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Winner of Amgen Patients | Choices | Empowerment Competition Emerging Star of HealthCare Engagement Award
Mayo Clinic Award - LeftA winner of the Mayo Clinic iSpot Competition for Ideas that will Transform HealthcareMayo Clinic Award - R

Open Letter: CureTogether’s Philosophy

Dear everyone,

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Partly to better explain who we are at CureTogether, and partly to advocate for a different way of running a startup.

I’m in a very open state after working with the amazing Gary Wolf to put on the first Quantified Self conference, so now seems like a good time to define and clarify our philosophy – what CureTogether is and what it isn’t.

1. We’re not here to compete.

People tend to assume we’re competing with PatientsLikeMe, MedHelp, MediGuard, 23andWe, HealthTap, Genomera, Edison, Google Health, etc. We’re not. I’d like to hereby give them all a standing ovation for the awesome work they’re doing to help patients. Rather than any one of us “winning”, we need many, many more innovators working on health! Seriously, it’s a giant problem and we need as many brains as possible focusing on it.

2. We’re not in this for money.

As a two-person social business, we run very lean, and don’t have any need for extravagant lifestyles. We’re very happy working out of our one-bedroom apartment. We don’t want venture capital, we aren’t running a stressful race to get acquired and sell out – we just like to get up every day and help patients in a calm, positive way, changing lives and doing what we love to do.

3. We don’t sell your data.

This may be the most common misconception about CureTogether. Your data is your data, totally private for only you to see. Aggregate statistics are made available on our website – for free. Occasionally, we will work with reputable research organizations to get more brilliant minds working on improving everyone’s health, and they sometimes make donations to support our work. In these cases, we may share some of the data we gather, but always take numerous steps to protect our members – both technical (such as removing any potentially identifying data prior to sharing), and legal (requiring researchers to legally bind themselves to not even attempt to personally identify any of our members). Sometimes, we will do custom research studies for companies and get paid for it. In these cases, we never share raw data with them. We only generate reports based on abstracted findings, similar to what we publish openly on our website. We’re also getting funding from prizes and awards, which is a reflection that we’ve built something useful. We chose carefully to be a for-profit company because we can do much more good as a business than if we had to constantly ask for donations.

4. We do want to help.

I live with several chronic conditions, so I understand daily suffering. It’s mostly under control now for me, so I live by the motto that every day I’m not in pain is a day I can help others in pain. Our strength is in thoughtful, powerful analysis and solving very hard problems. So we may not have slick iPhone apps, or a buzzing Twitter account. But we do commit to openly releasing the discoveries that we’re putting our full brainpower on, and we believe we will make some major discoveries to help millions of people suffering – they’re waiting for us, and we feel it every day.

5. We need your help, too.

We’re not into advertising, tricking people into signing up (like one VC tried to get us to do), or social media gimmicks. Daniel and I are also not super social people who go to all the conferences talking about what we do. We prefer to just sit down with our laptops and do the hard work. So if you have any way to help get the word out to more patients, and feel inspired to help, please feel free to go ahead, or let us know how we can empower you (like if you need slides for a talk, or quotes for an article, or whatever.)

OK, that’s all I wanted to say for now. Thanks for reading this, and please leave a comment below if you have a reaction you’d like to share.

Have a wonderful day, and take good care!
Alex :)

Alexandra Carmichael
Co-founder, CureTogether

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2 Responses to “Open Letter: CureTogether’s Philosophy”

  1. That’s a beautiful and awesome articulation of your company’s mission and I think it’s fantastic that you have the freedom to run the company this way. People here in the Valley tends to have blinders on; the ‘VC-backed startup cures all’ attitude is a common ailment.

    People look at me funny when I talk about sharing my research results and ideas with as many people as I can. Even when I’m working on commercial projects, I find that being open is a winning strategy.

    1) If your idea can be stolen just by being overheard, it isn’t a very good one. I told 100′s of people about my first idea. I even once saw a competitor using minor variations of our slides and ideas in a VC pitch – needless to say we won the market.

    2) If you only have one good idea, you are not an entrepreneur. A good entrepreneur is so full of ideas that they have trouble picking one to focus on. The initial idea is usually wrong, so you’ll need at least 10 more in your back pocket to draw on.

    3) Every problem has a business model that fits it best. People far too often overlook bootstrapping, debt financing, non-profit, or consulting models. Not all market opportunities have the exit potential or size that would justify a VC investment.

    Moreover, the passion driving the best entrepreneurs is solving a problem they care about, not simply making lots of money by exploiting temporary market discontinuities. The people who are money driven, typically make poor products and companies and in the long run make less money too. I can’t back that up with data, but it’s certainly my experience.

    Thank you for building CureTogether and being a great team of collaborators!

  2. Hey Alexandra,

    What I find so great about your website is that it centralizes patient needs in the same way that consumer health groups are doing for their companies. I’d love to talk more with you about the work you do and the implications you see it having for patient care. I mean, are researchers actually starting to address the problems outlined by patient symptoms? And in terms of VC-funding, I’ve been researching how actively the model is changing. I’d be interested to hear more about the empowerment companies like yourself have in taking the risk to forego a VC vs. maintain your culture and identity.

    Please send me an email and we can talk further!

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