Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, guys! It’s Spiffy, and I’m back again on Planet Earth with an eye out for entrepreneurs making a difference in the world! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to speak with Amber Nigam, the co-founder and CEO of basys.ai. Let’s see what inspiring work he’s been up to.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Amber! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Amber: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! At basys.ai, we are addressing the massively challenging and underserved domain of capacity-building for providers (i.e. doctors and hospitals) to address metabolic health-related issues. Our mission is to enable providers in their journey of managing metabolic health for billions through artificial intelligence (AI). Although many companies have tried solving this problem by directly reaching out to the customers or the employees through employers (B2B2C), the provider-side has remained largely untouched. We believe providers are the change-makers. They should be involved from the get-go. AI without context has often been misguided, if not directly harmful. Therefore, we involve the right stakeholders at the right time and remove blindspots from healthcare.
Spiffy: What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Amber: My initial push was my dad, who had unmanaged diabetes for 25 years. Being his caregiver, I have felt a spectrum of emotions from irritation to anxiety to sheer helplessness. Even though I am not diabetic, I have essentially lived a diabetic life vicariously through my dad. Going forward, we at basys.ai are committed to pursuing our initiative through thick and thin, because we are aligned with the mission. In fact, checking for mission alignment is a key component of our hiring process.
Spiffy: How are you and your team at basys.ai working towards a more equitable world?
Amber: Well, poor metabolic health is a significant propagator of health inequity. I don't want to sound morbid, but having a disease like diabetes or cardiovascular disease has very real repercussions on a person’s quality of life. On another note, did you know that the risk of diabetes is 77% higher among African Americans compared to white Americans (based on a study published in diabetesjournals.org)?
Spiffy: Oh, wow! No, I didn’t know that. That’s a big difference.
Amber: Exactly, Spiffy. Improving metabolic health begins with identifying underlying social determinants in clinical decision-making.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by basys.ai. What impact does that make?
Amber: We just acquired our first revenue-generating customer that happens to be the market leader in diabetes. We were able to do it in less than six months, which is five times faster than the industry standard. The impact of this initiative is that we now can hire talented people who could propel our growth. It also means that we do not have to raise money to stay afloat but rather to scale. It has led to a smoother sales process for other customers.
Spiffy: Congrats on that success! Please also share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?
Amber: There were so many times! For every win we make, I can assure you there were five failed attempts preceding it. For instance, we reached out to many potential customers before landing a few big names in the industry. We have tried convincing literally hundreds of people to join our initiative before recruiting our amazing team. But the collective learning coming out of it is that once you get a chance to pilot with a customer or hire a talented team member, make it worth their while.
Spiffy: What is something memorable you've learned from someone?
Amber: "Magic happens when you commit!" This is what Reza Satchu, my professor at Harvard Business School, would say about starting up your venture. As my co-founder Jie Sun and I have progressed along our startup journey, this advice has absolutely stuck with us. There will be no perfect time and no soft fall. Sometimes, it's about taking the plunge and figuring it out from there. You would be surprised!
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Amber: Building off the last answer, we have been surprised by how powerful our network could be. For us, it is not only our friends and peers, but also our university (Harvard) that has been our biggest cheerleader. While our friends have provided us with the perfect support group through much-needed help and critical feedback, Harvard has published our work on their websites and social media to spotlight the cause we care about.
Spiffy: Thanks again for speaking with me today, Amber—it’s been an honor!
Amber Nigam is a serial entrepreneur and an AI leader with a decade-long track record of leading diverse teams for building impactful products. He is the CEO and co-founder of the digital-health startup basys.ai. He is a student at Harvard and previously co-instructed a data-science course at MIT. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 9, 2022.)