Episode 29

Data Powered, People Centered

with Rajeev Singh

April 12, 2022

Rajeev Singh
CEO and Chairperson, Accolade

Rajeev Singh is Chief Executive Officer at Accolade, the leading technology-enabled consumer healthcare engagement services company for large employers, payers and provider organizations.

Singh was most recently co-founder, president and chief operating officer of Seattle-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) travel and expense management firm Concur, the eighth-largest SaaS company in the world.

Singh co-founded Concur, the global leader in travel and expense management, in 1993. His early years in the company were focused in the product management and development organizations. In the 20 years that followed, he worked in nearly every role in the business – culminating in his final role as president, chief operating officer and board director for the last nine years of his tenure. During that timeframe, the company grew from $60mm in revenues to over $800mm in revenues before being acquired by SAP AG for $8.3 billion in 2014.

He graduated from Western Michigan University with a BSE. Today, Singh serves on the board of Avalara, a top provider of cloud-based tax compliance automation for businesses; Apptio, a SaaS technology business management solutions provider; Amperity, the world’s only Intelligent Customer Data Platform; Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that raises funds to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.


Great leaders, in my view, have the gift of introspection. They're constantly inspecting where they are and how they can be better.



[00:00:28] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, good morning, Raj. And welcome.

[00:00:30] Rajeev Singh: Well, thank you, Gary. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:00:33] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: We’re pleased to have you at this microphone. Why don’t we start at the beginning? What was life like for you growing up, Raj?

[00:00:41] Rajeev Singh: The beginning for me is a pretty classic American story. I’m the product of two immigrants. My mother and father were both born and raised in India and my father actually came over to the states, leaving his wife and my older brother and sister, so his wife and two children, behind so that he could finish his education and actually get a job to send money back to his family in India. Eventually he decided that he was going to stay here in the United States and brought his wife and two children over. I was born subsequent and we grew up in the Midwest. As a product of immigrants, particularly Indian immigrants for those listeners out there who know what I’m talking about, our obsession growing up was academics. My father and mother were obsessed with making sure that their kids got the best of the best possible public school education so that they could better their lives moving forward.

[00:01:35] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: What did the young Raj think about leadership?

[00:01:40] Rajeev Singh: You know, Gary, I think one of the interesting parts of the story for me is, because of that single-minded obsession of my parents around education, as my dad got a better job, he would, although he stayed at the same company for 30 years, as he got a better job, he would be able to afford a little better house and was in a better neighborhood with a better public school. And we’d move. And so probably from the time I was five years old to the time I was 18 years old, we moved six or seven times. And in those moves, I had an opportunity each time we moved. I didn’t think of it as an opportunity then Gary, I thought of it as a huge pain in my neck that we were moving and I had to remake a set of friends and remake my whole social network, but what I found subsequent was I began to understand group dynamics. I began to understand what role I could play in groups. And I think, to be sure, all of those moves and all of that work, I think played a significant role in how I think about leadership today and how I think about bringing people together.

[00:02:52] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: I’m nodding positively because I moved a lot when I was a youngster. And I feel exactly the same thing. What about your parents? And I know the obsession with education, which is all good as far as I’m concerned. What about leadership style? Do you think your leadership style emulates learnings from your parents?

[00:03:14] Rajeev Singh: I like to think, Gary, that my leadership style is humble and grounded in a reality that leadership without followership is nothing and that we can achieve very little on our own, but as a group we’re capable of doing extraordinary things. My father came from a very humble background. My mother came from a very humble background. Her education stopped at grade five. He grew up in a village and I think we grew up as children knowing that we were no better than anyone else, but we had an opportunity to be just as good as anyone else. And that to my mind comes directly. It’s this direct descendant of the way my parents raised us and the way we think about integrity and the way we think about values. And so, yes, a lot of who I am as a human, and therefore who I am as a leader, comes directly from the product of an upbringing of my mother and father.

[00:04:14] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: What about college? Let’s fast forward to college. What aspirations did you have during college for next steps and employment, and so on?

