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Jeff Dachis & OneDrop: Taking on the Healthcare Industry

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by Madeleine Steinberg, Columbia

Jeff Dachis is on a roll. He’s reeling off shocking facts about diabetes and the state of the U.S. healthcare system — “One out of three Americans is affected by some function of food, medication, and physical activity and glucose, and it’s affecting them in a way that a person dies every six seconds from diabetes.” Not only is it deadly, but it is also costly, indicating how the current healthcare system mismanages diabetes — with $750 billion a year spent on diabetes each year in the U.S., that’s one out of every five dollars spent on healthcare going to diabetes.

His latest project, OneDrop, aims to take on these systemic issues, and his passion for it is evident. It is only the latest in a string of successful creative companies and ventures Jeff has undertaken over the past several decades. He is no newcomer to the entrepreneurship scene, having weathered the ups and downs of the digital economy (including the burst of the Dot Com bubble). His initial passion was in different forms of creative expression, deeply enjoying performing and being on the stage, but he realized that it would not be a viable career. “The business of working with creative people, the business of creating things was really where my craft lied,” Jeff said. It was with this mindset that Jeff and his childhood friend Craig Kanarick launched Razorfish, now one of the world’s largest, most successful interactive marketing and technology agencies. Founded in 1994 in New York, the company was taken private and then acquired by aQuantive in 2004, which in turn was acquired by Microsoft in 2007. The latest change of ownership occurred in 2009, when Publicis Groupe acquired Razorfish for $530 million; the company now numbers over 2,000 employees worldwide.

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For many people, such an immensely successful venture would be the pinnacle of their career. But for Jeff, it was simply the first in a series of innovative and ambitious projects. “For me, I’m compelled to do this,” Jeff said of his drive to start and run companies. “I don’t have a choice really. In fact, I’m probably unemployable.” He went on to found an information architecture and design firm, as well as Dachis Group, a data analytics and digital solutions company helping brands optimize their social marketing. “I think everybody has ideas, and some people are able to implement on them and execute on them,” Jeff said. “I can’t say whether I’m much good at anything, but I do know that I’ve been able to take ideas that I’ve had and I’ve been able to convert that pursuit of ideas into business success.”

With OneDrop, the latest idea he is pursuing is no less than an overhaul of the diabetes management process. The project was prompted by Jeff’s own diagnosis with diabetes — he was given “about fifteen minutes or less” with a doctor, a reflection of the current healthcare approach. “What do we do with the other 364 days and 23 hours?” is the question OneDrop wants to answer. Its purpose, as Jeff puts it, is “for helping people to be empowered, mindful and motivated.” In creating a solution for diabetes sufferers, the OneDrop team pinpointed the stressors and aspects of self-care (glucose levels, food, medication, activity) that are crucial to managing the disease. Not only that, but Jeff also emphasized the desire to create “beautiful” technology and software, a quality not often present in medical technology.

Taking on the entrenched medical practices and community is no easy feat, Jeff acknowledges. However, his passion for OneDrop is palpable. “It’s worth it — the letters that I get from our users every day remind me that it’s such a blessing for me to be able to have this opportunity to serve our customers,” Jeff said. “I feel so grateful for our users and the support that they have given us.” A realistic assessment of the challenges combined with an unswerving devotion and dedication to the project seems to best characterize Jeff’s approach, which has served him so well for so long. While the more superficial aspects of starting a company may have become easier, it still requires the same less quantifiable factors. As Jeff put it, “The process has changed in a lot of ways, but I think the underpinning of courage is still the same, and the challenges associated with taking that very courageous step of having an idea and turning it into something is still the same.”