How to claim $8B we all have in unused health benefits - Ami Kumordzie, Founder & CEO @ Sika Health

Dr. Ami Kumordzie is an impressive founder. She's a Stanford-trained MD/MBA and is building a fintech marketplace backed by Silicon Valley's top investors to help us all tap into $8B of health benefits that go unused each year. Ami tells us why she's building Sika, how to claim these funds, and gives advice to founders on fundraising as well as the routines that keep her operating at peak performance. What a juggernaut of a CEO. Connect with Ami: Sika Health: Want the most actionable insights from weekly JKP episodes emailed to you? Sign up via If you enjoyed this, don't forget to subscribe, leave a review, and share!

How to claim $8B we all have in unused health benefits - Ami Kumordzie, Founder & CEO @ Sika Health

Ami: [00:00:00] The great thing is that to encourage you to, to use these accounts, a lot of employers will often give you money, right? So not only is it tax free money, sometimes it's actually free, free money that you might be getting from your

Jennifer: Hey, power Hour fam. Today I chat with AM Kuk, and she's an impressive woman. She's a Stanford trained physician, also has her M B A, and she's the founder of Sika Health, which is a FinTech marketplace that allows you to tap into your F S A and H S A funds. And not sure if you know about this, but you have funds there.

Especially if you work for an employer that will expire at the end of each year for F S A and roll into the next year for H S a, but that you can use and she shares all about how you can tap into that, how Sika is addressing that problem. Amy also tells me about what it was like immigrating to the [00:01:00] US from Ghana for her and her family.

What. experience being a physician, founders like, and she shares advice for how to build a team, how to grow your product fundraise, and what routines have been really helpful for her. So enjoy AMI guys. It's a good one.

Jennifer: Hi Ami.

Ami: Hi, Jennifer. How good to see you.

Jennifer: Oh my goodness. It's so good to see you. Last time was at this glorious wedding we were both at and it was phenomenal atmosphere.

Ami: That's right. That was what, just over just about six months ago. We were both in Italy for a gorgeous classmates wedding. And then I understand you returned, uh, to location for your wedding

before starting this podcast. So,

Excited to see you again and to be able to have this conversation.

Jennifer: And now I'm in Austin, which is where you grew up?

Ami: That's, I saw that,

Jennifer: Oh.

Ami: When did you move to Austin?

Jennifer: We moved here a year ago and I hear you're moving. Where are you

moving [00:02:00] to?

Ami: Oh, just to a new place within New York. So, uh, you know, not a big move, just moving locally, which has been, which is nice. I'm now a little bit closer to the office, which makes life that much

easier, so I love it.

Jennifer: Any moving hacks that you're leaning into that are helpful?

Ami: Oh, I have zero hacks. I feel like

I'm like the worst person every, I'm the person who I'll still have boxes to unpack when I'm moving again. Um, but I think it's, if anything's just get extra help, get extra hands. So we got some help moving. We got, you know, get a task Rabbit help unpack and, you know, just to make, make things a little bit easier.

Jennifer: Yeah. Well, I wish you smooth moving. I'm so glad to have you on so Ami, You're the founder of Sika Health, which is a FinTech marketplace. You're allowing folks to unleash the power of their health. Wallets tap into $8 billion worth of funds that go unused each year.

which is crazy. So we're gonna dive into that in a minute, but I thought we [00:03:00] would start with your personal background because it's so fascinating. And you are a Stanford md, so medical doctor and M B A, you are the daughter of immigrant parents. And like we chatted briefly about you grew up in Austin. What was it like for you and your family settling into Austin?

Ami: Yeah, absolutely. So, um, thank you so much, uh, for that introduction. Um, absolutely. So I'm a physician turned founder of, of Sika Health. We're a seed stage company, and as you were saying, we're on a mission to reinvent the way that we all pay for our health needs. And we do this by offering financial technology to merchants that allows you to spend your health plan as a form of payment.

Starting with your FSA and HSA funds, and we're doing this really cause we envision a future where everyone can save money on their health needs, um, by leveraging tools that they, they already have. And, um, I'd love to tell you more about that. I think, we'll get into the company, but maybe I can back up and tell you, um, little bit more about background leading up to, to Austin if that's ok.

Jennifer: Yes, please.

Ami: Yeah. Um, so, so I am actually, um, an immigrant myself. So I'm a [00:04:00] former, former fellow, west African. I was born in Ghana. Yeah. Yeah. So I was born in Ghana, um, and I was raised in a small town called, um, it's actually the epicenter of the gold mining operations in, in, in, in Ghana. It's actually called the Gold Host.

Um, and I mentioned that cause that's where my mom actually worked. When I was growing up, she worked as a secretary. You know, we lived very comfortably by Betty standards. Um, you know, we had a tv, which was like a big deal at the time. Um, but that was really sort of the peak, of, you know, at least the mom, the, the life that my mom envisioned for, for us and myself.

