Adrian Aoun is the former Google employee who's revolutionizing the health care industry with his AI-based healthcare company, Forward. Forward combines new technology with leading doctors to enable a new standard in proactive primary care. Having recently achieved unicorn status after a fresh round of funding, the start-up is creating waves for all the right reasons. Find out more about the man behind its success as we uncover ten things you didn't know about Adrian Aoun.
1. He studied at the University of Southern California
Some of the most influential CEOs and entrepreneurs of all time are college dropouts. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Evan Williams, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg... this list goes on. Not so Aoun, who has not one but three degrees to his name. His first is a BA in Psychology. His second is a BS in Computer Engineering and Computer Science. The third is an MS in Computer Science. Each one was obtained at the University of Southern California.
2. He sold his first company for $30 million
Fresh from university, Aoun took his first steps on the career ladder at Microsoft, where he served as a Project Manager. In 2008, he ventured out on his own, founding the natural language processing startup, Wavii. Wavii's flagship product is an app that gives users status updates on the topics or people (a city, celebrity, politician, athlete, etc) they're following. The app utilizes natural-language-processing technology and AI to transform web content into short, structured summaries. It proved immensely popular, and by 2013, both Google and Apple had entered into a bidding war to acquire the company. Google won, acquiring Wavii in 2013 for $30 million.
3. He's served as a White House Advisor
Following the success of Wavii, Aoun was selected in 2015 to serve on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. As the name suggests, the council acts to advise the President of the United States on matters related to science and technology and to make policy recommendations on the same.
4. He spent three years at Google
When Aoun sold Waivii to Google in 2013, they didn't just get a start-up. They got him. Initially, he worked on the tech giant's Artificial Intelligence division. After a year, rumors started circulating that he was planning his exit. According to VOX, Google was so reluctant to lose Aoun, Larry Page personally intervened, enticing him to stay with the chance of working on special projects. After moving into the position of Director, Special Projects for the CEO, Aoun set to work on founding the Google/Alphabet project, Sidewalk Labs, a company that aims to use technological innovations to make cities more sustainable. Aoun eventually left Google in 2016 after three years.
5. He's an angel investor
Since 2010, Aoun has served as an advisor and angel investor to numerous start-ups. According to angel.co, some of the companies he's invested in include Pinterest, Wish, Vium, ClassPass, Nixie Labs, SmartThings, and Zenreach.
6. He founded Forward in 2016
2016 was the year Aoun founded Forward, a San-Francisco-based health care startup that aims to revolutionize healthcare by combining world-class doctors with technological innovations to support proactive, data-driven health care. It works by using biometric body snaps, blood tests, and genetic testing to evaluate what conditions a patient may develop later on, before setting up a personalized plan to slash the risk factor. Since its inception, Forward has developed at a phenomenal rate, rolling out across numerous major US cities and attracting large-scale investment. During its most recent funding round, it raised $225 million from investors led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The funding pushes the startup's valuation to more than $1 billion.
7. The pandemic has been good for business
As Reuters notes, Forward is among a slew of healthcare tech ventures to have benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic is spurring people to care about their health in a way that you just hadn’t seen before. And then it’s incumbent upon us to meet people where they are,” Aoun has said. In response to the increased demand for remote healthcare in the wake of the pandemic, Forward released 'Forward at Home,' a new service that allows patients to complete their own testing at home via a mailed kit before arranging a virtual consultation with a doctor.
8. His brother inspired him to create Forward
During a blog post on goforward.com, Aoun revealed how the healthcare experience of a close family member inspired him to create Forward. After his brother suffered a heart attack. Aoun was exposed to the inefficiencies of the healthcare system for the first time. Despite being impressed by the doctors involved in the case, Aoun was left amazed (and not in a good way) at the outdated tools they were forced to work with. "Why were doctors still writing things down on post-it notes? Why did every piece of software look like it was built to be an elaborate form of punishment? Why did every medical device look like it came from the 1970s? The entire system looked to me like it had been frozen in time for decades. I was deeply disappointed with what I saw," he's recalled. The experience drove Aoun to not only imagine what the ideal healthcare system should look like, but to actively try to create it.
9. He thinks healthcare should be a product
The population is growing, aging, and pushing the healthcare system to its limits. If primary health care is going to grow in line with the demand, it needs to scale out - something Aoun believes is only possible if we stop looking at it as a service, and start looking at it as a product “If you truly want to scale healthcare out to as many people as need it, you have no choice but to take healthcare from being a service to being a product, which means relying less and less on humans and doctors doing everything, toward relying more and more on sensors and algorithms,” he tells Healthcare IT News.
10. The Weeknd is a fan
You don't need celebrity backers to sell a product, but it doesn't hurt. Aoun's media profile recently got a nice little boost when singer The Weeknd revealed that he's so impressed with Forward, he's decided to put his money where his mouth is by investing in it. “I invested in Forward Health because I walked into the Los Angeles location and couldn’t believe what I saw: a state-of-the-art facility that looked like the exact opposite of what you’d expect to see in a typical doctor’s office — with no waiting room and everyone being seen straight away,” he said in a statement.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee