Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 13



Shanel: [00:00:00] there are millions of non emergency calls  every single year for things like headaches, sore throat, toe pain,

[00:00:06]for most people. They go to the mall  to see Santa Claus. For me, every single year it was at the Huntington first aid squad,

[00:00:12]no matter whether you have $5 in  your pocket or $5 million, 911 and EMS really responds. In the same way to everyone,

[00:00:20]so I was in Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Arizona, and trying to fly back before maybe I had an exam or a class

[00:00:27]for example, our lead investor. One of their managing directors was an EMT himself.

[00:00:32]an advantage that minority founders have is our ability to  see things from a different lens.

[00:00:39] Dan: [00:00:39] What’s up Unfound Nation. Dan Kihanya here, your host for Founders Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in. That was Shanel Fields. She’s founder and CEO of MD Ally, a that shaking up nine one one dispatch with an innovative solution that allows emergency personnel to triage non-emergency callers to telemedicine.

[00:00:57] Our episode is sponsored by Valence. A great new community for black professionals. They have a special offer for founders, unfound listeners, and for those with dope experience, come take the boost challenge with me. Find out more details in the show notes, and as the U S and the rest of the globe wrestles with the challenge of balancing lives and livelihoods.

[00:01:16] I just want to give another shout out to the frontline and essential workers you’ve shown up day after day. So we thank you. And since we just observed Memorial day, I want to also give thanks to those who are and who have served. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. As always, you can find our podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and YouTube, and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.

[00:01:40] Feel free to drop us a review on Apple or Podchaser, and please, please follow, like and share to help us grow now on with the episode. Stay safe and hope you enjoy.

[00:01:50] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound spotlighting the best startups. You don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode lucky number 13 in our series of founders African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it. Today we have Shanel Fields, founder and CEO of MD Ally 911 tele-health solution that allows emergency personnel to triage non-emergency callers to telemedicine.

[00:02:20] Welcome to the show Shanel. Thanks for making the time.

[00:02:23] Shanel: [00:02:23] Hi, Dan. Thanks so much for having me.

[00:02:25]Dan: [00:02:25] Awesome. So, I’m sure we’re going to get into a lot of this when we, get the conversation going on later, but how are things going for you personally and your family and your community with this pandemic we’re experiencing right now.

[00:02:37]Shanel: [00:02:37] my family’s doing well,  very thankful for their health throughout this pandemic, and, I’m actually located in Philadelphia right now. so I think that the city of Philadelphia is handled this well, and is working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, but also as safely as  possible.

[00:03:01]Dan: [00:03:01] That’s good to hear. This is a tough time and it’s really interesting to see how every state, every city, every County, and certainly at the federal level, how things are being, let’s say they unfold day to day. So why don’t we start off with. you telling us a little bit more about what, what exactly is MD ally and how does it work?

[00:03:21] Shanel: [00:03:21] Yeah, absolutely. So MD Ally is a nine one one telemedicine solution. and essentially what we’re doing is integrating telehealth or virtual care into the 911 dispatch and response process. So, something that a lot of people I think don’t know is that there are millions of non emergency calls that go into nine 11 every single year.

[00:03:44] For things like headaches, sore throat, toe pain, and these calls decrease amulets availability. They overcrowd the ER and just drive billions of dollars in excess costs. So what we’re doing is integrating telemedicine into nine one one so that emergency personnel can triage or transfer these. Low acuity callers over to virtual care with a licensed medical professional instead of tying up those valuable emergency resources.

[00:04:13] Dan: [00:04:13] That’s one of those things that just seems to make common sense, but I’m sure there’s a long arc of a story, both for the company and the industry on how we got there. But before we dive into that, let’s learn a little bit more about you. You mentioned Philadelphia. Are you from Philadelphia?

[00:04:28] Shanel: [00:04:28] I’m not from Philly. So I moved to Philadelphia in 2017 when I first started business school at Wharton, and that’s what brought me to this wonderful city. But prior to that, I was in Boston, but I’m originally from New York, which is where I was born on long Island, and then grew up in Atlanta. So I’ve been up and down the East coast, but primarily in New York.

[00:04:53] And Atlanta.

[00:04:54] Dan: [00:04:54] Nice. Well, in New York and Atlanta are a little bit different. When did you move to Atlanta? It was at the informative years, 

[00:05:00] Shanel: [00:05:00] I think I moved when I was like eight or nine so I was pretty young. but you know, I still rep New York always will. And a large part of my family extended family is actually still out on long Island.

[00:05:13]and in the New York area. So yeah, we’re primarily, immediate family is in Atlanta. And then extended family is still in New York.

[00:05:20] Dan: [00:05:20] Well, New York is a, it’s certainly going through some, some, traumatic times right now.

