Adriel Irons



LinkedIn: Adriel Irons

How does New York inspire you? 

New York has an energy that is like nowhere else. I was thinking about it on the way to work this morning. The whole time it felt like a race, like I'm competing. It’s in the air. You have to beat the next person to the train. You have to beat them around the corner to the steps because if you don't, you get stuck and slowed down. Getting slowed down means you’re standing still and if you’re standing still, you’re going backward. My wife tells me whenever I go anywhere else and I'm driving to dial it down, but once you get that in your blood it's hard to stop. I don't want to give it up because it drives me forward. 

What prompted you to move out of management consulting? 

The main reason was that my client, Aetna, made me an offer I couldn't refuse. It was an opportunity to do something I had been writing think pieces and intellectual capital about as a consultant in the healthcare space. I’m passionate about payer-provider collaboration, getting healthcare organizations to work together so they could stop screwing over the patient. The client asked me to come on board and I thought “Well, this is my shot”. So, I took the leap.

When I looked up your company, Abacus Insights, I saw that it's less than a year old and you were leaving a company that was very established. What prompted that decision and what are some of the differences that you experience working in the startup space? 

It was really just amazing timing. I had been at Aetna for five years and honestly, grown jaded. I had all these ideas about great stuff I was going to do when I got there and how we were going to change the industry. But it's a big company, so things move slowly and I was ready for something a little faster and more nimble. I got a call out of the blue from a former colleague looking for people to join him at a start-up. I always thought the guy was pretty smart, so I agreed to talk to the CEO and see if this is something worth following up on. The CEO was really impressive. He is a super motivated and motivational guy. He's a doctor and three-time entrepreneur that's also former Chief Strategy Officer for Horizon BlueCross, a well-connected and intelligent individual that I knew I could learn a lot from. I made the jump at the end of last year and we already have three major clients with a couple more in the pipeline. We're already looking to have close to ten million lives under management in the next year or two.

What exactly is your role in assisting with the growth of the company? 

I'm Director of Product for the company, so I'm spearheading our team to get our data management platform for healthcare payers, the BlueCross BlueShields, Emblems, and Aetnas of the world launched. The issue with these big companies is that they've got complex systems that cost a hundred million dollars a year to maintain with large data warehouse managers like IBM. If they want to make a change, it will cost more millions. It's kind of ridiculous, but companies pay it because they don't have any alternative. Our premise is that we can do this for them in the cloud, in a secure environment and they can cut a lot of the operational costs with all or more of the functionality. We make it so much easier for them to then connect to other partners, data sources and sources of innovation. Innovation being stifled because it's tough for data exchange to occur is a huge problem in the industry and we're solving it. 

What is the day to day of your job look like? 

It’s an interesting mix of corporate and startup. A lot of the leadership team and the initial folks that joined came from consulting or corporate backgrounds. There's a lot of knowledge of process and how to interface with our clients, which is good, but at the same time, it's still pretty casual in the office. On the day to day, I might be coming into the office in my jeans and T-shirt and then on conference calls all day with the tech team in Boston or our client out in Seattle. I might be dressed up going to our client in New Jersey or flying out to Chicago for meetings with a prospective client and investors. Every day there's something new. Tonight I'm going to be in the platform building out some designs for our engineers. It's running the full gamut right now. 


What's the most challenging aspect of balancing it all? 

We're keeping things flat and lean, which means everybody is involved in everything. The type of problems we're trying to solve for usually require ten times the amount of people that we have. Everyone is super leveraged. Everyone is using all the skill sets they have, which is tough, but it's also really exciting having ownership over a lot of what is happening. That was a huge draw because I got used to needing to go through multiple approvals to try to do anything and having it shut down at the last minute because the direction changed. Now, being in an environment where stuff goes from your brain to in front of the client to rapidly iterating on the development, there's nothing like it. 

What is your definition of success? Has that definition evolved over time and if so, how? 

I'll answer the second part first and say that my definition of success has definitely evolved over time. Growing up, I used to tell everyone I was going to the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company ever. What was successful to me was running a business, being on the cover of Fortune and getting accolades. Throughout my career, I've gotten to know myself and understand what makes me happy and what makes me tick. Success is being able to look back at a job well done and to feel self-actualized. If you're able to enjoy the progress that you've made or you're able to point to something in the world and say it’s a little better, brighter or more efficient because of the work you put in, then I think you're a successful person. 

What decision of yours has had the greatest impact on your life? 

That's a really, really good question. It's hard for me to look back at my life and feel like I had to decide. I mostly felt like I only had one real option. However, I think there's probably one or two points where I actually had to make a choice. One was in college when I was choosing my major. I chose to go with a more business-focused major than a more technical focused major, which set me up career-wise. The other is making a choice to get involved in a startup when I was still working in consulting early on. That catapulted into a bunch of new opportunities that eventually brought me to New York. 

What's on the horizon for you if you think over the year or so? 

Over the next couple of years, I'm really looking to grow with Abacus. It has the potential to be something major and the culmination of a lot of the change I have wanted to see in the healthcare industry for more than 10 years now. From a personal standpoint, I got married a little over 2 years ago, so I'm learning how to prioritize family. At the end of the day, that means a lot more than being able to do something cool at work. I also run my first marathon this year, which I'm super excited about.

How do you stay motivated as you strive to achieve your goals? 

Sometimes you just don't really feel like doing anything, but being healthy helps me a lot. Over the last few years, I've gotten into making sure that I'm getting enough sleep and exercising. I take time to recharge and keep the spiritual aspect of my life going. I've been in situations in the past where I was just burning out and feeling like even though I was getting all this work done, life was kind of gray. Motivation comes from balance at this point.