20VC Why Most Founders Do Not Structure Their Fundraise Correctly, The Pros Of Having An MBA As A Startup Founder & How To Manage The Psychology Of Being CEO and Overcome Self Doubt with Iman Abuzeid, Founder & CEO @ Incredible Health

Summary Notes


In this episode of "20 Minutes VC," Harry Stebbings interviews Iman Abuzid, the founder and CEO of Incredible Health, a platform that expedites the hiring process for healthcare professionals. Iman shares her journey from medical doctor to startup CEO, detailing her pivot from a SaaS platform for healthcare businesses to founding Incredible Health alongside co-founder Rome Portlock. She highlights the importance of ignoring biases during fundraising, leveraging networks for warm introductions, and crafting a compelling vision to secure venture capital. Iman also emphasizes the value of diverse teams, not just demographically but in experiences, and how early attention to diversity can help attract top talent. Furthermore, she discusses the benefits of building a tech company in the Bay Area due to its information network effects. Lastly, Iman touches on managing the psychology of being a CEO, with strategies like seeking therapy, coaching, and fostering a support network of fellow CEOs.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Incredible Health and Iman Abuzeid

  • Harry Stebbings introduces Iman Abuzeid, founder and CEO of Incredible Health.
  • Incredible Health is a startup that connects hospitals with nurses and other healthcare professionals.
  • Iman Abuzeid has raised over $17 million for Incredible Health.
  • Abuzeid's background includes being a medical doctor, working at McKinsey, and leading product management at Alivecore.
  • Harry Stebbings also mentions product endorsements before the interview.

"I'm so excited to welcome Iman Abuzeid, founder and CEO at Incredible Health, a startup that connects hospitals with nurses and other high shortage healthcare professionals to dramatically speed up the hiring process."

This quote introduces Iman Abuzeid and her startup, Incredible Health, which aims to expedite the hiring process for healthcare professionals.

Iman Abuzeid's Journey to Startups and Incredible Health

  • Iman Abuzeid's background as a medical doctor.
  • Transitioned from medical practice to management consulting focused on hospital operations and strategy.
  • Post-MBA, moved to the Bay Area and entered the startup world.
  • Led product at an early-stage healthcare technology company before founding Incredible Health.
  • Co-founder Rome Portlock, a software engineer from MIT, also influenced the creation of Incredible Health.

"I led products at an early stage healthcare technology company and that's really where I learned to work with software engineers and designers and data scientists and what it takes to launch a product and grow a business."

Iman Abuzeid explains her transition from healthcare to the tech industry, emphasizing the skills she gained in product management and business growth, which were pivotal for starting Incredible Health.

The Ideation Process of Incredible Health

  • The ideation process was influenced by personal connections to healthcare professionals.
  • Abuzeid and co-founder Portlock identified a disconnect and inefficiency in healthcare staffing.
  • They went through a pivot from a SaaS platform for small and medium healthcare businesses.
  • A robust ideation process involved generating 100 ideas and applying filters such as market size and competition to narrow down to the best one.
  • Customer and market research were integral to refining the idea that became Incredible Health.

"We came up with this concept for incredible health."

Iman Abuzeid describes the moment when they formulated the concept for Incredible Health, highlighting the realization of a need for a better system to connect healthcare professionals with hospitals.

Fundraising Experiences and Challenges

  • Abuzeid raised a seed round in 2017 and Series A in 2019.
  • Despite the low percentage of venture capital going to women and particularly black women, Abuzeid focused on assertiveness and clear communication of her vision.
  • The importance of ignoring biases and statistics that could psychologically impact fundraising efforts.

"You just have to ignore that. You have to ignore the statistics and the data and the bias and all of that, because that's not what's going to get the round done."

Abuzeid advises ignoring the negative statistics about fundraising for minorities and instead focusing on the strengths of one's own business case.