[00:05:25] Shanel: [00:05:25] Yeah, absolutely. but you know what New York is? It’s New York, right? Resilient. just incredible, incredibly strong and determined people. So I’m, I’m not worried about New York. I think that they’re going to handle it the best way they possibly can. And the city is going to make it through this.

[00:05:43]Dan: [00:05:43] I think so. It, resilience is the right word. I think New York is a, it’s hard. It’s hard to keep down.  you can give it a knock, but it, it always comes back. Does. So, Atlanta. Yeah. Have you spent much time there now or recently?

[00:05:58]Shanel: [00:05:58] well, I was there over the holidays, so I’m always there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think actually Christmas is probably the last time that I was in Atlanta, but always missing it.

[00:06:10] Can’t wait to go back.

[00:06:11]Dan: [00:06:11] Yeah, I find it really interesting. It’s a beautiful city, first of all, and it is really becoming kind of a tech hub. Pretty amazing. I keep reading about all these people going from LA and from San Francisco to Atlanta, and we’ve interviewed two people from Atlanta. Yeah, two people from Atlanta.

[00:06:26] So it’s a, it’s definitely up and coming. So what drew you to the health world? I know you also worked in, in the health space. What drew you to healthcare and to,  this field?

[00:06:38] Shanel: [00:06:38] That’s a great question. I guess it’s a bit of an interesting journey in the sense that my introduction to the healthcare space I think is very different than others.

[00:06:49]Music triumph

[00:06:49] So my father was a volunteer EMT when I was growing up, and so the EMS space is a big part of my own childhood. And you know, it’s funny, I think that for most people, they probably encounter the hospital or primary care or other sectors of healthcare first. but  the nine one one at EMS aspect just feels very natural to me and something I’m personally passionate about.

[00:07:12] And yeah, I think that it feels like a part of me that was always there and something that I wanted to contribute to and come back to. But, you know, I think also for most people. They go to the mall or other places to see Santa Claus. For me, every single year it was at the Huntington first aid squad, and so I think I was just really entrenched in this sector of healthcare pretty early on, which is something I’m incredibly grateful for, but it was.

[00:07:37]That’s really was my starting point. And then as I got into my own career, I worked for a company in Boston that did, cloud based electronic medical records. and so that actually started to get me back into healthcare. And when I decided to start my own business and go to business school. I knew that I wanted to do something in EMS space and had learned about how low income and indigent communities actually have higher rates of dead on arrivals because of longer ambulance wait times. And this was just something that I knew I wanted to dedicate my time, attention and, life to fixing. And, that was really the start of MD Ally.

[00:08:16]Dan: [00:08:16] Wow. And so your dad was a, do you say, what was your dad was a volunteer EMS.

[00:08:22] Shanel: [00:08:22] Yeah. So he was a volunteer EMT out on long Island.

[00:08:25]Dan: [00:08:25] Did you ever hang out in that environment or go along for a ride or anything like that?

[00:08:30]Shanel: [00:08:30] well, as a kid you could go to the station. So it’s funny, this past Christmas, my mom sent me this photo of me sitting on Santa’s lap and. As a kid. I always thought that’s what our Santa was from the mall. Right? And that’s where you stand up. But I saw him at the first aid station every single year, and then she sent me that photo and I was like, Oh, that’s why I thought that that’s where it’s the only place I saw Santa.

[00:08:55]turns out it was a paramedic, right. Scam. Huge scandal.

[00:08:59]Dan: [00:08:59] Devastating.

[00:09:02] Shanel: [00:09:02] Devastating. but you know, a hero in his own right. So definitely loved that piece of my childhood. Growing up,

[00:09:08] Dan: [00:09:08] did your dad share some of the adventurous is the wrong term, but some of the goings on day to day that he would see?

[00:09:16] Shanel: [00:09:16] Yeah, absolutely.

[00:09:17] I mean, what was appropriate to share that time? But, I think a lot of it, I thought it was just funny stories about people doing silly things. And.

[00:09:26] Dan: [00:09:26] Can you remember one?

[00:09:26]Shanel: [00:09:26] you know, there’s just really weird one that I kind of remember, but I don’t know exactly what the context was. which was like somebody like doing something silly and hopping fences and like there get them getting like some sort of severe wedgie or something like that.

[00:09:41] You would be amazed at the crazy things that people do and then need to call 911 for. But that’s the one that I like really, really sticks in my mind. I’m sure my dad could tell some great, great stories, but, It was interesting because as I got older and got into the healthcare space, I think I realized more of the impact side of it and would be what it actually meant as far as utilization of resources or you know, people just using the highest cost Avenue of care and keeping them in financial distress.

[00:10:09] And so I think more of the mission driven pieces resonated with me as I got older. and I mean, luckily for my father, those conversations got more mature and so we could actually discuss these sorts of things. But yeah, I think that there are some silly stories that I learned as a kid, which now as an adult, I’m like, Oh, that was actually, probably not the best route for that, or different ways to solve those sorts of things.