And she worked very hard to get us there. And so, um, part of that's part of why she brought me to the States. Um, when I came at the age of. Was to have that opportunity to have, um, have a path to, you know, better life, um, here in the us.

Jennifer: How did your family pick Austin?

Ami: Yeah. You know, um, it's, it's funny. Most of my family lives in Albany, New York. Uh, so that's where we first came when we fir came to the States, and my mom just said it's way too cold. [00:05:00] And so one day She me in a car. We started driving south. I knew we were in Austin, Texas, which is definitely not way too cold.

If anything, it's way too. But you know, we've been there ever since and she love too grateful.

Jennifer: That's beautiful. Yes. We apparently had the hottest summer in history of Austin. It's either that or it's just a regular Austin summer and people are just lying to us to get us not to leave

Ami: I, I regularly remember every single summer there's this mantra of like a hundred plus days of a hundred plus weather, and I was like, eh, it's just too many hundreds

Jennifer: Okay. So where is your dad in this picture?

Ami: yeah, so my dad was never part of my, my life. So, um, single parent. Um, I did reconnect with him later in life, but for all intents and purposes, you know, really was raised by my mom and my mom's side of the.

Jennifer: What a wonderful woman. So your mom's still here.

Ami: She's still here. She's still in in Austin, actually. So

Jennifer: Beautiful. Beautiful. All right. So then what led you to becoming a physician? What formative experiences or how [00:06:00] did that come about for you.

Ami: Absolutely. Um, so, you know, as I mentioned, I, I came to the states when I was, I was quite young when I was six. Um, and there was a lot that that came into moving to a new country and, and, you know, assimilating. But I, I remember even at that young, there was one thing that saved the same between these cheap places.

So, you know, whether it was Ghana or in the us I made this observation. Well, the, the poorest people are often the sickest. Right? And vice versa, you know. Poor, poor health, uh, often led to, to poverty. And that was just as true no matter, you know, these places despite this massive difference in, in wealth.

And it was, um, you know, yes, there were different diseases, but that trend was still the same. So it was kinda that observation from, you know, I think a pretty, you know, age that maybe just, it just felt like unfair and I wanted to, to do something about it. It felt. You know, how can you know if I could get to the source right of, you know, giving people better health, that that could give them a chance to get outta poverty or to have, you know, a path to [00:07:00] a better life.

And, uh, and so that's ultimately why I wanted to be, to become a physician, was to sort of work towards that health as that sort of great equalizer.

Jennifer: Yeah. I believe that everyone has a right to access to health and that your health shouldn't be determined by where you are born or what conditions you're born into, so really, really resonate with that mission. Out of curiosity, did you and your mom get, go back to Ghana your upbringing while you were here in Austin?

Ami: We, we did, although not nearly enough, you know, um, even before Covid. Yeah, there's, there's always. You know, work is calling hard to get time off and you know, it's a long trip, you know. So we went back, I think, uh, went back, been back twice, once with my mom and once without long overdue for another. Um, but yeah, hopefully sometime in the next couple years we'll back.

Jennifer: yeah, no, and I've had. Block, honor, pleasure to get to visit Ghana. Uh, and wanted to, yeah, I was in Accra, I was doing, when I was working on my nonprofit. We went there for [00:08:00] some time for some work, and wanted to ask you if you have thoughts on Ghana versus Nigerian j

Ami: Oh course. So many, so many thoughts.

Jennifer: there's only one

right answer. That's true.

Ami: Time with family this weekend and had some very good, authentic, and there's only one. One we had. Was this for your, I think you had a health nonprofit.

Jennifer: Yeah,

I was doing healthcare. We were addressing postpartum hemorrhage, and we went and worked with some organizations in Ghana first, and then moved to Sierra Leone. Wonderful, wonderful

Ami: Um, amazing

Jennifer: I love the fufu and the jk. Actually, we have tons of Fufu and JK in Sierra Leone as well. It's always nice to

Ami: Yeah.

Jennifer: types, you know,

Ami: Yeah, it, it's, yeah. It's so funny. These foods are, you know, they, they end up being attributed to one country, but you're so Right. They're sort of regional and you know, they're regional variations that come.

Jennifer: Yeah. Um, how was it with your mom in Austin, being from Africa? Do you remember any? [00:09:00] Because even for me, I moved to the US at 16 and it was an adjustment for me. So I can only imagine as a six year old.

Ami: Yeah, definitely. Uh, I think adjustment is the right word. Um, you know, so, so many, yeah, so many things to learn, so many things to, you know, that I felt like I had to do differently, like dress differently or speak differently. You notice now, I, I don't have a, you know, very much of an accent and a lot of it comes from just.

