Q&A with Deborah Kilpatrick, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chair of Evidation Health

by | May 5, 2021 | Ferolyn Fellowship, Thought Leadership

From its humble beginnings nine years ago as a concept at a kitchen table in Santa Barbara, Evidation Health has blossomed into one of the most successful and largest digital health networks globally, raising nearly $200 million in less than a year. 

Co-led by Deborah (Deb) Kilpatrick, Ph.D., a long-time friend of Fogarty Innovation and Ferolyn Fellowship advisory board member, Evidation Health measures health and disease by gathering person-generated health data (PGHD) from connected devices and wearables – always with individuals’ consent — as people go about their daily lives. This enables anyone to participate in groundbreaking research and health programs.

Deb is also a director for the Task Force for Global HealthSleep Number (NASDAQ: SNBR); and Emme and NextGen Jane, which were both co-founded by Ferolyn Fellow graduates. In addition, she serves on the Georgia Tech and Cal Poly engineering advisory boards, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and a co-founder of the MedtechVision Conference. Previously, Deb held leadership roles at CardioDx and Guidant Corporation. She has received numerous recognitions, including being named on lists such as MM&M’s Top 40 Healthcare TransformersFierceMedicalDevices’ Top Women in Medical Devices and Business Insider’s Most Powerful Women Engineers.

We had the pleasure of catching up with Deb to learn more about the fast rise of Evidation Health and gaining her insight on tips for other inspiring entrepreneurs and the impact of the Ferolyn Fellowship.

Q.  Tell us about Evidation Health’s progress in the past year and plans for the capital raised.

A. It’s an interesting moment for companies with proven business models that are at scale, because there’s a lot of capital out there to accelerate growth. For example, we were presented with attractive opportunities to raise nearly $200 million in less than a year–through both a Series D round in 2020 followed by a Series E round a month ago. 

The funding is allowing us to grow and expand our core business, Evidation’s evidence generation product offering, which is largely in partnership with global pharma companies and tech companies in healthcare. And in parallel we’re investing in the future via a new virtual health product launch in 2021: This new offering will both support our research partners and enable individuals to continuously monitor and learn from PGHD relevant to their health.

Our company is very much part of the trend towards decentralized health measurement and empowering people in their daily lives to participate in the healthcare ecosystem. For us, the future was “accelerated” by COVID, which is why I think we had so much opportunity to raise two rounds of capital at attractive terms in a relatively short span of time.

Q. Speaking of COVID, how did that affect Evidation Health?

A. Everything we do is about measurement of health and product impact outside brick-and-mortar walls, and it always has been—so our market momentum accelerated with COVID. From a workforce standpoint, at that time in Q1 2020, about 30 or 40% of the company had been working remotely already, so for us it really wasn’t a big business interruption.

However, our Employee Experience (EE) team saw new opportunities and needs to support employees so they could be challenged and productive at work, while juggling everything they needed to at home. We did some pragmatic things like providing allowances for home office furniture and WiFi, as well as more wellness spending. But the EE team also tried to do small, but meaningful, things so the employees would know the company was thinking about them—things like a box of seeds that would grow into a plant for their home office or leveraging Sugarwish to let everyone choose their own Valentine candy adventure. Our goal was to be supportive and present, while recognizing that everybody’s needs are different.

On the communication front, we accelerated our outreach, going from our usual biweekly all-hands to adding frequent “AMA” town hall meetings with Christine Lemke (Evidation co-CEO) and me. Of course, we did not have all the answers ourselves, but we wanted them to recognize that we are all going through this together and that the company cares about them and their families. But we also reinforced the importance of keeping focused on the company’s 2020 milestones — we truly believed that growth-stage companies that could execute during COVID would be positioned extremely well for future growth coming out of it.

Q. What tips do you have for entrepreneurs?

A. A key driver of success is to maintain your focus on executing what moves the needle for your company, especially when the world around you is distracted. And it can be hard to discern what will do that in any given situation or when the macroenvironment has so much noise in it.

We are definitely in a noisy moment right now, and it’s not all pandemic-related. Especially in the digital health world, so many companies are being funded and created by even more available capital, and by definition, not all of them are going to make it; so if you want to be one of the successful ones, you have to maintain maniacal focus on executing what matters to the health of your specific business. At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for that. 

Q. What have you found meaningful about your involvement with the Ferolyn Fellowship?

A. I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the advisory board, and even though it would be more fun to meet in person, our virtual meetings have been equally productive, as have my interactions with the Fellows. The decentralized setting has even allowed us to have a Fellow from out of state, which is great in that it enables broader participation.  

We have a very eager group that’s looking for personal and business growth, and our role is to show them how to achieve their goals based on their terms, wherever they are in their career, rather than just “dispense wisdom” from our own specific experiences. If I think back to earlier in my career and what was most useful for me to hear, I think it is all about helping them realize grounding truth about what matters and what doesn’t — for them, in this moment.

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