Neal Khosla
October 11, 2022

Making Bets at Curai

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When we started Curai in 2017, I was just a kid at 24 years old, recently having finished my Master’s program at Stanford, and never having held a job outside of internships. I was overconfident in what I knew, what I brought to the table, and in my ability to build a successful company. A lot of people assume that because I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley and was always around startups that I had some sort of experience that made me a pro already. While I’m sure I did enjoy some advantages, it’s hard to explain how naive I was. I had never operated a group project of more than four people let alone a company. I was really just a kid who needed someone to take a bet on him.

Xavier, my cofounder, was that first person outside of my immediate friends and family to make that bet on me. Thinking back, I have no understanding of why he made that bet or continued to make that bet when I showed deep incompetence at various points throughout our shared time at Curai. I’m so grateful now he made that bet. In the early days, Xavier making that bet was what got our first few employees to come on board, starting with Viggy and Anitha, who have grown into wonderful leaders. A few months later, Davis Liu introduced us to Geoff Tso. I remember sitting down with Geoff and thinking to myself, “this guy is really smart, I have no idea what exactly he’ll do for us, but we’ll figure it out. We could probably use a doctor on the team.” On the one hand, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made. On the other hand, that’s about how naive I was at that time. Over the next five years, Xavier modeled to me a number of lessons that will stick with me for life. He taught me how to show resilience and strength as a leader as he steadied the company. He taught me how to share and receive feedback in a direct and caring way. I’ll never forget when he looked me in the eye one day early on and said, “You’re struggling to execute.” It was cutting and raw but it also came from a place of caring. He taught me how to run a hiring process and, honestly, how to run an organization. He also taught me by showing, not telling, the value of making bets on individuals you believed in. I was the titular CEO, but I felt that I was learning and benefiting way more from him than he was from me. The irony, of course, was that it was just another one of Xavier’s lessons: hire people who teach you more than you teach them and you’ll do well.

Fast forward five years and Curai has been a ride of a lifetime! In many ways, we’re just getting started and I’m incredibly excited about what’s ahead. One thing that has made the journey so incredible has been our bets on some of our earliest people: Xavier, Anitha, Viggy, and Geoff being the original core. They’ve helped me grow, they’ve made the journey fun, and they’ve been key contributors to nearly all of what we’ve built at Curai.

It’s with that backdrop that I’m sad to say that Xavier is moving on from Curai. A little while ago, he came to me and told me it was approaching the time for him to go. As you can imagine, there’s a lot that goes into a decision like this and it’s one I can tell has been really hard for him. Xavier, for those of you who know him, is a model of strength in the face of adversity. It’s rare to see him waver and get outwardly emotional, but it’s something I’ve seen from him the last few months. Whenever a cofounder leaves, there are many questions about what it means for the business, but as Xavier will tell you, the difficulty of this moment is that we really feel that recently we have truly started to hit our stride.

As a cofounder, it’s tough to leave your baby behind, and it’ll be tough for Curai to separate from him, but there’s never been a better time or context for this to happen. First, the business is at an exciting inflection point, something we hope to share more on in the future. Second, this is not goodbye, as Xavier will remain on our Board of Directors and stay involved in key strategic decisions on the business and tech side. Third, in classic Xavier style, he’s leaving only after he’s raised up three leaders who are well prepared to take the mantle as he departs as they have been large contributors to the core of our work. Frankly, it’s time for these three amazing leaders and technical minds to step into larger shoes. Anitha, who is probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met, will be leading our ML org and direction. Viggy, who has effectively been the Jeff Dean of Curai, will be stepping into shoes leading our engineering org. Geoff has provided the basis of how our technical strategy is instantiated in the delivery of clinical care, and will be leading our Clinical Innovation org. These three superstars are force multipliers for our business whose leadership was shaped under Xavier’s tutelage, and now they have been given space to rise. They are folks worth betting on in a culture that has been forged by making bets on the right people.

It’s easier to bet on Curai nowadays! In fact, at the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that Geoff was introduced to us by Davis Liu, MD, and I’m delighted to share that Davis is joining Curai as our Chief Medical Officer. Davis was probably the first physician to build AI into primary care workflows. At Lemonaid he built decision support protocols into the care model and helped scale the business until its acquisition by 23andMe. He also has a robust history as a Primary Care Physician at Kaiser, where he was a board member of the Permanente Medical Group and Chief of Chronic Condition Management at the Roseville Medical Center. Davis also has a prolific blog which you can find here if you’re curious to hear more of his thoughts. He’s also been passionate about furthering the presence of AI in care delivery; a shared passion that we’ve developed over the last five years as we’ve stayed in touch. Most importantly, he’s an empathetic but direct communicator who is passionate about our mission. I can’t think of a better person to help lead our clinical team.

Today we celebrate Davis, Geoff, Anitha, and Viggy as leaders at Curai, helping to bring every person access to the world’s best healthcare.

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