Episode 15

Meet the Hosts: Aaron Martin

with Aaron Martin

January 14, 2022

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Aaron Martin
Member, Day Zero Advisory Councils; EVP, Chief Digital Officer, Providence; Managing General Partner, Providence Ventures

Aaron serves as Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, Providence and Managing General Partner of PV. He is responsible for leading Providence to become more consumer-focused and technology-enabled in a new world of healthcare.

Aaron has more than 20 years of experience in strategy and technology. Prior to joining Providence, he worked at Amazon and led the team that transitioned traditional publishers from a physical books business to Kindle. Prior to that, Martin served in executive and board positions with a number of successful start-ups, one of which he co-founded. He worked in healthcare for most of his early career. At McKinsey & Company’s healthcare practice, he advised senior executives in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry on mergers and acquisitions and post-merger integration.

Aaron holds a Master’s of Business Administration in finance and healthcare management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


You can provide high quality care while providing a bad customer experience. Those two things are mutually independent variables, so we focus on how to improve access, convenience through digital platforms.



[00:00:16] Nathan Bays: Well, good afternoon. I’m Nathan Bays. I’m here with Aaron Martin. I have the privilege to interview him and talk to him about his background as a advisor and host of Day Zero. So Aaron, it’s great to meet you and really look forward to Day Zero and hearing your story and the story of those you’ll interview.

[00:00:36] Aaron Martin: Yeah. I’m super excited about it. I just love, love, love, love talking to founders. And I mean, they’ve just got the best stories. So, yeah, really looking forward to it.

[00:00:45] Nathan Bays: It’s exciting. So tell us about your journey. You’ve got a fascinating background professionally and personally. So tell us about your journey, you know, into healthcare and how did you get to your seat now?

[00:00:55] Aaron Martin: I actually was in healthcare a long time ago and my first experience in healthcare was working for a private equity-backed roll-up in Nashville of home health, home infusion, DME. I was a young’n, 25, 26, if I recall. I worked there for a couple of years and then went to business school, went to the healthcare management program at Wharton. That is an incredible program. I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to really get a formal education in healthcare management. And then consulting afterwards at McKinsey and was mainly kind of focused on the pharmaceutical and medical device side, and then just took a total right turn. McKinsey has, I don’t know if they’re still doing this because I think it backfired in their case. What they used to do is like, if you’re kind of focused on an industry, they would say, alright, we want you to prove that you can do this in some other industry. And you know, what they did is, they said, Aaron, you need to go kind of work on this banking project. And this bank wants to launch an internet bank, which was one of the first internet banks. And I met my co-founder of my first company there, Angie Kim, and the rest was kind of history, and I kind of left healthcare, started that company, sold it, started another company manufacturing software, and then I went to Amazon and was at Amazon for almost 10 years. And then one day got a call from a guy that I knew from McKinsey who was a head hunter. The thing I always explained to folks is he, he calls me up and he and I would talk from time to time about like, you know, other big tech, tech opportunities I really wasn’t interested in because I really enjoyed working at Amazon. And he calls me up and he’s like, hey, I’ve got two words for you. Don’t hang up. Non-profit healthcare. Are you still there? And I was like, what? I don’t even think he knew I had a healthcare background at all and he’s like, you gotta go meet this guy, Rod Hochman and his, you know, kind of number two guy, Mike Butler. They’re game changing, disruptive, you know, healthcare senior executives. And I’m like, those words generally aren’t in the same sentence, so I got to go check this out. And so went and met them and just blew my hair back and been there for about eight years now.

[00:03:08] Nathan Bays: Yeah. How different was the shift into a not-for-profit health system and what have you enjoyed most about, you know, that transition and working in healthcare. You started there, you went away and you came back. What have you really found rewarding about being back?