[00:10:31]Dan: [00:10:31] So you were around this environment. Your dad’s obviously probably a big fan of what you’re doing. I’m sure that he, was on many, many, nine, 11 calls that ultimately would route through your service today. When you were going to undergrad, were you thinking about healthcare? Were you thinking about EMT first responder?

[00:10:51] Like, I’m going to figure out a way to do that or. Some cases when people emerge from those backgrounds, they kind of run in the opposite direction and sometimes they run towards it. And I’m just curious, where were you in terms of how you thought about what you were going to do when you were going through undergrad and starting your career?

[00:11:10] Shanel: [00:11:10] Wow. Undergrad. That was a long time ago.

[00:11:12]Dan: [00:11:12] It was longer for me.

[00:11:16]Shanel: [00:11:16] You know, I, I think that upon reflection, there were some things that I can see I consistently had an interest in. So I don’t know that I had pursued at that time. anything related to myself becoming an EMT. I. Really have always been passionate about the technology side of things.

[00:11:35]Music piano show

[00:11:36]And my dad’s  really into tech as well, so he’s, you know, you could always find him in his office, pulling apart a computer and putting it back together and engineering different things. but as I was graduating and getting into my own career, I think that really where that influence came through was one that I had to do something I actually cared about.

[00:11:58]I think that this is a non negotiable in any role or job or position that I take on. but. It has to have a real purpose. And I like things that have an impact. so, you know, my,  first role was great, but it was in the mobile devices space, and I don’t think it really resonated with me that much.

[00:12:16] And so that’s when I transitioned over into healthcare tech. And I’m really, really passionate about the side of healthcare that enables people to do, perform the miracles that  they are able to. So doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMT is, that’s really the piece that I think I’ve seen myself get the most involved and passionate about is how do I enable them to have the tools and resources in order to make their job easier or more effective?

[00:12:41]Dan: [00:12:41] Makes sense. That’s definitely something that makes just a lot of sense based upon the background. Somewhere in your subconscious probably is this sense of, you know, seeing that environment, seeing your dad. And I know that my parents raised me with a lot of service oriented and, being generous and,  so that sort of stuck with me even.

[00:13:01]If I wasn’t manifesting it all the time. so what was the spark that sort of brought this idea together for MD ally? So you’re, you’re in the health tech space, so you’re seeing things from many different angles. Was there sort of an epiphany moment? Was there an event? Was there just over time you just saw that this was a need?

[00:13:22] How did that come about?

[00:13:24]Shanel: [00:13:24] Yeah. So when I was getting ready to apply for business school and make that transition after my last role I’d say, the catalyst really was some research that I had come across from a professor at Wharton who’s an expert in the EMS space. And. In particular, what this study was looking at  was adverse outcomes from patients, interactions with EMS and EMS care delivery, and it was on racial disparities.

[00:13:55]And to me, the piece that I really love about the EMS space is that no matter whether you have $5 in your pocket or $5 million, 911 and EMS really responds. In the same way to everyone, right? So if you’re calling emergency medical response, they’re going to come as quickly as possible and they’re going to care for you in the best way that they can.

[00:14:16] And it also touches us at our most vulnerable moments, right? I think a lot of people think about the hospital and getting there, but EMS is actually who’s going to show up at your house first. So nine 11 in that response aspect. so the catalyst after reading about this, that was really horrifying to me because I know that that’s how EMS operates is as equitable as possible.

[00:14:40] And so in examining those racial disparities, you know, that was really kind of like, I couldn’t move past it. I couldn’t have seen that. And then just thought, okay, well that’s unfortunate. It was something where I was like, well, this shouldn’t happen. Right? People shouldn’t be passing away because of an operational inefficiency.

[00:14:56]Right? We should fix this. And integrating telemedicine into the nine 11 response process was really one of the first thoughts and ideas that I had had and acted on.

[00:15:06]Dan: [00:15:06] Wow. Well, there you go.   it is kind of an odd irony that, like you said, it, it is this place where people just show up and take care of you.

[00:15:15] And so it doesn’t make a lot of sense. and so I can, I can see how that would scratch scratchy at the wrong way. Did you have a sense that you were going to try and do this within the sort of corporate world, or did you feel like , this has to be done outside to be innovative and free to figure out the solution, I need to bring this outside or how did that.

[00:15:38] Progress.

[00:15:40] Shanel: [00:15:40] I think that the default for me is probably starting something as an entrepreneur. There’s not  anything currently, or even at that time or now that existed as far as like a company that was doing this. so I don’t even think that that would have been a possibility if I had found that. that would have been great just to know it existed.

[00:15:59]Music electro ny

[00:16:00] But this was one of those things where I had to create it, in order for it to, to exist in, be offered. and that I don’t find daunting at all. I have always wanted to get into entrepreneurship. It felt like something I was always going to do anyway. and so that transition to business school was also a really good time.

