, and learning to get into the details.

What was the best advice you've gotten?

The opposite of that.  

Describe yourself in one sentence:

I am highly opinionated.

When you think about your time at Emory, what's the one word that comes to mind and why?

Scatterbrained. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career and was always changing my mind and all over the place.

What's your secret talent?

Being able to focus pretty intensely.

What kind of media do you consume?

I'm a television addict. There’s probably not a show I haven’t watched. Oh yeah, I don't watch cooking shows as much because they make me hungry, and that's tough.

Vivek Garipalli is a 2018 Emory Entrepreneur Award winner, sponsored by Emory Entrepreneur Network. Watch his acceptance speech below, and find out how you can meet alumni entrepreneurs like him.

Vivek Garipalli's Acceptance

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Not Your Grandmother's Healthcare (but Maybe It Should Be)