Office Hours: I'm the founder and CEO of Dot Health and on the board of OntarioMD. I was previously Chief Product Officer at Wealthsimple.Featured

Hi elpha fam!

My name is Huda Idrees. I'm the founder and CEO of Dot Health, a real time personal health data platform. We’re empowering patients and health care providers to easily request, access, and manage their own health information.

I sit on a few boards incl. OntarioMD, TechGirls Canada, my own, and the Sinai Health System. Prior to Dot Health, I was on the founding team of, and Chief Product Officer at a fintech called Wealthsimple, Product Designer at Wave and Wattpad, and ran my own web development agency as a tween.

Ask me anything about healthcare, design, product, the founder journey, being on boards, or anything else you want to learn more about that I can help with.

Thanks so much for joining us @hudaidrees!Elphas – please ask @hudaidrees your questions before Friday, July 23rd. @hudaidrees may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Huda! 👋Thank you for taking the time to read and answer questions - this is my first post on Elpha!At at high-level, wondering if you have any insights on how to successfully pivot into the health tech industry. For a bit of context, my background is in health policy and health consulting/strategy, and I’ve been looking to move into health tech (really excited to round out my healthcare experience).When I look at health tech (esp. smaller start-up) job postings many are naturally geared towards IT, developers, engineers, etc. - not quite in my wheelhouse. My goal would be to apply my health policy, regulatory and strategy skill sets while also building out my toolkit.Wondering if you can help guide me towards what types of roles/job descriptions I should be looking out for and how to successfully transition into the health tech space (without a tech background)? Thank you!
Hi Huda! What an interesting career journey. I've recently read some interesting stats around women as healthcare consumers like these from Frost & Sullivan:“90% of women are the primary healthcare decision makers for their family and key influencers for their friends.” - Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market“80% of household health care spending is done by women.” - Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market“Working age females spend 29% higher per capita on healthcare compared to males in the same age group.” - Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market“Women comprise 50% of global healthcare customers and are primary caregivers to elderly and children.” - Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market"Women are better consumers of healthcare — they spend nearly 30% more per capita on healthcare than men, and are at least 75% more likely to use digital healthcare tools. "I'm wondering if and how ensured you were creating a product at Dot Health that was designed with womxn in mind?
Hi Christina,We created Dot Health to solve a very particular problem. And like every product it is nothing like what it was when we started. So, have we incorporated feedback into our product and workflow? Of course. But product design and decisions aren't so cut and dry. And there's no such thing as a perfect product. We have more women than men using our service today and we incorporate feedback that we get and we ensure that we're meeting customer expectations. Utlimately though, we're a health data transactions platform, which is very different from where we started in the direct to consumer space.As you probably already know, product design ultimately comes down to who is building the product. If I had a team full of dudes, chances are higher that I discount the experience of women. Dot is very lucky to be a female majority team and board and we're big fans of iterative design and testing for all our product lines.
What does the startup scene look like these days in Canada? Are companies getting more attention from venture funds?
Um. That's a pretty broad question. I don't know? Ha. I think there are a lot more VCs in Canada, but I do think 99% of them follow and don't lead. So the startup scene isn't as hoppin' as it could be? There are a lot of jobs though and a lot of companies that have recently gone public especially in health care given the great run they've had during the pandemic. The saddest part is that the fastest way to close a round of financing in Canada is to get a US VC to lead it so that all the Canadian lemmings can follow :upside down smiley:
Hi Huda! Thank you for this Q&A. I’m currently considering building a startup in the healthtech space with no previous experience in the sector? How did you manage the transition from fintech? And what are your top tips for someone trying to build in a space they haven’t worked in before/convince investors they have what it takes?
Hello Asta! Depending on the nature of your startup, you shouldn't need any experience in the sector. For example, if I was building a new way of evaluating drugs, I'll need the appropriate people on my team with the relevant experience and credentials. But in Dot's case, for example, we're a technology company that happens to sell to health care providers. We're not solving a medical issue, but rather an operational one. It was definitely interesting at first. Health care is exceptionally patriarchal and there were initially lots of naysayers. The most important thing you can do is go to work and show results. With Dot Health, we could show 30% reduction in time spent in hospital by patients and an 80% increase in satisfaction. With metrics like that it's pretty easy to convince hospitals and investors alike.
Hi Huda, I am a Product Manager at OnCall Health in Toronto. We specialize in helping people provide virtual health care. I'd be curious what is top of mind for OntarioMD now that people are returning to in-person care. Also, I've really enjoyed using DotHealth. What did you find to be barriers for people to use and adopt the application?
@ZoeSimpson have a q for you, will DM