[00:16:18]And, I wrote all five business school essays on this and specifically wanted to go to Wharton because of their healthcare management program. and so I think that starting it as an entrepreneur and making sure that the vision came to fruition in the way that I felt had the highest impact is really important.

[00:16:35]and I think a lot of that is also driven by what was the catalyst for me around starting it as. Whoever was going to create this had to make sure that it addressed that health equity component and, was built and created in a way that low income and indigent communities would really, see a transitional difference or transformation in how they were receiving and benefiting from EMS care.

[00:16:58] And you just can’t delegate that away, right? Like, it’s important for us to have taken ownership of that.

[00:17:04]Dan: [00:17:04] That makes sense. That’s spoken like an entrepreneur. Hey, Unfound Nation, there’s a little nugget right there that Shanel dropped. She basically reversed engineered her MBA, if you, if you listen to closely, she focused how she got in, what she was going to do there and where she was headed afterwards.

[00:17:21]so for those of you that are looking to get your MBA or part of the MBA, exploration process. It’s not like just going to school and getting a graduate degree. You want to be intentional and deliberate about it. And in terms of the ownership part of it, I think that a lot of entrepreneurs see that the bureaucracy, the red tape, the lack of initiatives, the lack of priorities can all muddle progress in innovation, especially if it’s trying to be disruptive.

[00:17:48] And so a lot of entrepreneurs, I think, come to that realization, yeah, we’re going to have to do this.

[00:17:53]Shanel: [00:17:53] Yeah. And I think that a piece of it is that, you know, there’s what  starts at, or what motivates someone to start something. You don’t want that aspect to be forgotten. And you don’t know how, if that all transition over to, , the corporate realm and the initiatives, what we’ll get on the roadmap versus what won’t.

[00:18:09]And I think that, yeah, it does feel like that was the, that’s the only option is to take it into, to own it and to make sure that it, it happens.

[00:18:17]Dan: [00:18:17] Well said. We will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Shanel fields of MD Ally.

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[00:18:42] And follow us on Instagram @valencecommunity during these uncharted times. Valence is here to help if you’re one of the many people in our community who just lost an internship, a job, or just looking for some advice on what moves to make next. Valence just created the boost challenge. Join Valence and request a boost, a brief, a potent one-on-one mentorship opportunity from some of the most talented and influential black leaders in the nation, such as Derek Ali, Arlin Hamilton, Boris Kojo, and many others.

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[00:19:22]Dan: [00:19:22] So we’re  back with Shanel Fields from MD Ally. So Shanel, before the break, we were starting to talk a little bit about the inspiration and the catalyst for starting MD Ally. How did you actually go about kicking the company into gear and actually taking that leap?

[00:19:37]Shanel: [00:19:37] So I think that this ties to what I had mentioned earlier about going to business school and intentionally making this a part of that journey.

[00:19:45]as I was deciding on going to school and which school I wanted to go to, a big piece of it was would it help and serve my making this transition? and so I knew that there were certain gaps that I had in my own knowledge. based on what experience I had or hadn’t had already in my career and intentionally wanted to take courses  that would help to teach me some of that foundational knowledge that I needed, because I felt that to be a CEO, you have to run every department in your company, right?

[00:20:15] And so you really have to have some sort of foundational knowledge of a lot of different moving parts, and said that. Peace and going to business school, was really helpful with that transition. And while I was there, I just used the courses really to, to help me build MD Ally. So all of my professors from day one knew that I was starting this company.

[00:20:34]I used all of their office hours to help me build marketing plans and segment my audiences and, do my accounting. Right. So in any of the accounting case studies, I’d just cross out the name of it. Whoever the company was listed on there and put in MDL ally. It helps you like understand it, right? So it’s not just like, in theory, here’s how you balance your sheets.

[00:20:55] It’s like, okay, I’m balancing MDL as books and it just makes you want to do the work more. I think that’s a starting fees. Professors love helping and working on startups. I think that they find it incredibly  fulfilling. And if you can get world renowned professors to build out your. You know, marketing plan or help you with your business strategy, why wouldn’t you do that?

[00:21:15] Right? That’s essentially what you’re going to school for. so that was really helpful as far as the transition. And the school just had so many amazing entrepreneurial resources as well. And so that really did get us on the right path as far as getting the company off the ground.

[00:21:28]Dan: [00:21:28] That makes a lot of sense.

[00:21:29]And with the academic resources, I kind of did the same thing when I went to business school. Suck in and use as much as possible and learn as much as possible. But there was a point probably where you’re leaving school had you incorporated the company at that point?

[00:21:46]Shanel: [00:21:46] I incorporated the company while in business school.

[00:21:50] Dan: [00:21:50] Oh, you’re in school. Okay.