[00:04:25] Rajeev Singh: You know, Gary, the interesting part of this story, because I just told you how great my parents are, is that college was one of the first moments where I really had a disagreement with my parents. And so, for those who are familiar with the Indian upbringing, you really have a couple of choices as an Indian child. You’re going to go to med school. You’re going to go to engineering school. You’re going to do one of those two things. And so I ended up going to engineering school. But I had no desire to be an engineer. It wasn’t where I thought my strength was. I really, in my brain, wanted to study. I really loved the idea of public discourse, public service. And in my view, I thought I wanted to go be a lawyer and potentially run for office one day. That’s what I was going to. And my father, in his infinite sensibility said, well, that’s not, there’s no good living to be made doing that. Engineers or doctors make a good living and and can take care of their families. That’s what you’re doing. And I was a good obedient, 18 year old Indian kid. And I thought, okay, I guess that’s what I’m doing. And so I went to engineering school. I think, to this day, I’m grateful that I have an engineering education, Gary. I’m grateful that I have the framework and structure of engineering thought in my brain. But I think those who have worked with me would know I’m a mediocre engineer. I’m pretty good at other things, but I’m a mediocre engineer and it’s because I really didn’t have the passion for it when I went to school, but I did have a passion for pleasing my parents and that’s what I decided to do.

[00:05:57] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, you’re an excellent entrepreneur. What point did it begin to occur to you that you had entrepreneurial instincts?

[00:06:06] Rajeev Singh: For me, one of the other things that I learned in my family, and there’s a couple of good examples in my family, my father was in one job, or excuse me, at one company for 30 years. And I think if you’re going to look at his story, he’s an exceptionally talented engineer and his career eventually topped out. And I think there’s a variety of reasons for it. Big companies. It’s difficult to get to the tip top of those companies because there’s so much competition. But there’s also an element of it that comes from a guy with a thick Indian accent who wasn’t born and raised here and who probably was passed over for some promotions that were rightfully things that he could have and should have had. And I think he was very careful to shield us from those things, Gary, but we saw it. And I think as children, we understood, boy, there might be the best way to find great luck is to create your own luck by building something of your own. And then I was lucky enough. My older brother went off and did exactly that. He’s seven years older than me. And when he actually dropped out of school and went to go start his own business, I think my parents thought he was crazy, but I got to watch the entrepreneurial journey from afar. And then lo and behold, I graduated from college and we had an opportunity to start something together.

[00:07:31] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, you started Concur together, which is a fabulously successful company. What led you two down that path, you and your brother?

[00:07:40] Rajeev Singh: It was my brother and I, and a good friend of ours, Mike Hilton, Mike is also working with me today at Accolade. The idea of the business, which was really, it ended up being an online travel booking, and expense reporting company, really came from some insight that Mike and Steve had around how salespeople, they were building software in their previous company for salespeople, were constantly complaining about travel and expense reporting and the misery of filing expense reports. And I think any good entrepreneur knows, Gary, like I would say this in total candor, no one’s really excited about expense reports. And so I wasn’t 23 years old thinking, boy, if I can rid the world of expense reporting pain, I’m gonna live a full life. But entrepreneurs, you get one clear idea, find a business problem that no one’s solved, and go solve it. And if you can do that you have an opportunity to build a business. And so we saw a business problem. It hadn’t been solved and we went after it. And through a lot of trials and tribulations, 21 years later, we sold to SAP in 2014. But it really was, the foundations of the idea, were really pain for salespeople and travelers. How do we solve that pain? And the rest is just the turning of the crank of building a business.

[00:08:58] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, in my previous company, we used Concur and I must say it worked very well. So congrats there. You did sell it.

[00:09:06] Rajeev Singh: I’m glad.

[00:09:07] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: What was it like to sell your baby in a sense? I mean, you were there for more than 20 years as the president of the company. So what was that like to sell it?