Love meeting Dot users. We have the very best community. Thanks for trusting us!For OMD, the organization has very publicly supported virtual care providers and helped showcase them to physicians and health care providers who might be looking for these solutions. The future of virtual care heavily depends on the provincial billing codes. Ontario put in place virtual care billing codes for the pandemic but they may be going away as early as September. It will be a big step backwards, of course, if that happens. On the OMD front, we get part of our mandate from the Ministry of Health in Ontario so there's little we can do politically.
Thanks for your time @hudaidrees! What is your approach to diversity in your talent acquisition process for your company? Do you proactively seek out diverse applicants? Do they come casually through your network?Thanks
That's a great question, Therese! It starts with your initial team. When I started Dot, my CTO and I were female and my one advisor/board chair at the time was female as well. When we were pitchign the company to investors, one of them said, "Are you trying to make some kind of point with your team?" Newsflash: he was sexist. Surprise, surprise. But it really does send out a signal in the community. Your reputation as a manager and the culture of the team does the rest. I've been in a position to hire in four different companies and Dot is the easiest I've had it. In terms of candidates we get applying to our positions and just the overall caliber I'm seeing. People are increasingly interested and excited about companies with a social mission and Dot's mission to provide simple, easy access to personal health data to everyone is a pretty good one, imho!We use AngelList, LinkedIn, and Twitter for recruiting. One of our pipelines is also the UofT Engineering PEY (Co-op) program, my alma mater :)
Hi Huda! Thank you for taking the time to answer questions on here. I would love your career advice given your incredible background in healthcare product - may I ask how you would weight industry preference in the job decision process for early career individuals seeking to break into product management? I ask as someone with a healthcare background (biology research throughout college, health-themed internships, and then nearly two years in a customer success role at a healthtech startup) with an end goal of product management at a company making changes in healthcare.Unfortunately, my current company doesn't forecast any lower-level product opportunities becoming available until mid/late 2022. As I've sought opportunities at other healthtech companies, I'm continually met with "we're moving forward with another candidate who has experience more in line with this role". Because I had received this type of feedback for a solid six months (began my job search in Jan2021), I decided to expand my search to other industries, particularly those experiencing a ton of growth in hopes that they could be more willing to take a bet on an inexperienced but eager candidate.Now I've had some success! I have an offer for an Associate Product Manager role at an AI/ML-powered cybersecurity company that has been growing rapidly (given the unfortunate increased occurrence of hacks, data breaches, etc.). The mentorship opportunity seems incredible and I really connected with everyone I met throughout the interview process, but I can't help but feel a bit like I'm selling out on my goal of being part of an organization making a difference in healthcare. So I'd love to know your thoughts - is it worth taking an exciting opportunity in an industry that I am not as excited about with hopes that I'll truly learn and develop to enable an easier lateral move down the road, or would it be worth holding out in a job I don't love and potentially facing continued rejection to find a job that really meets all of my criteria?Thank you so much - I apologize for the long and hyper-specific question!
Hey Sanora,That's a good question! I appreciate the context. I don't think you're a sellout! It is tough to make your way in to a startup in a role and industry that you want. I've wanted to do health care forever. Believe me. When I interviewed at Wattpad it's what I wanted. When I was interviewing for Wave, Wealthsimple - all the while, I wanted to work in health care. But I honestly could not find a single startup in Toronto that was doing something exciting in the space. And so I literally had to bide my time and then build a company myself. It's all in the long game. All this to say, I think you're thinking about it exactly the right way. Pay attention to the transferable skills that you can gain and hone them as much as possible. And then keep an eye out for opportunities and companies that are interesting to you. Befriend the teams at your dream health care startups! And just learn about what they're doing and when the opportunity comes up, you will be able to make a much more informed decision. I hope that helps, isA!
Hi Huda! Thank you so much for your time. Could you tell me a bit about your Chief Product Officer journey? I just transitioned from software engineering into product and my 10-year goal is to be the CPO of a high growth startup (just like you were!) My goal excites me but also overwhelms me and I'm finding it hard to break it down into actionable steps that I can take every year to ensure I'm on track. How can I go about working towards my goal of being a CPO starting today?
Hey Nandana!Typically when you get in to an organization under a certain "track" management/board has an idea of where your trajectory can go from there. So for example, for devs, there's the individual contributor or technical lead track and then there's a people management track. For Product roles, especially a CPO role, it's all about people management. In fact you're doing little to no design work in that role. You're mostly managing a team, managing the product, and overseeing product design and delivery.For moving into the CPO role, I would recommend talking to any company you're working for to get an understanding of what your growth trajectory might look like at their org. Chances are, you won't go "up the ladder" in the same org. Women especially often have to switch employers to get a better comp/position. So don't worry about company hopping so much if your growth is limited at your org. And then I would recommend putting yourself in a positions that manage people. Try asking if you can come to certain high profile meetings. Pay attention to which execs at your company care most about product, these will be your allies if you're looking to, for example, create a position for yourself at the company.
