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The Importance of Personal Experience and Team Culture with Debbie Chen, Alan Leard and Alex Balazs

By May 7, 2019 May 15th, 2019 No Comments

Audio Version

Have you ever reflected on the importance of personal experience and team culture within your organization? Today’s show will highlight great examples of both.

As an added bonus, we’ve brought not just one guest to weigh in on this topic but three! Joining us on today’s episode of CTO Studio is Debbie Chen, Ph.D., the founder of Hydrostasis, Alan Leard, the CTO and co-founder of Limelight Health and Alex Balazs who is the chief architect at Intuit.

These three experts have different types of experience and their own unique perspectives, all of which they bring to today’s episode. Hear their take on hydration, team culture, personal experience and hiring strategies. Join us to hear their wisdom on those topics and more on this edition of CTO Studio.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How did thai kickboxing play a role in the origin of Hydrostasis? (3:15)
  • What household piece of furniture do they have at Intuit’s headquarters and why? (13:55)
  • What makes the best team? (18:00)
  • Why being a platform company gets the flywheel going. (29:20)
  • What are the two criteria that determine if someone is a good fit for your organization? (42:55)
  • And so much more!

We begin with Debbie’s story. She is at the very early stage of developing her start-up so I asked her to tell us about her company and the idea behind it. Hydrostasis came out of her graduate school frustrations: they were looking at a different signal, a small signal that they were trying to figure out where it came from. She was looking at developing a diagnostic tool for periphereal neuropathy (an early diagnostic tool for blood flow).

But that signal was so small and frustrated her, it made her wonder why they couldn’t just find the signal for hydration instead?! Her professor at the time wasn’t interested in the hydration signal, so the question stayed rhetorical.

Fast forward 10 years later she started training in muay thai (thai kickboxing). During training she noticed she needed more water than a lot of her teammates. That experience along with her memories of her pregnancies during which she often became lightheaded, reminded her of the hydration signal question. She knew she had to find the answer.

In 2018, she went full speed ahead with the hydration signal project, and began pitching the idea to measure people’s hydration levels. Right now, there isn’t an accurate and easy to use hyration monitor that will give you continuous feedback. Different people need different levels and different needs for their hydration. In fact, even Olympic teams still use urine color charts!

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One of the many problems with a basic measuring tool like urine charts is it does not take into account how different supplements, medicines and foods can change the color of urine. Clearly, it is an outdated tool and there is a need – she’s trying to fill that need.

She goes on to explain the device and software they are producing at Hydrostasis: they have a hardware device and the software piece is going to be the analytics behind it. They have machine learning so they can look at each individual workout session and create a baseline for that individual athlete.

They are looking at blood flow, skin tone, fat content as well as hydration. Those first three are confounds to help them extract out from their hydration signal, which enables their hydration signal to be purer than other signals.

Once they have the hydration signal they are able to run it through their algorithms, which is based in physiology and physics and then their machine learning algorithms will be build upon that.

With each session the user is given an updated optimal hydration range including the highs and lows. And the user is notified before they exit out of that range, so they measure overhydration (a sodium imbalance often found in ultra marathon runners), as well as dehydration.

Alex asks Debbie a few more questions, including how she found the right people to help her build her company. She explains how her background in biomedical engineering and her experiences helped her learn what she didn’t know. She also tells us how that knowledge helped her hire people who know more than she does, something that is key to creating a successful organization.

From there we talk about how to approach your product or service if you have multiple layers of users, why the big companies like Google and Facebook are actually platform companies, and why you have to determine if you are going to fit within a niche within the platform companies or strike out on your own.

Join us to hear our guests share their thoughts, plus real-life examples of the importance of culture in tech today. It’s all here on today’s CTO Studio!

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