Ali Parsa is the Founder & CEO of HealthTech Unicorn Babylon. Ali’s knowledge and expertise on the topic of healthcare is unmatched by anyone else in the UK. In fact prior to launching Babylon the British Iranian entrepreneur co-founded hospital operator Circle Health.
The former investment banker sat down with Riding Unicorns to give us an insight into his stoic approach to both business and life. We go on to learn that Ali is a big believer in going with the flow and not letting the little obstacles get in the way of his ambitious plans. Ali also goes on to share his thoughts on how to develop the perfect union between the private and public healthcare sector and his tips for fundraising.
Make sure to like and subscribe to the Riding Unicorns podcast to never miss an episode. Also don't forget to give Riding Unicorns a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep on top of the latest developments.
[00:00:00] James: Welcome to Riding Unicorns, the podcast about growth startups. I'm James Pringle, and I'm a technology entrepreneur and investor and the founder of Pringle Capital. My co-host is Hector Mason from episode one ventures for season three, we are sitting down with some of the most successful founders to better understand what entrepreneurship means to them. The operational processes they have employed on their startup journey and what lessons they've learned along the way.
[00:00:36] It's January. So we're absolutely delighted to be joined by the UK's most prominent healthcare entrepreneur, Ali Parsa, the founder and CEO of Babylon.
[00:00:48] Ali started out in banking before then founding. Circle, which was Europe's largest partnership of clinicians. And then in 2013, Ali founded [00:01:00] Babylon, which is on a mission to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth. Massive mission. Public company health care unicorn. Let's find out how he did it.
[00:01:12] Hi Allie. Thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to Riding Unicorns.
[00:01:20] Ali: Thank you for having.
[00:01:21] James: So Ali for season three, we are interviewing exceptional founders and entrepreneurs, and we want to ask every guest, what does entrepreneurship really mean to you?
[00:01:31] Ali: I think entrepreneurship is a process of creativity is creating something new is no different than being an artist, a chef, anything that is creative. and that process of creativity in my view sits at the core of, so if I started the burger shop, which is just copy somebody, else's. Uh, business and create something simple.
[00:01:54] Is that entrepreneurship? I don't know. it's not innovative. and there is [00:02:00] for me, at least if you want to create something new, then the alternative or is new. It needs to be something that is additive to the society in which.
[00:02:12] Hector: super interesting hearing, hearing everyone's different takes on, what entrepreneurship means now. Ali, you've had very background starting off. a PhD in physics, and then you had a stint in banking.
[00:02:23] and then you obviously went on to start circle, which was enormously successful. And now Babylon, what was it after your stint in banking that kind of made you think that health care is what you want to spend the next couple of decades focused on.
[00:02:38] Ali: So I think those are two different questions. I left banking and then I started a period of time. I decided to do. And the reason I left banking is not because of all these fashionable ways of saying bad things about bankers and financers. I think they do an incredibly important job of connecting those who have money with [00:03:00] those who need money.
[00:03:01] My, the issue was I wasn't with any good. Uh, to getting excited about projects, doing something that is time defined, and then you move on and you do something else. I come from a family of builders. My father was a civil engineer. My mother was. through detailed maps and I love this process of building something.
[00:03:22] So for me, leaving banking was about leaving a project based career to move into something where you can build then getting into health care, frankly was entirely by chance. as I got out of. I kind of did a series of knee surgeries. I used to do a lot of sport and I had a sustained problem with my knees, which I told I would fix, which actually I damaged by doing the surgeries.
[00:03:46] I don't recommend it to anybody, and I showed the hospital that did my surgery and I told if that's the best private hospitals that we have, surely we could do better than this. from that team circle, which [00:04:00] is how can you redefine what a hospital should be? How can you bring the word hospitality back into the hospital?
[00:04:06] How can you make it the brand owned by the professionals who manage it and run it in the same way that their investment bank and venture capital firm is called by each professionals. We told that the professionals work in hospitals should corner on to have. view of their, their destiny on how they serve their clients.
[00:04:27] And that was the Genesis for reinventing what a hospital could be.