You know, being young and wanna tip it in, you know, when you're, when you're a certain age, you just don't, you never wanna feel different, you know? So I, I remember that was probably my really prevailing, you know, experience growing up is like, ah, why, why do I feel, why do I feel different? Why did my mom put me in these like, clothes with big shoulders for day?

I just wanna wear the kids

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ami: wear. But, um, I feel very lucky. Austin is, Austin is one of these places that is very, you. Open.

Jennifer: Mm-hmm.

Ami: and, you know, there's just a lot of different people and kinda all co-mingling. Um, the, one of the words that comes to mind for me in Austin is just like juxtaposition, you know?

Different people from different backgrounds. You know, even when I was [00:10:00] growing up, like maybe 50% of the population was Hispanic or Spanish speaking, you know, so there were just, you know, it was, it was one of the few places, um, I would say in Texas ,

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ami: differences can be celebrated and I feel lucky that.

You know, I was always surrounded by, you know, family and, and had, you know, places to still kind own my differences.

Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah.

Ami: when kind the broader world felt like.

Jennifer: Yeah. It's funny you mentioned as a kid you tend not to want to be different, and now as an adult you look back and you're like, oh man, I, I really appreciate these clothes and being different and owning my difference. It's such a powerful thing now. I don't wanna fit in.

Ami: It's So true.

Jennifer: So it's a

Ami: It's so true.

Jennifer: All right, let's talk about your med school experience. I was pre-med ami, and so I

Ami: How are you

Jennifer: Med School is no joke. Any med school is No. What was your experience like and what would you tell to folks that are applying to med school?

Ami: Yeah. So I would say this, um, my, so I feel [00:11:00] very, very fortunate, you know, to, to have gone to Stanford. It's just an incredible place in general. And, and the medical school in particular, that it was just this big kind of playground in a, like of course there was the curriculum and you had to, you know, you had to do well on the test, you know? There was just so much room to explore, um, interests. Um, and, you know, I just feel really lucky that I, I went, you know, I had an education that, that preserved that. And, and that's something that, you know, even coming into medical school was really important for me. You know, as a preve and even during medical school, there's, I felt like this pressure to like check boxes.

You know, you have to get the grades, you have to do all the tests, and then you have to volunteer. You have to, shadow, have research and there's just so boxes, check and yourself check boxes all day. Um, but, you know, I think one of the, the breakthroughs for me,

Um, realizing that there's a why behind every box you check, and it's so important to be connected to the why, you know?

So for me, you know, doing research wasn't, you know, wasn't just to check the box, you know, [00:12:00] I have to, I had to learn, you know, why wanted to do research. I problems, I contribute into the world. Discover things, right? And when, when I was able to connect with the why, not only did it make make me more successful, it made me actually enjoy, you know, the things that I was doing.

And it made it easy to, to be successful. Um, cause I was connected to, to why I was doing certain things. Um, and you know, I think the other thing that you know, is, I think is relevant to my story is that sometimes exploring the why leads you to different answers, you know, You know, I had lots of people, lot of friends, who, you know, like you were, were pre-med at a certain point and then, you know, started doing these things and realized like, actually I don't really like taking care of sick people or don't really like doing research or I don't like, you know, and that's because sometimes listening to the why will set you on a different path that ultimately is, you know, is better for.

And that, that certainly kinda happened, um, in my journey as well. So I think my, my advice to people pre-med, both post school just is to try to, try to get outta the mindset of checking boxes and try to focus on [00:13:00] why, why, why am I doing this thing? Why does, why do I feel like this is an important box for me to check?

What, what do I get out of this experience and is it something that I actually enjoy? Or am I, am I only doing it because I feel like it's required? Right.

Jennifer: That's such great advice. Am. Thing that comes to mind for me is exploring the why, and focusing on the why allows you to be more fulfilled and that is so, so important for us. Okay, so why the dual M B A

Ami: Yeah.


Jennifer: isn't enough work for our overachiever over here.

Ami: Yes, yeah. So why the mba? You know, I think, so I, I'll caveat by saying I, I loved medical school. I went in with the full intention of, of becoming a physician, and in fact, for me, the hardest part was, which specialty do I go into, obsess.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ami: Um, but ultimately, you know, the more time I spent in medical school, the more i I sort of experiencing the, the actual [00:14:00] clinical rotations and being in the hospital, the more I started looking around and realizing like, man, there's a lot of things that are just broken. You know, it don't work. And even in the middle of Silicon Valley at Stanford Hospital, which is wonderful places, there's just like basic things that just were.

That didn't really work. And, and I'll give you an example relevant to my story is, you know, one of the many things that was broken was just kinda the financial side of healthcare was just like, not really like very disjointed in that, you know, I knew and a lot of people knew that, of course there's a link between health and finances, and yet being able to bring that into the room as we were making decisions or having conversations about a patient's care were just really, really hard.

