Modo Bio Co-Founder Jack Williams on the HealthTech’s Plans to Reach More Users.
Jack Williams is the co-founder and technology lead for Modo Bio, a one-of-a-kind preventative healthcare service that links people and their wearable fitness tracker data to telehealth relationships with doctors, trainers, and dieticians. Williams uses his background in electrical engineering, control systems, AI, and machine learning to guide the applications and user experience for Modo Bio subscribers.
First, can you explain Modo Bio and what you guys do?
Modo Bio is a one-of-a-kind service that helps people take control of their health by linking them and their wearable fitness devices to a network of health professionals. They can also bring their friends and family into the loop, which helps with fitness accountability. Parker Condit, (co-founder) and I both thought it didn’t make much sense that people literally wear their health data, and yet that data isn’t shared with the people—doctors, dieticians, personal trainers, and the like—who could actually help interpret it and find ways to improve and maintain good health through diagnosis, treatment, and fitness goal setting.
So, we set out to find a way to do just that. Modo Bio was born from a vision to help people reach their health and fitness goals by adding a missing component–data from their wearable devices. They were already tracking their daily activities, food, sleep, and heart rate so we created a way for them to get that data to the providers who can use it to help them achieve total health and wellness. Subscribers have access to a network of telehealth professionals who can do just that. We currently support both Apple® and Fitbit® devices, and members can schedule telehealth consultations with medical doctors, mental health providers, registered dieticians, or personal trainers.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you became interested in making a connection between personal data and the healthcare system?
I had an international upbringing and education that led me along a winding path to the tech sector. I was born in Chicago, moved to Australia as a toddler, then to Dublin, Ireland, where I had most of my primary and secondary schooling. I studied Electrical Engineering at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght. I’d done some musical work and sound mixing after secondary school, which got me interested in the field. While I was at Tallaght, I worked on designing an internet-based heart rate sensor that could be displayed on another device, which was a bit of foreshadowing, I guess. After that, I got my MSc at the Imperial College of London in Control Systems Engineering, focusing on mathematical systems and runtime applications.
When I moved to Arizona and met Parker, the spark for Modo Bio was lit. He and I became friends while training together, and he had this absolute fixation on the inefficiencies of the healthcare system. As we talked about it—him from the perspective of a fitness trainer and me from a tech and engineering perspective—we realized that we could do something about the problem. The problem was that wearable fitness data existed and telehealth existed, but they were both in isolation. Plus, so much of our new technology is based on AI, but that’s not effective by itself. Someone’s fitness tracker can show them the data and suggest they get more sleep or more exercise, but that software doesn’t really know the person. Adding real-life health providers to the system just made sense. All those ideas came together, and here we are. We launched Modo Bio in 2020 and haven’t looked back.
Thanks for the background! How do your education and training fit into the work you do every day?
I work on the technology side of things, with the app developers and such, so having my engineering background helps me communicate our needs and vision to the people who make the applications and connections work. That’s a valuable skill, I think. Plus, an electrical engineering background and having done so much work on and studying systems really help me see the big picture and all the small components that make everything we do work together.
Modo Bio continues to pick up new subscribers and add new providers. It must be a lot of work to keep up. What keeps you motivated? What’s a “day in the life” like for you?
I guess I just focus on what we hope to be the outcome of the project but in small steps. To start with, it’s really nice to think that every feature and improvement we add could be the difference between someone not being interested and then eventually picking up the app for the first time. Then if we get over that adoption hurdle for someone, it could be the start of them taking control of their health and making a positive change. Then on the larger scale, if that happens again and again then that could result in seeing some kind of nationwide statistic that says that the country’s health problem X is down by Y percent. To think that Modo Bio could be partially responsible for something like that makes all the meetings and problem solving worth it.
As for the day to day, I typically wake up and do a Spanish lesson on my phone to shake off the dreamy head. I usually have a lot of early morning check-in meetings to attend and whilst sitting in on them I am answering questions from emails and on the various productivity platforms we use.
The rest of my day is for design meetings and taking care of other stuff on the business side. I do a lot of listening, from the people building our apps to the people using our app. It’s probably one of the most important things I do because it helps me find a balance between what we’re doing, what we need to be doing, and how we can make that happen. So, we’re constructing our systems based on ideas and requests from those people, plus our own ideas, and hopefully, it all balances out in the finished product. Then in between interacting with people I am usually writing design specs for the ideas or problems to be solved that pop up throughout the day and adding them to the roadmap.
I get my workouts in at night—I’m more of a night person when it comes to that. I also like to get in a journaling session every day. And finally, I end up sitting in a chair with the laptop either doing personal stuff or continuing some work task I want to get done before I sleep. This all with a reel of dorky science videos playing on YouTube in the background.
Are you an ideas guy? Explain your process for getting things done from notion to completion. Any advice for hopeful tech entrepreneurs?
I am, but I get frustrated when an idea sits at a high level for too long. I want to break it down, dissect it, and begin working on the pieces of the whole. I’m an engineer, right? So, if we were building a rocket, I’d want to know where all the components for the rocket were coming from. I want to start with the lowest components and build it from there. And once things are built, I ask if it’s repeatable and scalable. If we can do it once, can we do it again? And can we do it again on a larger scale?
I would tell people looking to get into the tech sector that whatever you’re doing, to make sure you can assess its effectiveness, adjust and evolve for any “design flaws,” and be sure that the work is repeatable and scalable. Another thing I’d tell hopeful tech entrepreneurs is to question everything. Question yourself and your motivation. Take responsibility for your thoughts and ideas. Listen to what people really want from their technology and question how you can take those wants and turn them into something useful. Tech is only as good as the people it serves. If no one uses it, what good is it? And if no one is using it, question why and figure out how you can fix it.
You’re obviously a technology lover. Is there any good software that helps you stay on top of your game?
Obsidian! It’s a pretty nerdy notetaking system, but it works for me to put all my ideas in one place. If you’re willing to put in a couple of weeks to learn how to use it, it’s worth it. And it’s free for personal use, which is nice.
How about a book recommendation or a favorite quote?
I’m not much of a reader; I’m more of an audiobook person. I can get things done while I listen. Let’s see. I’d say, “Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. He has a ton of great advice about mindset and moving forward.” with “The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is kind of an interesting fable with some life lessons baked in.
Finally, where do you see Modo Bio headed? What are some things you’d like to do next with the software and the service?
Personally, I’d like to see us figure out a jetlag tracker to help me avoid feeling rundown when I fly internationally, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. I do really like seeing the trend of people taking responsibility for their health, and with our system, they have access to their records and data in a way that helps them interact with health care providers in a whole new way. I want us to expand on that, find ways to help people secure more of their health data, and really work with providers to take charge of their health and fitness as a team, rather than the old power dynamic of “the doctor says…”
I want to grow our membership and provider network to give people more options to be active in making decisions and setting goals for their own long-term health. I think we’re heading in the right direction. It all comes back to scalability and thinking, “How do we get this to more people?” That’s where we’re looking right now, so stay tuned for bigger things. www. modobio.com