Office Hours: I’m a founder and I previously led teams at hims&hers, Twitter, and Barclays. I’m Ellen DaSilva. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone,

I’m Ellen DaSilva, I’m the founder of a stealth telehealth business.

Up until a few months ago, I was Head of Business Development at hims&hers, focusing on strategic partnerships and growing the business.

I started my career at Barclays Capital taking tech companies public. I knew quickly it wasn’t for me, but it helped me lay the groundwork for figuring out what I do love to do.

Then, I moved over to Twitter, where I got a chance to start the business operations team and work with some of the most talented people in the industry to help grow our business.

I also co-authored the book “Pitching & Closing: Everything You Need To Know About Business Development, Partnerships, and Making Deals that Matter”, with my friend Alex Taub. It’s a guidebook to business development and revenue-generating partnerships at tech startups.

Outside of my job as a founder, I’m also angel investing in consumer health and adjacent businesses, and enjoy advising companies in the category as well. I spend as much time as possible advancing the careers of women, which is an area about which I am deeply passionate.

My most rewarding job is as a parent - I have two young boys, Spencer and Theodore, and an exceptional husband who helps balance it all.

Ask me anything about entrepreneurship, health tech, consumer tech, strategic partnerships, growing a business, angel investing, consumer tech companies, business ops, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @ellenjdasilva!Elphas – please ask @ellenjdasilva your questions before Friday, March 18th. @ellenjdasilva may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @ellenjdasilva and thank you for the joining the discussion.1. How did you get the first customers/users? Feel free to skip if stealth2. How did you land the jobs in investing (first Rough Draft Ventures and later Sequoia)
Hi there!I'm still in stealth, so will punt on answering the specifics of the first question.As for the investing opportunity, I'm a big believer in "do the job before the job". I had the opportunity to share deals I was seeing with some great investors, and eventually they gave me the opportunity to put some money behind it. Access to great deals is the most important thing you can demonstrate. Good luck!
Hi Ellen! So glad you are a part of the Elpha community and just ordered your book which sounds really insightful and relevant to what I'm working on in my role. What would you consider your most value-added partnership at hims&hers and what made it so valuable? What was the biggest challenge in closing the partnership deal?
So glad to hear it. Enjoy the reading!"Value-add" can mean a lot of things, so it depends on what the KPIs are for your role or each partnership.In several instances, we had revenue targets. We did deals with large big-box retailers (ex. Target), and those had huge revenue implications. In other instances, we were looking for alignment with large health systems. We had different business priorities at different times, so that was how we determined what to work on.The biggest challenges are that you have to sell partnerships both internally and externally. So convincing the key stakeholders at the company can be just as challenging as selling the concept to the other business. And in turn, your stakeholder at the partner business has that same set of challenges. It's a conundrum!
Hi! Ellen. What advice do you recommend for growing an EdTech business while managing a full-time day job, 2 elementary kids + a hubster? I finished an incubator where I won a grant but I’m nervous for my next step.
Thanks Sandra. I want to take a moment to recognize your major accomplishments - starting an EdTech business and winning a grant is huge. Based on your post, it's hard to tell if you are planning to take the leap full-time into your new venture to maintain it on the side. I'm certainly not in a position to tell you to go full time in the EdTech venture, but I will share that whenever I tried to start businesses, I wasn't successful until I went into it full-time. It's hard to divide energy and effort, especially when you have two little ones at home. Believe in yourself - it's the best investment you can make!
Thank you! @ellenjdasilva for your response and encouragement. I appreciate your kind words and honesty. 🙌🏽🙂
Your path is super inspiring! A few questions: 1. Did you work on your current company on the side before going full-time on it? If so, what factors did you validate that gave you the conviction to go full-time? 2. How did you find your first few opportunities for angel investing?
Thanks Kamilah!1. I didn't. I'm a believer in focus on what you have going on and give it your all. I left my company with a few business ideas in mind, but hadn't tested anything or started anything. The thing that gave me conviction was that when I thought about taking other jobs, nothing seemed right. I couldn't think of my dream job, and always had an inkling that I wanted to start a businesses. The stars aligned.2. My first few angel investing opportunities came from my immediate network. I noticed that business school classmates of mine were starting companies, and knew that I wanted to invest in whatever they started. Eventually, I started sharing deals with my friends and finding professional investors who would send me deals to assess in which I had expertise. My best advice is to let your network know that you are open to investments, and people will start sending you interesting deals.