Um, and even, you know, I, I'm sure we all have our version of this story, but just having conversations with a patient where, you know, they would ask very basic questions, important questions like, will my insurance cover this? If so, how much do I have to pay outta pocket? You know, what's the cost of this procedure?

Overall, [00:15:00] honestly, just impossible to answer. Tructure. that just didn't make a lot of sense to me, given this understanding that I had and the reason that I went into medicine, which is that obviously those two things are linked to health and the financial aspect. So, you know, I, I, I increasingly became frustrated by this, you know, one of things that was broken.

I also, I think one of the things I started to realize was that even though I loved the, like day-to-day one-on-one patient care, It was, I just was, I was going to be limited in my ability to, to kind of help patients at the root, if that was how I spent all of my time. Right. And so, you know, I, I started to, to realize that, you know, I needed to, to sort of position myself as at a slightly different level, right?

A slightly different altitude. I needed to work more at the systems level if I wanted to be able to help patients in some, you know, to fix some of these problems that I saw. And. Um, going across the street to, to Stanford to get an mba seems like a logical next step in that it would. You know, position me to, to at least see the many ways that I could have an [00:16:00] impact on healthcare, to be able to see the system from a little bit of a broader perspective, and then decide, you know, whether going down the clinical path was still the right path for me, or whether I wanted to transition into a, a different non-clinical career.

So it was really just that, that option value as well as the being able to see things from a different alt.

Jennifer: Yeah, and I don't know about you, um, but my background was in chemical engineering, and then I worked a lot in research and then in healthcare and didn't have much exposure to business. And so the

Ami: yes.

Jennifer: for me was really eye-opening and useful. Curious. what that was like for you, what value you feel you got from that and having that with the md.

Ami: Yeah, um, I have a, a similar background as you, so I was a biomedical engineer as a pre-med. Um, and, and part of what that meant, you know, as you can relate, was my schedule is so jampacked with. You know, those requirements that I, I never took a business class. My first business class ever was when I, when I got to Stanford.

So even just from that perspective of just teaching me a different way to think and just teaching me a different way to approach [00:17:00] problems was huge. Um, and I realized that I really enjoyed having that. The sort of like systems type thinking that I could bring from, from medical school and then being able to combine that with like, the way I think as an engineer, being able to combine that with the way I think as kinda a, a business person or a financial, you know, thinking about financial problems.

So I love, and I sort of think that as one of my, my sort of triple threat is that I, I've been able to kinda put those different hats on in different moments and, and you know, through that, see problem. In a way that maybe not a lot of people can see, right? Cause they haven't been able to sort of move through, through those, those at least different types of education and training.

Jennifer: Yeah. And knowing you personally, you're definitely endorsing this triple threat on here, Okay. So I love the story of how you founded Sika. It involves your mom and a personal problem you had. Will you tell it to us?

Ami: Absolutely. Yeah. So, so I think generally I, I've had this notion, uh, around kind of health and finances, but the, the specific, um, you know, inspiration for, for Sika, um, for what LED Toka came [00:18:00] in 2020. So, um, my mom unfortunately, um, lost her job. She was working as a hotel worker at the time. And losing her job meant losing her health plan, which also meant at the time that her FSA would expire, you know, basically overnight.

Um, and I, I dunno if you, um, you or your audience is familiar with, with an fsa, but it's, it's a part of your health plan that allows you to spend tax free money on, on, you know, basic health needs. Um, the problem is that it's a user. and you can only spend it on certain things and no one tells you what those things are.

So it's just one of these sort of very broken parts of your, of your health plan. And so, I was helping her to sort of, um, to

sort of scramble to mm-hmm. Yes,

Jennifer: the general audience, it's use it or lose it in this year

Ami: that's correct, if use her to lose it in the year. But if you lose your job, it's lose it or lose it by the end of the month.

Even, there's even more urgency, right? For people who are, you know, unfortunately in a, in a tough financial situation. So that, that was the situation that my mom, um, you know, and I were facing.

And so we, you know, I helped her to try to figure out where she could spend these funds so that she didn't lose them. And as [00:19:00] I, as we went through that challenge, I, I learned a few things that, that. You know, that actually kind of got me excited about that space. Um, the, the first thing I learned is that, you know, you can actually spend these accounts, the FSA and its sister accounts is the hsa.

You can spend them on way more things than most people realize. Um, so of course a lot of people know that you can set it on like doctor's offices or doctor's visit. . Um, but not a lot of people know that you can spend it on prescriptions or your glasses or even fitness equipment like a Peloton or nutrition vitamin and supplements.

So really just a broad range of, of items that pertain to your health. And that was, I think, a really exciting discovery. Um, the second thing that we, we learned was that this is a problem that's, that's actually really two-sided. Um, so a lot of people, like my mom, a lot of, you know, shoppers, you know, struggle to spend these funds, but a lot of the reason for that is because many of the places where they're going to buy the merchants themselves struggle to accept FSA HSA funds as a form of payment.