[00:09:18] Rajeev Singh: It’s such an important and insightful question because I think very few people, especially when you think about positive outcomes, Gary, the company sold for more than $8 billion. People can look at that and say, wow, that’s a remarkable exit. You must be extraordinarily happy. I’ll say this. I probably went through a period of depression after we sold the company because it was 21 years of my life. And there was 5,000 people who worked at Concur who I had a responsibility to that I took really seriously. And, you know, I picked a lot of those people. I picked the majority of that management team. We’d put that thing together painstakingly and we really had a business that we thought could continue to do incredible things. And it has done incredible things under the banner of SAP. But yet when you separate from something like that, you have to go through a period of mourning. You have to go through a period of rediscovery. The unfortunate reality for a lot of entrepreneurs is their identity, like mine was, for sure at Concur, is deeply embedded in the company that they’re building. And so when that company goes away, you’ve got to reinspect your identity. And that effort took me some time. I probably did six to nine months of real deep learning about myself before I was ready to take on the next challenge.

[00:10:39] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Yeah, I think that’s fairly typical from my experience. Looking back on it, raj, what leadership lessons did you learn? Basically went there right out of college.

[00:10:51] Rajeev Singh: So many Gary, so many. The biggest of them in my mind is, regardless of the idea and regardless of the talent that exists on your team, to the degree you haven’t embedded the cultural values that you choose to run your company by, you will veer off course. The only thing that keeps a company aligned and moving in the right direction are a set of core values around how you want to treat each other, how you want your company to behave, how you want people to make decisions. The bigger a company gets, and no doubt your other guests have talked about this, I’ve listened to some of your podcasts, the more you realize you can’t be in every room. And so you have to give talented people a compass by which they understand what true north is. And to me, that’s not about objectives or measurables. That’s about values and mission. And so that’s lesson number one that I think came from Concur for me. The second is, I think you learn this. I’m 53 now. I was 23 when we started Concur, 24 when we started Concur You have to be yourself. There is no version of leadership that comes from reading a book about someone else and then trying to copy their style. Your style is, whether you’re a great speaker or a terrible speaker, whether you’re a great engineer or a great sales person or a great marketer, whatever it is about you that created the seed of an idea and assembled this team, you have to lean into those strengths. Too often, I think we see people trying to be some other, trying to be a leader that they’ve read about or that they worked with before. It’s gotta be you and you have to be very comfortable in your own skin, in my mind, to lead through hardship because every business is going to have hardship.

[00:12:43] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: You spent 21 years at Concur, sold it to SAP, as you mentioned, took some time to reassess, and then became the CEO at Accolade. So how did that all connect, Raj?

[00:12:59] Rajeev Singh: For me ,after 21 years of working, as I mentioned, expense reports and travel, certainly no one would call those the call that the sexiest category by which to spend 21 years of your life on. But yet we built a company that I was really proud of and we worked with people that we really cared deeply about. And we were lucky enough to have a positive outcome in that story. The next part of the story for me, Gary, was, okay, I’m young enough and hungry enough to want to tackle a hard new challenge. And so how do we tackle something difficult that’s connected to human good, meaning, can I apply what I’ve learned for 21 years to something that at the end of the day makes people’s lives better in a more tangible, direct way. And healthcare was the obvious, obvious choice for me. The healthcare system in the United States leaves a lot to be desired as it relates to the outcomes it’s delivering for people. And so, we decided we wanted to go after healthcare. And I think the second part of that story for me, Gary, was we didn’t want to go after one little segment of healthcare. We wanted to understand why it had to be so hard for people to get the care that they deserve when we have the best doctors and the best hospitals and the best equipment in this country. Why, if we’re spending twice as much as everyone else and we have all the best goods and services, can we not deliver awesome outcomes? And so Accolade was our opportunity to do that. And we’re six and a half years into the journey now. We’re pretty excited about the possibilities.

[00:14:40] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, welcome to healthcare. And could you outline Accolade? What are the major categories of services that you provide?