[00:21:51]Shanel: [00:21:51] Yeah. and maybe I would suggest waiting to laughter.  I don’t know. It kind of does start the clock on things. So part of the toughest part I think of wanting to accompany was I was a full time student in business school and I was running a company.

[00:22:05] And so it’s a lot at once. but yeah, I incorporated, I think. My second year while I was there, I was traveling around the country in between classes, doing ride alongs with first responders and shadowing dispatchers. So I was in Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Arizona, and trying to fly back before maybe I had an exam or a class that I had to take, but doing it at the same time, I think was tough.

[00:22:29] Maybe those things can be to compete balanced in a different way, but I guess as an entrepreneur you just get started.

[00:22:34]Dan: [00:22:34] No, that’s sometimes momentum is your friend for sure. so let’s dive a little bit more into like how the company works. So I imagine there’s a number of constituents involved here.

[00:22:44] Maybe walk us through a little bit of who’s involved in terms of, you know, either partners, vendors, allies, customers that are involved with MDA. Ally.

[00:22:53]Shanel: [00:22:53] Yeah. So, our customers are 911 dispatch centers and EMS response agencies. and that’s, I think, our foundational starting point. And then as far as partners that we work with, our provider partners are, I think, a big, really big piece of the value that we can provide.

[00:23:13] And, our focus is. To really have a two part solution. One, which is the technology. so allowing the EMS systems to triage over to telemedicine. so there’s integrations into their existing infrastructure that we need to engineer, as well as facilitating that virtual care visit. And then the other big pieces, providing or.

[00:23:34]Helping to secure the provision of medical services as well, so that there are providers and physicians that are on the line and available for the caller or patient to talk to.

[00:23:44]Dan: [00:23:44] So how does the economics work? Are you, are you being paid by the provider or did you pay the provider.

[00:23:53] Shanel: [00:23:53] So there are a lot of different routes that we could have gone as far as, our revenue model.

[00:23:57]but it’s quite simple at the start, which is there’s a per call fee for each college transferred over and, as our model evolves or other revenue streams and avenues that we will explore, but that’s the simplest model for us to kick off, kick things off with and deliver value quickly.

[00:24:17] Dan: [00:24:17] And was that the one you came up with first or did you sort of road test different ideas first or

[00:24:23]Shanel: [00:24:23] no, you have to go through a lot of iterations with everything, so Nope, that wasn’t the first one, and it probably won’t be the last, if I’m being honest, I’m fine with it changing as long as we find the right one at the end of the day.

[00:24:37] But yeah, it’s, it’s a work in progress. I think that the good thing is that this is a big problem for a lot of different entities. So public safety payers, provider groups, that patient. so that means that there are different ways that we could, stand up revenue streams and it’s just really figuring out which ones work at the early adoption stages versus maybe later on when we have, when we’ve been doing it for awhile.

[00:25:02] And so I think we’ll be pretty agile in that regard.

[00:25:05]Dan: [00:25:05] That’s what you gotta be. I think if you’re adding value, then the revenue model tends to emerge from that. For sure. Is there any regulatory component to your part of this experience?

[00:25:16]Shanel: [00:25:16] Nothing newer. Outrageous for us specifically. I think that there’s, the healthcare space is a highly regulated space.

[00:25:24]so maybe I just also viewed that as par for the course, but there’s HIPAA compliance related things. And,

[00:25:31] Dan: [00:25:31] what’s HIPAA for those who don’t know what HIPAA is,

[00:25:33]Shanel: [00:25:33] HIPAA is a, it’s regulatory, components that have been put in place to protect patient health information. So it’s, it’s really just making sure that data and information on that might identify a patient and their conditions are protected and not shared in a careless manner.

[00:25:51] So those are, I’d say that’s probably one of the big ones. and then there are other aspects that our clients or provider partners need to adhere to. But there wasn’t anything new that was specific to, the, the creation of nine 11 telemedicine that we weren’t able to, you know, quickly overcome her or, find a solution for.

[00:26:13]Dan: [00:26:13] You’re right. I mean, my first reaction for health tech is regulatory, you know, giving some sort of approval and, it seems to touch even the people who are not delivering care, so to speak. Sometimes when you’re, when you’re a part of the ecosystem or the infrastructure. There’s still things like HIPAA and making sure that privacy is enshrined in protected.

[00:26:33]So I want to get back a little bit to this question of how many people are involved in, in one of the challenges that a lot of companies face is a startup, is that you kind of need all of the tumblers to fall. for the full solution to work. In other words, you know, if you’re a marketplace, obviously you need buyers and sellers.

[00:26:51]if you are a part of a supply chain, you need to  have entities that are willing to work on both sides of that. did you face a challenge with trying to figure out how do we get one side or the other first or was it. Pretty self evident that we need to go get this aspect of sort of the ecosystem in place before we go to the others.

[00:27:10] How does that evolve for something like MD Ally?

