Will Young is the Co-founder & CEO of Sana Benefits, a new kind of tech-enabled health plan that helps small and medium businesses save up to 30% on costs while offering great benefits.
Prior to Sana, Will helped hundreds of small business owners manage payroll and benefits as the head of operations at Justworks, a venture-backed PEO.
Will developed his passion for technology working at Google. He has an MBA from Harvard and a BA from Stanford.
HTA - Tell us a little about yourself, your family and what inspired you to create Sana Benefits?
I grew up idolizing entrepreneurs. Both of my parents started companies and my extended family has a number of creative thinkers working on solving big problems. I wanted to find something really big, and really broken, to build a company around. You don’t get much bigger or much more broken than US healthcare. It’s exciting. If we are successful in building out our vision, we can really change the world for the better.
HTA - Tell us about your early mentors, and how they impacted your career?
My biggest/early business mentor was my father. He had his own strategic consulting practice and dinner table conversation often revolved around his work. He taught me about balance sheets and cash flows when I was in grade school, and sparked an interest in business strategy I’ve kept with me ever since. More recently, I had the privilege of working under an amazing entrepreneur and CEO - Isaac Oates at Justworks - who basically taught me the playbook for building a great software company. It takes a lot of work and no small amount of good fortune. But he also demystified the process, so it felt achievable.
HTA - What surprises you about the Healthcare Industry?
You have this huge chunk of our economy full of well-intentioned, highly trained people - doctors, nurses, support personnel, researchers, policy-makers - waking up every day trying to do a good job, but somehow the resulting system is just totally broken. The products and services are way too expensive, difficult to navigate and technologically backwards, and people largely hate interacting with their healthcare. It’s a paradox at the highest level.
HTA - There’s a lot of noise in Washington about health care reform. What type of health care policy do you think works best?
Policy debates in Washington these days are long on ideology and short on pragmatism. Our legislators are so entrenched in political camps that we are incapable of practical compromise to make the system better. The system is already excessively complicated, but directionally, we are in favor of more cost transparency, more user-friendly system design, and more competition.
HTA - What was Sana’s journey like to get where it is today?
When Nathan (my co-founder) and I started Sana, it was just two of us in a small room with a big mission and a blank whiteboard. It took us over a year to build the software and partnerships we needed to launch with our first customers. That was this past Fall. We are over a dozen employees now, and we still have a lot of building left to do!
HTA - In your opinion, what makes Sana Benefit such an innovative company?
We start with what’s best for the end user experience and work backwards into what our product and service should be. That in and of itself is not particularly radical, but if you really commit to doing that, I mean really commit to it, you build the whole company differently. You end up having to throw away most of what’s standard and build something totally new.
HTA - Sana has raised $2.7m. What is your secret to attracting investors?
I’m not sure we have any great secrets. We are going after a big market and we have skill sets that match the opportunity. I always try to be authentic and transparent - with customers, employees and investors. Our message resonates with some investors and not others. You just have to be persistent until you find the people who understand what you’re doing.
HTA - What are Sana’s core values?
Transparency. Treating our members and employees like human beings. Building better designed and better integrated products and services, and cutting out waste, to lower total costs for everyone.
HTA - Who are your ideal customers?
We serve small companies in Texas today that want to offer their employees great health plans at low cost. Customers can be as small as 5 employees or as large as 500. If you’re looking at benefits, reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org
HTA - How do you learn? What are you reading?
Learning by doing is how I learn fastest. That’s one of the reasons being an entrepreneur can be so fun - you just go out into the world and learn every day. That being said, I love reading. Before starting Sana, I was a voracious reader, but I am pretty behind on my reading list these days. Most books I take the time to read now have some sort of practical purpose for building Sana. On my nightstand right now are “Originals” by Adam Grant and the “High Growth Handbook” by Elad Gil. I’m trying to think about how you build a big business that lasts, and those books are helpful in that process.