Um, and that problem starts with the level of, you know, those merchants don't even know the broad range of things that [00:20:00] are covered. Right. So it seemed like there was just an opportunity definitely at the level of consumers and shoppers, but also at the level of. And then the, the third thing we learned through this experience is that we really weren't alone.

Um, you know, there, there are about 70 million people in the US you know, that have FSAs and HSA accounts. accounts for about 150 billion that gets contributed into these accounts every year. And as you were saying, Jen, you know, about 8 billion of these goes to waste every year. Like literally poof, expires cause of this problem that my mom was facing and that folks like, like her was facing.

And so for all these reasons, I thought, man, I know I'm generally interested in kinda health and finances. This seems like a very specific, you know, an important, you know, problem within that, that segment. That, you know, feels really urgent to solve and, and why not start there?

Jennifer: I'm so glad that you are addressing this. Can we talk about the F S A H S A? How do these funds become available? Are they available to everyone? How does that work?

Ami: Yeah, great. Great question. So the FSA and hsa, they're, they're, they're sort of sister accounts and I'll, I'll [00:21:00] say what they stand for. The FSA stands for flexible spending account. The HSA stands for health Savings account. They're both typically workplace benefits, so they're benefits that you typically get as part of your health plan.

And most people get their health plan at work, um, that allows you to spend pre-tax money on your. So every year your employer will ask you in the same way that they'll ask you what kinda health plan do you want? They'll ask you, do you want an FSA or do you want an hsa? And if you say yes, you get to, they, they'll take money off of your, um, just fund these accounts.

Um, that is money that you haven't been taxed on, so you never get on the money and you get to put them into these accounts and then spend it on. The great thing is that to encourage you to, to use these accounts, a lot of employers will often give you money, right? So not only is it tax free money, sometimes it's actually free, free money that you might be getting from your employer.

Sometimes your health insurer does the same thing. So, you know, I think the a on average people get a few, 300, three to $400 from some of these sources to get them to incentivize them to spend on their. And, um, they [00:22:00] work slightly differently. FSA expire at the end of the year, HSA roll over. You can actually invest them and those investments are tax free as well.

But the bottom line is that there these tools that you have that allow you to save money and use that towards your

Jennifer: Yeah, and we like free, free money or

Ami: love. Exactly.

Jennifer: great for this to be on our radar. So then how does Sika work?

Ami: So, so the way we work is that we enable merchants to accept FSA and HSA funds directly as a form of payment. Um, and, and the reason we're doing this is again, that, you know, if we want people to feel encouraged, To sign up and utilize these accounts, we have to make them easy to use. No one wants to take money outta their paycheck without knowing if they're gonna be able to get it out right?

And so I just had this vision of like, what if there was a payment method that shows up at checkout every time you're going to shop, that informs you and gives you the option to easily spend this money that you have sitting and waiting to be. Um, we're actually focused on online merchants, merchants to start.

Um, cause we realize that there's actually no solution [00:23:00] out there right now for that market segment. Um, and so our product is actually, um, is actually going be the first third party payment solution for e-commerce that is fully, you know, makes it easy for you to spend these funds in a way. Regulatory and IRS compliance.

Um, a short detour cause these are tax funds. They're regulated by the iOS and that's part of why they're so hard to use. Um, so anyway, the product works very similar to PayPal or Buy now, pay later product, if you ever use that where you're shopping and then you get to check out and you'll see a button that says, Hey.

Yes, you can use your FSA or HSA here, and then you click on that button and you buy. Um, and then behind the scenes we're doing a bunch of work partnering with the merchant to handle all the compliance. So we help actually the merchants get certified so that they can accept those funds. Um, we help their products get approved as FSA h whole approval process.

And then we actually securely log the purchases and, you know, help the merchant defend in case of any audit. Cause they're very concerned that, you know, these dollars are used appropriately. [00:24:00] Um, and then some items, you know, actually require a little extra work to basically a doctor's note.

To showcase that you're using that product towards a specific health need, right? So let's say you're buying an Apple Watch, you could buy an Apple Watch just cause you like the way it looks, or you could buy an Apple Watch cause you like some of the medical features. And so we actually, you know, provide that sort of medical stamp of approval if you're buying it for the medical features.

Um, and so overall there's a lot of benefits on, on both sides for merchant. We help them grow their revenue, um, by offering their customers a, a new way to pay. Right? And then for those customers, for those shoppers, we allow you save money by spending money. You've already, that also.

Jennifer: What are the merchants that you partner with that we can use some of our FSA and HSA funds with?

Ami: Yeah , so we actually partner with any merchant that sells eligible health items, and, and there's a real variety there. Um, so we partner with some merchants that actually sell feminine care products to young women, some merchants that sell hearing aid or incontinence care to older adults. So really a broad range, right?

