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Ep. 50: Patrick Colletti of Net Health

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories

We're finishing up or Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories by interviewing Patrick Colletti of Net Health. He "refounded" the company more than 20 years ago to become one of Pittsburgh's largest Health IT companies. He has awesome insight on building company culture and will tease us about a book he is writing about "refounders"

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Wow, so this is it. Number 50. It's been one heck of a journey time. 50 Dare I say completely kick ass stories about some great stuff happening in Pittsburgh's tech sector; could not have done it without the help of Comcast, they had my back literally the entire times we can tell these stories during a time when we need some positive stories, some stories of inspiration. And I saved this story for last because this is just a really cool story. We're talking to Patrick Colletti today from Net Health. And Patrick is one of these guys. I have known him for more than 20 years, I have witnessed him take a company that was falling apart with him and his team growth to this massive company today that is saving people's lives, improving the quality of life and playing a ton of people. To me, it's one of the stories of what can happen right in Pittsburgh. And we're going to talk to Patrick about that today. Plus a little project that he's working on, that he's kind of been inspired by through his journey as well. So Patrick always good hooking up with you and seeing what's going on with net health even in these crazy COVID times and I do love your virtual net health cafe that is behind you because reminds me The Times being in Net Health drinking coffee with you.

Thanks for having me and yeah I got it got to have the coffee background I miss going to coffee shops I can't wait to get back to it soon.

Tell me about and we've had lots of coffee together over the years. And before we jump in Tell me what is your favorite coffee right now because I just Dyson you always are one up in the on the coffee and how you make it I know you're doing the chemex for a while. In special beings we should be thinking about before we begin this conversation has to be a really long conversation. So right now and I'd say for many, many years, I've been fond of natural process coffee so you can do wash process or a natural process where they let it ferment a little bit in the sun. I think it gives it a unique taste. There's some coffee nerds that disagree, but I love it. So I'd say my favorite coffees if I can find them are natural processes.

I just took notes down. And I'm also gonna remind you There was once a time when you stopped drinking coffee.

I did at a point of time, I'm like, how could Patrick stop drinking coffee?

It was weird. It was just for a little while. I did it for about a year. And then I realized I just love coffee.

I'm right there with you. Do we always share our passion for coffee? But I would say you are that much more passionate than I am, you definitely take it to the next level. So first off, let's start with what net health is all about? Because it's been over 20 years, you guys have been around. I mean, you actually I think started like an intern back there. 20 something years. It was a quick overview of net health. And really just talk about how like, I mean, over the years, you guys have been part of our tech 50 Awards, which are coming up this October, you guys have won like I think three or four times over the years and it seems like every so often you guys keep bumping it up and bumping it up and I just want to know what's driving your momentum. Thanks.

Yeah. So yeah, it has been a long time. Chris, our CTO was in fact an intern in those early days. But we, the board asked us if two of us would stick around, everybody else was laid off and try to do a to turn around. And then we did. And we had about 90 days to prove it. We got past the 90 days proved a little bit and just took step by step. And, you know, today we're well over 500 employees. Wow, we've got 100 million in recurring revenue mark. So it's a good story for Pittsburgh, and it's one that Pittsburgh gets to take a lot of the credit for having the kind of city and the people we have access to here is huge. So you know, for us, I'd say it has been, it has been a journey. We've been focused on really killer culture. And that the point is that people always talk about Pete people are their greatest asset. I think the reality is community is your greatest asset because if you get a group of people who are fired up for a just cause You're pretty much unstoppable. So we've been focused on creating a killer community, not just earnings very much. So I mean, it shows the earnings happen because you create that base. That is the culture. And we're gonna nerd out about that in a minute. And I'm gonna bring up the old normal Fridays that you guys, I like to still have them or not. But remember back in the day when you did it, it was pretty freakin cool. You definitely impressed with the formal Friday concept. But tell our listeners and our viewers just a little bit about what net health does because so much has changed over the years, you've added new services give us like the kind of quick pillars as to what net health does and really how it just positively impacts the quality of people's lives.

Yeah, absolutely. So we started with a really small idea. And we pivoted away from maybe for product ideas that we had years ago. And we learned about patients who have chronic wounds. And this was something obviously we didn't know a lot about, but we we heard a bit about it and we got interested and we launched the software. It's called wound expert and the idea was to bring together caregivers to heal these patients. And then after, you know, three or four years, I personally kind of fell in love with the patient. And and so i would i would mark that difference because in the earliest days, it was all about driving a successful company creating something that could last. But then when I got in passionate about the patient, and I met my first new care patient name's Laura. And I saw the way that she was suffering the way that she was a bit depressed, embarrassed, felt like her body had failed her, you know, a light clicked on we can be a part of her journey and her healing. And and really in that room, I saw that the nurse provided her a pictorial analysis of how her wound was actually getting smaller, although it looked like it was getting bigger because in chronic wound care, you read the wound so it appears to get larger on the surface, but the volume is actually shrinking. And so you know, it was a lightbulb moment for me and patient engagement today. In healthcare, patient engagement is what it's all about. But so I'd say it started there. And then over the years, we have acquired more products built more products, right? We've got different products today. And we're in 97% of the largest health systems in the US by 14,000 15,000. Post Acute facilities if you add them as well. So throughout the entire care continuum, we focus on a specialized care. And ultimately, the big goal is reuniting caregivers with the calling.