[00:04:32] James: And so then off the circle you founded Babylon. And so what did you do in the first year of founding Babylon and what foundations did you put into place that you look back on now and go, I'm so glad we got that right from the start. And that gave us the platform to where.
[00:04:48] Ali: The first thing that I did in Babylon, of course, Engineer a physicist or an investment banker. I wrote them a model. I wrote a very detailed [00:05:00] model just to try and figure out whether we get this right or not. Or how does it financially make sense?
[00:05:05] I'm not a believer that you could buy a pair of jeans for $20 and sell it for $10 forever. and get customer. So I wanted to make sure. That it makes economic sense to do what we wanted to do. And our mission was a very important one, but I mean, we created Babylon to say, can you do retail care? What Google did with information?
[00:05:24] Can you use technology to make it accessible, affordable, and to every human being on earth? And that means that economics of it, the affordability part becomes a really important thing. So, so I spend a lot of time in the. A month or two, just walking on the financial model, just on my own. and then, the second document, I remember it was a document that still exists is on our website.
[00:05:47] It's called real Babylon. It was about our culture. And it's first page said that. Public mission is to make healthcare accessible, affordable, put it in the hands of every human, every person on earth, but our private, our secret [00:06:00] mission is to do so while not being jokes to create a humane organization.
[00:06:04] That is incredibly well-managed where it values the people who work in it. So they enjoy their work and they can be their best. You and I both know that those two are not the same. You can be a highly successful company. They dreadful place to work. You can be highly successful individual and dreadful person and we wanted to create an organization in which we love to be, and we can be proud of.
[00:06:29] And I am delighted to say that at wanting, I hear time after time from Babylonian two left years ago to the Babylonians for waiters. Now that is one of the most. Interesting taught, provoking, stimulating, but also humane places that you ever worked. And, that's what a lot.
[00:06:50] Hector: Yeah, I think that's awesome culture site in that perhaps we'll, touch in on again, later on, but super important and amazing to hear the, bold ambitions that you had. And, you know, I'm [00:07:00] sure you're not alone in having these bold ambitions for health cattle. I think you'd be more successful than most in your attempts to, execute on those ambitions.
[00:07:08] but working in healthcare is notoriously. and slow moving and bureaucratic and all these other things. can you point to any moments where you've really seen that the difficulty with working in health care and has that caused you problems along the way?
[00:07:24] Ali: yes, I'm in the calc is one of the world's largest industries. If not Nila is a $10 trillion. That means $10 trillion of salaries, vested interests, you name it. Right. and the people who receive that in almost every society are amongst the most influential, powerful, and the deal when there's something that the society values, which is a human health, right.
[00:07:50] Therefore the society listens to them. Unlike any other sector. They don't want to be disrupted. They don't want to change. Right. There's no such thing [00:08:00] as the entire thing, but there's a group that does, so you have to deal with it. Right. I mean, and every time somebody tells me, look, it's really hard to sell to the NHS.
[00:08:09] I always say we'll try selling to Tesco, right? Not that much easier. Right? I mean, the reality is there's nothing to be gained. By focusing on the negative of anything, right? I mean, one of the document I told you about Babylon, it says that our values or a dream big build fast and be brilliant. And then the way we behave matters and we have six behaviors in Babylon that we really promote.
[00:08:37] And one of them is positivity. it is what it is. There's no point in morning complaining just figured out how to deal with it. Right. I mean, I think negativity about anything sucks the life out of you. I just, I mean, but then in your personal life, having negative people that are new or in your business life and seeing that something is hard, it is what it is.
[00:08:59] Right. And [00:09:00] also think about that. The harder it is, the less people will try. and therefore in a way makes it easier because you have less competition. You said something else, which I thought was a really interesting, Hector. And you said that a lot of people have big ambitions in health care.
[00:09:19] What am I challenges is actually most people have very small ambitions. They want to kind of lean engineer, a little part. They want to kind of fix a tiny piece of the puzzle. And often we blame the entrepreneurs. They're that they don't have enough ambitions. I think your industry or sector investors, finances, niche also think about their part of this.
[00:09:43] Right? You know how we finance companies, we finance companies by saying, give me an idea and I'll give you seed money. you got 18 months to build the product. They give you VC money. You got that other agency. To get revenue so that we can access growth capital. At least that's how I used to be.