[00:14:49] Rajeev Singh: Oh, absolutely. We serve employers. So today, in the country, we’re a country of 330 million people. About 170 million of those people get their healthcare and their insurance paid for by their employer. And so we go to employers and say, for your employees and their families, we’re going to give every one of those families a dedicated healthcare team with a primary care physician, a behavioral health specialist, and frontline care teams that understand all of their benefits and their local networks. And that team will stay with that family forever. And so you build longitudinal relationships with that team and that team guides you to the best healthcare outcomes. The beauty of the system is it’s a human system, or a human relationship, powered by technology and data. And so for us, we serve about 600 customers today. Those 600 customers represent about 10 million people and every customer we serve sees both higher engagement scores and higher satisfaction levels for their employees with the healthcare system that they’re using., And they also see lower costs. They see their costs come down because when you get people the care that they need, you know, shockingly, their costs come down and their outcomes improve. So far this experiment of, can we have an impact on healthcare, is working out. We think we can. And we think there’s more we can do.

[00:16:14] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: The history of this, of course, is that the employers have been frustrated for reasons you mentioned. It’s been hard for them to figure out how to provide the best healthcare. You’re going at it in a way that is novel and sounds terrific. What do the employers say when you go to them with your services? Do they immediately see, wow, this has a lot of promise, or, do you really have to kind of build their interest up from the ground up?

[00:16:46] Rajeev Singh: The story of, and this is true for every entrepreneur and every company that’s ever existed. When we first started here, we had four or five customers. And so we’ve come a long way. And certainly at four or five, you would sit with customers or prospects and the prospects would kind of scratch their heads saying, well, why do I need you in the middle of this? Shouldn’t my insurance company do this for me. Or any variety of questions along those lines. But when you’re trying to disrupt something, a part of the story is explaining to people the status quo exists because incentives are misaligned for others in the system to actually deliver the solution. And so we’ve aligned our incentives around helping these families. And so what does that mean for us? It means sitting with an employer and saying, don’t pay me if I don’t lower our costs. Don’t pay me if I don’t improve employee satisfaction. And the capacity in this industry to put your fees at risk and say, literally, you don’t have to pay me if I don’t drive value, was an extraordinary driver of adoption. Customers said, okay, we’ll give it a shot. And then the first five customers demonstrated extraordinary results and were incredibly referenceable. In fact, if you look at the retention rates of our customers, we’ve now been in business for 10 years. I’ve been here for almost seven. Our retention rates last year were 100%. The year before were 99%. Customers stay with us once they start using our service because they see the value immediately.

[00:18:10] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: So let’s just say I’m in an employer health benefit plan I’m covered. Accolade is providing it’s services. What’s the team that I, my family and I, would encounter as we need services, healthcare services?

[00:18:25] Rajeev Singh: So Gary, right now in your wallet is a insurance card of some kind. And on the back of that card is a whole bunch of phone numbers and a whole bunch of portals that you can go to to go get data about your healthcare. What we do at Accolade is we replace all of those numbers and all of those portals with our number. And we say, if you’ve got any questions about anything, whether it’s, I don’t understand my benefits. Can I see a chiropractor? Is that covered? Or I have this, I got this bill in the mail that says I owe $1,500. I didn’t think I did. What do I do about it? Any of those types of questions, we’re going to take that call and we’re going to service you with a frontline care team member that’s going to be dedicated to you and your family and then identify. They’ll not only solve that problem, but they’ll identify opportunities to guide you clinically as well. And from there, they might take you to one of our nurses. We’ve got nurses with, on average, 15 to 20 years experience. All registered nurses with different skills. Or they might get you to one of our primary care physicians, with the deliver a virtual visit. Our primary care physicians come from the top 50 medical schools in the country. Or they might get you to a mental health professional who can actually deliver that therapy online. And so that team, once you encounter them, become your team and stay with you. And so the idea, and clearly Gary, in 2020, when the pandemic really hit the world, the idea of virtual care became far more normalized. And so our care teams, our virtual care teams are built around the concept of taking care of families and every single Accolade member gets all of those elements of a care team assigned to them.

[00:20:03] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: You’ve mentioned data several times and feels like data is really the core of your ability to manage. What data do you actually collect for each one of your employees?