[00:25:00] Because everyone has health needs and everyone deserves to save on those various health expense. And so the, the way our product works now is that we're actually, um, building out a, uh, an API version of the product that any merchant can, work with and can install their platform available. You.

Jennifer: Got it. So if I had unused funds in my wallet, what would I do? Would I go to Zika's website to search El like merchants that I can buy from? Or is there a different route for me to take?

Ami: Yeah, so we'll, um, we'll probably be launching, or publicly announcing some of the merchants that we're working with, um, early in the next year. And then we would actually showcase on the website and we'd be able to go through that directly. But really the, the hope is to just move quickly, as quickly as possible and have these, you know, very have our payment product show up at checkout just out in the wild, so that you can start to see it, you know, at all the normal places that you would.

Jennifer: Beautiful. Can we talk about Sika operations for a bit?

Ami: Sure. We're very fortunate. We have built an incredible team. We're about, we're eight now. We [00:26:00] work in person, in New York. So we have kind of a hybrid working model.

And the, the great advantage of our team is that we. You know, unique experience, mix experience, both on the health side, right from, from largely from my background as well as on the, the kinda payments and, and FinTech side. So, um, brought on of engineering and actually engineer team is from you're large global commerce company.

And so some of my s actually built the payments team at payments experience at a are able to bring that experience to. So really combined, um, with that experience, we're able to, to build this, this product that, you know, right to be made out, into, into the world. And I'll say beyond our, our full-time team, we actually have some really heavy hitters from, various relevant companies.

So our technical advisors coming from Klarna, who's the former Clar, they're pay company in Sweden,


And then we have advisors who are both kinda product and [00:27:00] operational leads from Pill acquired by Amazon. They're a major pharmacy company. So really a really broad, you know, mix of people. Um, and, you know, I can look back and sort of smile and have a sense of, you know, wonderful team that we have. You know, I, I can't say it was definitely not an easy journey getting there.

Um, you know, in that when I first started and had the idea for. You know, I didn't have anyone immediately in my network who, you know, had this specific skillset. Um, that I, I needed to, to start building. And, and so it did take a lot of patience, a lot of relationship building, a lot of asking for advice.

You know, I, I've never hired anyone to either, truthfully, right? So I had to surround myself with people who had, um, including, you know, bringing on recruiters who helped me on the executive side, technical recruiting. Um, and it was through that, that was able to, to build, um, such a, a strong team that we have.

Jennifer: Yeah, I was. That's an excellent team. Huge kudos to you. It does take a village. If there was one thing you say, looking back. that allowed you, you think, to be [00:28:00] successful in assembling this team together, which is not an easy feat at all. Does anything come to.

Ami: One, one thing that helps in assembling the team, um, I would say that one of the major shifts that I had to make was, you know, really focusing on kind of people first, right? And, and that there's, there are a lot of people in the world who have the skillset on paper, but you know, when it is such a small team, every single person is adding, and materially changing the culture.

So it's just so important and I had to learn that it was so important to really get to know the people first, understand their value systems, you know, surface, why why they would coming to, you know, small startup, you know,

so it was this sort of little bit of like a counterintuitive. Recruiting process where yes, of course we talk about business and skillset, but ultimately we're focused on values and communication and, you know, um, motivations and [00:29:00] understanding, you know, um, uh, understanding. Coming to an understanding that, you know, those were people that sort of shared my values around empathy, around, you know, contributing to helping people, you know, live healthier lives and were really kinda aligned from.

Skills that set standpoint first, you know,

Jennifer: Yeah,

Ami: the like skillset. Do you check these boxes?

Jennifer: totally. And I think that goes for both your, your team that you work with as well as your advisors, your investors.

Ami: Yes, I think that's exactly right.

Jennifer: Awesome. And then let's talk a little bit about your fundraise. You raised 6 million in a seed round from all of these wonderful people you mentioned, Ulu Ventures, plaid founders, forerunner Ventures. These are great investors. What did you learn from your fundraising experience that you would share with other founders that have this journey ahead of them?

Ami: Yeah. Um, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for the question. Um, you know, I,

I'm a fan of your

Power Hour podcast. And you know, I listened to a few different founders, journeys and, you know, the interview that you did with Fatima sticks out to me the most. Think [00:30:00] she said something along the lines of I just I day where it's not like we don't even talk about

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ami: fundraising, you know, you know, know I'm, I think fortunately and Unfortu.

Amongst the people, the among black female founders that raised, um, you know, have raised, and, and I think in 21, the year I raised, you know, we accounted for something like 4% of funds raised, um, you know, went to black female founders. So there's a massive funding gap. And I think in, in, in part it's sort of a, a feat when someone, you know, likes me, like me raises, and I hope for a day where it's not a feat.

