Entrepreneurship is a Tool for Social Impact

I have met thousands of different types of investors throughout my career as an entrepreneur. Some investors that I have met unfortunately simply look at business and entrepreneurship as a way to earn a profit. I do not share this view.

I view entrepreneurship as a mechanism for having a positive social impact on society. Profit is simply a byproduct of solving problems for society.

When I founded my digital health startup Fruit Street, my investors and I decided to form it as a Delaware public benefit corporation. A public benefit corporation is a for profit company, but we write our social mission into our bylaws and make accomplishing our social mission just as important as generating revenue. In fact, if we were only generating revenue and not having a social impact – our management team would see little point in what we do every day. Our social mission is so important that we wrote it into our bylaws.

Fruit Street’s social mission is to prevent and treat lifestyle related disease using telemedicine, wearable devices, and mobile applications.

You might ask, why would we do this? Does it scare off investors that we are not a normal Delaware C-Corp?

The reason why we formed our company as a Delaware public benefit corporation is that the reason we started our company was to have a social impact. We wanted to only attract investors who shared our mission. We wanted investors who were not simply investing to get a return on investment like your traditional venture capitalists. We wanted investors who were also investing because they wanted to see their money have a positive impact in the world.

In our case, our physician investors are investing because they want us to develop a product that will actually help the patients they see every day in their clinics ranging from rural Alabama to the city of San Fransisco and all throughout the United States.

Fruit Street is a grassroots movement of physicians who want to improve healthcare with technology. There are no hedge funds involved or private equity funds with Fruit Street. Just a small committed group of citizens and healthcare professionals who want to change the world.

I would suggest to all entrepreneurs that want to change the world that you form your company as a public benefit corporation. If an investor has a problem with you wanting to make a profit while having a social impact at the same time, don’t take their money. There are plenty of investors who will share your vision for having a social impact.

Another phenomenon I have noticed is that there are two types of investors and two types of entrepreneurs. The first time of entrepreneur is the type that wants to be the founder of a startup because they think it’s the sexy thing to do and a way for them to make money. They decided they want to be an entrepreneur before they decide what the product or service is that they want to build.

The second type of entrepreneur is the one that recognizes a problem in society and decides he or she wants to solve it. That entrepreneur then realizes that starting a company and finding a team of great investors and entrepreneurs is a way to solve that problem at scale for society. This is the type of entrepreneur I am. When I volunteered in my local emergency room, I saw patients with preventable conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and decided something had to change. We needed to develop a way to deliver the diabetes prevention program at scale to millions of people using technology.

It is my opinion that entrepreneurs whose primary motivation is a social impact are more successful than those that are just looking for a quick exit.

If you build a team of entrepreneurs and investors that want to change the world, you just might.

Because someone once said that you should never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

PRESS RELEASE: Fruit Street Becomes the First Digital Health Company to Deliver the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Program via Live Group Telehealth Classes

The digital health and telemedicine company Fruit Street Health has announced that it is the first organization with pending recognition status from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) to deliver the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (“DPP”) via group telehealth classes and live video conferencing.
The DPP resulted from clinical work conducted by the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, which conducted a major multicenter clinical research study that was published in 2002. The study contained 3,234 participants who were overweight and had prediabetes, and was aimed at discovering whether modest weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity or treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin (Glucophase) was more effective at preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes. Among its findings, the study showed that people at risk for developing diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by losing a modest amount of weight through diet and exercise. DPP participants in the lifestyle intervention group reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent during the study. Lifestyle changes worked particularly well for participants aged 60 and older, reducing their risk by 71 percent.
The DPP was originally facilitated to groups of 10-20 prediabetes patients meeting with a trained lifestyle coach in a physical location such as the YMCA. The lifestyle coach would facilitate 16 1-hour long group classes in the first six months and 6 1-hour long group classes in the last six months. Patients would physically drive to these classes which can be inconvenient especially if they live in a rural area where they may have to drive 30 to 60 minutes in one direction to attend class.
Fruit Street addresses the limitations and barriers of physical class attendance by allowing patients to attend their DPP classes via group telehealth video calls, which eliminates both the cost and wasted travel time of commuting to a physical class.
In the Fruit Street DPP delivery model, a registered dietitian conducts these classes via group video where all of the patients can see and speak to one another. In addition, each patient is issued a Fitbit, wireless scale, and the Fruit Street mobile application which allows them to take pictures of their food and receive feedback from their lifestyle coach. The wireless scale records the weight of the patients throughout the DPP and the Fitbit both encourages and healthy lifestyle and transmits exercise data back to the registered dietitian in a HIPAA compliant environment.
Laurence Girard, CEO and Founder of Fruit Street, believes that the Fruit Street DPP is an unique and effective approach to diabetes prevention. “It is true,” states Girard, “that there are other successful virtual diabetes prevention programs, but Fruit Street is very different from these virtual models. For example, one virtual program delivers the majority of its DPP curriculum through articles and recorded content that patients read on their own time. This model is convenient for patients who want to read content on their own time and cannot meet with a lifestyle coach at the same time every week. We believe, however, that many patients would prefer to speak with a live registered dietitian and the other participants in the group via live video conferencing which is more similar to an in-person interaction.”
Fruit Street’s DPP telehealth model is a digital version and very similar to the structure of the original DPP clinical trial where patients met with a lifestyle coach at a YMCA in-person. Instead of sitting at a physical table, patients are sitting at a virtual table via group video conferencing conducted on the Fruit Street digital health platform. Girard stated, “Fruit Street’s similarity to the original DPP clinical trial gives us the ability to protect the DPP program integrity and we believe will enable us to deliver excellent clinical outcomes. This similarity combined with the fact patients can do these classes from the convenience of their home or office via telehealth makes the Fruit Street telehealth DPP model a great option for patients.”
Laurence Girard
CEO & Founder
85 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, New York, 10004