Zack Fisch-Rothbart of DashMD on raising a first round of funding and forgetting about the traditional career timeline
Zack Fisch-Rothbart is the CEO and Cofounder of DashMD, a platform that provides patients with tools and resources to help them better manage their recovery. Zack is an emerging leader in the Medical Technology space whose background includes experience in the worlds of law and business.
Looking back five/ten years, where did you think you’d be by this point in your career? How did you get here?
I was that kid in Grade Four who if you asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say either a commercial litigation lawyer or mergers and acquisitions lawyer. I was born into a house that was full of lawyers and that was what I was groomed for. After having the chance to actually work at law firms however, I came to realize that becoming a lawyer wasn’t the right path for me. It wasn’t something that I was actually passionate about. Coming to that realization was a challenging process though, mostly because I had to completely rethink my identity and reassess what I thought I was meant to be doing. The turning point for me came as a result of my difficult encounter with our Health Care system and this made me realize what I actually needed to be doing. I never thought I’d be doing what I am doing now five/ ten years ago.
Tell me about Dash MD. How did you come up with the big idea to get the company going and what did you do at the beginning to start getting the idea off the ground?
Starting Dash was inspired by an experience that I had a number of years ago as a patient in our health care system. I had broken my leg playing Frisbee which led to a preventable complication during my aftercare period that almost caused me to lose my leg. Before my discharge, I had been given a lot of important information from my nurse while being quite stressed and medicated which went in one year and came out the other. The complication that I experience could have been avoided if I received that important aftercare information in a better way and this is the reason why Dash now exists.
After founding Dash, my partner and I started by doing a lot of listening to others. We reached out to patients, hospital administrators, doctors and nurses to better understand what their needs where and thought about how to build something which would create impact and add value. Most of these conversations came about as a result of just cold calling, reaching out on LinkedIn and asking for people’s time. We identified people who would be good to speak with and just tried to contact them. Nine times out of ten, if you are a young entrepreneur or student and you reach out to someone who you feel you can really learn from, they will give you their time. Doing that has resulted in us getting some pretty significant connections that have really impacted our business.
Now that we are up and running, our focus is around helping patients more effectively manage and coordinate their care through greater understanding and comprehension across the patient experience.
You just raised a nice round of funding, what was that experience like?
Something that I tried to prepare myself for was hearing the word “no” a lot. Raising funds isn’t a standardized process and different investors have different priorities. For some, it’s about the team and for others, it’s about the market, the intellectual capital or idea. As a result, you need to be able to tailor your pitch accordingly to different audiences who are looking for different things. It is such a great experience for building character. We’ve probably spoken to 500 different people about investing in us.
Another important thing is around how to negotiate the terms of the investment. Nobody but yourself is going to educate you on how to best finance your start-up whether it be through equity or debt instruments. As a founder, it is up to you to educate yourself on how your financing will impact things like dilution, governance and control. Valuation is also something that is important to understand because that is more of an art than science. It often comes down to sitting down with investors and figuring out what the company is worth together, based on the revenue generation and profitability of the business.
What have been some of the most important business lessons that you have had to learn the hard way? How have they made you more successful?
From my experience, one of the worst situations you can be in from a business perspective is getting the “slow no”. This is when someone who is a decision maker is not just coming forward and giving you a straight answer on something. That could be in terms of making an investment, becoming a strategic partner or even becoming a team member. What this ends up doing is making you as a founder waste effort and resources into someone who is ultimately wasting your time. I’ve found that while people like to be polite, the “slow no” is actually much more disrespectful than the “fast no”.
Another important lesson has been around managing imposter syndrome. This is when you feel like you don’t know enough or are capable enough to be doing what you are doing. As an Entrepreneur however, you need to embrace that because you become cognizant that there is just so much left to learn. It’s about getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
What does leadership look like to you? What makes a great leader?
Good leadership is based on being able listen, showing empathy and being deliberate about caring for others in the office. It is also the ability to inspire people to make something from nothing. At the beginning, we were selling hospitals on an idea for a company that was based off of nothing but a big vision and a few screen shots. Having the ability to motivate someone through passion goes beyond any sales pitch out there.
What would be your one piece of advice for those in the workforce today to get ahead and find work that is fulfilling?
Before you go and figure out the question around fulfillment, you need to get to the point where you know whether or not something is right for you. My realization that law wasn’t for me was a tough one but it got me on the right path to be doing what I’m doing now. Those kinds of journeys are very personal in nature and they unfold through trying a bunch of different things. I know a lot of people who are going out and interviewing at different companies for different roles because they feel like they don’t fit into a certain box and that is totally ok. It is important to experiment and find out what sticks. Finding what you want to be doing is an exploratory journey that differs person to person and I don’t believe in the whole, “you should be at a certain point in your career by the time you get to a certain age” adage. Passion evolves over time and that’s why I think one’s career is a continuous journey.