[00:09:59] Nowadays. [00:10:00] There's so much money that anything can eat more easily define it, but that 18 month period or one year period of 12 to 18 months periods really took away ambition because what can you build in 18 months? What would be problem? Can you solve in 18 months? and one of the biggest, innovations in my view about.
[00:10:23] And one of the things that we got super lucky of it is that we almost never got. Earliest stage money or VC money. we went almost directly to growth capital to people with very long-term view to say that, look, if you want to do something ambitious and long-term, it takes time and it takes money.
[00:10:41] And I remember my very early pictures. It's not as if I came up with it at the very early pictures. I knocked on the door of a few VCs and some of the most famous VCs in UK. Who you and I know, and think very highly off, wouldn't invest in babble on a four or five, $7 million [00:11:00] valuation.
[00:11:00] Right. I mean, they would have made a hundred times their money now. Right. But the reason they wouldn't have is because they said this too ambitious. And that was the biggest challenge, right. Too ambitious. And I think we need to, all of us from entrepreneurs to finances,
[00:11:17] Hector: that's fascinating. That's a really good observation. I think perhaps risk profiles have changed a little bit amongst investors over the last few years is we're forced to compete on the, dealers that could, you know, return off. And I suppose you're in the fortunate position where you had a proven track record, you'd built a successful business in healthcare.
[00:11:36] So people were perhaps prepared to take that, pump more than they would be with other things.
[00:11:40] Ali: It's a good point, but as you and I bought, no, there's no core relation necessarily. if you've built before or not Zuckerberg, bill gates, Jeff bezels are all first time founders, right? I mean, as you know, and they all did phenomenally well, far, far better than, than me.[00:12:00]
[00:12:00] and things have become better. And the industry has learned and, the community of finances today, versus when we started that. you could pull it off a decade ago, almost seven, eight years ago.
[00:12:11] James: So Allie, I've got so many questions, but one question I want to ask. very good at articulating identity and culture and vision and those types of things. I imagine you're quite good at selling as well. What do you think really separates you as a founder and what gives you an edge?
[00:12:31] any traits or habits that you think really set you apart and mean that you are the best person to build a company like.
[00:12:39] Ali: I honestly think I was super lucky. I am not sure I'm any better than anybody else to do it. I mean, look, some of the smartest people I know are in great jobs, they're physicists. They are, management consultants. They are bankers. Right. I think there is something about an [00:13:00] entrepreneurial.
[00:13:00] It's not necessarily about how articulate you are, how passionate you are, how. bright. You are none of that. All of that is everywhere. I think it is maybe a little bit about. going back to where you started trying to be a creator, right? I think in the same way that an artist finds it very hard to work for somebody else, they want to create something.
[00:13:21] And I just think entrepreneurs they usually want to create something, frankly, most entrepreneurs, I know don't care about how much money they make. And I do some personal investing. And the thing that switches me off is when there is a pitch that has got an exit page on it, or here is how we are going to exit.
[00:13:40] If you're already thinking about that. And the reason is that it is so hot, you guys know. So I think I'll be able to survive your own funds and stuff. You know how hard it is. It's so hard to build something and you get so many setbacks there. If you do it for money at some stage, you turn back and say, [00:14:00] you know what?
[00:14:00] I'm not going to make enough money on this. So let me go do some things more safe, more secure, you do it because you love to create. I think that your customers can see that. and you have to be authentic. You have to believe that what you're going to do is going to be amazing.
[00:14:17] And then if you can communicate that to your customers, so customers can see that too. And that's what they're buying. they're buying your ability to create for them what they need, as opposed to your ability to speak nicely.
[00:14:29] Hector: It's great insight and moving on slightly. So. I mean health care for me is, one of the most exciting areas. And we invest in a fair bet as, episode one, as a fund, probably pairs with education as being kind of one of the sectors. That's the largest and least disrupted, sectors still sort of ready to be taken.
[00:14:49] do you have a vision of what that future looks like for health care? And you touched on it briefly at the start, but it didn't go into any detail. and I wonder what that, vision is and where [00:15:00] Babylon fits into it.