@hudaidrees I’m very interested in your journey to becoming a board member. I would like to follow a similar path. What are some key, actionable steps I should be taking to move my goal forward?
Hey Melbow,If you want to be on company boards, a good place to start is startup and non-profit boards. These give you a good jumping off point for corporate or public boards in the future. Some boards advertise for board member positions. Others go through recruitment agencies. You might also be able to reach out to the boards of organizations you really admire and write in and pitch yourself as a board member.For me, the boards I'm on are all companies and organizations whose mission is very close to my heart. I was solicited for all of these positions. Most of the positions I get solicited for I do turn down. Either because I don't have the time or because the mission doesn't really speak to me and I don't think I can add. In my opinion that part is really important. Ask yourself if you can add value to the board you're joining vs. just joining it because you want to be on board. Y'know what I mean? There are so many companies looking for board members! I believe theBoardlist matches candidates to boards. You can also ask your friends or your professional network if they know of opportunities or put it in your LinkedIn byline.
Hey, those all sound like very cool but very different roles. Can you share how you went through those transitions? Both internally (making the decision) and externally (convincing other ppl to go along with your decision).Thanks :)
Hi Andreaz,For me, a lot of it depends on whether I think I'm growing. So every single time I've felt like I'm not growing and as a result not learning, I've left. My roles are actually pretty related to each other. So y'know I started out as a UX designer, that's a part of the overall product design sphere, so that's an easy and natural transition. Then I joined the founding team of a company who needed a design partner and became CPO and then I founded my own company. So yeah! I think it's a pretty natural progression. Maybe a bit fast for me? I've done this in my twenties, but I honestly think that's because you learn and grow so much faster at startups than big corporations. So my learning and growth was faster which is why I got to move quickly through these. Very lucky to be given all these opportunities, of course.Re: convincing other people. I didn't have to, really? I mean, who am I gonna convince? The people giving me these jobs wanted me for them. So I was never really pitching myself except when I pitched the UX Design role at Wattpad. As for my family, partner, friends, community etc., I have some of the best. That was never really an issue. In fact, my support system is the reason I've taken a lot of these leaps of faith. Because they've seen me and believed in me more than I've believed in myself.
@hudaidrees What advice can you give to those that want to claim a similar ladder you have to get where you are today?
Will you please share your experience of getting those first few clients/sales? and any lessons learned?
Hi Rebecca,I'm not sure which part of my career you're referring to, so I will try and answer generally? I've usually gone at everything via the consumer. So all the companies I've been part of including Dot Health started out as direct to consumer. I find getting early customers is fairly easy. At Dot we started out with oncology patients and it was very word of mouth initially. Wealthsimple we did lunch and learns at startup offices and just bugged our friends and family to sign up.When it comes to enterprise clients they're a lot harder. We have a BD team at Dot Health and they do a phenomenal job actually getting people in pipe. We're big fans of trials because our product is really good and can speak for itself. That has a really high success rate. What I found also helps is if you can build any other credibility. I've advised the Federal and Provincial Health Ministries and sit on the board of a hospital which definitely helps in our conversations closing new clients.
thanks very much. i really appreciate your thoughtful response and insights.
Hi Huda! Thanks so much for doing a QandA with us. Re: Wealthsimple, I've seen that Canadians are slower to adopt new fintech products such as WS Cash - we're also lagging behind in adoption compared to other countries such as the UK and China. Do you think this is this is true? And how come?
Hey Samantha,I agree with that overall sentiment, although I couldn't point you to a specific set of trends etc. If you look at the landscape in general though, Canada effectively has an oligopoly when it comes to major industries like aviation, finance, telecommunications etc. And of course with oligopolies the consumer loses because there is little to no competition. In my experience, the Canadian consumer does want a lot of these new products, but they are often hindered or limited by their existing financial or other providers. For example, at Wealthsimple, we would have people transfer their accounts over from their bank. Now this is perfectly legal and the consumer is allowed to do it. However, the bank would make it really difficult to do. Same thing with hospitals and Dot Health. There are a few - looking at you Saskatchewan! - in Canada, who are vehemently against patients having access to their health records. And they can't exactly say no when the information is requested either via Dot or the patient asking directly, but they can make it really really hard and painful to go through the process. And there is no recourse for the consumer in this instance.TL;DR Oligopolies in Canada have stunted our innovation.