First Opinion - Year One

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Hoepfully this fortune is accurate

I spent most of my weekend dealing with server issues caused by having too many people chatting with their doctor simultaneously. While I had no desire to spend my Saturday dealing with our growing pains, it makes me happy to see how far First Opinion has come over the last year.

June first marks one year, to the day, that James and I officially joined First Opinion, so I thought I would take a moment to reflect on what a great year it's been. We talk a lot at First Opinion about building the last company any of us will ever work for and so I hope to be writing these each and every year from here on out.

I spent most of 2012 obsessed with disrupting health insurance. I had never worried about health insurance before, being male and single, and I had insurance from Plancast for the entire life of my daughter and most of my marriage, so I hadn't ever had to switch insurance, until we sold Plancast and I finally experienced the reality of a life without company sponsored insurance and the nightmare of getting adequate private insurance. It. Is. A. Pain. So I started researching, quite, a bit, about the healthcare industry, looking for an opportunity in the space.

I eventually decided attacking this industry was outside my current ability. Then I received an email from McKay saying he was leaving Baby.com.br to start another company in the healthcare space. I remember leaving that first meeting with McKay, after he gave me his pitch, thinking holy crap, he's figured out a way to give everyone access to a doctor

McKay and I talked nearly monthly after that while he tested and refined his original idea, bouncing ideas off me as he was shaping the core principles that guide First Opinion to this day. Towards the end of April, he called me late one evening and asked me to join him as co-founder.

McKay and I had been friends for a few years, and I had always told my wife that I would jump at the chance to work with him if the opportunity ever presented itself. So as soon as he made the offer, I knew I was going to take it, and James was the first phone call I made after I had gotten permission from my wife, and officially accepted McKay's offer. I had worked with James previously at Undrip and I was constantly blown away by the speed at which he moved, and the quality of his final product. I couldn't imagine building an app this with anyone else, so I'm incredibly relieved he said yes.

So now you know a bit about how I joined First Opinion, let's take a look at what we've been doing this last year. We officially began development on the First Opinion iPhone app on June 7, 2013. We released our first public beta to the app store in just three months later in September, it was a low key release whose primary purpose was to begin moving our beta testers that had been using MessageMe for the last six months to talk with their doctor.

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James submitting to the appstore on Sept 22, 2013, a little after 1am

We released our first real public version to the app store right before Thanksgiving, which in retrospect might not have been the best idea since most of us left on vacation immediately after. McKay wanted to be very hands on with the matching in the first release. He had recruited each of our doctors personally and knew them intimately. So when a new user signed up, McKay would get a notification, he would look over their details and decide which doctor would be right for them.

And since I was going to be visiting my wife's family, I wanted to make sure those matching notifications were rock solid, because if McKay wasn't getting notified, the user wasn't getting matched with a doctor. So I rigged the server to send an email, a text message, and a push notification for each new user that signed up.

Over the next couple of days, First Opinion steadily climbed the app store rankings, moving into the top five apps in the medical category, and McKay's phone blew up with notifications, three at a time, to the point where he couldn't get any sleep because his phone was buzzing every few minutes.

McKay, his wife, and Rachel rotated shifts over the next 36 hours matching people to their new doctor while I worked to get an automatic matching algorithm in place so everyone could finally get some sleep. On the flip side, each of our doctors was getting inundated with tons of new users every hour, all with a question or two to ask.

It was a crazy Thanksgiving vacation, but it felt good to have people using, and loving, First Opinion. We blew through our six month goals in about six days, and we parlayed that initial success into a new investment from True Ventures, who joined our other investors to help us continue to grow our vision.

We've spent these last six months moving offices1 and getting better at everything. We've worked tirelessly to make sure the servers are stable, we've released three other internal applications to help our doctors and our quality assurance team manage their growing user loads. We've released our first payment products and we've gotten tons of feedback from our users, sharing incredible stories about how their First Opinion doctors have helped them. We've also learned a ton about what works and what doesn't with virtual doctor consultations.

We've also brought in some adult supervision, in the form of our COO, Vik, who joined Rachel in growing and training our doctor network. With Vik's help we've taken our average response time to a question from hours to minutes.

I'm incredibly proud of the engineering work James, Jarid, and I have done over the last year, I'm not sure there is another team out there that could do as much in one year as we've done. They've blown away my expectations again and again this year and I'm genuinely proud of what they've accomplished individually and what we've accomplished together. I honestly don't think there is a better core engineering team out there at this moment.

I'm also incredibly thankful to be working with McKay, Jarid, James, Rachel, Vik, Ashley, Sarah, and all our incredibly knowledgable and compassionate doctors every day2. I'm also incredibly thankful for our users, each and every one of you3, I love you all, and I hope year two is as fun and exciting as this first year has been.


  1. We have switched offices three times over the last year, and that's not counting the two times McKay and Jarid moved before James and I joined. 

  2. I expect this list to be much larger next year :) 

  3. I also expect this number to be significantly larger next year also :P