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Zac Jiwa

Chief Executive Officer


MI7 connects software to clinical data from the world's leading Electronic Health Record systems using a JSON format. MI7's product named "Q" delivers the perfect balance of elegant design, simple implementation, and budget ease. Q magically converts HL7 to standardized JSON - no matter which EHR the medical facility uses.

HTA - Tell us a little about yourself, your family and what inspired you to form MI7?
I am a Christ follower, husband to Megan, my bride of 17 years, and father to 4 under 10, Cade, Christian, Carter  & Colbie Grace . It may be cliché, but I attempt to prioritize the "F" words - Faith, Family, Fitness, Friends, Finance & Fun. I have always been driven by curiosity and the desire to help solve problems that are bigger than me - things that will make a positive impact for my family and friends long after I'm gone. Landing in digital health (or health IT as we used to call it) 18 years ago was purely by accident, but due to a few family medical issues at that time in my life, it became my passion and I've been pushing the boulder ever since!
MI7 was not wholly my idea. In 2014, I had just moved back to Austin with intent to focus on supporting the Austin digital health community. I was working with a private equity group based out of NYC and had some ideas that I was pursuing on my own when I was contacted by an old friend and mentor, Randall Baker (co-founder of MI7), who asked me to help him vet an idea that he and Richard Bagdonas (Technical co-founder) were working on. As I became more engaged, I saw an opportunity to extend that initial concept into a solution and business model to address a huge unmet need in the industry and the ability to solve one of the ugliest problems in the healthcare market: Interoperability! The problem has persisted throughout my career and it has been almost universally cited as the #1 barrier to innovation in healthcare. Sometimes it is hard to get excited about the infrastructure level of technology, but I believe that the problem we are solving is critical to move the industry forward.
HTA - You had a transformation with your personal health.  Can you tell us about that?
Sure, well, I was pretty athletic as a kid - I held my high school record in the mile and was the varsity basketball starting shooting guard. In 2000, I incurred a pretty nasty sports injury to my left shoulder and after two failed shoulder repairs and persistent pain, my physical activity pretty much came to a halt. I replace it with some pretty destructive behavior to my health for most of my 20s & 30s. When I moved back to Austin in 2014, I had just spent 3.5 years in South Louisiana, the land of  "laissez les bons temps rouler.” The capital of obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes was really not good to me and I found myself 50-60lbs overweight. After about a year of startup life, the stress was dramatically impacting me physically and emotionally and I realized that I had to make a change. Additionally, I saw 40 looking me straight in the eyes and I realized that I may not make it to 50 at my current pace (I think they call all of this a mid-life crisis?)
In December 2015, I decided to make a dramatic change. I started an extreme ketogenic diet, completely quit drinking alcohol and within the month had lost about 15lbs. In January 2016, I joined CampGladiator to add some cardio in order to accelerate weight loss and build some muscle. I need the team aspect to keep me motivated and I fell in love with the competitive nature of CG. By the end of February, I had lost about 45 lbs and was on my way to a total transformation. Last Summer, I set a goal to run a marathon before I turned 40. After 6 months of training, I successfully completed the Austin Marathon in February - a full 9 months before I turn 40!
I tell everyone, if you are committed, it's easy to get here. It's much harder to stay here - for me it's a constant battle and I'm always looking for the next challenge.
HTA - Tell us about your early mentors, and how they have impacted your career?

