Podcast: An Aha Moment 3
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Nobody likes paperwork. But for doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers, compliance paperwork can be so time-consuming and daunting that it can even hinder their ability to provide quality care. For best friends Arash Hosseini Jafari (he/him) and Faddy Suna (he/him), their hands-on experiences in healthcare, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence made them the perfect people to co-found Clearpol, a startup to save the system.
Clearpol is building the operating system for compliance & risk management for the healthcare industry and beyond. Since launching, Clearpol’s healthcare compliance software has gained the trust of 1000+ healthcare facilities across the US, in addition to many public health agencies at the federal, state, and local level.
Arash is the co-founder and CEO of Clearpol, he has always been interested in the intersection of technology and public policy. Faddy is the cofounder and CTO of Clearpol, he is a biomedical engineer, and data scientist turned entrepreneur on a mission to bring innovation to healthcare.
“An Aha Moment,” is a special segment on Making Work Work where we bring you stories from founders, who share how they came up with the key idea for their business; their very own light bulb moment.
Co-founders Arash Hosseini Jafari and Faddy Suna, with their Clearpol team.
[00:00:00] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Have you ever had an idea that made it feel like the world had clicked into place? An idea so powerful that it drove you to action?
You’re listening to a special segment of ‘Making Work Work,’ by DigitalOcean called An Aha Moment, where we bring you bite size stories from entrepreneurs and founders about how they came up with the key idea for their business. They didn’t know what the business would become or how their idea would evolve, but they knew in their gut that they had found something great.
Let’s dive in.
[00:00:30] Arash Hosseini Jafari: I would say our history together is that, we had done all these projects together. went to high school together, we went to college a little bit together, and then even grad school, we went together. So, best friends of 15 years and–
[00:00:52] Faddy Suna: I think it’s 17 now.
[00:00:53] Arash Hosseini Jafari: 17 now. And really having that camaraderie together. We even had a job together, right? We worked at a city of Glendale doing web design. We had done all these things and it just made sense for us to start a company together.
[00:01:04] Faddy Suna: I’m Faddy Suna and I’m the CTO and Co-founder of Clearpol.
[00:01:09] Arash Hosseini Jafari: I’m Arash, the CEO and Co-founder of Clearpol. Clearpol is a regulatory intelligence platform that helps healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, deal with the high, influx of regulatory change.
It allows them to, monitor those changes, and then do the downstream tasks that are required to comply with those regulatory changes. And we automate a lot of that workflow.
The way we ended up here. I think it’s mainly because we both had experience or interface with healthcare and we also had this unique experience of learning about AI early on. Getting a graduate degree in that and seeing the possibilities with natural language processing and the issues we’re seeing in healthcare.
I personally never worked as a healthcare worker, but I did attend medical school for about a year, after eventually dropping out and realizing that my, my passion is in the area of AI and wanting to, improve the healthcare system in general and have a broader impact.
I’ll let Faddy talk about his experience.
[00:02:14] Faddy Suna: Around the year 2017 2018, I am, working as a biomedical manager in a hospital here in Los Angeles. And my main duties are basically ensuring compliance within the entire facility around every single medical device. And these medical devices are in every department. You have some in, x-rays in radiology. You have emergency department, you have surgery department. Each department is affected by its own set of regulations.
And it’s around this time that Arash and I are working on our graduate degrees and we are on a weekly basis we’re working on state-of-the-art NLP projects and whether it’s question answering, whether it’s information retrieval, and that’s when it starts to hit us.
In my position in there, everything was done on paper. I have my colleagues with 30, 40 plus years experience, doctors, nurses, and everything is on paper. And there’s no real peace of mind that you did everything right because of the manual ways that everything is done.
It’s around this time that it starts to kind of click. We can apply modern natural language processing techniques to better understand and get the insights we need from the changing regulations, which are incredibly complex.
[00:03:30] Arash Hosseini Jafari: In terms of how we came up with the idea, we spent a lot of nights in late nights in Faddys basement. Like thinking about all the different, things that we can do, thinking about our next move in terms of our career and next, job that we wanna work in or just hanging out essentially.
And it’s during those times where started brainstorming things and Faddy would complain about certain aspects of his job that he was dealing with, which a lot of it ended up being related to compliance. And I think that’s, we just put two and two together and we said, look, there’s all these innovations in the area of NLP.
Natural language processing and textual AI. There’s all this text information in terms of, regulations and compliance and there’s a way to marry those two together and make it really useful product.
[00:04:22] Faddy Suna: Yeah, so it was my basement. We have 1950s wood paneling on the wall, about seven foot high stealing and four or five whiteboards on the wall. At that time we were both working. Arash was working at Nasa and I was working in the hospital, and it was in the evenings that we’d meet up in that basement and usually spend the late nights.
We have always been very entrepreneurial. We look at we look for the opportunities and everything, and it was near the end of our graduate program that I think we had 20, 25 ideas written all over these whiteboards. And, it was soon after that we were just lucky enough through our network to meet an investor who believed in us and what we were doing.