[00:15:01] Ali: I think that like any other industry that requires engineering, you can't just lean to near a tiny part of it. I don't know if there is a mice in our house, there's never one, most, the whole house is infected, right? So you need to clean up the entire thing. So if you look at the best companies out there, look at Amazon, What they did was they didn't come in and say, I'm going to, re-engineer a small part. I'm going to engineer the lead engineer, every touch point in Rita, I just have to start somewhere. I'm going to engineer the whole thing. Right. and that's what you're trying to do in Babylon. I don't believe that if people would take a various war peace.
[00:15:44] And so I'm going to just do that. The problem is that you will have to touch other pieces. And then it doesn't really matter how well you do your piece. People come back and say, what happens to the rest? I needed someone, not unless you're a very niche therapeutic [00:16:00] company or a wedding niche, episodic business that, that kind of work Tom matters, you know, in our industry, right? If your niche, your valuation will be niche, the amount of capital you cannot track would be less than issues big. so I'm a big believer in it. Doesn't matter what you do do it brilliantly. And that's, that's what we call in Babylon. Right? One of our values is be Bernie
[00:16:23] Hector: Sure. And just extending that a little bit. so at the Mount, I mean, lots of our listeners will obviously know Babylon will have used Babylon, hopefully had a great experience on Babylon. at the moment it's kind of, if I'm right, it's focused on the sort of GPS and of, health care, do you see it going into the more sort of hospital side of things or the infrastructure side of healthcare and any more than it already is?
[00:16:47] Ali: yes, we will never learn in hospitals. So much of what happens in a hospital should not happen in the hospital. and I see a situation in [00:17:00] like any other. What is very complex and central will eventually become simplify, simplify them local and eventually personal. And that movement from complex care hospitals to clinics from clinics to, physical cleanings, to virtual consultation from virtual consultation, with the doctor to a top, to a chair assistance who is not clinician that is clinically supervised.
[00:17:27] what that chatter and conversation is to be automated, to be done by machines. That movement will happen across all of them. Right? A bit by how long would it take for me to be really accurate to you rather than just as a point of information, talk to a machine to diagnose me. I don't know how long will it take for me to be able to be monitored 24 7 with my, with the device that I'm wearing so that all my.
[00:17:55] data can be analyzed in real time, in the same way that it [00:18:00] happened in with your car. I don't know, but I think if you look at what happened to your car is what is going to happen to your body or actually sets off efficient. 20 years ago, I used to drive my car until it broke down. I took it to a mechanic and fixed it.
[00:18:14] Who knew how they fixed it. They didn't, sometimes they did a bit of guesswork and then I drove it until it broke down again. Cause don't break down. And the reason for that is we buried so many sensors in discourse that we can be pre-warned when nothing's gone wrong. So we can fix it ahead of time.
[00:18:33] And that is what I can see the future of how to be. It's all going to be about taking data, analyzing data, taking insight in real time, an intervening. It hit off time, keep people healthy rather than wait for them to get sick and then spend money on emergencies.
[00:18:52] James: Yeah, it was really interesting way to look at it. you're publicly quite a big proponent of more private sector [00:19:00] involvement within the NHS. So how do you see that working and how can something like Babylon help the NHS to become more? preventative rather than reactive.
[00:19:13] Ali: So I knew, Jeremy Heywood a little bit, and his wife has written a wonderful tribute book to him, a biography of his time. And in it, there are passages about, how the labor government, during the period of Tony Blair introduced some cautious choices in NHS or in government as a whole.
[00:19:37] And what often was we can choose our own GP. The other one was if you have cancer you're not being seen. I think it was between four or five, six months, something like this. Then we have the choice to go to another hospital. And there was huge debate. When you read the book or when you read Tony Blair's book or, or Mandelson's book about these subjects.
[00:19:58] And look at it and we would [00:20:00] laugh at those things. The fact that if I had a bad GPA, I had to stay with it forever and they had no choice until I choose to leave my dorm. But if I had a bad hospital, I had no choice to go to anywhere else. These question of my hospital has to be owned by the government or by the private sector.
