One of the biggest learnings the global pandemic has illuminated is that the healthcare system around the world is in desperate need of innovation and a complete upgrade. Daniel Oppong, Founder at OhanaHealth discusses more in this chat with TecHRseries while talking about what led to the inception and launch of their new product- OhanaConnect.
Tell us a little about yourself Daniel. How did the idea of OhanaHealth come about?
I’m the son of immigrant parents. My mom and dad moved to America from Ghana, West Africa in the mid-80s. I grew up in the Dallas area, and have been living in Nashville since 2015, moving here after finishing my master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga University. My parents always taught me the value of hard work, but it wasn’t until I got a job at Jumpstart Foundry that I learned what it meant to be an entrepreneur.
Jumpstart Foundry is a seed stage, healthcare-focused venture capital fund that invests in 15 to 20 early-stage healthcare startups a year. They hired me out of grad school to serve as talent director, which meant I’d focus on people, growth and strategy across the business. Mind you, before Jumpstart, I’d never worked in healthcare, nor venture capital, and nor entrepreneurship, but they took a chance on me, and for that I’m so grateful!
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OhanaHealth was the result of the founders, Vic Gatto and Marcus Whitney, encouraging us to be entrepreneurial and come up with unique solutions to real problems. As talent director, I regularly had students reaching out to me asking for jobs or internships, and in that time, one thing became abundantly clear: there was an emerging population of students who were interested in health and healthcare, but they didn’t want to be doctors or nurses. So we created OhanaHealth as a way to help that population of students and recent graduates find jobs at high-growth health tech companies. And given that Jumpstart Foundry invested in health tech companies, we thought Ohana would be a nice value add to the portfolio as well.
We’d love to hear about the recent launch of OhanaConnect. What fueled this idea?
OhanaConnect was essentially the result of us trying to innovate and solve our own problem. Between the founding of the company in 2017 and the launch of OhanaConnect in September 2020, two major things happened:
- We saw significant growth on the student side of OhanaHealth: When we launched in 2017, we had 170 students apply from 60 or so schools around the country. Between 2018 and 2020, we had more than 1,000 students apply each year from 120 universities. This was really exciting, but also somewhat problematic because we weren’t able to place as many students and recent graduates as we would’ve liked.
- Given that our primary customers were healthcare startups, their hiring cycles were often unpredictable. What we learned was simply this: it’s almost impossible to build a viable and scalable business with a consistently unpredictable customer: The convergence of these two themes led to OhanaConnect, which was basically our way of leveraging technology to better serve our most consistently engaged customer – students and recent graduates – while also staying true to our core mission, to make it easier for them to find jobs at high-growth health tech companies.
What are some of the short-term plans in mind for this new platform?
First and foremost, we want to get students and recent graduates on the platform so that we can learn and iterate on the product, ensuring OhanaConnect effectively meets their needs. In the coming months, we’ll incorporate some machine learning capabilities to better recommend jobs for students and recent graduates. Additionally, we’ll launch the company portal later this fall, which will allow companies to get on the platform, post jobs, and connect with a broad and diverse pool of top-tier candidates.
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2020 has been a landmark year in many ways; how are you seeing the tech job marketplace respond to the current global crisis? What are some of the biggest initiatives you’ve seen tech / B2B companies undertake during this time to try and boost jobs?
While doctors and nurses have done a brilliant and heroic job caring for patients through this crisis, it’s clear that the current system isn’t optimized for the present or the future.
That’s where healthcare technology comes into the equation. I’m convinced that the future of health and healthcare will be influenced by courageous innovators and entrepreneurs who are committed to creating meaningful solutions to some of the biggest challenges our healthcare system faces. I believe that the combination of our current healthcare crisis and the need for meaningful solutions is why we’re seeing an increased demand for healthcare and technology jobs.
Given that a significant percentage of the working world is now distributed or remote, companies are having to figure out this new landscape, which, among other things, will likely lead to the reallocation of funds that were formerly spent on cushy office spaces and work-related travel. Large companies like Google, Twitter and many others, have announced that their employees may be able to work from home through the end of 2021! With that said, I think there will be an increased focus on leveraging technology to optimize remote work.
What are some of the tips or thoughts you’d share with tech candidates looking for new opportunities during this downtime?
The fact that the working world is largely remote makes opportunities a bit more accessible. Gone are the days where it’s a requirement to be in the city where you work. In fact, I have colleagues who I’ve never met in person, but we’ve been working together for months now! That’s 2020 for you.
All of that said, my encouragement would be the following First, focus on your strengths and transferable skills, and then broaden the scope of your search.Look beyond your specific region, and focus on companies that are doing the kind of work that aligns with your interests, goals, and values. Finally, utilize niche job boards like OhanaConnect, of course, as well as BuiltIn and AngelList. The sorting capabilities make it easier to drill down and filter jobs into specific categories.
We’d love to know a little about OhanaHealth’s experience and the team’s response to adjusting to the new normal. What are some top employee practices that were put in place especially because of the pandemic?
There’s no way around it – the “new normal” has been a challenging adjustment for all of us. One of the interesting things about the global pandemic is that it’s one of the few things in recent history that everybody is experiencing; whether directly or indirectly. At OhanaHealth, we really tried to recognize the significance of the moment, and find ways to engage and support one another. We launched a storytelling series that focused on the impact of the andemic, as well as the racial injustices that captured the attention of many this summer. Additionally, we had regular virtual meetings to check in and support one another. The community is one of my favorite parts of Ohana, and we’ve done our best to be even more intentional in our support of one another through this time.
What are some best practices you’d advise HR teams to follow in the new normal and beyond as the future of work changes?
Be patient, be intentional, and be thoughtful. One of the groups I empathize most with during this time is working parents. Given the way that the education system has been disrupted by COVID-19, I know that working parents, especially of young kids, really have their hands full. My day job is with Limeade, and I’d say that they’ve done an exceptional job intentionally supporting employees with things like stipends to help people set up their home office, regular Employee Resource Groups, and intentional messaging from the Leadership & People Team focused on caring for employees and meeting them where they’re at. They’ve allowed space for people to take breaks during the day, and not feel trapped eternally or unendingly trapped on the Zoom or Teams screen. Its little things like this that make a huge difference.
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Daniel Oppong is the founder of OhanaHealth, a one-of-a-kind experience designed to connect the best and brightest entrepreneurial students from all over the country with high-growth startups that are solving some of the biggest problems in healthcare. It’s Oppong’s belief that, in order to build a great company, you need great people. At Ohana, we connect incredible students who are passionate about moving healthcare innovation forward, with companies that are doing just that.