We’re passionate about making technologies simpler and being a true partner to doctors, says Suki.AI’s Eric Grosse

In an interaction with YourStory, Eric Grosse, President of Suki.AI, speaks about his entrepreneurial journey and plans ahead for the AI-powered healthtech startup.
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Eric Grosse was recently appointed as the President of Suki AI, an AI-powered, voice-enabled digital assistant for doctors.

For close to three decades, he has been co-founding technology startups and leading worldwide organisations with thousands of employees and billions in revenue. He was also the CEO of TaskRabbit, which connects clients with those who have the skills needed to perform a certain job. Here, he expanded the team by 60 percent, and also tripled its revenue and volume. 

Prior to this, he was the co-founder of Hotwire, an online discount travel company he grew to a $1 billion-plus in bookings. Hotwire was acquired by Expedia, a company where Grosse served as the president and reversed several years of market share declines in the US while also growing over 150 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking of onboarding Eric, Punit Soni, Founder of Suki.AI, says,

"Suki is lucky to have the founder of Hotwire and President/CEO of companies like Expedia, TaskRabbit, and Chairish. Eric’s talent and track record in successfully scaling companies are exactly what Suki needs at the moment when we are growing exponentially. As we rapidly expand our customer base and our team, Eric's expertise will be instrumental in ensuring we accomplish our mission of reimagining healthcare technology. I personally look forward to learning a lot from him as we scale our company and culture.”

In a conversation with YourStory, Eric speaks about his journey, his plans for Suki.AI, and how it can be transformed with technology. 

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YourStory (YS): Tell us about your experience of building companies from an early stage to now. What do you think will help Suki, especially now that digitisation is so strongly used?

Eric Grosse (EG): At Hotwire, I was at an early stage in the travel industry moving online. We were able to grow and scale the business from an idea to over a billion dollars in bookings, and I see a similar opportunity in front of us at Suki.

About the things that I focus on to help companies grow and scale, the first is to have an effective plan. I’m a big believer that you get what you measure. Defining success is also a really important part for a company to go from an idea to a real business. I think we’ve put together a really exciting plan, where we have the support of our board, senior executive team, as well as the broader organisation to define success and to go out there and get it. 

Another important thing is having a reporting infrastructure that allows us to track progress against our plan. Having a strong culture where we all agree not only on the goals, but sort the rules of the road and how we want to interact and behave with one another is important. It’s super important to have the right culture, and we spent a lot of time refining that, building it, and reinforcing it across the company. 

I also think flexibility is important because as exciting as the business is, we're still relatively speaking in the early stages. We have to be nimble to be able to respond to marketplace challenges as well as opportunities and to be able to change course as needed to be able to deliver against what we want to achieve in 2022 and beyond.

Eric with Suki's founder and CEO Punit Singh Soni (L)

YS: In healthcare, the progress is evolving, growing, and transforming the ecosystem. We live in a very hybrid world today. So how do you adapt to such a situation?

EG: There’s no doubt healthcare is going through some fundamental transformation. That's part of what excites me. A small example is that if you take a look, then you realise that because of COVID, there is a need for telemedicine and remote medicine. 

Now, telemedicine counts for almost a third of all patient visits, which is a huge increase from where it was a couple of years ago. External trends and the march of technology is playing a big part in the evolution of healthcare. 

For us, it’s really about making that technology simple for doctors. Everything that we do is in service of the clinician of the doctor or the physician. This is to make it easier for them to spend less time in front of a computer, less time battling on their health systems, electronic health records, and more time to be able to take care of patients. 

So, making technologies simpler and being a true partner for doctors is something that is really important to healthcare, and something that we're extraordinarily passionate about at Suki.

YS: What are the challenges of building such an early-stage company that is in a fast-growing sector? How are you planning to overcome them?

EG: There are a lot of challenges. Healthcare is a bureaucratic industry and sales cycles are very long. For us, getting out in the marketplace, developing relationships with health systems, and growing more active physicians on the platform is something that we're excited about. But it takes time, and healthcare is different from other industries that I've been involved in. 

For example, in travel and home, growth can be a lot quicker. Healthcare is also a regulated environment as it relates to patient data, HIPAA, etc. Having the infrastructure to be able to support that growth from a regulatory perspective is also a challenge that's unique to healthcare, and something that we're very excited to embrace and make part of our growth story. 

The other thing is that the industry is very fragmented. There are millions of doctors and 1000s of health systems that need and want a service like what Suki offers. Hence, having a sales and marketing infrastructure that reaches this fragmented audience is yet another challenge that's unique to healthcare. 

When I was at Hotwire, I had six or seven domestic airlines that we had to serve. You have to multiply that by 1000s when you're dealing with health systems.

YS: What are your next steps? What can we expect from Suki in the next one year? 

EG: We're really excited to invest in our team. We’re on the heels of our Series C financing, and we’re looking to build out our team to be able to continue to develop the technology that will make us the leader in our segment of the healthcare industry. So, hiring is a big part. And that's also a reason why we're so excited to have a big presence. 

In India, we have a very significant presence from an engineering and product leadership perspective, and we're excited to continue investing in order to get the best people we can around the world. It just so happens that a lot of them reside in your country. We're really excited to do that. 

We are also excited to grow the business in the United States and establish a strong proof of concept there. Gradually, over time, we'll continue to look internationally because we do believe that the challenges we're discussing and the benefits we're giving physicians have a lot of scope.

YS: Are there any specific plans for India this year?

EG: We have a lot of plans and we're very excited to continue investing in our India operations from a recruiting perspective. But in terms of entering the Indian market, it’s a little early for us this year. That's not something that we're ready for yet. 

We are going to focus on building out for the US market first before looking at bringing Suki to more countries. We are passionate about India being a really important partner in terms of building our team. And that is something that we're aggressively pursuing every day.

YS: What advice would you give entrepreneurs and businesses today?

EG: The first is you have to be really passionate about your product and to believe that you have to make sure that you aren’t just one time better than the alternative, but ten times better. Because, if you as an entrepreneur aren't really passionate about your product, you can't expect anybody else to be either. 

Having patience and flexibility is also something that's really critical, because there are very few businesses that grow in completely unexpected ways. There are always surprises. That's one of the challenges, but also one of the most invigorating parts about being an entrepreneur is handling the unexpected. And so, having a strong stomach, but an optimistic heart is something that is critical to being a successful entrepreneur, and being able to bring your dream to a broader team and to an exciting market.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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