I hope for a day when. Normal, you know? Um, but in terms of how I overcame, you know, I think there's, there's always for a lot of people, and I, I think certainly for me, there was a sense of sort of, you know, a little bit of a, an insecurity, right? Going into fundraising and that, and for me, part of that came from the fact that I was not really a traditional, I didn't come from a traditional background as, as founders go, right?

I've never worked in tech. And here I was building a FinTech company. [00:31:00] But, ultimately, you know, I think it, it just sort of took leaning into what made me unique. The fact that I, I was a physician trade at Stanford, the fact that I did have this non-traditional background. Those were the things that led me to see the opportunity and therefore, you know, could were, were, were going to set me up to be, you know, hopefully be successful in this.

So I think it was kinda leaning into those differences and not letting the narrative of, oh, I haven't done this, or I'm not this, or I'm look like this. Um, get in, get in my way.

Jennifer: Absolutely. I think all founders need to be exceptionally bold in in their vision, and at the same time, you get all these nos either

Ami: Yeah.

Jennifer: or from. and pieces of a team that you're trying to recruit or investors or other thing, and it's about really believing in yourself, leaning into what makes you authentic.

There are about 8 billion people out there. There's only one you and

Ami: Yeah,

Jennifer: for it and believing you can do it,

Ami: definitely. I think that's

Jennifer: which is easier said than done.

Ami: It's so much easier said than done. I, I think it's also hard to remember that when you're in the heat of, let's say fundraising or a heat of trying to get things [00:32:00] done. Um, and at the end of the day, you know, is all about selling, you know, as is recruiting, as is sales, you know, and, uh, a lot of what, you know, the, the selling motion looks like, uh, least looks like for me was really just focusing on convincing investors of two things, right?

The only two things that they needed to believe. Number one, this problem that I'm solving is a big important and urgent problem. And number two, that I was the right person and had the right team to to, to build it right. And everything else is sort of supporting bullet points, right? So traction and that's all great and obviously we should, you know, there's a lot to points points, but at the end of the day, I think it was sort of reminding myself that actually.

The things, you know, don't leave with the data. Right. Leave with the story around why this is an important problem and why I was the right person to solve this problem. If I could kinda hone in on that, the core message that I was delivering that that, you know, at least was sort of the right starting point.


able to be able to, to get my foot in the door and to be able to, to.

[00:33:00] Um, you know, I think you'd also ask me about advice to founders. I think one, one other piece of advice I would give people is that, you know, people don't talk about this as much as I, I think they should, but fundraising is just, it's all about preparation.

Like, that's all. It's, um, and, and, you know, we all know how to prepare and I knew that I've done a lot of preparation and that's what's made me successful in the past. So if I could bring. Preparation into, into this, this fundraising as just another task that I had to learn, that I had to prepare for, you know, whether it was making the list, you know, of investors that I, I, I wanted to, to pitch.

Um, making the list of who would introduce me to those investors. Cause there's a whole amount of preparation that goes into that. Obviously doing the revs on the pitch deck, right. And, and making that pitch deck around that story of like, why is this important? Why am I the right person? Right? So doing the revs to get that story across very quickly and clearly.

And then, you know, getting in front of the mirror, getting in front of people, getting in front of.

Um, whoever it's right to sort of pitch and, and, and prepare for the questions and the Yeah. Buts and the, objections that you're [00:34:00] likely to get and just doing that cycle over and over again.

And it's really just a matter of coming prepared and being willing to hear the nose and yet keep going through the nose to get to the other side.

Jennifer: Yeah, and for folks who maybe don't have access to investors or someone in their

Ami: Yeah,

Jennifer: investors, the other. Points that you mentioned about being really prepared, why you, why this problem is so important, and sharing that either with a cold email or with people who you don't know that might know investors goes a long way

Ami: Yes. I think that that's so right. You know, and I, I'll say even when I started, I didn't have a role adaptive investors that I, I was gonna call. Um, you know, I, I started really close to home. I started by. Calling up my old bosses, , calling up

coworkers. Even, you know, a lot of my, my friends at from business school, you know, who were start interested in angel investing, so it was really starting close to home, starting with small hey thousand check here, there thousand there, and it was through that, that a, I got practice right towards that prepar.

But then, you know, eventually I did start hearing yeses and even these small yeses, yeses with [00:35:00] small checks matter a lot, right? Cause they're able to, it adds proof, right? It adds validation that, you know, Because no one wants to be the first, the first check in, right? So if you can amass multiple smaller checks, that can bring up some, some confidence that can kinda just lower the barrier a little bit as you start increasing your asks and to other investors.

So I think just to validate the point that you made, that starting close to home is a great place to start. Doesn't always have to be, Hey, I have to call up this, you know, big name investor. It can be, it can be, you know, a

coworker, an old.

Jennifer: in so many ways. Those folks know you the

best and can

Ami: Exactly. Exactly.

