35-year-old Julia Hu is the brains behind Lark Health, a revolutionary AI health coach that helps people manage chronic conditions. As someone who spent most of their childhood battling their own chronic illness, she knows only too well the challenges and needs of people in similar circumstances. Credited with helping revolutionize health care for the 21st century, she’s unquestionably one of Silicon Valley’s newest, brightest, and quite possibly most compassionate members. Find out more about Lark Health CEO Julia Hu with these ten quickfire facts.
1. She met her husband on a science bowl team
As a youth, Hu was bright. Really bright. So bright, in fact, that not only did she win a place on the North Hollywood High School’s Highly Gifted Magnet program (a program specially created for students of such extraordinary intelligence and abilities, even regular Gifted programs wouldn’t be enough to meet their needs), she was even selected to represent them at the 2001 National Science Bowl, where, unsurprisingly enough, her team came out on top. Alongside her on the team was none other than her future Lark Health co-founder and husband, Jeff Zira.
2. She dropped out of MIT to launch Lark
After graduating from Stanford University with a BS and MS in environmental engineering and design thinking, Hu began dabbling in business before taking up an MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. Although she took the course with the intention of learning more about business strategies, she quickly discovered that learning about a subject is no substitute for the real thing. Intent on pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams further, she dropped out of her studies at MIT midway through to launch Lark Health alongside her old high school buddy (and by then, boyfriend) Jeff Zira.
3. Lark isn’t her first start up
Lark Health may be the start-up that’s thrown Hu onto the world stage, but it was by no means her first. Her first steps as an entrepreneur came directly after her graduation from Stanford. Determined not to join the 9-5 club, she launched the smart home startup EMOD. After that, she founded Cleantech Open, a non-profit organization which now constitutes the world’s largest Cleantech incubator.
4. Lark was inspired by her own health battles
She may already have had two startups under her belt by the time she founded Lark, but it’s undoubtedly the latter that’s become her biggest and most successful. It’s also the one closest to her heart. Hu was inspired to start Lark Health (which, as dhis.net explains, is a developer of an AI-empowered, 24/7 personal AI health “coach” that helps people with chronic disease manage their condition) after battling a chronic condition throughout her childhood. Having experienced the benefits of 24/7 compassionate care herself, she felt pre-destined to help people in similar positions overcome their own health challenges.
5. Thinking about the long term has helped her navigate challenges
During her career, Hu has changed direction several times – something that, while exciting, doesn’t come without its challenges. Speaking to goldenseeds.com about how she’s learned to tackle even the biggest roadblocks and hurdles she’s experienced along the way, she explained, “A mentor once told me an idea is only worth pursuing if you can see yourself excited to wake up tackling it every day for the next 10 years. I was shocked thinking about a ten-year commitment, but I’ve found it’s given me the resilience to tackle a vision that’s dauntingly large.”
6. She’s one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley
Over the past decade, Hu has become one of the key figures in Silicon Valley – and she’s got the credits to prove it. Just a few of the listings to feature her name include Forbes’s “Top 10 Women in Tech to Watch,”Inc. Magazine’s “30 under 30, Class of 2013,” Becker’s Hospital Review’s “17 Female Healthcare CEOs to Know,” Silicon Valley Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” and Silicon Valley Business Journal’s “Silicon Valley’s 2018 Women of Influence.”.
7. She’s a team player
Hu may be the most famous name at Lark, but she’d be nothing without her team – by her own reckoning at least. During an interview with healthevolution.com, she cited building Lark Health’s committed and dedicated team as her proudest achievement as CEO. “I love our team and am most proud of their belief and fortitude in a pretty crazy idea eight years ago that was: If we worked hard enough, we could one day build AI-enabled coaching so millions of people could access the level of personalized care that I had. The team was so patient and dedicated – the most brilliant people. It was six years of hunkering down and trying to do this. I’m very proud that we have had such believers on our team and among our investors.”
8. She dances to relax
In Lark Health’s early days, Hu was working such crazy hours and pushing herself to such extremes, some of the symptoms of her childhood illness started to resurface. She needed to find something to help her unwind, fast. The solution came in an unlikely form- dancing to hip hop. “I love hip hop and dance hip hop,” she’s explained to techrepublic.com. “I realized that I will exercise more if I like what I’m doing. I was in CrossFit for a while but I was like I like dancing a lot more, I’m just going to go dance.” So dance she did, and still does whenever she finds a little downtime.
9. She’s advised Barak Obama
There can’t be too many 35 year olds that can claim to have advised one of the world’s most powerful men, but Hu can. In 2012, the former president met with small business owners across the country to discuss tax policy and fiscal cliff recommendations. Among the business owners chosen to meet him was none other than the then 27-year-old Hu.
10. She loves to paint
She may have been one of the cleverest of her peers, but growing up, Hu had as much of an artistic side as an academic one. Although she realized early on that she didn’t want to pursue it as a career, one of her biggest loves at school was art. She still credits painting as one of her favorite ways to relax.