[00:20:16] Rajeev Singh: Okay. So to me, it’s the scaler of the idea. Can you deliver data-driven healthcare, which means, can you measure quality? Can you measure cost? Can you actually turn around and warrant that quality to your customer? And, Gary, one of the things to think about is, today, there are zero health systems in the country right now warranting to their employers that they’re serving in a local community that they’re going to lower the A1C scores for their diabetic population .Or that they’re going to lower the blood pressure readings for their hypertensives. We think we have an opportunity to do that. And so to do that, you have to collect data about the population. So for every customer we serve, we’ll go and collect two to three years worth of historical claims. For members that we serve, we can actually go collect their historical electronic medical record data. But then beyond that, we also go out and look at other sources of data that people don’t consider. There’s things called verification of benefits and eligibility data and utilization management information, all things that are signals around what a healthcare journey looks like for an individual and where we can help them in that healthcare journey. And so, that data platform powers all of our artificial intelligence capabilities, powers all of our recommendations engines, so that when our care teams are actually interfacing with you and your family, Gary, they’re looking at recommendations that say, based on Gary’s history, here’s three really smart things to do for him. And then tracking to whether Gary actually took those recommendations and followed through. And that closed loop understanding of value is what we think is an extraordinarily powerful driver of how healthcare is supposed to be delivered moving forward.

[00:22:02] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: You recently acquired HealthReveal, a clinical AI company. Just as I hear you laying this out, it sounds like AI could be really important to your services going forward. Can you just kind of share your thinking about that, Raj?

[00:22:18] Rajeev Singh: A hundred percent. In context right now, let me give you a case and point of how healthcare works and how we think healthcare should work. By and large today, when you walk into a primary care physician’s office, they’re looking at an electronic medical record system that’s really built around billing. It’s really built around making sure they can enter the right information in order to get the bill out at the end of that visit. And they’re looking at a set of information that’s incomplete. They don’t have claims data. They just have the electronic medical record that they’ve collected about you. They don’t have any data from your specialist that you might’ve seen. They don’t know what medications, necessarily, that you’re on. And they certainly don’t know what those medications costs. Now let’s flip that to an Accolade primary care physician taking care of you. The first thing they have is a whole suite of information that says, I know every doctor you’ve seen, every medication you’re on. I know all the benefits your company provides for you. And based on the HealthReveal acquisition, HealthReveal is an AI capability that actually pours through all of that data and says, based on codified evidence-based guidelines, we think that the proper course of action for this person is to put them on a statin, for example. And then that recommendation is surfaced for our physician so that they don’t have to pour through all of this data in order to understand, based on evidence-based guidelines, here’s what we think is a good idea. Those types of recommendations don’t have to be followed. Physicians or nurses, or even our frontline care team members, have the right to ignore the recommendation and do what they think is right in that moment. But the idea that you can pour through reams of information and come back with something smart for physicians or clinicians in the moment is just a sea change. It’s a step function scaler for the capacity to deliver high quality care.

[00:24:10] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Yeah. And I’m assuming means you have a bunch of happy physicians working for you, Raj.

[00:24:18] Rajeev Singh: You know what’s fantastic that way, Gary, we actually measure. So we measure, we use a customer satisfaction metric called NPS, or net promoter scores. We of course measure the NPS of our members. So their NPS scores range from 70 to 90. We also measure the MPS of our doctors because we know that when our doctors are happy, they’re going to deliver great care. And so we built all these tools on their behalf and the NPS scores for our doctors are in the eighties. And so, we’re thrilled with the retention rate of those physicians and yeah, they are happy.

[00:24:48] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Yeah, I’ll bet. You’ve mentioned health systems several times, EHRs, and so on. What kind of relationship do you have with health systems, raj?

