With a life mission to “move as many people up the socioeconomic ladder as possible,” Wei Deng, founder and CEO of Clipboard Health, describes the creation and journey of her unique health care startup to podcaster George Quraishi from Artifact. A self-declared scientist at heart, Wei tells the story of Clipboard Health and its mission to help people.
“I started this company in May of 2016 and it feels like I’ve owned this company for a decade. That’s part of the startup time warp that happens to you,” Wei says.
The Evolution of a Health Care Startup
Earlier that year, Wei had taken the time to reflect on her life and what she wanted for her future. She decided her life’s mission was to “help others climb the socioeconomic ladder.” In the podcast episode, you can hear her children playing in the background (because Wei isn’t only the founder and CEO of a hypergrowth unicorn healthcare startup — she is also a wife and mother of two).
“I decided there’s no better time to start something of my own than now. That’s always the case. Regardless of what it is, if you want to do something, why wait?” Wei says. “At the time, I was just going around and trying out different ideas to satisfy this life’s mission [of helping people] and the one that I spent the most time on, before it evolved into this, was to invest in human capital.”
Although Clipboard Health has always been in the business of helping people, it hasn’t always been in the business of matching healthcare talent with facilities. Originally, Clipboard Health was a financial business investing in human capital using something called “income share agreements.” With some trial and error, the financial business became a health care talent marketplace.
Wei quickly learned that unemployed or underemployed people did not want financial help, they wanted jobs. She went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and learned that nursing was one of the largest occupations.
“Well, maybe I can’t help them in the way that I initially thought, but a lot of them wanted help finding a better job,” Wei says. She decided to start a job board, similar to Indeed, but specializing in health care. At first, the job board wasn’t profitable. When Wei started charging the companies to use the board, only staffing agencies ended up being customers.
“Staffing agencies would post jobs on our site. I would repost them on Indeed, get those candidates, screen them, and send the qualified ones back to the staffing agency. So that was what I did behind the scenes. What [the staffing agencies] would see is, ‘I give you a job post, you send me some candidates,’” Wei says. “This is where it got interesting.”
Wei explained that she would give the staffing companies 50 vetted candidates but an agency would only take two. She asked about the other 48, and the staffing agencies would explain that they needed the nurses to work (for example), Monday through Friday, and on-call Saturdays. If the nurse couldn’t commit to the entire schedule, the staffing agencies wouldn’t use them.
After four months straight, Wei decided to call the health care facilities. She asked, “Do you care if the same nurses show up for a particular schedule? They said: ‘No, we just need bodies.’”
“I went back to the agencies telling them I talked to your end customers and they don’t care who shows up,” Wei says. “Why don’t you take a couple of these nurses part-time and I will make scheduling software for you to synthesize [the scheduling of] a whole nurse?”
The staffing agencies were not interested in what they termed “operationally complex software.” They wanted to stick to their paper calendars. Wei found an opportunity and Clipboard Health started to evolve.
“I shut down the job board and then created this model where we do exactly what I suggested to the staffing agencies,” Wei says.
Any trained and licensed health care professional can use Clipboard Health to find shifts. Work a shift here and there, part-time, full-time: there is flexibility for both talent and facilities. Wei knew many of the healthcare professionals were single parents or had limited transportation, she says, and an inflexible schedule wouldn’t work for them.
Then Wei started advertising Clipboard Health as a healthcare talent marketplace. Once she had a few facilities requesting shifts each week, she designed a playbook about how to get more facilities onboard faster. She made a hire, handed off the playbook, and didn’t look back.
Airbnb for HealthCare Talent
Determined to be as convenient as Amazon for facilities and health care professionals, Wei has built a company that some have called “Airbnb for healthcare talent.” Never losing sight of her ultimate mission of helping people socioeconomically, Clipboard Health has filled tens of thousands of shifts for more than 1,000 facilities nationwide, putting millions of dollars in the pockets of healthcare professionals.
Clipboard Health’s proprietary software offers instant pay, instant booking, and other conveniences for healthcare professionals and facilities. The apps are constantly evolving to improve the lives of people in the health care field. Wei’s mission — and that of Clipboard Health — to help others climb the socioeconomic ladder is thriving.