[00:27:13]Music emergency

[00:27:14]Shanel: [00:27:14] Yeah, so that’s a lot of, learning over time and it’s a lot of discovery and really immersing yourself in the shoes of your, your clients and understanding what they need. So I think that what was really valuable was during business school when I spent a year doing those ride alongs with the different EMS systems.

[00:27:35]It was really being able to go into the field and get a firsthand understanding of how they’re doing things today and what they needed, in order to, to change, or transition to the model that was more efficient. And so I think what blanks that fills in is. What we need to provide and how we need to, , add that value and that answers those questions around what needs to come first.

[00:28:00]so a very specific example is that, we have, you know, it’s two pieces, the technology and then also helping to arrange or secure the provider services aspect of it. There were times where we were just thinking, okay, we’ll provide the technology. And then it became evident based on what the EMS systems needed that.

[00:28:19] They might not have provider partners already. And, you know, you can hope that, , that emerges as, you know, that stuff market in and of itself. But as an early driver of it, we had to really bring both to the table in that more sir model. And so we need to make sure that when we go to an EMS. System.

[00:28:37] We have everything that they need in order to transition patients over to virtual care. And it’s not just the tools, it’s partially also the services. And so that I think, helped to draw that, that roadmap or that was kind of like the yellow brick road to the solution that we needed to put together.

[00:28:53]Dan: [00:28:53] That makes sense.

[00:28:54] And I would imagine from the provider point of view, if they have capacity, you’re essentially bringing them a more efficient way to get patients in front of them. Right.

[00:29:04]Shanel: [00:29:04] Yeah, somewhat. So there’s a tricky piece around that. so there are regulations around providers and like patient referrals and those sorts of aspects.

[00:29:13]the simplest way in which we handle that is we actually will contract with the providers. and you just want to make sure you don’t run into anything like anti-kickback regulation and referral or commission off of a patient referral. So that’s not something that we would ever do or could ever do.

[00:29:30] And we just avoid that pretty cleanly by, owning and contracting with that provider aspect of it.

[00:29:38] Dan: [00:29:38] Interesting too. These are the things that, I certainly wouldn’t have thought about. So where do you go from here? I mean, , what’s the sky’s the limit aspect of this business?

[00:29:47] Shanel: [00:29:47] Oh, man, there are so many things that we can do. Our, our vision is. that nine one, one will look completely  different and operate differently than it does today, and let’s say 10 years. and our part in that is we really want to serve nine one one systems and expand the scope of their services.

[00:30:08]Expand their capabilities and what they can do and take on the logistics and the operational challenges related to that. So, you know, right now we are able to triage to telemedicine, but there’s also tele psychiatry and mental health services that would have a huge impact, in this context. So we’re working on.

[00:30:27]A partnership right now. for example, where we can integrate machine learning into 911 and, detect speech patterns that are indicative of PTSD and thoughts of suicide. Wow. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. And we’re working on it with, actually it’s a government entity. That built it for veterans.

[00:30:45] Dan: [00:30:45] Amazing.

[00:30:46] Shanel: [00:30:46] Veterans tend to not be very expressive when they’re experiencing mental health challenges. And do you know, there are other, let’s say like minority communities that also have that challenge and so many mental health, cases come through nine one and the best place for them is not the emergency room of a hospital.

[00:31:01] Right. it’s actually our ability to triage them to tell us psychiatry or behavioral health resources. That will really make sure that that patient gets to the destination that they need. same thing with community resources. So partnering with large organizations where EMS can very easily refer the patient into community resources that are in their area free and available to them.

[00:31:26]so this is really how we envision emergency medical services in the scope of nine 11 is having this really robust, menu of options. That they can choose from and provide the best patient centered care. That’s what the future of this space really looks like, and we just want to be able to help enable that transition.

[00:31:46]Dan: [00:31:46] Again, that makes so much sense, especially in this era of customization and rapid personalization and getting to the thing that the, in my world, it would be the customer, but in this case it’s the patient’s real need. And not forcing everybody down the same, you know, through the same funnel. Here’s the question.

[00:32:06] So if, if 911 is going to change that radically, do you think the number nine one one would go away ever?

[00:32:14]Music modern hip hop

[00:32:16]Shanel: [00:32:16] that’s a great question. I don’t think so, maybe. Right. I think that the things will evolve as they need or should evolve. But you know, a big stance of ours is 911 is amazing and it’s been incredibly successful in educating people on.

[00:32:31] I wouldn’t want to, how to call it and it. Right. And I don’t think that that should change. And so I think in particular with MD Ally, we have always come in after someone has called nine 11 and that’s because that needs to come first, right. Patient safety and making sure that. They, they do get connected to any emergency resources that they may need.

[00:32:52] And then once it’s been determined that they need something that’s maybe a lower acuity level of service, then it can be transitioned over to MD Ally so we place ourselves after nine 11, and that’s intentional to make sure that that’s really the first, option that, any patient encounters. so will it exist in the future?

