The US healthcare market loses up to US$750B in fraud and inefficiencies every year. The insurance industry is famously bureaucratic and relies on antiquated technology to communicate with healthcare providers and patients. My guest today is Lauren Cascio, co-founder and COO of Abartys Health, a health insurance tech company that created a system that allows seamless data flow and communication between insurers, doctors and patients in Latin America and the United States.
Lauren was selected by Walmart as one of Puerto Rico’s most promising business leaders, made the Caribbean’s 40 under 40 list, and was a finalist for the Forbes 30 under 30. Lauren is also proud to have delivered the winning pitch at SXSW’s ReleaseIT competition in 2017 and Parallel 18 Accelerator’s Investor Choice at the 2017 Demo Day.
While Lauren didn’t originally set out to become an entrepreneur, she has always loved taking risks and learning from her mistakes. We talk about her decision to teach herself how to code and what she’s learned from starting and scaling a business in Puerto Rico. We also discuss the Puerto Rican startup ecosystem and why it can be an advantage to growing startups.
Abartys Health: Bringing technology and health insurance together
Lauren’s “do-it-yourself” attitude was a big part of the inspiration for Abartys Health. After teaching herself to code as a distraction from her divorce, Lauren became obsessed with connecting her newfound passion for technology to her interest in the health insurance industry. Her tip for founders who are teaching themselves programming: learn enough to get by until you can hire someone who knows what they are doing. Listen to this episode to hear more of Lauren’s advice for teaching yourself tech skills from square one.
The benefits of operating a business in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the middle-ground between Latin America and the United States. It boasts a tax regime and standard of living that make PR an ideal location to start a business that straddles the two regions. Abartys operates in Latin America and the US, meaning Lauren and her co-founder, Dolmarie Mendez, have to understand how sales cycles differ between the US and Latin America. Just getting into the office of an insurance company in Latin America might require several coffee or dinner meetings, while the process in the US might be faster. Find out how operating from Puerto Rico helps Abartys Health do business across borders in this episode of Crossing Borders.
What Lauren learned from the Parallel 18 accelerator
Parallel 18 is an equity-free accelerator program in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that works similarly to Start-Up Chile. After Lauren turned in the application on the last day, she and her co-founder went through an intense acceleration program where the mentors “tore apart” their marketing, logo, and business model to push them to grow faster. Abartys Health recently received a round of funding with support from Parallel 18’s follow-on fund. Listen to the episode to how Parallel 18 is helping build Puerto Rico’s startup ecosystem by investing in companies like Abartys.
Healthcare is beginning to feel the effects of developments in artificial intelligence and data accessibility, despite its history as an antiquated industry resistant to change. Abartys Health is changing how population data is managed and utilized in the insurance industry using technology that brings more transparency and efficiency into the industry. Listen to the rest of the episode to hear why Lauren and Dolmarie are expanding Abartys into Latin America, and where Lauren thinks the healthcare industry is going next.
[1:32] – Nathan introduces Lauren
[2:44] – The main challenges of working in the insurance industry
[4:35] – Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
[7:15] – From physiology to disrupting the health insurance industry
[8:04] – Why Lauren taught herself to code
[11:12] – Founding a startup when you have a family is not the easy way out
[17:17] – How Abartys helps insurance companies
[18:59] – The insurance sales cycle in the US vs. Latin America
[23:50] – What’s it like running a business from Puerto Rico?
[29:30] – Lauren’s experience in the Parallel 18 accelerator
[31:45] – Advice for US startups thinking about participating in Parallel 18
[38:02] – The long-term benefits of the Parallel 18 follow-on fund
[39:17] – What’s next for Abartys?
[41:03] – What’s next for PR tech ecosystem?
[43:25] – Advice Lauren would give herself before founding Abartys
[45:10] – Lauren discusses her biggest mistakes and how she learned from them