That's what it's all about. And so when you first started his 20 plus years ago, and you're like, Yeah, we got 90 days to turn this thing around. It's like, Oh, my goodness. Did you ever thought for a second that like 20 plus years later, this is where net health would be? No, no, I definitely did. And yet, people will stop us and say, Oh, you should be so proud of what you've done it. I definitely don't feel that way. I mean, I'm I enjoy the fact that I can Come to our offices in the strip and brew really good coffee, perks and benefits to it. I'm delighted that there are a lot of people employed in all the cities that we have offices. So to me, that's a that's a real gift.

Oh, absolutely. So let's get to the culture thing because I honestly that has been your differentiator forever. I mean, you were thinking about culture. I really think Patrick before culture was cool. I mean, back in the early days of tech, people always talk about their stupid pinball machines and free beer Fridays and all that kind of stuff. And that was fine and dandy, but you looked at it in a much different I would say like, like, like, like a deeper way it was more than just having these freebie things to make people happy. But you're actually finding ways to get people engaged to kind of harness their passions and make that kind of drive the company and if that makes sense or not, but what was it that got you so hooked on the fact that I got to have a great culture here?

I think I'm having the opportunity to shape and form it. And you know, to go back to the beginning, I'm not the founder of Net Health. I consider myself a refounder, which is something we'll probably talk about a little bit have having the, the stewardship for something at a pretty young age, I was mid 20s. When, when that happened was it was a big responsibility. And I think the first question, Chris, and I asked was, how do we create a place that we actually want to come to work as well? Part of it, but but then there was a shift just like how, in the beginning, I wanted to run a successful company. And then I met the patient. And then everything changed. I realized that one of the highest goods that employers can do is to create flourishing for the people that do the work every day. Right. And that's a very unpopular commentary to some people. There are certain economists that would say the highest good for a business's profit shareholders. I'd say that's been pretty widely debunked these days. Just a year ago, about 200 of the largest companies in the world signed on to an effort that recommended that we look at multiple stakeholders, not just shareholders. I say that because shareholders are critically important, unless you can do a good job by shareholders, I don't think you can do a good job with the rest. But the key for me is recognizing that if you can create flourishing in the people that are doing the work each day and flourishing means, are we growing personally, professionally and in our communities? Are there is this apart in their journey? If you can do that, well, I think you're going to succeed. So I'd say it was making, you know, small bets along the way for ways that we can make a physical and work environment that made sense, ways that we can create authenticity and trust. Are they speaking, communicate to our programs? And how can we actually be known and not just show up for work and leave and leave these tool lives?

Yeah. Was there ever a point in time where there's any kind of clash where it's like you said before, obviously, you got to make your profit. I mean, that's something that has to happen. But that isn't necessarily always the key driver was ever point where there was a clash, where you're bringing up ideas to do And other people are saying, but hey, we got to be focusing on something else instead, I'm sure there hadn't been some friction points along the way in order to, to bring in this unique kind of culture that you've been able to grow in Net Health always change all the time, every year, every month. You know, I think friction is, you know, if you're not if you're not dealing with some friction, you're probably doing important stuff. So I'd say, you know, in the earliest years when we, we started this thing called Connect, which where we brought everybody in a company to Pittsburgh, and we take over a venue like the August Wilson Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh and, and we would do our version of TED Talks. We call them Ned talks like that. Hello, ed. Nice. Yeah, we were even even at the smallest when it was a $20,000 endeavor. You know, you'll look at your revenue you think, is this really a good use of the money? And for us, the answer had always been Think of it this way. How can you bring everybody together drive authenticity and connectedness you Drink, celebrate, learn, have kind of a visceral experience together. How do you do that? And the answer for us always had to do with getting together. Now that's changed over the years. And in a couple of weeks, we're going to do a massive live, virtual Connect. We don't want people traveling right now it's unsafe. And so we're going to put together a day and a half event. Nice. Part of it has to do with, you know, driving authenticity and vulnerability through being candid about where we really are being open and honest about the kind of people we are and the kind of community we want to be together.

Absolutely fantastic stuff. Fantastic stuff. So tell me a little bit like so what's really driving for right now with your cable company with a heck of a lot of heart? What else are you guys thinking about this day and age when it comes to giving back and creating culture, anything new that you guys are spinning up?