The conversations with the investor are not, one in, one day and go, it takes weeks maybe a month of follow up and market research. And so I remember at that time we started doing, customer discovery interviews right off the bat–even while I was still working in the hospital.
[00:05:14] Arash Hosseini Jafari: Yeah.
[00:05:14] Faddy Suna: I was going to the director of the lab and the director of pharmacy and the director of surgery and pitching up my ideas and trying to see how it can help their department and how, help them specifically in their issues.
[00:05:25] Arash Hosseini Jafari: We did a lot of designing mockups . Thinking about the workflow of how the product would come together.
[00:05:31] Faddy Suna: The health healthcare industry is huge. and trying to identify where to begin. That’s basically what our focus was on in that early days.
We kind of hone down the idea there and maybe a month or two of conversations and that’s what allowed us to land that first investment.
[00:05:44] Arash Hosseini Jafari: You have to pick a beachhead market to attack when you start a startup because you can’t just go wide and disperse your effort and essentially weaken it. We decided to focus on California nursing homes.
And it became really important because we believe we helped a lot of nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Understand the public health orders, all the changing regulations regarding covid. And regulators even took notice. Important associations took notice and they promoted our product. And it’s had great adoption ever since.
[00:06:20] Faddy Suna: With Clearpol, our healthcare regulatory intelligence platform, you can find exact answers you’re looking for and get the job done in 90% less time. So you don’t have to go to 15, 20 different websites: the California agencies’ websites, city agencies’, county agencies’, CMS on the federal level and many more. It’s all in one centralized platform.
It also shows you how things change over time. So you don’t have to worry about whether you’re looking at something that’s old or whether what you’re looking at is the latest guidance. It’ll tell you what’s the latest and how it changed versus the previous one.
This actually does not exist in the healthcare industry right now. There are some similar tools in the legal industry for lawyers and law firms, but healthcare professionals are clinical by background, but for some reason they are doing this job, which is almost the job of a lawyer—looking into all these regulations and continually trying to stay up to date.
It’s very frustrating because there’s so many agencies and overlapping regulatory requirements that just identifying which agencies apply to you and which are more strict or stringent is a full-time job.
Because in healthcare you have to follow the most stringent requirement. And the federal government says something, your state says something, the city might say something and the county might say something that often don’t mesh with each other. A lot of times these healthcare facilities will outsource expensive third party consultants just to tell them what they have to do basically and what they have to follow.
It’s hugely expensive. It’s hugely time consuming, and in the end, you still don’t have full peace of mind that you did the right thing.
[00:08:00] Arash Hosseini Jafari: Since launching In the midst of the pandemic, we grew to over a thousand, nursing homes using And now we’re expanding to other facility types such as home health, hospice assisted living, and I said eventually hospitals. We’re also expanding to other states including Texas, New Jersey Florida New York.
It’s been tremendous growth since launching. We plan to eventually cover regulatory compliance in the entire healthcare system and include all facility types across all 50 states.
There’s a lot, it’s hard to encapsulate into years here.
[00:08:33] Faddy Suna: I mean, Just there’s multiple plunges that we took. The first plunge was to leave our jobs and, reject any uh, job offers. And that plunge actually, we, I don’t think we had enough money and funding to last us the full six months or a year, whatever it was. But we did it anyway. And yeah, things just worked together. We figured it out. We we’re still here, multiple years later. And during that time there was multiple plunges where it’s just seems like you’re jumping in the abyss you can’t see in front of you. And with enough dedication and faith it seems like most of 'em worked out.
[00:09:05] Arash Hosseini Jafari: If you take any founder that’s made it and you can ask them, in the beginning like, what would be your advice to yourself? Would you do it or not? There would probably, as a, any rational person would say don’t do it. It’s so hard. It’s impossible. But I don’t know. You’ll find a way once you’re thrown into that fire you’ll find a way. But you just have to take those plunges and like what Faddy was saying, just jump into the fire and you’ll see strength in yourself that you didn’t know about. And you’ll see that you have the resolve to push forward.
And, even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll learn way more than you would in a job. And maybe that’s a, founder bias that people who have our personalities would say. But in general, the things we learned hiring your first employee. How do you deal with issues with maybe employees managing a team? How to get a product to market? How do you make business development relationships with other businesses that’s mutually beneficial? How do you get your name out there?
All these things are beyond just writing code, and it’s impossible to learn in a job. That’s what I would say.
[00:10:13] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Great ideas aren’t born overnight, even though inspiration can come in a flash. We hope this Aha Moment story for ‘Making Work Work,’ inspires you to continue shaping, molding, and honing your own ideas because you never know what they can become.
Our theme music is composed by Mirco Altenbach.
Make sure to check out do.co/makingworkwork for more info.
Until next time, I’m Rachael Lewis-Krisky. Keep swimming friends.
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