We talked to Diesel Peltz of Healthy Together on how the app is helping people to stay safe during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Diesel Peltz: Thankfully, everyone is healthy and safe now! Although at the end of June, along with some family members, I contracted COVID. Fortunately, we were able to quarantine, so no one else contracted it, and were all able to fully recover.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Healthy Together.
Diesel Peltz: Our story about how we started Healthy Together wasn’t a traditional one, to say the least. Prior to March, along with my co-founders, we were working on a company called Twenty. The premise of which was that the GenZ & Millennial cohorts of the population have disproportionately experienced issues surrounding their mental health. We saw major increases in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide rates. A correlation to how little time was being spent together in-person forming real, meaningful relationships.
By February, Twenty was growing, and we had millions of users that had already signed up. When the pandemic hit the U.S., and the shelter-in-place orders started to come out, we made an internal decision that it was socially irresponsible for us to be promoting in-person get-togethers. We started developing new ways for friends to use the app virtually while physically disconnected as we thought the mental health effects would only become more prominent. While we were going through that process, we were contacted by the State of Utah, who asked if we would be interested in working to repurpose the technology we had built to help with their COVID-19 response efforts.
After officially deciding to partner with the state, the entire company worked around the clock. As we refer to it internally, we decided to “full-send” to launch the first version of Healthy Together in 3 weeks.
The Healthy Together platform supports COVID-19 self-assessment, testing access, and result delivery, and augmented contact tracing, as well as enterprise contact tracing, workflow tools, data integrations, and visualizations. Healthy Together is now being used by universities like BYU and companies like Traeger Grills. We will soon be announcing additional states, enterprise customers, and colleges that are using the platform to protect the health of residents, students, and employees.
How does Healthy Together innovate?
Diesel Peltz: One of our core values as a company is to walk in our user’s shoes. By deeply understanding what problems we are trying to solve and who we are trying to solve them for, it, in many cases, requires us to innovate to reach a meaningful solution. In conjunction with this value, we are a mission-driven company that is motivated by having a greater purpose and driving a positive impact on big problems. When the realities of the pandemic hampered our mission at Twenty, we had a chance to support the public health response during such a critical time. We dove in head-first at the opportunity to be part of the broader solution.
Through collaboration with the State of Utah, we identified a few key areas to focus on, such as helping residents assess their symptoms to determine whether or not they should be tested if they needed to be tested where they could be tested, how to coordinate a test and reminding people that getting tested was free. Additionally, we worked on risk zones, test result delivery, etc.
With public health, our goal is to include the features that will best support their state-wide initiatives and reduce the time between contagion, testing and self-isolation through in-app test result delivery, guided and digital contact tracing, etc. When we work with companies or universities, the same is true. We want to give them the tools to keep their employees, students, and faculty safe while streamlining the process of reopening our businesses and schools.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Diesel Peltz: The pandemic has affected us significantly. As I mentioned before, we’re initially impacted by people not being able to get together in person and then again when we had the opportunity to directly work on pandemic response efforts. Once we quickly entered the world of COVID-19 technology and solutions, we put all of our resources behind Healthy Together, including our existing team as well as new hires to address our growing needs.
It has always been our goal to have the best people working on challenging and important problems. The types of challenges we are facing are different today than prior to the pandemic. As a result of this, bringing on the right people with specific areas of expertise to help us solve those problems has been integral to our initial success. We believe that this will continue to be the case as we grow.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Diesel Peltz: Definitely. We have learned so much about how the public health function works in normal times and what happens to the system when it gets put under anomalistic pressure. We have also learned what areas need improvement to be able to handle the scale of the pandemic versus which require true outside of the box innovation. We are continuing to learn where our investments in product, technology, and strategy development are best spent to return the highest-impact in this rapidly evolving environment. It has been both extremely challenging and exciting, and we feel very fortunate to be able to work with governments, businesses, and schools to do our part to help ensure overall health and safety.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Healthy Together in the future?
Diesel Peltz: First and foremost, I love what I do and am grateful to be able to work on products like Healthy Together that have a positive impact on the world we live in. We all have to deal with pressure, stress, and anxiety, and part of how I deal with that and think we do more broadly as a company is by focusing on what is in our control, what we can affect the outcome of and letting the rest fall out of focus.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Diesel Peltz: We are not a normal company operating in a normal circumstance. Due to the pandemic and what’s at stake, we view others as contemporaries, people that we can learn from, and in some cases, people that we can partner with. We are encouraged by both the volume and quality of work done to solve problems surrounding the pandemic, whether that be on PPE, pharmaceuticals, software, etc. We have spoken with many different organizations and are interested in continuing to collaborate with others where appropriate. Additionally, we plan to continue innovating our products to meet the changing needs of governments, companies, and schools.
Your final thoughts?
Diesel Peltz: Twenty-twenty has brought challenges, unlike many of us have ever seen, and we are excited to be part of addressing both the short and long-term consequences that have been a result. As we look towards the future, we see lots of opportunities for Healthy Together to be impactful, including working on vaccine distribution to help companies ensure their employees’ long-term health and safety.
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