No waiting room for patient insights

David Edelman, CEO, Thrivable

David Edelman and Ryan Fuchs knew there had to be a better way to connect patients and companies for the creation of superior health care products and services. So they built Thrivable, an on-demand market research platform for the health care industry to ensure that the voice of the patient drives everyday business decisions.

We spoke to David about the origin of the company and how the platform works.

How did Thrivable come about?

Edelman: The story began back in 2005. I met a woman who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We went to dinner and were trying to figure out how much insulin she should take in order to eat sushi. There wasn’t an answer on the web. So, just as a hobby, I started an online community called Diabetes Daily that connects and empowers people around diabetes. It ended up growing and growing, reaching millions of people.

In the course of getting advertising, we found medtech companies really wanted to tap into our community to get patient insights for their products. They wanted to know, for example, What do you want out of your insulin pump? How long should the cord be? What should this app do? All of the questions that come up when you’re developing a product. It’s actually really hard for companies to do that. So we spun out up our market research service, which we call Thrivable.

What is the advantage of Thrivable over regular market research?

Edelman: Normal market research is time-consuming. You’re sending spreadsheets back and forth. There are a lot of conversations, but the time you have between a question and an answer can be measured in weeks or months. So we thought about what it would look like if you had a question and [could] get an answer in an hour.

How did you build the community of patients?

Edelman: We have about 50,000 people. They filled out an in-depth profile — we ask around 50 questions that help companies reach the people [with whom] they want to connect. We also reached out via social media advertising, and we have partnerships with the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, as well as other organizations.

How does the platform work for companies?

Edelman: We created software that enables on-demand access to that panel. Companies can do surveys, interviews, focus groups or test out an app and get those insights in hours. It’s a performance-based model. You only pay when you get a response. We have 100% quality guarantee, and it’s quick and easy. You pick the patients you want to reach; you distribute your activity; and the results start coming in immediately. We built out the platform with the idea of connecting companies and patients to create the next generation of health care.

Can you give us an example?

Edelman: The American Diabetes Association was looking at the impact of COVID on, not just diabetes care, but on people’s life experiences in general. Our survey found that people with diabetes were far more likely to experience homelessness, hunger and significant shocks. So that became part of the conversation. The American Diabetes Association can go to Capitol Hill, and this becomes part of their lobbying efforts.

How are you funded?

Edelman: We had an institutional seed of $1.8 million in February. The investors included Allos Ventures, North Coast Ventures, Jumpstart Ventures and Early Light Ventures.

You began the company in Cleveland. What are some of the advantages of that location?

Edelman: Cleveland has a growing entrepreneurial community. I got a lot of support from the local entrepreneurial community. Brad Owen, my first investor, built a very successful company here called NeverBounce and exited to ZoomInfo a couple years ago.

Another area was I joined the Cleveland chapter of the EO Accelerator, which was incredibly impactful. They have a great learning curriculum and a great community of other entrepreneurs. I’ve received so much advice in the broader community about people management.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

Edelman: I learned how to go from a doer to a leader. In a company, you need to go from hiring individual contributors to hiring managers to hiring leaders. You have to grow as a human being. You need tactical knowledge, but you also need human knowledge. Who am I? What do I stand for? What are my values? How do I communicate them? The person I was five years ago couldn’t do what I’m doing today.