Hi! I’m an RN who’s been working in telehealth for a few years - how can I cement myself in this industry in a non clinical role? Is there a future for nurses like me to stay and influence telehealth for better patient outcomes? Tysm!!!
Oh gosh, yes. I have so many thoughts on this topic. There are so many roles opening in telehealth given the $20B+ investment in the category over the last year alone. The standard non-clinical roles for RNs are on the strategy and operations side. This means you help thinking through clinical protocols, set up and manage provider groups, set KPIs and goals for patient outcomes, etc. And don't give up practicing so quickly - 1 in 5 medical professionals is leaving the industry in the next 2 years, so your services will be in increasing demand. If you ever want to talk specifics, DM me.
Hello @ellenjdasilva - since you have angel investor and telehealth experience, do you have any advice for things I should be mindful of as a newbie angel investor who is considering investing in a telelhealth app supporting all things infant--> toddler nourishment & lactation support?
Sure!1. Figure out what consumers will pay for - there is a big disconnect between what people want and what they will pay for.2. Understand what differentiates your offering vs others in the market (Cleo, Poppyseed Health, New Kind, etc)3. Get a handle on the "supply side" - how do you have an unfair advantage to get lactation consultants, dietitians, etc, on the platform. Best of luck - sounds like a good product!
@ellenjdasilva - your response was incredibly helpful. Realizing what a busy marketplace this is! I hadn't yet come across the examples you shared. Thank you again for your answer to my question as well as the ones others posed here. Thanks to Elpha for creating this forum!
Hi @ellenjdasilva! Thanks for taking the time here - I really appreciate it. I see on LinkedIn that you're starting something new. Given the breadth and depth of your experience, what made you want to start something new? And what are the most valuable lessons you're carrying forward from your prior experience into this new venture?
I have known deep down that I would always start something, but the timing was the biggest question for me. I got to a point in which I didn't find myself compelled to work on someone else's dream, so I knew it was time.The single most valuable lesson from my major professional experiences (hims + Twitter) is to hire and trust great people, and the rest works itself out. A second valuable lesson is to figure out where you excel and where you are most passionate, and build upon that. I'm a believer in the Japanese concept of Ikigai. We learned about this extensively at Twitter and HBS - it represents the intersection of your passions, skills and ability to make money. I'm taking these concepts into the unchartered territory of entrepreneurship and so far have been grateful for the framework.Finally, subject-matter expertise is important, but being a self-starter and pushing through the red tape is more valuable. I often found this with people I hired, and it has proven to be true in company building.
Thanks for sharing @ellenjdasilva! I appreciate hearing this part of your story.
Hi Ellen, nice to know you have a supportive husband to balance your work-life! Could you share more details about what kind of partnership experience (B2B/B2C) you have and how you found which partnerships worked in the early stages of business?
Hi Ellen! I currently run operations at a health tech company and am ideating on a women’s community at the intersection of web3 and irl — while co-parenting my 15-month-old pandemic baby. My question for you is — what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs with young kids? I am finding it near impossible to juggle all my responsibilities and fit in creative thinking on the new business. Thanks!
Hey Abby - huge congratulations on the birth of your baby and on your very cool work. I have 3 pieces of advice for you:1. Don't compare yourself to others! Everyone does it differently, so don't kill yourself if you see someone else prioritizing their tasks differently. I'm a hyper-competitive person so this has been challenging for me. Practically-speaking, it means being honest with myself about what is realistic and sticking to what makes me happy.2. Ask for help! My life motto is "you don't get what you don't ask for." When it comes to parenting, I used to be bashful about asking when I needed help. Practically, what this means is I ask people to reschedule when something is inconvenient for my schedule (I need to pump, or I want to tuck my kids in). It also means splurging on a nanny for a few extra hours a week to get things done, which I acknowledge isn't always something one can do. Finally, I am not afraid to delegate what I need to people who work with/for me, and own the outcome.3. Write everything down! My brain is going a mile-a-minute so I need to be more diligent about documenting. Practically, I keep a never-ending to do list in the "Notes" app on my phone.Best of luck with your new endeavor. It's an exhilarating ride.
Appreciate the advice! Thank you! 🚀
I have so many questions for you Ellen! I am a circule economy entrepreneur/founder and mom of 2 very young kids. How do you manage to find balance being a mom and founder? How many hours a week do you work? How do you release guilt about not being a good enough parent/entrepreneur/friend/etc? I am also curious to know what your best advice is on growing a very early stage b2c business. What’s the craziest growth hacking thing you ever did?