[00:20:19] It's just irrelevant. Right? You look at Germany like Germany has more private hospitals than it has public hospitals, and it has more beds than it has, that we do. And, and the Germans are happier with our system. The French have huge private involvement in their healthcare. Everybody always looks at the Medica and said, look at what a disaster that is for 15, 20 years.
[00:20:41] Of the people, of course, for the top 20, 30% is amazing by the way in United States and in the middle is kind of like us, but for the bottom top is dreadful. but, but they don't see, look at Germany, look at France and Switzerland, right? We at Nordic countries, Scandinavia, I think that debate is a [00:21:00] forced to me personally.
[00:21:01] I think that we should attract talent wherever they are. Into solving our problems in our society and limiting it to private or public is nonsense in the same way that if you do it the other way now, if he insists that everything should be private, why there is nothing that if something is private to your home, makes it inherently better than if it's very well managed public.
[00:21:25] Hector: Yeah, I have to say the, thing that really, touch me with what you just said is the stuff about creating a sort of preventative health care system. it's something I'm pretty interested in is, wearables and the sort of movement towards quantified self way, or kind of, we're all creating so much data about ourselves.
[00:21:42] Now, whether that's through our apple watch with heart rates. Breathing rates and oxygen levels and us. And we're also recording some of us what we eat and how much we exercise and meditate, all these things. And you can even tap into things like how many meetings you have a day having a day and how many emails you're sending a day and what time you [00:22:00] finished and that kind of thing.
[00:22:01] is there a route where Babylon could start to grab onto all of this data and build a kind of big data picture of your customers? If they, if they chose.
[00:22:10] Ali: We're already doing that. That is our next big frontier. We've just, already put all of our data and I think we are one of the. how can companies to the best of my knowledge worldwide, who's done that connected all of the data we have on our page members on a more, onto a graph database, a health graph of every individual.
[00:22:31] And building on that massively, as you may have noticed India in our forthcoming IPO, one of the largest investors was, Palentier. we've already started working on, using Dell. very good platform, to build a very significant application for data and AI on top of it for healthcare.
[00:22:52] when you put your finger on something that is super important to us, to how we,[00:23:00] take billions of data points we have and make sense of. And then can intelligently use them. Look in my view. Very few people should die of cancer. If it's been caught video, Most stage one cancers are highly treatable, more sustained forecasts.
[00:23:21] Or a challenge, right? And the only difference between a stage one and a stage four is when you catch it, that's it. if you let it grow, most cancers are now leaving enough signs out there for us to be able to catch it early. It's just a, nobody's looking And that's, just tragic. It's just tragic.
[00:23:40] There's more attention going into your car. There's going into your. Can you imagine if we did without aeroplanes what we do without a human body, let's a crash and then go fix it. We wouldn't even do that. And yet when it comes to what we do, that's exactly our approach to that's a crash in the middle.[00:24:00]
[00:24:01] James: It's an, a very important, way to think about it. but to sort of babble on the operational side, I mean, been very successful in fundraising. You've raised a couple of what we would term as mega rounds. your IPO is upcoming. That must be a lot of work and effort, but, what is it like putting together a mega rounds and what tips do you have for other founders when it comes to fundraising?
[00:24:25] Ali: My biggest tip to founders when it comes to fundraising is raise as little as you possibly can get away, That you need. There is a huge discipline in not having loads of money. best example that we all tragically now talk about is rework. I mean, it was, we were really a bad business when all those things.
[00:24:45] because the entrepreneurs and the management team, what, as bad as everybody tries to make them to be, or was it that they were just given far too much money and we're asked to grow far too fast. Right. And therefore they did, things that they wouldn't have done. So, [00:25:00] I don't know them.
[00:25:00] I don't know nothing. I'm just ask. So I just think that. The most important question for an entrepreneur is what is the optimal amount of money they need and what the source of that money should be in order to grow your business. and you're right. We raised a lot of money, but if you compare it to our sector at the time we were raising the money for the ambition we have and the size of the growth we demonstrate.