Yeah, so there's a couple of advocacy things we've gotten pretty interested in. So, you know, first, I would say we rebranded and the opportunity to do that less than six months ago. And when we're sitting around the table with Josh and Erica and Ben, and some other folks, we were driving home this question of who really are we let's own that and be a part of that. And so part of that was determining that what we're really here to do is reunite caregivers with their calling. And so let's just take a minute on that one, Jonathan, because what reuniting implies is that selling has been broken, and absolutely something has been broken. And in healthcare, the fact that doctors, nurses caregivers have been separated in many cases by screens, but in many cases, by fundamental problems in healthcare, we want to do we wanted to be part of the group that's reuniting them with what they started out doing. So caregivers are really we focus on we don't necessarily have direct connection with the patient. We're not the one actually healing them. It's the caregivers that are doing this great and noble work. And I say, Great noble, because the end of the statement is with their calling. And so we deliberately used, you know, intense and heavy language to say that most of the people in health care we've met believe it's their calling to help healing. It's your passion. It's their jam. I mean, that's Yeah, it's what they're all about, for sure. It's what they're all about. So, you know, I'd say we build around that premise that we're here to reunite caregivers with their calling. And so then we kind of work backwards and say, Well, how do we do that? So you know, a recent example, we did an acquisition in April, about lovely company called tissue analytics in Maryland, and I had been in Chris had been and Jason had been in connection with them for years and watch them grow. What they're doing in artificial intelligence and machine learning is a great example of I think reuniting caregivers. They're calling if you can actually provide predictive analytics to our caregivers, we can save them time to spend on. Cool. Yeah, definitely interesting, focused on projects like that, and a whole bunch of others partially related to the opioid epidemic and the chronic wound healing epidemic, which is affecting black people three times more than my right. Wow, crazy stuff. This is why I just think this is such a cool story with net health because a quietly kicking butt back there in the Strip District drinking coffee, and to be able to get some of those words out i think is just fantastic. accurate. Rumor has it you are writing a book right now and I'm pretty excited about this because it's appearing to be all about refounding of companies, which is kind of a term I've never heard about before. You got to fill me in on this.

Yeah, thank you. Well, the word came from a conversation I had with one of our board directors as we finished up a deal with the Carlyle Group. One of our directors. Kept introducing me to people as the founder of the company. And I had to politely remind her that wasn't the original original founder. And so I consider myself a re founder. And so it's built on this idea that there are lots of people out there doing some amazing work in the existing institutions, neighborhoods, and things that are already built. And so I wanted to give a voice to these folks, because I think that startups are important. startups are a big deal. I'm an investor in startups. I'm an advisor to startups. But sometimes startups can't solve all of our problems. And so I think there's this amazing opportunity in the built environment and existing institutions to create huge change.

It sounds like I mean, it's a topic I've never heard of before. And I think it's very important. I'm feeling like you're kind of turning over some some fresh ground in this work. If you found anything else out there that's, you know, obviously competitive to this, but but but it's kind of nerding out on this same type of content. As you

Yeah, thank you, not so far. So basically, we get this kind of was born out of my experience in that house. And then we started looking for lessons and other companies, and they're everywhere. And so in the book through a series of interviews and some research that the team did, we found that there are these are founders all over the place. And so in the book, I'm going to tell stories of people who are making a difference in their neighborhood. And you know, they didn't invent the neighborhood, but they live their own culture. And they want to do something about it. So we'll tell the story of your founders. They're doing it in the places they live. And then we'll tell the story over founders that are changing in a great way existing organizations and institutions as well. And really Jonathan's all about people who are willing to look at the status quo and say it ought to be better than that. And then basically the steps they're taking to make a positive difference.

Very cool. Are these all Pittsburgh stories, are you like canvassing the globe for he stories?

Yeah, all over for the most parts of its the United States over one more story is takes us to a different country. But it's people all over the United States that are doing interesting things and kind of breaking down. If you have a problem and you're taking a sober look at something, how do you get clear on what the problem is defining it well, and getting to something we call problem zero. And then how do you reimagine new possibilities? And then based on that, how do you take action and not stay stuck in the post mortem, but actually focus forward on this. Oh, this sounds like a fascinating thing. So when is this gonna drop? When can I get a copy? What's up?

So the publisher is telling me February 1 is the date. Okay, but we thought it may come at a tiny bit earlier than that. You may get an early copy, just want to advance copy but you got to sign it. Patrick Colletti refounder of Net Health.

And you can sign up for more information. If you're interested. We're going to be sending out updates, talking about some of the events we're going to be hosting and where you can hear some of these stories.

This is so cool and how neat Dude, you're now an author as well too as a founder, as well as a business guys as an entrepreneur as well as an advisor as well as an investor. Come on, man, you're making me look lazier. Here. I like Patrick. important stories. Good, Jonathan. So I'm trying my best. And I can't believe that I've gone through 50 of these now and I'm so happy Patrick, you got to be our fifth story. I just think it's an amazing one. And it's one of those in Pittsburgh, I always say only in Pittsburgh, Patrick and you and your team are making Pittsburgh crowd that is for damn sure.

Thanks. Well, let me let me hit you Write back with that and say you're a legend and the storyteller you and the platform you give to other people is really powerful. So thank you and thanks, Tech Council.

Well, that's humbling words, and I can't that's probably one nicest things anyone's ever said to me and I really appreciate that, Patrick. It's been just a joy an honor knowing you for the past 20 years. I'm looking forward another 20 watching what else you do and being able to tell some stories around that. So good stuff, man. And once again, thanks for being part of our Comcast summer of Pittsburgh tech stories.


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