Serial Helper, An Interview with Jeremy Bluvol
Jeremy is an entrepreneur, freelancer, and all around problem solver. He's also a Stride customer.
Stride: You have been in-and-around health care most of your life. How did that start?
Jeremy: My mom is a nurse and my dad is into alternative medicine. I found that super fascinating growing up, which pushed me to study biomedical engineering. From there, I began designing medical devices to detect and treat cancers. I would talk with radiologists and watch procedures at the hospital – seeing people suffering from cancer hit me hard, but seeing my work tangibly helping people felt good. That heavily influenced what I’ve done with my life.
Stride: You founded a company that uses DNA testing to predict relationship compatibility. Tell us about that.
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s called Instant Chemistry. We built algorithms based on 20 years of literature, so that we could take people’s DNA and assess their compatibility and long-term relationship success. We ended up building our own DNA laboratory, so when you order something from our website, you literally spit in a cup and send it back.
Stride: Wild. What are some of the biggest predictor genes?
Jeremy: One of the main ones is the human leukocyte antigen. It’s a group of genes on chromosome 6 that determine the makeup of your immune system. People with more opposite immune systems tend to be more attracted and form longer-lasting relationships. From an evolutionary, biological perspective, we want to mate with someone that has a more diverse set of immune system genes, so offspring have a higher likelihood of disease immunity.
Stride: Does your test work?
Jeremy: A lot of what we've done is simply make this research available as a test that anyone can use. The short answer is yes, it works. If we were to blindly test a whole room of people, we could predict which people were in a relationship pretty darn well. Obviously, it’s a polarizing topic, so we’ve received a lot of media attention.
Stride: You’re into new things now, recently moving from Toronto to San Francisco to start another health-related business?
Jeremy: Yeah. One of my American friends started calling me every day, saying Jeremy, I just had a surgery, I have all these medical bills. I’m calling my insurance company every day because they made a bunch of mistakes. We gotta figure out a solution to help people with this. I was pretty dismissive at first. As a Canadian, I’ve never dealt with medical bills [more on this later], but eventually he got my attention.
I moved here, and we tried solving the problem of errors and fraud in medical billing, which is just a massive problem. We quickly realized we had to tackle a simpler, more immediate problem –filing out-of-network claims – which is extremely difficult for consumers.
Stride: That's such an obscure but needed business. How did you get involved in that?
Jeremy: We are lucky to have some advisors who know "what healthcare consumers actually need before they do". Sort of like the iPhone but less sexy. We've started by helping people in the optical space. Whenever you buy glasses or contacts and it’s out-of-network (which most of them are) we file the claim at the point of sale automatically. We’re moving into mental health, dental, etc, targeting all the areas people experience high rates of out-of-network utilization. We've already helped lots of people through our business, Bauxy.
Stride: And how did you find out about Stride?
Jeremy: Through a tech article. A health care recommendation engine was an idea I thought was totally necessary. I went through the process, chose a plan, and didn’t even have to interact with Kaiser… you did that for me. There was an issue buying my insurance because the market was closed, but you helped me write an affidavit to Kaiser and it got figured out. It was really easy.
Stride: Let’s talk Canadian vs. American health care systems. What happens in Canada when you get a surgery? There’s no bill?
Jeremy: No [laughs]. You pay your taxes and you go to the doctor [laughs], and that’s really it. With my Canadian health card, I can walk into any hospital, any doctor’s office, any clinic… and they immediately serve me. No bills. And I can visit the doctor as often as I want.
Stride: Wow. As an American, that’s hard to hear. What’s the best aspect of the Canadian system?
Jeremy: It’s the lack of financial worry associated with getting sick. I don’t have to think about my personal financial situation at all. In Canada, I can just go see a doctor, literally within five minutes. Here in America, if I get sick, I’m going to second-guess whether I should go to the doctor. I’ll look at my bank account and see if I can afford it first.
Stride: Is there any downside to the Canadian system?
Jeremy: Yes, if I have a disease that's difficult to treat. For example, my father is dealing with a rare form of cancer right now, and finding a specialist has been hard because few doctors deal with his disease. In the States because of the population numbers (10 times the population of Canada), there’s naturally more doctor supply. And, how do I put this, doctors don’t get paid as much in Canada – there’s a limited, government funding supply, so that can lead to a lesser supply of specialists.
Stride: Do people in Canada complain about the system?
Jeremy: I don’t hear people complaining about our health care. Think about it from this perspective – when I came to the United States and even mentioned “health care,” I got a visceral reaction. People will just go off for hours about how bad their health care experience has been. You don’t get that in Canada. You say “health care” to someone in Canada, and they’ll be like Yeah, whatever, I’ve been to the doctor before, who cares?
Stride: OK, switching gears. You’ve taken a very independent path with your work-life, why do you do it?
Jeremy: I’ve worked engineering jobs where I sat behind a computer and plugged away and was told what to do. But, taking an idea from inception to production, that’s what really excites me. It’s amazing to be able to think of an idea like Bauxy and go out there tomorrow and start helping people. That’s very difficult to do in a corporate world.
Stride: So corporate-life ultimately didn’t work out for you? Was there a moment when you realized you had to be doing your own thing?
Jeremy: During my engineering days, I was an intern for a medical device company. When I joined there were 20 employees. After a year, we grew to about 150 people and were sold to a massive U.S. health company. I saw what it was like for the company’s founders – they started off doing the things that they loved; when the company was acquired all that changed. That really clicked in my mind.
Stride: What’s the hardest part about being out there on your own?
Jeremy: Everything [laughs]! In startup world, fundraising is really soul-crushing. I’ll talk to 100 people and 99 will say “this idea sucks” or make some other excuse. But then you find that one person who believes in you and that’s inspiring… you only really need that one person, anyway. I always keep the big picture in mind – my goal is to help people. As long as I’m pushing towards my goal of helping people, I’m doing the right thing. I know I’ll be successful.
Stride: What’s the greatest health risk of our generation (Millennials)?
Jeremy: Can I say laziness [laughs]? Because of all the conveniences these days, things are becoming so easy. That will cause a lot of heath problems, especially with simple things like mobility – people actually getting up and walking around. We sit in front of our computers all day then stare at our smartphones when we’re done. Society is operating with this general lethargy. I think it’s a big problem.
Stride: You think it’s worse than when people used typewriters and telephones at their jobs?
Jeremy: Oh totally! Now I don’t even have to use my legs – I can just sit here, pull out my smartphone, order a car, go down the street, drink my coffee, order another car, go to a restaurant, eat some food, sit in the office, work for 8-9 hours, order a car to go home, and watch Game of Thrones until I fall asleep [laughs]. I don’t even have to use my legs!
Stride: Thanks Jeremy, we really enjoyed talking to you.