Q&A: Boise’s Proskriptive tackles ‘sick care’ system

Michael Hollenbeck keeps a stack of old business cards in a desk drawer at Proskriptive’s small office at 5321 W. Emerald St. Each traces a stop along Hollenbeck’s path to founding the tech startup.

There was a series of promotions at ProClarity in the sales department, then several more at Microsoft after it bought ProClarity in 2006. After ascending to sales manager of Microsoft’s North America business intelligence unit, which brought in $30 million in annual sales, Hollenbeck, 41, left for a Boise health care data company, WhiteCloud Analytics, and then another, Predixion Software, based in Southern California. There he was promoted to vice president of health care, working from Boise.

In April 2014, Hollenbeck left Predixion to found Proskriptive. His company builds analytics to help predict medical problems before patients suffer them. The goal is healthier patients and fewer expensive treatments. The company, which now has five employees and three interns, plans rapid growth.

Q: How can Proskriptive predict when a patient will, say, react poorly to a medication or suffer from infection, better than a doctor?

A: The human mind is a finite, computational instrument. The average person can process seven things simultaneously. When we build a model, it processes hundreds of data attributes. If I come to the doctor today with a headache, they can treat the headache. But if it’s a headache in the context of five other things, all of a sudden the analytics gives me a much more vivid picture of what’s going on and what could have prevented it.

Q: You mean, to prevent the doctor visit in the first place?

A: Today we have a “sick care” system. We deal with people when they show up at the hospital. We patch them up. The rest of the world looks at health care as being the entire continuum: what happens when I’m well, when I’m sick and when they let me go. We need to keep people healthy, and we we’re using data to do it.

Q: Both Predixion and Proskriptive work with data. How is your company different?

A: Predixion builds technical platforms used to create predictive models. There are a lot of those out there. It’s a competitive marketplace. I realized customers wanted the insight, the predictive model. They didn’t really care about the tool we sold to create the content. The problem was that two-thirds of the cost dealt with the part they didn’t want.

Q: Is that the difference between a product and a service?

A: It’s the difference between a product and a solution. If you want a swimming pool, you don’t care what shovel was used to dig the hole. The problem was we were a shovel company, and it was an expensive shovel. I said, “We can’t keep doing this. There’s so much good open source, model-building freeware out there.” Let’s just say they disagreed, and I put my money where my mouth was.

Q: How long did it take to make your next move?

A: I quit four days before I founded Proskriptive.

Q: What are your sales?

A: We made about $200,000 in revenue in eight months. It appears we will surpass that within about one month. We’re on a trajectory to be somewhere between 300 and 500 percent growth for the year.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: We have the providers, which range to the big hospital systems to the smaller doctor groups, like Primary Health Group [which has clinics across the Treasure Valley]. We also do payers, the Blues [Blue Cross of Idaho and Regence BlueShield of Idaho], anybody doing health plans. The third category is software companies. Tons of software companies try to deliver solutions, but they need targeting mechanisms. We provide them with intelligence that lives within the systems.

Q: Where does your data come from?

A: The data comes from the customer. We built predictive models that can be applied to different locations.

Q: At some point you switched from managing sales teams to developing companies. Was that a big jump?

A: I’ve been an entrepreneur forever. Putting a together a division, a product or a company isn’t so different. It’s all listening to what story the marketplace is telling you, putting the right people with the right skills on the project. If you can subvert your ego and listen to the market and hire people who are smarter than you, and you can just survey the progress, it’s not that big of a leap. That’s why you tend to see people from a sales background go to the top of these organizations.

Q: What fundraising have you done?

A: We had one round of funding in January of angel and debt financing for $400,000. We’re hoping to finalize our Round A by end of the month. It looks like we’ll end up closing for between $1 million and $3 million of either venture funding or private-equity funding.

Q: What will the funding allow you to do?

A: The No. 1 thing the money provides us is time. There’s a lot of pivots and turns, that ping-pong thing. Time allows us to do that.

Q: Was ProClarity your first job out of college?

A: It wasn’t. I started another business back in the day called Storage Solutions. I was a carpenter and made custom closets and home offices and garage cabinetry. I remember three times when I worked 36-plus hours straight. I remember one night thinking, “Why the hell am I doing this? I should go to school and get a degree.” And then realizing, “I did go to school. I did get a degree. I don’t have to do this.”

Q: What do you think when you look through your collection of old business cards?

A: I look at them and think that I’ve busted my ass in those business cards. I bled on the battlefield for every single one of them. It takes that type of passion to do something like this.

Responses are edited for clarity and length.