2016 Minnesota Tech Community Champion Glafira Marcon has been the leader of Healthcare.MN since the initial founders essentially abandoned their baby in 2015.
After adopting the group in October of that year, it has grown on all fronts, though last month she stepped down as the lead and moved out of Minnesota. While still connected through the board, Healthcare.MN is about to undergo evolutionary changes in her absence, as things will not be the same without her.
We reached out for an ‘exit interview’ to hear her retrospective take on Healthcare.MN, and Minnesota’s HealthTech industry; those are our words and these are hers:
When and why did you leave Minnesota – more importantly what does your relationship look like with Healthcare.MN post departure?
I left Minnesota at the end of June and the primary reason is because my partner just started his medical residency at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA. I am from the Bay Area and we made the decision to focus on the Bay so that I could be closer to my family.
I love Minnesota and was in no rush to leave. But, when faced with where to live for the next four years, we made the decision that now (in our mid-late 20’s) was the best time to move around.
I will be officially stepping down as the ‘Chief Facilitator’ of Healthcare.mn in August, and moving onto the Board of the organization. We brought on a team in February so the transition has been gradual, and Yorgos Arambadjis who has been with us for almost two years will still be very involved in events. I am very excited about the new leadership of Conner O’Brien and Meghana Bhimarao and will be just a call away to help with connections, advice, etc…
In retrospect, what are you most accomplished about and how do you generally feel about your time leading the group?
To be honest, I am always a bit self conscious when people laud me for my leadership of Healthcare.mn. I put in a lot of hours, but they were very scattered because of my full time job at Optum — an email here, a meeting there, of course monthly events that always seemed to be coming together last minute — so it was difficult for me to comprehend the total effort I was putting into the group. Now, being away from Minnesota for a couple of weeks, I realize that it was a lot (mostly by the amount of free time I have now).
I think what I am most proud of is how I started my leadership — meeting with members to understand their experiences and biggest needs, building relationships, and designing programming based on those conversations. I am proud of the energy I was able to infuse in the group, and am very grateful for all of the positive feedback and constructive criticism. The biggest challenge — and probably what I am most excited about — is the fact that we were able to build an amazing team and that Healthcare.mn will live beyond any one leader.
What was the hardest part for you about leading the group?
The trade-off between meeting members and attending events versus self care was probably the biggest challenge for me. I love being outdoors and cooking, but the most common way to meet is grabbing coffee or food — which just ate away at me after a full day at work. I am taking initiative now to have more walking or adventure meetings, or cooking together. It sounds a little weird, but it helps me kill two birds with one stone! Also, the energy required to host an event took its toll after a while — I started associating big gatherings with stress. It was incredible going to events over the last couple of months because the team totally led them and I was able to attend as just a regular attendee for the first time, and actually have conversations with people without a million things going through my head.
Aside from the personal hardships, finding the right team was a process — and I am SO happy with the result.
What was your biggest learning experience?
It’s cliche, but my biggest learning experience was just the power of curiosity and listening first. I think people can pick up on the fact that you’re really just trying to figure out how to meet their needs, and then they do everything they can to meet yours!
What advice do you have for your successor/ the board to keep the torch burning while you’re gone?
Conner will be the ‘face’ of healthcare.mn and leading up our partnerships and sponsorships, while Meghana will head up operations and programming.
The mission should stay the same, but don’t feel obligated to have a set vision in place. The vision should evolve with member needs — and it’s hard to predict what those will be in the future. Also, delegate :)
How could Minnesota’s HealthTech/HealthIT/Digital Health side of things improve from your perspective?
I would talk to a lot of leaders from various financial and business institutions about getting involved with Healthcare.mn, and what they could do to support the community and general startup ecosystem. I truly believe it begins with personal interests and relationships — find out who in your company is already involved in these groups and is attending events, and empower them (if they want) to make it part of their job to collaborate with startups and the innovation community. Have them identify needs and how their organization stands to benefit from working with startups. This will be much more successful than a top down approach.
– Focus on the basics: Spend more time on the front end really understanding the problem you are trying to solve from the perspective of those who experience the problem. Identify who will pay to solve that problems. Understand the unit economics. Narrow your target customer and beneficiary and know them super well. Bonus: try to focus on a problem you or a loved one has experienced, or volunteer or get work experience in that area. You will be more successful as an insider, and your passion and dedication will push you and shine through to others.
– Get creative about funding mechanisms and learn from the experiences/mistakes of other founders when it comes to growth and investment.
– Reflect and identify what are your biggest needs (as an individual and company) weekly, and proactively share what those needs are. We’ve all been through it, and there is likely someone who could save you a lot of time and stress by sharing their experiences.
– Give back. If you have figured something out, jot it down or share it with a community via an event, blog post, etc…
– Know your motives: do you want to be a founder, or do you want to make healthcare better? Is there an existing startup you can work with to push forward both of your goals? Or, in order to make impact, do you need to go out on your own? There is no right answer, just be honest with yourself.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I LOVE Minnesota and the Healthcare.mn community. I am so thankful for the relationships and opportunities it has afforded me, and for all of the guidance and mentorship I have received. I really believe that MN is the place to be for healthcare innovation. I hope people understand that my leaving is not any kind of comment on the healthcare innovation scene in MN. I plan to be a big time ambassador in the Bay Area and will be back in Minnesota frequently. Please feel free to reach out if you are in the Bay Area and want to go on a walk or adventure :)