A large chunk of any startup’s potential success has to do with timing, so I couldn’t begin to imagine how Julia Regan must have felt one month after she incorporated her first company, RxLightning, when the pandemic caused a global lockdown which sent waves of uncertainty throughout the startup community. All companies, not just startups, scrambled to adapt the products and the services they were developing to suit a changing commercial landscape. They also had to deal with internal changes to the way companies are managed, and the way teams collaborate.
When I met with Julia she told me how the arrival of the pandemic impacted her newly formed company.
“Early on it was just my co-founder and me. He was in Iowa, I was in Indiana, and we just met on Zoom. We had the foundation of working together previously, so we focused on building the product and the MVP and what we were going to take to market. Everything was just what we would have normally done anyway.”
As RxLightning continued to grow throughout the year, Julia admits that there are some newer members of the team that she has never met in person. I couldn’t imagine what impact this must have on team building, collaborative working and establishing a culture for a young company, but Julia was quick to point out the positive aspects that have benefited RxLightning.
“We would have spent so much more money if we had to have an office or coworking space. Think about the commuting time saved by being able to work in a remote environment. That said, the mission and the culture of what we’re building is important to me, to our work, and to our vision for our brand, so I can’t wait to be able to bring the team together in person.”
Julia went on to suggest that securing funding amid the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, may have been less of a burden, meaning that she didn’t have to, “spend money to raise money.” It’s a refreshing twist on the problems young companies are facing.
RxLightning has developed a platform aimed at reducing friction for healthcare providers so they can enroll patients for any specialty medication, whether brand or generic, at any specialty pharmacy.
There are many paths to entrepreneurship, and Julia told me that she didn’t start her career knowing necessarily that she would found a company. She said, “I think it was more of a natural evolution of my journey as a businesswoman. My history is building really good products, that innovate and can be scaled, and I’ve seen success with some of the products that I’ve developed.”
It’s been a few years since I founded my startup, but some things remain true whenever you are wondering whether to start your own company. Julia spoke about the importance of getting good advice from mentors, sometimes about the most practical things, like incorporating a company. She also stressed the value of having a good network of fellow founders to lean on for the shared experience.
When I asked Julia about the biggest surprises she had faced in the first few months after she started RxLightning, her response resonated strongly with my own experiences and echoed something I have heard from many founders.
“When you’re the founder of an organization, you’re having to touch every aspect. There are so many things that I didn’t realize existed before, like setting up the payroll, managing taxes and getting accredited in the states where you’re doing business. Fortunately, I have a great team around me that could supplement the things that I didn’t know, or maybe even think about, and ensure that we remain compliant.”
Another familiar idea from Julia’s time starting the company is the importance of focus. Always keeping in mind the things that inspired her to start RxLightning has been key.
“It’s really about the long-term vision of what we’re doing and what we’re trying to change. When we think about our business, we’re focusing on making the process for patients to start receiving specialty medication simpler and digital. We’re bringing it from a manual, paper-based process into the 21st century. These are patients that may have been diagnosed with a rare disease or type of cancer. Their therapies can be delayed waiting for approvals, or for a pharmacy to be able to dispense the right medication. What keeps me going, and what I keep talking to our team about, are those patients and helping them get their medication quicker.”
Talking with Julia, I was struck by her candor and her honesty. Once again, I found her articulating the same ideas that I hear from many other founders. She spoke about self-doubt and not letting it get in her way. I think about this often and believe that overcoming these perfectly natural concerns are part of what makes a successful entrepreneur.
Julia was also absolutely clear on which part of her experience has been the most satisfying to date. “Being able to look at my teammates and know that the work that we’re doing helps people and their families and their lives. I tell my daughter that as a founder, I want to impact people’s lives and bring positive change.”
RxLightning is a company that was born in the cloud in the truest sense. CEO Julia Regan is building her team virtually for now but sacrificing no part of her vision along the way.