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This CEO Just Closed A $10M Round To Help Patients, One Ride At A Time

Business

Roughly 3.6M patients end up missing an appointment each year because of an unfortunate dearth of viable and available transportation options. For some, transport might be too costly. For others, it may prove unreliable. Circulation is looking to change this, offering a new means of making one’s appointment on time and with up to 70 percent in savings. Circulation is a digital transportation platform providing patients with a fairly-priced, reliable Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT).


Circulation’s CEO and Co-Founder, Robin Heffernan, discusses her company below, giving us insight into how she is changing the healthcare world for the better.

1. Have you always wanted to start your own company?

I imagine that some people are born to start companies. These people seem to have a feeling in their guts that drives them to be entrepreneurs and start companies. I honestly do not believe that describes me. I think I am a person of passion and I like to move quickly from idea to execution. I was well trained in school, then in critical thinking while a consultant, and then in the dynamics of funding in the venture capital world. My simple desire to start companies and make them successful is to fill critical needs in the market. Clearly, the early success of Circulation reaffirms that there is an unmet need and we have a way to help meet it.

2. What did you do before starting Circulation?

My background is varied, and the different perspectives have proved immensely helpful to me. I studied the sciences during my degrees at Harvard. As a PhD candidate, I also worked closely with NASA and many leaders in global climate change. The rigor in thinking helped me hone great core skills that I continue to use today. Likewise, I enjoyed the teaming and building solutions with a diversity of people and thought. I did not mesh well with the time cycles of research and heavy focus on grant funding.

My desire to work on hard problems with smart people brought me to management consulting. I got a crash course in business and found that my internal wiring aligned well with markets and market forces. I loved the fundamental apprentice model and I learned a lot very quickly. I switched from consulting to Venture Capital because I wanted to build something and to run something but, in all honesty, it was also opportunistic and an example of being in the right place at the right time. I’m very happy I made the switch and Flybridge Venture Capital offered a great mix of new company incubation and early stage investing. It was useful for me to see how investors selected companies and how successful businesses navigated growth and various exit scenarios.

3. Was it hard to start a business like this?

Building businesses is part evolution and part disruption. Many people will tell you “a good idea is only a good idea, not a successful business,” and this is very true. Every day the team continues to flesh out ideas, adjust direction, and execute. I don’t know any successful entrepreneur who ended up where he/she started. Building a great business takes a diversity of strong talent. The most challenging part of my role is to keep the team strong and to keep us aligned on what we want to accomplish in the marketplace as a team – while leveraging everyone’s individual talents and perspectives. There is no one superstar and I would be worried if there was. For me, this team dynamic is the most important and the most difficult.

Circulation’s CEO and Co-Founder, Robin Heffernan

4. Was it difficult to find partners or were companies willing?

There are many types of partners in my mind (e.g. financial, business, advisory). Circulation has been very well received by all of these partner types. Our Series A funding was over-subscribed and we have some excellent, experienced investors including traditional Venture Capital firms as well as six top-tier Strategics. Likewise, we have grown quickly from three pilot clients to over 60 Clients in our first year of operations. For us, the partnerships have been quite additive. Both investors and clients have helped us build better solutions and have steered us in the direction of additional market needs. These partnerships make us better and we cannot spend enough time listening to our partners as they are huge assets for us.

5. What are some plans you have for Circulation in the future?

Circulation is young and the capabilities we provide to healthcare are desperately needed. There will be much to do in meeting the intense healthcare market demand for logistics and transportation. As we succeed in this effort, the delivery of healthcare will improve and we believe we will be a major component of this improvement. My belief is that we can help to improve healthcare in many more ways that are fundamentally related to how we think at Circulation and the tools we have developed. At the core of Circulation is the exchange of goods and services which supports a fundamental shift in how consumers consume healthcare. This creates a marketplace that reacts to the natural forces of free markets. The healthcare industry will prosper no matter what. Our belief is that healthcare will be better as the consumer gets more involved and the free market forces come to the fore. We are a far distance away from that, but disruption in healthcare is only a matter of time and the consumer will disrupt how healthcare is delivered and more importantly consumed.