[00:33:12] I think so. I think that it’s just the scope of it that will expand.

[00:33:16]Dan: [00:33:16] I like that answer. So we’ll take another short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Shanel fields from MD Ally.

[00:33:24]Valence: [00:33:24] Hi, this is Victoria Tinsley from Valence, a new tech platform and community focused on connecting black professionals globally with mentorship, career opportunities, and capital. We’re excited to offer all founders unfound listeners, prioritize access to Valence. Use the link in the show notes to receive access to your free membership.

[00:33:42] And follow us on Instagram @valencecommunity during these uncharted times. Valence is here to help if you’re one of the many people in our community who just lost an internship, a job, or just looking for some advice on what moves to make next. Valence just created the boost challenge. Join Valence and request a boost, a brief, a potent one-on-one mentorship opportunity from some of the most talented and influential black leaders in the nation, such as Derek Ali, Arlin Hamilton, Boris Kojo, and many others.

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[00:34:22] Dan: [00:34:22] So we’re back with Shanel fields from MD Ally. So Shanel, I know that you have, recently raised some money. maybe we can switch topics a little bit and talk about how that experience was for you.

[00:34:34] Shanel: [00:34:34] Yeah. so we closed a million dollar seed round in March of this year.

[00:34:40] Dan: [00:34:40] Congratulations.

[00:34:41] Shanel: [00:34:41] Thank you.

[00:34:42] Thank you. And it was interesting. So we, it probably took us about three or four months, to raise the funding. And we met a lot of really great investors, some of which ended up being a good fit  for us and the stage we’re at. And, we’ll probably use a remainder of this year to just focus on the milestones that we need to hit in order to get to our series A.

[00:35:05] But yeah, we were really happy and successful and grateful for our ability to raise that funding, which will help us grow the business.

[00:35:12] Dan: [00:35:12] What were you looking for out of investors besides money, obviously.

[00:35:17] Shanel: [00:35:17] Yeah, actually it’s, it’s interesting and it’s weird to say this, but money is not the most important factor.

[00:35:22] Dan: [00:35:22] That is not weird. That is, that is not weird at all.

[00:35:25] Shanel: [00:35:25] Okay. Yeah, there’s, it feels like there’s money out there and there’s money. We turned down we were oversubscribed and we could’ve raised more. But it’s important to us that the investors that we work with are really aligned with what we care about, and our mission and our space.

[00:35:44]And so, like, for example, our lead investor. One of their managing directors was an EMT himself. And, that I think is one of the things that we look for is do they really care about what we’re trying to do here? Do they understand it? and I think that I hear a lot more now that, we’ve been at it for a while.

[00:36:04] People say, Oh, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. But at the start, nobody knew that. Right. and. If from an investor standpoint, that’s the biggest thing I think that we look for is do they care about this? Are they going to push us in the right direction? Are they going to be aligned with our vision?

[00:36:19] Do they care about our clients? And, that, that I think is probably at the top of our list as far as the, the benchmark for an investor that we would work with.

[00:36:27] Dan: [00:36:27] Nice. And I was going to ask if, how, how did that manifest itself? But that’s a pretty obvious one. Who is it? I think, is it Cory Booker? His chief of staff was a retired EMT or something, and they called in basically all the retired people.

[00:36:41] So he’s Cory Booker’s, chief of staff during the day, and then he’s like an EMT at night.  my niece is a part time EMT, so, so tell me, you know, part of what we talk about is the fact that, you are part of an underrepresented group and some intersection as well. Tell me, is there any aspect of being a black founder or a woman founder or a black woman founder that has presented itself as more challenging in any given situations that you can recall?

[00:37:10]Music now-never

[00:37:10]Shanel: [00:37:10] I think it shows up in a few different ways. I don’t think at nine 11 telemedicine or MD Ally would exist if it wasn’t partially because of what drove me to start the company, which was. You know, low income and indigent communities having this challenge. And you know, there are so many incredible innovations that I think minority founders can identify and bring to fruition because of those connections that we just draw quite naturally.

[00:37:39]and not to say that all low income or indigent communities are African American cause they’re, they’re not. I think it was just a big aspect of. Wanting to really caring about health equity and that and that standpoint. And again, that’s not specific to any particular race that has the ability to do that.

[00:37:56] But I do think that an advantage that minority founders have is our ability to, to see things from a different lens. then maybe founders that have all have a same or similar background. And that really, I think. Pushed and informed a lot of our strategy, which in the end had us build really innovative tech and solutions and workflows that work for all communities.

[00:38:22]Right? So I have spoken to a lot of wealthy communities that have a similar issue for different reasons. And some of the solutions that we built out really helped, and transitioned well into those other settings. And so. It’s really, I think designing for designing technology for some of these more challenging settings in cases actually improves it across the board.

