Interview With Sufian Chowdhury
Describe your product or service:
“We envision a future in which the coordination and delivery of medical transportation will be so seamless that any patient, anywhere, can request a healthcare ride in real-time. To accomplish this, we have built the nation’s largest healthcare transportation infrastructure — one that digitally connects health plans, brokers, and providers. This enhanced level of connectivity significantly improves access to care for patients.
In 2017, the idea of developing a revenue cycle management (RCM) platform, specifically for the medical transportation industry, quickly gained momentum among local providers. Kinetik integrates its RCM platform with more than 3,100 payers throughout the country. In 2022, Kinetik launches its medical transport platform, which includes a trip scheduling platform for brokers and health plans, and a trip assistant platform for Transportation Providers (TPs) and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Kinetik also enhances its RCM platform to support instant pay for TPs and TNCs.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Our company values — Be Just, Be Curious, Be Collaborative — are at the core of what we do at Kinetik. Our mission is ‘empowering care with connectivity.’ In order to do so, we encourage a company culture that encourages asking questions, being honest, and helping others around you. It’s what made our products and company so successful.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“We are funded by private investors and family offices and have completed $20 million of seed funding. We began planning our Series A funding round last month, in December 2022, which will launch later this year.”
How big is your team?
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“I got the idea from a Brooklyn-based transportation provider who was having issues with his billing. I saw how inefficient the non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) industry was through his eyes and knew that this was something that needed to change. Right now, the industry has extremely high rates of fraud, waste, and abuse and requires a 72-hour notification to book a ride. This seemed highly inefficient. So, I started working with the transportation provider and my co-founders on our first product, the Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) tool, and created Kinetik to transform the NEMT industry.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our target market is transportation providers, brokers, health plans, and health providers. Transportation providers are our largest market at the moment, and we established the right market by working directly with the transportation providers on the backend to ensure that the product we were creating fit their needs.”
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?
“The biggest obstacle we encountered while launching the company included the beginning of building the business (as always for a startup founder). It was difficult to find the right people, we burned through a ton of money (over $80,000 out of my own money) and almost failed as a company altogether. But — we didn't give up, took a lot of changes, and now we made it.”
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What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Our primary marketing strategy is to create a scalable lead-generation engine by implementing inbound and outbound marketing initiatives.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“It took five years to get 50, and then three months to get from there to 100. The initial customers were the hardest to get. The first customer was the absolute hardest to get, oftentimes, when building a company or having an idea — we think it's a big problem, but the world doesn’t care. When you come across a problem and start thinking about it, you get so ingrained into the whole world of seeing the problem through your eyes you forget that is not how the industry/potential customer is looking at it. To get our first customer at Kinetik, we had to spend a year with them no commitment. I just wanted to sit with them and learn from them. Fortunately, the owner was nice enough to let me sit in and understand the problem from their perspective.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“As a healthcare transportation infrastructure platform – there are different product lines for different users, so the KPIs depend on the product line.
- Health plans customers: ARR (Investors to gauge success of the company), Dollars processed, Number of rides that go through our platform, and are requested on a daily/weekly/monthly basis
- Transportation providers: no-show rates (patients are getting the ride that's being requested) fulfillment, Availability of vehicles based on patients' needs
- Qualitative aspects: Member experience, (quality-based care/providers), Driver/passenger ratings, Provider/tech ratings.”
What are a few of your favorite startup tools, apps, or services?
- “Slack is phenomenal
- Zoom has allowed us to build a mostly remote company — build a team across three countries
- Stripe is amazing for collecting payments
- GSuite — if it weren’t for Google there would be no Kinetik
- Notion — great for commuting with your team
- Jira — technical side of things
- AWS — on the accelerated tool, great for scaling on the tech side
My favorite to build culture is Nectar – it has become such an integral part to our culture at Kinetik. We pride ourselves on culture at Kinetik, and on Nectar, you can give points to your colleagues for doing something, and it becomes so competitive and is fun – can be creative with how points are distributed. The point system works by the points turning into cash that the company funds (give X amount of points to each person to give).”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“Something that surprised me about entrepreneurship is the tenacity it takes to build a tech startup. Building a tech company is NOT for the faint of heart. There have been countless times I wanted to walk out. But every time I wanted to throw in the towel, I asked myself a very important question: Who is going to solve this problem? Why not me? Or my company? There is so much fraud and inequity happening in the medical transportation industry. Kinetik works to help those — on Medicaid, Medicare, lacking resources, underserved communities to be able to get rides (with adequate equipment) to doctor appointments, hospital visits while still going through their insurance. Currently, they aren't getting them when they need them. In fact, most have to put in a request for a ride up to 72 hours BEFORE they need it. So when I feel like quitting, I remind myself of this mission.”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“I knew that I had to quit my day job to focus on my startup when I saw the problem that transportation providers were facing when it comes to billing in the non-emergency medical transportation industry. I believe that there are two types of people in this world: One who sees a problem and complains and one who sees a problem and then makes a list of possible solutions. The latter are the people that are going to change this world and who I strive to be. For 18+ years now, I’ve carried a journal around with me, and I jot down everything that bothers me. Then I write out ideas for potential solutions. This practice is actually how the idea for Kinetik came about. I ALWAYS get stuck in traffic behind buses. So one day in traffic, I wrote down “getting stuck behind buses.”
As a way to solve it, I wrote about how there could be an integration with map apps that would allow it to flag me if there was a large bus. That way, I could take another route. I actually took this idea to a friend in the transportation industry, and we ended up pivoting the idea and technology quite a bit … but the principle remains that everything in this world is solvable. Just because it hasn’t been done before, or doesn’t exist now — is not to say it can’t.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Healthcare consulting — I learned about the ins and outs of healthcare and the difficulties of the fragmented non-emergency medical transportation industry.”
More on Kinetik Healthcare Solutions
Sufian Chowdhury, founder of health tech startup Kinetik Healthcare Solutions, shared valuable insights during our interview.