This is a really hard question for me. As I look back on my career, some of my early mentors came up pretty short and were major disappoints for me. I think that experience is what drove me to challenge everything. Sometimes I call it curiosity, but really it’s this incessant need to poke at things to see if they are propped up or if they are real. It’s super annoying I’m sure. The good news is, more recently in my career, I have gotten better and am more intentional about having good mentors. They have been invaluable in helping me over the last few years in the MI7 journey.
HTA - Can you share something about your experiences as CTO of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and as an Innovation Fellow at the Department of Human Health Services?
Working as an innovator in the government, both at the state level and the federal level are the most challenging roles that I've ever had! I have some pretty cynical perspectives, but the first point that I would argue is the words "innovation" and "government" are at conflict and in reality are a huge stretch. My experience left me with the sentiment that the role of government must be to protect and maintain the status quo. Change agents are often welcomed but rarely embraced. You can spend a lot of time and work really hard at driving things forward but those things can all be undone by the stroke of a politician's pen or a briefcase full of cash to the right lobbyist. Ok, I heard myself, that was super cynical, but it’s not far from the truth – much of what you see on House of Cards was based on actual events.
What I'll stick by is that in order to make a dent, you either need to be an elected official or commit to 20 years to public service. On a positive note, there are a lot of hard working public servants in government that deserve more credit than they receive; if you want to identify one, they are the ones in the building before 9AM and they don't leave until after 5PM. 
HTA - How do you learn?  What are you reading?
The simple answer is, I learn by doing. I have any number of close personal relationships that I tap into for advice and I try to learn from others, but sometimes you just have to "do" to learn. I think I am pretty good at not making the same mistake twice; willingness to make the mistake in the first place is critical.
I "read" with my ears. Audible and Podcasts are how I absorb. Right now I'm in Isaiah 23, I am about halfway through Traveling Light by Max Lucado, and I’m on Chapter 4 of The Founder's Dilemas by Noam Wasserman. I'm a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History, The Tim Ferriss Show, Freakonomics Radio and Radiolab and will bounce to one of those for a good long distance run. 
HTA - When you are recruiting team members at Mi7, what do you look for?
Integrity, curiosity, hunger and the ability to think on your toes. I am especially fond of anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry as a server - there is a basic level of EQ that goes along with waiting tables and you have to sell yourself first or you will starve. 
HTA - Who are your ideal customers?  How do you reach and close them in the sales cycle?

With any company, an ideal customer is one that pays on time, is low maintenance and are great referrals. We spend a lot of time at MI7 thinking about the right client and we are perfectly comfortable saying “we’re not the right fit,” but as I look at our client base, the best are the ones who look at our relationship as a partnership. We have built our business model such that we are tied to the success of our clients and interestingly enough the model itself tends to drive us toward a natural alignment in the sales cycle. We look for symbiotic relationships.
HTA - What was Mi7's journey like to get where you are today?
It has been an interesting ride to say the least. I explain startup life as a sine wave. There are peaks and troughs and over time you are trying to shorten the amplitude. We’ve been wrong about as many times as we have been right and our agility has kept us out of the troughs. Stephen Covey said it best, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing for us is our clients and we’ve gotten here by focusing on them. When we first started, we were always looking at the 3-5 year timeframe, planning, strategizing, trying to guess – It got a whole lot easier for me when I started waking up focused on today and not worrying about tomorrow.
HTA - Where do you want Mi7 to be in five years?
Regardless of incarnation, I want MI7 to be major force in enabling innovation for the healthcare industry. Our healthcare delivery system is broken. Most want to blame that brokenness on politicians in Washington, DC – and they deserve their fair share, but I still believe that innovative digital health solutions can change the way that we seek, deliver and pay for care. But those solutions will need to interact and transact data that is being generated by hundreds of thousands of siloed systems today. Our current mission is to commoditize and democratize interoperability in healthcare. My vision for MI7’s future is to be a key enabler of innovation in medicine by connecting the world’s health data.
HTA - Are there any civic groups or volunteer organizations that you support?
Our family supports Mobile Loaves & Fishes and their Community First! Village. I love what Alan Graham has been led to do in this city and we do what we can to contribute to their mission.
I also do what I can to support Dell Medical School in their efforts to drive innovation by serving as an Advisor to the Texas Health Catalyst. I am also a sucker for volunteering to help other digital health startups in the Austin community. I tend to get a call once or twice a month to talk to a new startup or someone wanting to move their company to Austin where I am happy to play Austin’s digital health community advocate. I love this community and I want to see it become the epicenter of digital health in the US!