Fundraising Advice for Minorities and Women

  • Building a network and securing warm introductions is crucial for fundraising.
  • Abuzeid's network, including a Wharton professor, helped her gain access to the VC community.
  • The story and pitch are critical; traction alone doesn't secure funding.
  • Running a tight fundraising process and meeting with lower-tier investors first for practice is recommended.

"You need to meet the tier three investors first, then the tier two, and end with the tier one."

Iman Abuzeid suggests a strategic approach to fundraising by starting with less critical investors to refine the pitch before meeting with top-tier investors.## Fundraising Iteration

  • Iteration is crucial in fundraising, similar to product development.
  • Continuous improvement and clarification are necessary based on feedback.
  • Fundraising should be approached as a learning process.

"There has to be an intense amount of iteration that happens while you're fundraising as well."

This quote emphasizes the importance of treating fundraising as an iterative process, where one learns from each interaction to refine their approach.

Venture Value Add

  • Investors can significantly aid in closing candidates for various positions within a company.
  • Introductions to hospital executives by investors have been instrumental for business growth.
  • Investors serve as experienced advisors, offering insights on product strategy, financing, and building company culture.
  • Jeff Jordan's expertise in marketplaces and geographic density was particularly valuable.

"One of the key things that my investors have done for me are closing candidates...introductions to hospital executives...as an advisor to me, the CEO."

Iman Abuzeid highlights the tangible benefits received from investors, which include recruiting, networking, and strategic advice.

VC Empathy

  • CEOs desire more empathy from venture capitalists.
  • The challenges of entrepreneurship should be acknowledged by VCs.

"Do you think a top thing is just having a little bit more empathy for operators and for CEOs?"

Iman Abuzeid suggests that VCs could improve by showing more understanding toward the difficulties faced by founders and CEOs.

VC Twitter and Content

  • VC Twitter and blogs provide valuable content for building a company.
  • Specific examples from Bill Gurley and NFX are cited as particularly helpful.
  • A call for less sarcasm and more constructive content is made.

"Given the amount of content that's out there to help you figure out how to build a company, some of that content is actually quite helpful."

Iman Abuzeid acknowledges the positive impact of VC-generated content while suggesting a reduction in negative commentary.

Learning from Rejected VCs

  • Rejections from VCs are common during fundraising.
  • Conversations with VCs who pass on investing can still offer valuable insights.
  • Founders can treat interactions with VCs as opportunities for free consulting.

"I just try to extract as much value as I can...treating them like free consultants because they are, regardless of the tier that they're in."

Iman Abuzeid describes how she maximizes the value from meetings with VCs, even when they decide not to invest.

The Value of MBAs

  • An MBA provides credibility, especially when dealing with enterprise customers.
  • Finance and accounting knowledge from an MBA is crucial for managing a business's cash flow.
  • Being financially literate can give founders an edge in fundraising.

"Managing your cash is just such an important part of running an early stage, rapidly growing startup."

Iman Abuzeid explains the practical benefits of an MBA for a startup CEO, emphasizing financial management skills.

Transitioning from Seed to Series A Funding

  • The transition from seed funding to a larger Series A round involves a change in objectives, not necessarily spending habits.
  • The focus shifts from achieving product-market fit to scaling the business.
  • Maintaining resourcefulness is key, regardless of the funding stage.

"Not so much, because you still have to stay...resourceful, so we still have to be careful with the cash."

Iman Abuzeid discusses the mental shift required when moving from smaller funding rounds to larger ones, stressing the importance of prudent cash management.## Managing the Psychology of a CEO

  • Being a CEO requires managing one's own psychology, as the role is constantly changing and involves making numerous uncertain decisions.
  • External professional support, such as therapy, can be beneficial in handling the stress and anxiety of the job.
  • Executive coaching has mixed reviews, but finding the right coach can be helpful.
  • Having a support group of other CEOs can provide empathy and shared experiences, which is crucial for mental resilience.

"Know Ben Horowitz, in his book hard things about hard things, one of the first things he says is the number one job of the CEO is to manage your own psychology."

