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ZappRx CEO Says Healthcare Needs More Innovation

Zoë Barry, 32-year-old CEO of ZappRX, is going after a $300 billion market that she says “floats on the back of fax machines.” She speaks with Chief Executive about Amazon’s foray into healthcare, the industry’s innovation problem and the challenges of being a young CEO.
Zoë Barry, CEO of ZappRx
Zoë Barry, CEO of ZappRx

Zoë Barry’s entrepreneurial skills go back a long way, which is fairly impressive considering the ZappRx CEO is 32 years old. Barry says when she was a kid, she taught herself how to make balloon animals and would sell them to other kids in Central Park. “It was quite a lucrative business I might add,” she notes.

The fascination with entrepreneurship didn’t end there. After a stint on Wall Street and a stop at Athenahealth, Barry founded ZappRx at the age of 26. “I didn’t want to be the 2,000th or 3,000th employee at a company that had already IPO’d. My risk appetite was much greater than that. “

She was inspired to start ZappRx after a family member got really sick and couldn’t access a key medication. ZappRx, which has raised more than $40 million and has accumulated a number of high-level health system customers, offers a software platform that streamlines medication prescription and prior authorization for specialty providers.

Barry spoke with Chief Executive about Amazon’s foray into the online pharmaceutical world, how healthcare suffers from “Old Male Doctor Syndrome,” and advice she has for other young CEOs. Below are excerpts from that interview.

What are your thoughts on Amazon buying PillPack?

I can’t say too much because I’m under [confidential disclosure agreement] with a couple key players, but at a high-level what I’ll say is healthcare needs more innovation and I personally couldn’t be happier that really innovative companies are coming after healthcare. But they’re coming after healthcare from all angles. I think Amazon is probably one of the most visible ones but…you know, I was just sharing a story with people that when I founded ZappRx and we had this crazy idea for an app that had your prescription and your payment information. We’re going to revolutionize pharmacy checkout. Investors used to say that was crazy. No one was going to put their health information on a phone. No one is going to put their financial information on the phone. They said you’d have to take the Venn diagram of the overlap of either group and find your target user base, and that I was crazy.

And I think back to that, and I think back to when I finally did get the money together to build the beta version of the app and get pharmacy and doctor [users] lined up. And we went to launch the pilot in 2013 and there was no Wi-Fi in the back of the store. And we were going to have to buy Wi-Fi for the back of a pharmacy so that patients could continue to use their smartphones, which is crazy to think about now in 2018, but that was just five years ago…Healthcare is reactive not proactive. There’s going to be more innovation that’s going to come from all angles. I think Amazon has the clout and is one of the most valuable companies in the world. So, they’re looking at healthcare like low-hanging fruit, and I welcome it.

So, you guys are working with some of the big academic medical centers. Is that your main customer base is the provider side? Obviously, you’re, kind of, on both ends with the prescription and the medication side. But is most of your customer base coming from the provider side?

Yes, we call that our user base. Providers, in my mind, are the top of the spigot. It’s where a prescription starts and is generated. We make our software currently free to providers. Early on, it was free to pharmacies. But you then evolve the business model, as part of the startup shtick where you can’t price to where you want to be at scale. You have to build the product, get some users, iterate, build more features, drive the adoption, and eventually get to an inflection point where you can start turning on the revenues. We’re really the platform that specialists use to prescribe a specialty drug. And we send those clean and accurate prescriptions to the pharmacies. So, we’re working with a lot of academic medical centers and large private practices.


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