This is a repost from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press Sunday Edition: http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_28215595/startup-showcase:-he-knew-how-to-cut-a-medical-bill–and-knew-others-needed-help
This inaugural column is the beginning of highlighting entrepreneurs in St. Paul and Minnesota every week. Minnesota has a vibrant startup scene and this column will spotlight new companies, their products and services, and the leaders who run them. These founders presented to audiences of entrepreneurs, business leaders and funders at the James J. Hill Center during our 1 Million Cups St. Paul program on Wednesday mornings.
The stories told are by the startup entrepreneurs themselves, and most of the information is in their own words. These companies range from startups with no customers to those with angel and venture-capital funding. Some will be successful, but not all. Our goal is to help these startups grow and survive, creating success for themselves and their communities. We salute these entrepreneurs who risk their time and talent each day but whose successful companies will add long-term value to our community.
Founder: David Holt, 27
Born in: Maplewood
Lives in: Minneapolis
High school: Mahtomedi
College: University of Minnesota
David Holt is a biomedical engineer turned attorney turned entrepreneur. The theme in David’s career has been health care. He went to law school to be a part of the future of health care. The best way he knows to do that is helping families from going bankrupt over medical debt both as an attorney and now as co-founder of CutMedicalBills.com.
In college, David learned firsthand about the pressure of medical bills. When presented with some he could not afford, he simply said, “I do not have the money, and I am not taking out credit card debt to pay you.” He held strong and negotiated his first medical bill from $350 to $40 at the age of 20.
With the onset of the Affordable Care Act, David thought health care was headed in the right direction. But from working with many Minnesota families as their attorney, he learned there was still a long way to go in fixing the health care system. David was only able to work with a few families at a time. The answer was to export his expertise into a system that families can use themselves. That’s why he co-founded CutMedicalBills.com.
Start date: November 2014
CutMedicalBills educates Americans on how to reduce their health care costs. The online training course teaches patients how to address outstanding medical bills and then how to avoid high health care costs moving forward.
Holt and David Dube first met at an event in St. Paul. A few months later, Dube’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told her to get her affairs in order. Dube reached out to Holt, a health care attorney, to complete the emergency will, health care directive and power of attorney. After the surgery, Holt and Dube met up to learn more about each other’s businesses. Holt discussed the issues he was having with all of the clients who needed medical bill help but could not afford it. Dube noticed Holt’s great results from some of Holt’s stories. Dube suggested exporting the advice to an online training course and avoiding any legal advice.
David, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
David Holt: You must be willing to put yourself out there and risk total failure in order to test new concepts.
How are you funding your business?
DH: Organically — ‘boot-strapped!’
What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
DH: As a health care attorney, I have been in the trenches and seen what works and what is not worth your time at all when it comes to negotiating medical bills. I also have a strong grasp on the Affordable Care Act, which I leverage to help position CutMedicalBills based on what the implementation of the law will really mean for the end user — the patient.
Where do you go for help when you need it?
DH: We do a lot of learning on our own and trial by fire. The Internet is the best source of help right now. We also benefit from a network of other entrepreneurs and business owners to give us constructive feedback and connections.
What are you most proud of?
DH: Our early user success stories! We just had a user tell us that he had no idea he could negotiate medical bills until he found us — he was then able to negotiate a medical bill from $2,348 down to $1,000.
What is your business model and how do you make money?
DH: We charge a one-time flat fee for users to gain lifetime access to the online training course. We build an online support community from our users. We have the option to sell other tools to our community that complements our current offering.
Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What is a big obstacle or hurdle you had to overcome?
DH: We made a pivot as a company when we started seeing traction in our product and receiving user feedback, both positive and negative. We learned we needed to listen to what our users actually want, not just want we think our target market needs. One big obstacle we had to overcome was redesigning our message and expanding our initial product offering to match what our target market wanted. This required nearly doubling our course and changing our entire marketing campaign.
How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you?
DH: 1 Million Cups St. Paul was our first public appearance where we were able to be vulnerable and get some great feedback. We connected to local entrepreneurs and found a few beta testers from our presentation. We were able to pivot into other press opportunities.
With the mission to empower and educate the end user — the patient and the health care consumer by creating transparency in medical billing — CutMedicalBills looks to grow a national user base to 100,000 users in the next two to three years.
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center has weekly free and low-cost programming and education for startups, entrepreneurs and businesses of all types. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to find out how to apply to present, go towww.JJHill.org/go/1MCSPL.