[00:24:58] Rajeev Singh: It’s really important that anyone who really wants to make a difference in healthcare has to acknowledge that you have to collaborate with the ecosystem. It is a $3 trillion ecosystem and no single company, no single solution, is going to solve everything in healthcare. And so we’re building a scalable virtual healthcare delivery system that has to partner on the ground. Certainly there’s no way to virtually deliver a surgery. There’s no way to virtually put your hands on a patient. And so, for us, collaboration with brick and mortar healthcare systems around the country is essential and that starts with sharing data. So oftentimes, when someone’s seeing one of our care teams, they also have a primary care physician on the ground. We’ll actually share our data with that primary care physician so that they can make better decisions in the course of their care. The other thing we’ll do is we’ll actually use our data to determine who the best physicians are in a particular network to deliver care for our people. And that involves partnering with downstream health systems so that we can guide people to their top specialists. And I think over time, you’re going to see more and more of that, gary. You’re going to see more and more value-based networks being built around employers who want more from systems like ours and collaboration with their health systems on the ground.

[00:26:24] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Yeah, for sure. How have the health systems received Accolade? I could see, on one hand, they’d say this is really good for the kind of care that we deliver because they’ve always had, I think, challenges working with employers. On the other hand, I suppose there might be some primary care competition. How are they looking at it, Raj?

[00:26:47] Rajeev Singh: By and large it’s the former, rather than the latter. I think health systems are looking at us as a driver of value. And if you were to think about this, if you were to put it in the commercial sense, the biggest drivers of value for health systems are those downstream specialty care capabilities. Our capacity to guide people to those specialty care capabilities, and to do so with a well-informed patient who understands their benefits and who is going there at the right time in their journey, delivers a better performance for them from a financial perspective. But ultimately, most people get into healthcare because they want to do good things for the patients that they serve. And that’s certainly true of our health system partners as well. And so, we think, in partnership with them, we can deliver better results or better outcomes. And by and large, our partners feel that way as well.

[00:27:36] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Yeah. Yeah, that makes good sense to me. So we mentioned HealthReveal. How important is acquisitions to growth of Accolade services going forward?

[00:27:46] Rajeev Singh: We love the idea of innovation, period. And I mentioned the dataset, Gary previously. We’ve built a foundational dataset that allows us to enable new capabilities or new innovation in a way that we think is very, very unique. And so adding new capabilities for our customers makes great sense. And so we’ve done that. Three years ago we added the capacity do pre-authorization or utilization management for our customers. Then two years ago, we added provider selection capabilities. Last year we acquired two companies. Three, actually, excuse me. We acquired three companies, 2nd.MD, an expert medical opinion company, PlushCare, a primary care and mental health company, and HealthReveal. And that we’ve already talked about. We’ll innovate internally and build things on our own. And we’ll look at opportunities where we think something can deliver outsized value to our customers when it’s plugged into our platform. And certainly, we’ll continue to explore those opportunities moving forward.

[00:28:47] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, Accolade sounds like just a terrific business in the best sense of that term, providing quality and value services. So good luck as you continue to lead Accolade, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about governance, particularly boards. Raj, you’ve got a lot of experience as a board member and selecting boards for your companies and so on. What makes a top notch board member?

[00:29:15] Rajeev Singh: You know, it’s so interesting Gary, because board members have a different set of skills than operating team members do. And one of the first things you have to realize as board member is you’re playing a fundamentally different role. You’re playing a role as an advisor, as a consultant, as a mentor, and as an impartial observer of a business, because oftentimes the management teams can get sucked into the vacuum of their own understanding of their business. And so to me, great board members are board members who bring an expertise. So their perspective might be financial. Their perspective might be technical. Their perspective might be distribution. But who bring that expertise, who share that expertise willingly and with an open mind, and who have a capacity to deliver candid feedback in the context of what the company is trying to achieve. And if you can fill those three spots or, excuse me, if you can check those three boxes, I think you can be an extraordinary board member.

[00:30:17] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: As you recruit board members for your companies, how tough is it to find people that have the kind of capabilities that you’ve laid out?