[00:25:29] It's actually has not been among the largest amounts, right. People have raised a lot more than us and then go as far or raise a lot more, a lot faster than us. I'm gonna look, let me just put this in perspective. And just 2019, we were created in 2013 for the first six years. We had only raised about 60, $70 million, $80 million, something like that in two rounds of.
[00:25:55] Our AB rat our SeaLand. Yes, it was a big round. It was a [00:26:00] few hundred million dollars, but we were already five, six years old. And on the back of that seed round, we wind all the way almost till now. We've done a couple of deals since, but almost to now. where we wouldn't do a few hundred million dollars of revenue this year, right?
[00:26:20] 300 something, million dollars of revenue this year, and a lock of course booked for next year. So return on what we people have put into us. I mean, if you look at our next year on revenue and how much we raised so far, it's the IPO Reese one time living. which is not a lot of money.
[00:26:38] so if you're trading at 5, 6, 7, 10 times revenue, then people I've made 5, 6, 7 times their money.
[00:26:45] Hector: Yeah, I think there's this huge anxiety around. not raising enough money founders thinking we're going to run out of money because, you know, although our financial model says that we're going to be at a point where we don't need to raise more money or will very easily be able to raise more money once where, as we have [00:27:00] these levels of traction, I think there's just a massive anxiety around.
[00:27:03] What if things don't go to plan? What if we have the opportunity to raise money now? What if we don't in 12 months time in 18 months time. And so that's what pushes them to raise more than that.
[00:27:14] Ali: I don't believe in that personally. I mean, different people have different views. I have never. Seeing that there has ever been a problem raising money. If you have a good idea and the business is working well, and if the business is not working well and you can't raise money, that basically is telling you, you shouldn't waste your time.
[00:27:32] If other people are not prepared to waste the money, it's actually a good discipline what happens there. And also the reality is, and again, I'm not picking on Paul rework, the reality is it doesn't really matter how much money you use. If you're not managing your drive, that money will run out anyways, and then you have to raise another chunk of money.
[00:27:51] Right? I mean, so, look, in my previous business, I had raised five, $600 million, which [00:28:00] at the time was a ginormous amount of money in 2005 time from Lehman brothers and RBC, to build a chain of hospitals ahead of time. So I told her now, do you need a lot of due diligence on me? Of course, I didn't do any digital sins on them.
[00:28:14] And they're all gone now. Right? That's that's, you know, but they all went bust and I had two from 2007, 2008. Two, 2010, 12 raise about 200 8250 $18 million in the middle of financial crisis I mean, you guys, I don't know if you remember, you couldn't raise 2 million, the markets were shocked, right?
[00:28:37] And we raised what was at the time, the largest investments in any private sector company, I think in the UK. So there is always money, to come. and by the way, it's often financials would tell you, you need to raise you say entrepreneurs. I need to kind of stand for my fellow entrepreneurs and defend them a bit is often [00:29:00] finances.
[00:29:00] We'll tell them you need to raise more because they see something. They want to own more of it. I was talking to a wonderful entrepreneur the other day, who quite rightly was saying that look, I have now been left with very small amount of money. Single digit percentage points. Right. And I have not raised a lot of money and I need to raise a lot more and what's my incentive.
[00:29:26] I can go become a CEO somewhere. I get the same percentage, right. And he's only incentive quite likely. And I did this with circle where I stayed on for a very long time, even though my economic interest in what's his commitment to shareholders and his staff. And I was encouraging him that looked, it's not just about how much you want.
[00:29:44] It's also a commitment to me. but he really, when you look at it, he was treated really badly by how much of his ownership was taken away. Just because early on you wanted to take more money than he should've been. He didn't have track record and that money comes [00:30:00] at an expense.
[00:30:01] James: very interesting insight there on fundraising. And I think particularly the early rounds, it's important to think about how much you're giving away, because that can often. Time, whether the most gets taken away, maybe when you don't need to. so you, you touched on a couple of moments there where you, you had to deal with very difficult things, whether it be around fundraising, all founders go through good days and bad days when you have a bad day.
[00:30:25] get that email, that kind of derails what you were planning to do that day. What do you turn to, is there someone you speak to, or is, do you have a habit that you have for picking yourself up and retaining that positive energy that.