[00:38:45] What’s the quote like? A rising tide lifts all boats. I guess it’s kind of similar to that, where if you’re really fixing this super hard core basic case of something. It actually ends up making the system or the tech better for everybody. And I, do think that minority founders have, a great competitive edge in that case.

[00:39:04]so I think that that’s probably one of the ways in which I’ve seen it and it’s definitely an advantage. And, then, you know, there’s, there are the challenges and the opposite ends of that where I’ve had investors say really weird, interesting things to me where maybe they didn’t think I was going to be very good at technology or a CEO, especially in a male dominated space, like public safety.

[00:39:26]But I think what’s been incredible is that I haven’t gotten that reaction at all from the actual public safety space. Right. EMT is, and it’s, it’s very diverse as far as nine 11 so I think it does show up in some places  in a negative or more challenging way, but I think that it’s really given us a great competitive edge.

[00:39:46] Dan: [00:39:46] And  have you had any colleagues, comrades, or others who have come alongside you or have sort of shared this passion in general around kind of the focus you have around equity of outcomes and,  the disparities and resources and,  service and access. That have sort of helped you and emboldened you more.

[00:40:05] Shanel: [00:40:05] Yeah, absolutely. And I think it shows up in the biggest way when it comes to our team. And you know, we, our team has been growing and, for example, our CTO, he was. Former paramedic for 18 years, ran to nine 11 dispatch centers and has three patents in the nine 11 next generation space, and also helped to engineer the original technology that allows for text message to nine 11 and.

[00:40:31]Kindred spirits, I think, find you and are super passionate about what you’re building and, they become a part of your team, right? Maybe their employees, maybe they’re advisors, but they really amplify the success that the business is able to have. so yeah, we’ve absolutely seen that and, really benefited from that.

[00:40:49] I think there are a lot of people who are passionate about this.

[00:40:52]Dan: [00:40:52] So, one of the questions we like to ask, and that’s a little cliche, but it’s fun. If you could go back, let’s say eight years and find the eight year ago and give her advice from today’s Shanel, what would you tell her?

[00:41:06]Particularly around starting a company and doing a startup.

[00:41:09]Shanel: [00:41:09] Music high stakes 

[00:41:11] I think the biggest thing I would say is I would probably start coaching myself early on, sleeping more and taking more breaks. I can be very extreme in that sense, and I don’t pace myself. Right. so I think just what I would say to my.

[00:41:28] You know, if I was wiser eight years ago, w it start to maybe transition a bit in that mindset because it’s an entrepreneur. It’s a lot of work, and especially if you’re really passionate about it, you want to work on it all the time. But I’m also realizing and learning a lot more now about balance.

[00:41:44] And, making sure to get enough sleep and to maintain certain routines, and health. And so a lot of the stories that are on entrepreneurship or you know, eating chips and, you know, staying up until four 30 in the morning before you go to bed and then getting back at it the next day. But I think that this is a really longterm thing.

[00:42:03] And getting fit and prepared for a marathon is the most important thing. I probably would have told myself.

[00:42:09] Dan: [00:42:09] Yes, that’s exactly, the kind of advice I think that I would give myself as well it is a marathon at a sprint pace. , and like you said, pace becomes your ally. Cause burnout can happen pretty easily.

[00:42:21] Not, not even because you’re frustrated or stressed about what’s going on, but like you said, , if you run the engine at red all the time, just because you’re like, Oh, there’s another idea, there’s more work to do. And let me go back at it. You know, the engine is going to fatigue at a certain point. Well, we’re coming to the end of our conversation.

[00:42:36] This has been so much fun. So now why don’t you tell the folks how they can find out more information or get in touch with you or find out more about MD Ally.

[00:42:44]Shanel: [00:42:44] Yeah, absolutely. So, I would love to talk to anyone who is also passionate about this and wants to get in touch with me. our website is www.mdally.com.

[00:42:55]And anyone can email me at shanel@mdally.com we love hearing from folks all the time,  who are really passionate about this, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and learn more.

[00:43:07]Dan: [00:43:07] Well, we’ll have to have you back on the show once, the pandemic is in a different later season and we can find out all about sort of how MD ally intersected with what’s going on now.

[00:43:18] We didn’t even talk about that, so, but thank you so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it and a great conversation and we wish you the best of luck for sure.

[00:43:27]Shanel: [00:43:27] Awesome. Thank you for having me.

[00:43:28]Dan: [00:43:28] We’d like to thank our guests, Shanel fields, and our sponsor, Valence. Don’t forget to check out details in the show notes by how you can participate in the valence community, and please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com forward slash listened to. That’s listen T O and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.

[00:43:48] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya. Social media and other promotion by Omama Marzuq. Our music was composed by Bobby Cole, Michael Vignola, and Bruce Zimmerman.

[00:43:59] I am Dan  Kihanya and you’ve been listening to founders unfound.



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