A Slice on James Bates, CEO and Founder of AdviNOW Medical
James Bates was a retiree turned entrepreneur. Bates took an untraditional path later in his life, having devoted his professional career to the innovation of self-driving cars, he engaged with clients like Tesla, Google and General Motors until he finally retired after 25 years. Left with time on his hands, he (unlike typical retirees) started to brainstorm his next big thing. He set his sights on the healthcare system, calling it “the biggest issue of our time” and founded AdviNOW Medical in 2016. AdviNOW utilizes augmented reality and AI to allow patients to perform their own assessments, eliminating the administrative burden involved with a doctor’s visit. Cutting down on time and costs for medical professionals, the self-assessments and self-administered vitals are sent directly to a patient’s provider before they even walk into the office. In its series A round, AdviNOW has found its way into clinics across the U.S with plans underway for more expansion in the coming year.
Bates founded AdviNOW in 2016 and knew right away he needed the “best in the biz” when it came to his team. Finding a slew of fresh engineer talent in the pool of recent ASU grads, he hired a starting lineup and shifted his focus to the physicians themselves. “The biggest bonus is, we had access to every medical professional you could ever want. You know, we’re nestled between three very large hospital systems, and we created relationships in all of them: Banner Health, HonorHealth and Mayo Clinic. The learnings from those hospital systems and having access to those doctors has been tremendously valuable.”
When breaking down the financials of those in the medical field, the common understanding is that everyone working in healthcare is financially well off. Taking a deeper look into the cost structure of healthcare clinics, Bates found that not all doctors are “rolling in the dough” and that greater than 60% of clinic costs are administrative. “It’s a waste. Essentially, it’s what doctors, front office and back office staff must do, such that they get paid by the insurance companies, and they don’t get sued by their patients.” Bates understands he can never replace doctors, rather AdviNOW completes tasks that doctors and medical assistants won’t have to do. “Every doctor I’ve ever talked to has said: ‘yes, the app innovation is correct.’”
Feeling confident, with doctors backing his vision, Bates tackled a new hurdle: fundraising. “It’s [fundraising] not fun. The reality is, that was something I was not ready for.” Coming from the corporate world, fundraising capital was an entirely new challenge Bates had to face. Rather than selling ideas to CEOs and CFOs, he now pitches to investors who look for completely different things when making decisions. Getting to know his audience and how to pitch to them has been a learning curve for Bates over these past years. “Any founder that tells you fundraising is easy, is a founder that has already been through the hard times of fundraising. They’ve already had an exit and they were successful, so they have people invested in them, not in their idea.” Bates observed that once a founder gets into the rhythm of fundraising, it can be less challenging to continue that process with other businesses.
Continuing his “first-time founder” journey, Bates made a few more memorable observations, a major one being: know when to ask for help. Knowing when to look outside yourself, and to lean on a mentor or other industry leader was a thoughtful learning for Bates, and one he would share with any aspiring entrepreneur especially when it comes to money and the healthcare industry. “Know your market, how long it’s going to take and make sure you have the money to get there.” Raising money earlier on can help move along the process, and investors will likely have good insights into your business. The healthcare industry can be especially challenging to enter, due to slow adoption rates, so it helps to have more guidance navigating that process as a first-time founder. “I put the initial $2 million of seed funding into my company because I didn’t want to give away my company. But by the time we did that, when I tried to bring in people, they still wanted that large chunk. The reality is, they probably could have helped with the things that, as a first-time founder, I would have needed help with.”
Bates’ personal investment wouldn’t stop at $2 million, to date he has invested upwards of $6 million of his own money into the business. He’s consistently stayed true to his belief in his idea even when faced with difficult times like COVID-19. Bates’ large clients put AdviNOW on hold, clinics closed, and revenue dried up. In fall 2020, the tides changed for AdviNOW, clients came back asking for immediate help. “There are always challenges but as long as you know the vision is there, you find a way to survive. It really makes it worth it when it comes through.”
James Bates has a background in electrical and electronics engineering and has devoted himself to revolutionizing the traditional medical visit through AI and AR. He currently serves as Founder, CEO and Chairman of AdviNow Medical in Scottsdale, Arizona. Connect with Bates on LinkedIn.