This quote emphasizes the importance of self-management for a CEO, as highlighted by Ben Horowitz, and sets the stage for discussing the various ways to manage the psychological demands of the role.

"So managing psychology has been critical to me in terms of the key ways I do it, is honestly, I have a therapist and I generally encourage all ceos to just get one."

Iman Abuzeid stresses the importance of having a therapist to manage the psychological stress that comes with being a CEO, suggesting it as a critical support mechanism for anyone in a similar leadership position.

Impostor Syndrome and Self-Doubt

  • High achievers often experience impostor syndrome, which can affect confidence during important activities like fundraising, selling, and team-building.
  • Adopting an alter ego can be a strategy to overcome impostor syndrome and increase assertiveness and confidence.
  • Over time, the distinction between one's alter ego and true self may diminish as confidence grows.

"Yeah, sure. I mean, I think anyone who's, like, high achieving probably has some form of imposter syndrome, regardless of your demographic and your age and so on."

Iman Abuzeid acknowledges that impostor syndrome is a common experience among high achievers and is not limited by demographic factors such as age.

"I pretty much adopted an alter ego, and this alter ego actually happens to be a white male who is highly privileged as well, because I had observed how members of that demographic operate."

This quote describes Iman Abuzeid's tactic of adopting an alter ego to emulate the confidence and assertiveness observed in a specific demographic, which helped her overcome impostor syndrome in professional settings.

Leadership Evolution

  • A CEO's role and daily tasks change rapidly, especially in a startup environment.
  • Transitioning from an individual contributor to a leader involves "firing" oneself from various functions as the company grows.
  • Hiring domain experts for specific functions is essential, as no CEO can be an expert in every aspect of the business.

"So I have transitioned from being an individual contributor who's literally doing everything to just rapidly firing myself from different functions and different tasks."

Iman Abuzeid explains how her role evolved from doing everything as an individual contributor to delegating tasks to specialists, highlighting the dynamic nature of leadership in a growing company.

Delegation and Trust

  • Delegating tasks is essential to avoid becoming a bottleneck and slowing down the company's progress.
  • Recognizing one's limitations and having humility is crucial for effective delegation.
  • Speed is a competitive advantage for startups, making efficient delegation and trust in team members' expertise vital.

"I haven't been particularly challenged with it because there's two, three things that I keep in mind. Number one, I cannot let myself become a ballneck because I end up being the number one thing that slows down the company."

Iman Abuzeid discusses her approach to delegation, emphasizing the importance of not becoming a bottleneck and the need for humility in recognizing her own limitations.

Note-taking and Task Management

  • Taking detailed notes in meetings, especially with advisors or investors, is key to extracting maximum value.
  • Using tools like Todoist and Evernote helps in organizing tasks and notes, ensuring important information is easily accessible.
  • Prioritizing tasks based on the most pressing problems or goals is essential for effective action and decision-making.

"So yes, I do take notes in meetings especially. I mean, I'm guessing the little birdies were either advisors or investors, because if I have 1 hour of time with them again, I'm going to try to extract as much value as I can."

Iman Abuzeid confirms her habit of taking extensive notes during meetings to make the most of the limited time with important stakeholders.

"So some of these conversations are things that I can act on immediately because they are the number one problem I'm trying to fix."

This quote highlights the decision-making process Iman Abuzeid uses to determine which issues to address immediately, focusing on the most critical problems first.

Building a Diverse Team

  • Diversity in a team is not limited to demographics but also includes a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
  • Diverse teams are more successful and drive more shareholder value, as supported by business research.
  • Starting with a diverse team from the beginning is crucial because it becomes increasingly challenging to diversify later.
  • Being proactive in creating a diverse pipeline from the top of the funnel is essential, rather than using it as an excuse for a lack of diversity.

"So the way I think about diversity is not just demographic diversity, but also diversity in backgrounds and experiences, too."

Iman Abuzeid broadens the concept of diversity beyond demographics to include a range of backgrounds and experiences, which she believes contributes to business success.