[00:30:37] Ali: Yeah, my advantage is my age. I mean, I've been around where my company had two more weeks of money left at some stage and not Babylon previous, even in Babylon, I had really dark tough days. Like one of my very early investors. Well was supposed to like help with lots of things. They didn't they've took the [00:31:00] very first stage, as you said, they took a lot of the company and then put their hands back and say, good luck.
[00:31:04] Right. And there were times of company were run out of money and these guys would say, it doesn't matter. I know that you were figuring out a way of getting it out. So I had my shit. Excellent investors are my shares of people. I wouldn't touch with a bottle anymore. Right. and I had great employees and sometimes I've got that lucky to have not such great employees.
[00:31:24] I had fantastic customers and sometimes I had really bad attempts to do is just forget about not nothing that is bad is all as bad as it seems. Nothing that is. Is ever as good as the seams, you just pass it on. I mean, I just told you about Chevron and I, because it's public, I can tell you this particular shareholder, because they would not pay for anything.
[00:31:50] We took options on them because I had to pay for their shifts. Right. So, okay. I paid now, if you don't want. But then if things go, right, I would buy a [00:32:00] percentage of your shares. Of course things went right. Just because they were going to spend a few hundred thousand pounds, they lose a hundred million pounds or dollars or whether it is right.
[00:32:09] So I went to buy it back from them saying, okay, I'm like, is this, I said, they said, sorry, I'm not going to give it to you. It's only in court. we went to court, but I just didn't even show up at the court. I just passed it onto my lawyer, said, look, it is. Just deal with it. If we win, we win and everybody could see that we are going to win.
[00:32:26] It's just nonsense. I mean, the judge actually, even in summary trial, because it was just nonsense. They were just being greedy and they, they made so much money. They would just be more. But my point is, even at something like this, I didn't let that bother me. Upset me in any shape or form. And I think she'll put important.
[00:32:44] And why do I use this example? Because it can't really get bigger than this. Find somebody seeking a big chunk of everything you want for just a way from the right. So you can, there are, my shares are not right. I mean, why else? Like I kind of figured itself out if you're right, [00:33:00] you will win at the run and if you were wrong, then you lose in anything that wasn't right to resolve the news.
[00:33:06] Hector: That's really interesting. And, actually also interesting that we have, quite a lot of founders on the show now. And. Recently optimism is a common feature between most of the entrepreneurs that we speak to. quite interesting to see that, so sort of touching on a similar topic, but, a little bit different.
[00:33:24] Can you think of any times where you've had to make really hard strategic decisions? In the face of the unknown where you really didn't know for sure whether it was the right decision, maybe it was a pivot, maybe it was, hiring someone, firing someone, whatever it is, decisions that you thought were really hard.
[00:33:41] And you didn't know what was your process for, sort of making those decisions?
[00:33:45] Ali: of course you'd make those decisions at the littlest stage almost every day. They're not harder strategic decisions, as you said. and some decisions are really hard and not really strategic. And I always think about it into kind of my [00:34:00] decision tree. Is, is this a decision that if I make I cannot go back from Or is this a decision that if I make, and it's not right, who cares? We just come back, right And the vast Majority of decisions you find is in the second category. And when they are in the second category, you shouldn't really spend far too much time on that It's actually better to experiment with. it And see how it goes, right?
[00:34:26] Because if you have to spend a lot of time on it is because you're simulating the future and how it can go. You're better off to spend a little bit of time, effort, money, just do it in a very scrappy way and see whether it works or not. here's what we did in the last year. And all right, almost a year ago, this time we had zero value based care revenue give or take in United States today.
[00:34:49] Yeah, amongst the largest value-based care providers outside being worn by an insurance company or a hospital group, independent ourselves. in the U S we, so at the [00:35:00] choice of, do you go to the U S do you do value based care? Do you do that digitally first? Nobody has ever done. There's no European or outside European company that I know of that has broken into the U S healthcare system.
[00:35:13] And as one let alone as established symphony A year ago, we changed our entire leadership team, give or take, Everybody is new from the president of Google cloud who joined us to the CEO of Amazon's strategic businesses to the SVP of data and AI of. Expedia to one of the leaders of value-based care in United health, very different cultures, very different places in one year, actually in a few months, we'd reengineer going totally huge decision.