6. How do you think being a woman gives you an advantage and disadvantage as a CEO?

I was initially naïve about the difference between male and female CEOs. I thought it started and stopped at the genetic differences. I have never met a woman or man that I could not learn and benefit from. Yet, I now have come to learn that there are social differences in how men relate to men in contrast to how men relate to women. No matter what, there are more men running companies than women. There is a social dynamic of how men often relate outside of the business setting – the shared hobbies and activities beyond the specific business issues shared. Women may not always have this luxury of the overlapping activities. They may have a different set of hobbies or they may have different obligations, perhaps a greater role in the family dynamic or child rearing. All of this said, it is not an excuse for a difference, just something to be aware of and to recognize that some of the related issues may cause a variation in the amount of time or subjects shared amongst executives.

7. Were you expecting Circulation to be as successful as it has been?

My answer is yes and it is based on two items, not just my ego. First, the needs in healthcare. The market is evolving and has a tremendous amount of progress to be made. The reaction to a solution such as Circulation has been exciting and powerful. Second, I have a great team. This team has experience and intelligence – and, they have built a great working style which is hugely collaborative. This collaborative style is within the team and with clients. These ingredients make me proud of Circulation and confident of our continued success.

8. What do you do when you’re not running the company?

I love healthcare and I love business challenges. What we are doing at Circulation is challenging, unpredictable and extremely rewarding. My life outside of Circulation is equally rewarding but perhaps more simple. I have a husband and two younger children. When I am not at Circulation, I am with them. Raising children throws many curve balls. It also forces you to be diligent around prioritizing time and efforts. Being a mom has made me a better entrepreneur without question. I am also very fortunate that my family understands my love for Circulation and supports my endeavors 100 percent.

9. Who is your biggest inspiration?

Honestly, I don’t subscribe or follow an individual man or woman as a role model. I do find that I am a mosaic of many influences of people and beliefs. I have great friends, family and colleagues who influence me. I value individuals that are passionate and that lead by example. I also have a lot of respect for those who recognize that one person will never serve all needs and can piece together the strengths of many to create a greater whole.

10. We know you just closed an exciting $10M funding deal, how do you feel about that?

We do need the capital to help us accelerate our impact. We have huge plans for expansion and growth throughout the U.S. We already serve over 60 clients, across 1,000 top-tier hospitals, clinics, community centers and other health facilities. We continue to prove that Circulation can significantly increase patient satisfaction rates while simultaneously cutting ride costs by up to 70 percent – a clear benefit for our healthcare clients and their populations served. This success continues to create greater and greater demand in the markets we serve and we already have line of sight to hundreds of more clients.

"I love healthcare and I love business challenges. What we are doing at Circulation is challenging, unpredictable and extremely rewarding"

11. What is your greatest accomplishment with Circulation?

It has been a whirlwind. I am extremely proud of where we’ve taken Circulation and how there is a very strong market demand for what we offer. I love our team. This team has been assembled over a number of years and they are great to work with. What is really nice is that with our clients, we can see instant positive impact on patients, family members and caregivers – we are already changing healthcare.

12. What is advice you have for girls who aspire to start their own companies?

This is a great question and one which makes me think. My first piece of advice is to follow your passion. If you are passionate about what you do, it will be more fun and more rewarding. Also, work will not feel like work, it will be a pleasure which will most likely mean you will excel there too. Second, is the world is complicated and the complications are increasing. Recognize that everyone is juggling numerous priorities and demands on their time. Do not be embarrassed by other commitments, be proud of them. Also, look for ways to make everything work. This may mean working remotely or adjusting your daily work schedule. If you are open and over-communicate, then most will be supportive and work with you to make everything fit together and work. Lastly, be thoughtful. Many people do not spend the time to think of a better answer or a better approach. Don’t be afraid to expend the effort to create a great idea or set of thoughts.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.