[00:30:27] Rajeev Singh: I’m always in the market for board members, even when I don’t have any open spots. Gary, it’s that hard. And so, keep in mind what you’re looking for when you’re sitting in my chair is I’m looking for someone I want to partner with for the next 5 or 10 years. And that means it’s a really important relationship. And board members are, while some people kind of think about them as, well, I don’t know why it’s so important. They only show up four times a year for the board meetings. The reality is the four times a year, five times a year, or however often you pull your board together, that they do get together, they’re making really important decisions about capital allocation. They’re making extraordinarily important decisions about smart M&A, or not smart M&A. And when times get tough in businesses, they’re making extraordinarily important decisions or guidance for the management teams in moments that really matter for the people who work at that company, for those customers, and for those shareholders. And so, the gravity of the moments that matter with boards is extraordinary. And so you better pick wisely.

[00:31:31] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: So Raj, one of the boards you sit on is the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. How different is it to sit on a board like that versus, let’s say a board like Accolade?

[00:31:45] Rajeev Singh: You know, it’s a great question, Gary, because I sit on two public company boards. Accolade is obviously my company and then a company called Avalara. And I sit on a private company board called Amperity. The Seattle Children’s Foundation, on the other hand, is more of a labor of love and of philanthropy for me. And so, in those situations, really the guidance that you’re providing is very much about outreach to the community and the role that that foundation board plays in representing this really extraordinarily important institution in the city of Seattle and ensuring that it’s presenting its best foot forward to all the different constituencies in the community. And so it’s a totally different role. But I would say this. It fulfills an equal and important part of who I want to be in my community.

[00:32:35] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well said, Raj. This has been just a terrific interview. We appreciate your time. I have two additional questions, if I might. First is, for young people in our audience that have thoughts about becoming an entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?

[00:32:52] Rajeev Singh: I answer this question often, Gary, and my answer could be construed as controversial. I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is. I think entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Starting your own business, early stage companies that faced existential risk, the capacity for just failure requires a level of commitment and determination, and a willingness to go it alone that not everyone has. And so I’m not saying that entrepreneurs are a rare, special breed. I’m just saying the assets required to be an effective entrepreneur are unique and you just want to really do some inspection of yourself around, are you willing to go at alone? Are you willing to take no for an answer a lot and then keep fighting. Are you willing to deal with existential risks that makes it hard to sleep at night sometimes? If you’re willing to do those things, then I think entrepreneurship is singularly the most rewarding professional endeavor I’ve ever had. More than taking a company public, more than selling a company for a lot of money, the journey of entrepreneurship has been singularly rewarding for me. But the advice I’d give people is inspect your motives. If what you are, if what you live for, is building things, creating things from scratch, and you can’t imagine your life not doing that, then yes, you’re an entrepreneur. If you want to make some money because you’re going to build a company and sell it, I would do something else.

[00:34:26] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Well, from my experience, your advice is spot on Raj. Final question, what advice do you give to up and coming leaders?

[00:34:35] Rajeev Singh: There’s probably three things, Gary. First before you can be a great leader, you have to really understand yourself. You have to understand your internal motivations. You have to get very comfortable in your own skin. That takes time. I’m always amazed when I meet young people in their twenties who already have that skill because it took me well past my twenties to really understand it. And so, introspection. Great leaders, in my view, have the gift of introspection. They’re constantly inspecting where they are and how they can be better. The second is read. Read as much as you can. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether it’s about your field, whether it’s about leadership, whether it’s, I find it particularly gratifying to read the stories of other leaders. And what I find the best part of that, Gary, you see their imperfections. Oftentimes we try to hold ourselves to a standard that’s impossible. We can never be perfect. But reading about other people and their imperfections, and yet what they’ve achieved, is really gratifying for me. And then the last point I would make is, the foundation of who you are, at least in my view, is built around the people you love. And so you want to build a business and you want to be great at leadership, have a solid foundation. And for me, that’s my family. And without that foundation, the journey of leadership can be awfully, awfully lonely. And I think it’s imperative that you’ve got a support system that doesn’t care about your business.

[00:35:57] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Raj, this has been an excellent interview. You’re a very wise person, if I could say that. And we really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

[00:36:06] Rajeev Singh: I can’t thank you. enough for having me, Gary. Thank you.

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