Jennifer: Ammi, being a first time founder is an adventure. What routines have been helpful to you

Ami: yeah. Yeah. So being a first time founder, um, really doing anything for the


time, I just, I yeah. Where do

you start? It's just like, what is it? New Um, you know, I think the, the thing is just, you know, preparing for the learning curve to be this just vertical, you know, which is, which is the most challenging part, but it's also kinda the best part.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ami: There's not a lot of [00:36:00] things and, and your, your father too in this, you know, building a, a podcast for the first time. just such a joy, you know, and such a privilege and an honor to be able to start something from, from scratch and learn as we go and, and to be able to just wake up every day knowing like, I did something today that I didn't know and. know, relative to where I was last week,

Jennifer: Yeah,

Ami: You know, it's just, it's just so thrilling. So invigorating. And yeah, a a lot of it comes from the preparation from the reps, but one, one of the best pieces of advice that I've gotten so far is just that as much as we invest in the, we have to invest in the rest.

Right. Um, and so recognizing. Yes. Right. So recognizing that it's so important to take some time regularly every week, every day to just do the things that fill us up. You know, for me it's, you know, every one day a week I do what I call my introvert time. So I just, I do, I definitely do no work, but I also, you know, kind of cut back on certain social things, you know, um, and it's just my day to recharge, whether it's getting a massage or going through a long [00:37:00] walk.

Maybe it's cooking. Catching up family on phone call, like whatever, it's, that sort of fills me up that week and just giving myself that mental and physical break so that I can come back the next day and, and go that much harder. Um, so, you know, I think just reminding myself like, this is a marathon and marathon can't get out.

Sprinting every, you know, every second. You have to give yourself time to rest. And that can be hard when there's just so many things to do there. There's, you can't get there fast enough. There's, there's a whole world, you know, addition and product to be built. But, but you know, in, in sort of this counterintuitive way, you have to be.

Jennifer: Oh, I so resonate. I think burnout is a real thing and really taking the time to shut down your brain, do something different. Time for me, it's my runs in the morning, but then also trying to have one weekend a day when I do no work. Thank God for my husband, Mak. He's so like, I'm very bad at doing that on my day off

I'm very bad at not doing work. And he's always like, what are you doing? What is this? We said, no work today, And I'll always be

Ami: Then he[00:38:00]

Jennifer: more minutes. And I'm like, okay. Five minutes on the clock.

Ami: That's so good though. It's so good. You accountability buddy. Right.

Jennifer: Yeah, I think we need accountability buddies for the rest actually,

Ami: Yes, exactly.

Jennifer: for his stuff and I hold him accountable, so yeah, I, I recommend an accountability buddy, and it's so normal. You want you, this is your baby. You think about it all the time. If we, we, we talked about earlier at the beginning of the conversation, think about your why and do the things that really fulfill you, fill your cup.

And so if you're doing this, it's likely the thing that gives you energy and you care so much about driving it forward. And so it's hard to stop because you want it to work yesterday.

Ami: Yes,

Jennifer: You're a human being and you need to unplug like.

Ami: yes.

Jennifer: like most things do. I wanted to ask you if you could recommend something for first time founders.

Founders in general, something to help them along their journeys. I know you had a great wreck, so I wanna make sure we don't miss it.

Ami: Yeah. I had a, a book recommended to me. Um, it's called The Great CEO within, by Matt Machar. He's also the, um, the founder of the MAT method, if you're [00:39:00] familiar with. That's sort coaching method. But he has that will link. I shared with you the link to the, the book, which is a short. it's an incredible one. And it, it's sort of going back to the theme of preparation. It just reminds you that founding CEO eing is just a sum up a bunch of, you know, tasks. And it's a sum up mindset, right? And there you can't prepare, you can't learn these things. And it's finding resources like, like this book that for me is helped me kind of build that muscle and be able to build toward.

Doing what I'm doing today. So just to share with other folks that, there are resources out there that can help you to build your mission, build your companies.

Jennifer: that's a great book. I have it on my Kindle. Thanks for sharing that. And what are you excited about today? What are you looking forward to and excited about?

Ami: It's a today slash over the next couple weeks we're getting to the end of the year. So honestly, the thing I'm most excited about is taking a little bit of time and reflecting on the journey, you know, that I've lived and that my team has lived over this year. , sending little notes to, to some of the folks that have, helped, helped me along this journey.

And just, you know, leaning into this [00:40:00] time to reflect and, and recharge. Um, you know, so. We can just celebrate this, this moment. Uh, we'll never be in this moment again. Um, and start the new year with that sense of like progress and growth and even.

Jennifer: Beautifully said. this was lovely to have you on Ami Thank you for the time.

Ami: Thank you so much, Dennis. So good to see you.

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How to claim $8B we all have in unused health benefits - Ami Kumordzie, Founder & CEO @ Sika Health
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