"When people say it's a pipeline problem, it sounds like a little like an excuse to me. It's BS."

This quote reflects Iman Abuzeid's stance on the common argument that a lack of diversity is due to a pipeline problem, which she dismisses as an excuse rather than a valid reason.## Talent Distribution and Opportunity

  • Talent is evenly distributed across demographics, but opportunities are not.
  • CEOs have a responsibility to find talent and fix the pipeline, making diversity a priority.
  • Diversity efforts should not be delegated solely to Chief Diversity Officers or HR teams but owned by the CEO.
  • The goal is to hire the top 5% of talent from every demographic to avoid mediocrity.

"Talent is evenly distributed. Opportunities are not."

This quote emphasizes the imbalance between the innate abilities of individuals and the chances they get to prove themselves, highlighting the need for CEOs to actively seek out diverse talent.

"It's your job as CEO to make sure diversity is a priority."

This quote underlines that the CEO should take personal responsibility for ensuring diversity within their company, rather than leaving it to other departments or officers.

"You're trying to hire the top 5% of white male men or you're trying to hire the top 5% of hispanic women."

This quote points out that excellence is not confined to any one group and that companies should strive to identify and hire the best candidates from all backgrounds.

The Bay Area's Unique Ecosystem

  • The Bay Area is considered the best place in the world to build a tech company due to its ecosystem.
  • Information network effects set the Bay Area apart, with founders, investors, and operators exchanging valuable information regularly.
  • The dense network of knowledge-sharing in the Bay Area is unmatched and provides a competitive advantage.

"The fact that I can have a conversation over breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner with drinks, whatever, with other founders, investors, operators, multiple times a day."

This quote describes the frequent and informal exchange of critical industry information that occurs in the Bay Area, contributing to its status as a tech hub.

Hiring and Firing Decisions

  • CEOs will inevitably make hiring mistakes despite thorough interviewing and referencing.
  • It's crucial to provide feedback and clarity on performance issues, giving individuals a chance to improve.
  • If no improvement is seen within a few weeks, it may be necessary to let the employee go to protect the company's growth and shareholder value.
  • The decision to terminate employment is difficult but sometimes necessary for business success.

"It's inevitable that you're going to make a hiring mistake."

This quote acknowledges that no hiring process is perfect, and CEOs will sometimes hire the wrong person for the job.

"If it means that the person needs to leave the company in order for us to increase his chances of doing that, of winning, then that's just business."

This quote reflects the tough decisions CEOs must make when an employee is not meeting expectations, emphasizing the importance of the company's success over individual employment.

Quick Fire Round Insights

  • Iman Abuzeid's favorite book is "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz for its realistic portrayal of the CEO journey.
  • Her superpower is rapid execution, while her weakness is a need for greater empathy.
  • Katrina Lake from Stitch Fix comes to mind when thinking of success.
  • The first financial support for Incredible Health came from friends, family, and NFX.
  • Mentors can be individuals one has never met, such as Beyonce, Serena Williams, and Oprah, who inspire through their mindset and approach to success.
  • The hardest roles to hire for in a software company are VP of Sales and VP of Engineering.
  • Abuzeid would like to increase diversity in the Bay Area and democratize opportunities.
  • Incredible Health aims to be the market-leading, category-defining company in healthcare labor.

"Hard things about hard things by Ben Horowitz."

This quote reveals Abuzeid's appreciation for a book that accurately depicts the challenges faced by CEOs.

"Katrina Lake at Stitch Fix."

This quote indicates that Abuzeid sees Katrina Lake as a successful figure, likely due to her achievements in business.

"The hardest roles to hire for are VP of sales and VP of engineering."

This quote identifies the roles that are typically most challenging to fill in a tech company, emphasizing the importance of strong leaders in these positions.

"Incredible health is aiming to be the market leading category defining company in healthcare labor."

This quote outlines the ambitious goals for Incredible Health, aiming to dominate the healthcare labor market.

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