[00:03:23] Aaron Martin: Yeah, I think the biggest difference is Amazon is a metrics driven accountability culture that just, in an odd way, is very mission driven. It sounds weird, but their mission was around how to create the best customer experience possible. And I will tell you, at least for the 10 years that I was there, that was taken incredibly seriously. We were always challenged to find a better and better and better way to kind of serve consumers. Moving into health systems, on the healthcare provider side, I don’t think that there was that focus back eight years ago on kind of a great customer experience, right? You can provide high quality care while having a bad customer experience. Those two things are mutually independent variables is what I found. And so what we really started kind of focusing on is like how to improve access and convenience through digital platforms, et cetera, and we’ve been very successful, you know, at Providence at kind of scaling that work. The thing I’ve learned a ton from Providence and its culture is the mission focus and then also what I would call, you know, kind of servant leadership, you know, I’ve learned there. So the way I kind of think about like, why you like to take big things from every different experience you have. And I will tell you that at Amazon, I learned how to deal with technology at scale, driving accountability, drive the metrics, et cetera. Be very operationally disciplined, be very strategic in the way you think. At Providence I’ve really learned a ton about you know, servant leadership. So how do you basically bring a team up and make sure that you’re kind of clearing the barriers out of their way to make them as effective as possible. I’ve learned kind of different things from two different organizations. And then I think the last thing, just to answer your question, is the mission of the organization and the mission of healthcare more generally. You know, it’s one thing to get up every morning and say, ah, how can I sell more Kindle units or, you know, whatever. It has a totally different meaning of like, you know, now we take the same kind of rigor around weekly business reviews and monthly business reviews that we took from Amazon. But then we get to kind of look at the outcomes that are like, hey, we provided access to this many patients, in the millions, that otherwise wouldn’t have had access during COVID or, you know, we delivered an AI bot that was able to have 7 million conversations during the COVID crisis that there’s no way we could have done that with humans. It’s much more kind of satisfying, I would say from an emotional standpoint.

[00:05:46] Nathan Bays: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. It’s one of the things about healthcare. Regardless of where you’re at along kind of the continuum of health care, whether you’re a medical professional or you’re someone like you or I that have, you’re certainly closer than I am, but, you know, tangential kind of relationship to it. You feel good about the work that you’re doing and the mission aspect of the work. Shifting gears to Day Zero, you’re a founder and I think once you’re a founder, you’re always a founder, right? But not only have you been a founder of a company, you founded the venture practice at Providence. You founded the team that really led the digital transformation of that organization. And since you’ve been at Providence you’ve done de novo company formation. So, you’ve been a founder from multiple perspectives. Given your background, that perspective, what are you most interested in and most excited about with relation to Day Zero and the conversations that you’ll be having with founders here?

[00:06:36] Aaron Martin: I have to tell you. I’m learning a ton from these incredible founders that I’m going to be interviewing and learning about the general kind of practice of like forming a company, what are the challenges, et cetera, et cetera, that you can extend to any industry. But in particular with respect to healthcare, I think it’s going to be a really interesting conversation. I think founder is a title, but it’s also like a state of mind. And so, there’s a bunch of different things that I’ve done in my career where I. maybe I didn’t found something, but man, I had the mentality of it and I think it has to do with grit, determination, applying a ridiculously irrational amount of energy towards the problem that you know that there’s probably not going to be a return on it. You know it makes no sense what you’re doing, but you just can’t help yourself, right? What motivated them, what continues to motivate them, and what keeps them going through? At Amazon, what we used to call the wall, which was the, you know, the first year that you were at Amazon, you went through. It’s an intense place to work. And in Q4, you hit the wall because that’s when we shipped tremendous amount of the the products that we sold, and it was a very intense time. From a founder’s standpoint, there’s several different walls that you go through through the journey of the organization. And then the last thing is just like reflecting on my own experience and comparing it. Every single time I’ve talked to a founder, they usually have some insight into some mistake I’ve made in the past. And it’s either like, you know, and I had a V8 moment, which will date me if anybody knows what that reference is, or finally explaining to me the phenomenon that I experienced, you know? Part of it too, is like just selfishly. So that’s the reason why that didn’t work or that’s the reason why that did work or that’s the reason why, you know, that leadership, you know, aspect that I tried worked out or didn’t work out. It’s more just like that iteration, you know, with these founders. They’re the most fascinating people you’ll ever meet.

[00:08:34] Nathan Bays: I think that totally resonates with me, Aaron, and I think it’s all about learning, and I have plenty of V8 moments myself. So I definitely, I definitely recall the phrase and I have a lot of those moments, but it is about learning. And I think that, you know from my perspective as well, that’s going to be super exciting. So I really look forward to these interviews and, you know, hearing what the founders have to say, and hearing your interviews and hearing what you have to say as well, so that’ll be fun and it’ll be great to partner with you on this.

[00:09:01] Aaron Martin: Yeah, same here, Nathan. I’m really looking forward to this.

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