When you're the co-CEO of a startup that you founded, there's never a true "first day." Unlike walking into an established company, the startup world is much less official at the beginning, and it's not always clear when you've transitioned from a small idea to a profit-seeking enterprise.
You might say that I became the CEO of GoodRx— a website that tracks drugs prices from over 75,000 pharmacies and offers coupons for prescriptions to users — when I first conceived the idea of the company, deciding that there had to be a better way to help Americans save on the astronomical costs of prescription drugs.
However, I didn't truly consider myself a CEO until much later.
The idea for GoodRx came to me when I went to pick up a prescription at my local pharmacy. At the time, I had private insurance with a high deductible plan, and when I arrived at the pharmacy counter, the pharmacists said I owed $450 for my prescription.
I wasn't expecting a price that high, and I wondered if I could get it cheaper elsewhere. So I took my prescription to different pharmacies in my area and realized that the prices of prescription drugs varied widely from pharmacy to pharmacy.
When I Googled drug prices and checked my insurance company's website, however, there was no helpful information. I had no idea how prescription drug prices were set, but I figured there might be a better way to help Americans save on their healthcare.
I called my friends, Trevor and Scott, two entrepreneurs and developers. After telling them about my experience, we started reaching out to 'industry experts' — doctors and executives in pharmaceutical and insurance fields — who we thought might know how drug pricing worked. From 2010 to 2011, we also began an exhaustive research project into existing prices and discounts, so we could start to create a database of information for patients. Within a few months, we had a first pass of prices for common prescriptions, so we decided to put up a website and see what the world had to say.
We worked in a hallway
In the early days of GoodRx, a handful of us worked in a small, borrowed office in Santa Monica, California. You might even have called it a hallway, (because it was).
We didn't have titles for a very long time, and there wasn't much of a reporting structure; Trevor, Scott, and I would informally split up duties and dive into our respective tasks.
Everyone was doing everything — one minute, we'd be designing our product, and the next I'd be fetching lunch or building a desk.
Our informal days came to an abrupt end in March 2013 when we got a call from ABC World News Tonight, who wanted to come to our "office" and do a national story on GoodRx. All of a sudden we had to make ourselves look like a professional, reputable organization.
I knew I was stepping into the role of a true CEO when I shaved and swapped my shorts for pants on the day of the interview.
(For a Santa Monica-based startup, this is a big deal.) I expected a production crew to show up with hair and makeup and the works, but instead it was one reporter and a guy with a handheld camera. It was really up to us to show the country what GoodRx was all about.
During the interview, I talked about how we simply wanted to help Americans get the prescriptions they deserved.
About halfway through, I had my "a ha" moment: My company was going to reach a national audience, and it was my job to articulate the vision and direction of the company.
At that moment, I felt like a true CEO.
The story ran a few weeks later, and the response was overwhelming. As the story aired in each time zone, the traffic to our servers exploded, and we sprinted to deploy more computers to handle the load. As we watched the flood of interest, we knew that we had tapped into something Americans truly needed.