[00:35:47] It could totally go wrong in the middle of the COVID, but you need to make those decisions because you think like, if it's all gone wrong, I just like change them and then fix them. the worst decision to [00:36:00] make is not to make a decision. And the worst decision we made in Babylon was when we got scared years earlier, when we should have gone to the U S and did it, we said, ah, all the reasons I told you, right?
[00:36:10] Nobody has ever broken into the U S market. Eventually. We said, well, nobody has ever digitized healthcare. Nobody has ever, right. Somebody's got to do it.
[00:36:21] James: Yeah, there's definitely a theme developing among. Last about the speed of decision-making and if you get 96 out of a hundred, right. You're sort of doing something right.
[00:36:30] Ali: James started doing this? Not that you would you say? It's just that thinking? I was lucky enough to be shorter once and he said something that stuck with me and he was something like, I have to make decisions, trading decisions sometimes significant. And at best I get 55% of them.
[00:36:52] Right. And that has made me one of the richest people in the world. I think people put the standard of the decisions they make that [00:37:00] has got to be right. Really. I'm so sorry to contradict you on this one, but I think 95% is an unrealistic number. The realistic number is get 50%, 55%, it's like going to.
[00:37:12] Cause, you know, I don't gamble. The casinos are some of the richest organizations in the world just because they get the 2% advantage over their players. If somebody dumb enough to go and play, they kind of the stats on against them. Right. Because eventually they will always do.
[00:37:27] Hector: I think you've just made a lot of entrepreneurs. Very happy Allie. So what on.
[00:37:31] James: yeah, absolutely. Well, there's been some amazing stuff in there about decision-making identity, culture, creativity, disruption, vision, the list goes on. So thank you so much, Ali. we'd like to end with, our dinner party guests game. So if you were to have dinner with three people, it could be absolutely anyone.
[00:37:51] Who would they be for you?
[00:37:53] Ali: that's a tough one and I'm going to answer it truthfully rather than fashionably and come up with some big names that [00:38:00] everybody wants to have a dinner. I would love to have a bit people who I have zero idea about their lives and who they are and what they do and their lives to be as different as mine.
[00:38:10] I hate it when we go to these dinners, whatever is the same week, the same food does that. That's not the best thing as I had. And it's what I've been traveling, sitting in a tent with a community that had never even imagine their lives. Right. I think human beings. Wonderful, whatever they are. They're amazing.
[00:38:29] And they all have the same desires, the same, needs the same dreams. They just have different opportunities and different circumstances. So rather than having a dinner with somebody famous, I love to have a dinner. A peasant in Afghanistan, uh, in an environment I've never been older as somebody not as an that has a life that I have never turned, imagined unlearn.
[00:38:55] learning is, uh, is the funnest thing anybody can do. And I'm a sucker for learning. [00:39:00] So having dinner with somebody who I can listen to, would it be.
[00:39:04] Hector: I think that's a really lovely answer and a refreshing answer and an original answer as well, which you'll be pleased to. another interesting trend is the unicorn founders are getting lots of original answers on dinner party, guests, gate, maybe correlation, not causation I'm sure but interesting.
[00:39:23] James: Yeah. Pick people that either don't exist or unknowns or, people we've never heard of, whereas the early founders pick unicorn. So there's something about, your, your life perspective and the adult development there, about what, when you get to that point. To go back and learn from people at the start of that journey.
[00:39:46] Thank you, Ali. We bounced that. You loved it. Thanks for coming on riding unicorns and telling us your, your journey with all the way up to and including Babylon. It's been great. And there's lots of stuff in there that our audience will really love. So thank you.
[00:39:58] Ali: I'm incredibly honored that you thought [00:40:00] of as, and thank you so much for having me.
[00:40:01] James: That's it for this week. I hope you were able to take away many learnings from this episode. Thankfully, we have plenty, more amazing guests and insightful conversations coming your way. Every week, every Wednesday. Be sure to subscribe to riding unicorns on apple, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Thank you again for listening. If you're interested in supporting the show.
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