Ariel Katz goes from undergraduate entrepreneur to data CEO
2015 alumnus makes 'Forbes 30 Under 30' list
You may not know Ariel Katz’s name, but if you ever hit the web looking for the right doctor, you know his work.
The 2015 Binghamton University alumnus is CEO and co-founder of H1, a connecting force for global healthcare providers as well as clinical, scientific and research information. Today H1 maintains detailed information on more than 10 million medical providers globally. In fact, H1 data populates the “find a doctor” portion of many insurance company websites, probably the most publicly visible aspect of its mission.
“Our mission is to connect the world to the right doctor,” explains Katz, a New York City native who made Forbes magazine’s recent 30 Under 30 list. “Patients don’t realize that it’s us because they don’t see our name. But if you’re a healthcare organization or a doctor, you know about us.”
H1, as it turns out, is Katz’s second successful business. He started his first not long after he transferred to Binghamton in his junior year, after stints at the University of Pittsburgh and Hebrew University. In the summer before his transfer, the psychology major participated in a summer research program at Columbia University, close to home. Once he got to Binghamton, however, he struggled to find similar research opportunities. And he wasn’t alone; friends at other universities shared their difficulties.
“I was basically like, ‘This doesn’t make sense; I’m qualified. There’s something broken here,’” remembers Katz, who did eventually join two research labs and conduct an honors thesis while at Binghamton. “During the summer of my junior year, I said to myself, ‘I need to solve this.’”
That solution became ResearchConnection, which aimed to link students with undergraduate research opportunities and graduate programs across the country.
He and the three other co-founders — Binghamton computer engineering majors Zach Feuerstein ’15 and Zach Lite ’15, and Columbia psychology major Kal Victor — scraped the internet and created searchable research profiles for every professor at every university in the United States. ResearchConnection boasted hundreds of thousands of student-users during its run, Katz says.
After students, the second-largest user base consisted of companies, who used it for marketing leads. At the time, this was irksome, but Katz later came to realize that he could monetize companies’ use of such data. After the partners sold ResearchConnection in 2016, Katz decided to do just that, with a focus on healthcare and medicine.
He co-founded H1 with businessman and entrepreneur Ian Sax. Feuerstein, the chief technology officer of ResearchConnection, became H1’s first employee in 2017, before leaving last year to found Breadboard, a company specializing in supply chains for electronics manufacturing.
Entrepreneurship has a definite learning curve, as the ResearchConnection team discovered. Team members raised about $40,000 from investors to get their business off the ground, no small feat for students with no prior track record of entrepreneurship. Katz read what he could online for tips, but ultimately it came down to putting himself out there, over and over.
“You email people, you fail a thousand times and you get one response. And one out of 10 meetings you manage to schedule actually works,” Katz says. “You just do it. If you fail, you try something else.”
When it came to signing up student users, the ResearchConnection team thought outside of the box — the doughnut box. They purchased 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts and distributed them at tables across the Binghamton campus in exchange for signing up as a user. As a result, half of the University’s student body signed up in under 24 hours, Katz says.
The Krispy Kreme campaign did land them in a bit of trouble since they didn’t receive prior permission to table. During its heyday, however, ResearchConnection received support from the University administration, and Binghamton University became an official partner.
“Ariel was just a different breed than most of the students who have approached me with an entrepreneurial project. He had already worked through the product concept and a business plan for ResearchConnection and was ready to answer every question,” Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose says. “I’ve met with experienced vendors who were less prepared than Ariel was in our first meeting. I was delighted to play a small part in opening the door for his first venture here at Binghamton and not surprised to learn of his subsequent success.”
Today: Healthcare. Tomorrow: Space?
Before its sale, ResearchConnection raised nearly $500,000, drew hundreds of thousands of users and employed a team of 20 people. In comparison, H1 is massive, employing 500 people; it has raised a total of $193 million from investors, and is currently valued at $773 million. Users — tens of thousands of people — are based in 90 different countries.
“It’s a whole different scale, a whole different ball game,” Katz says. “It’s a much bigger enterprise on the data side.”
Unlike ResearchConnection’s initial reliance on web-scraping, H1 combines purchased data with proprietary data sources, all integrated into one platform that fuels a portfolio of products. The company also partners life sciences organizations around the world with medical institutions, health insurance and digital health companies to fuel critical workstreams with trusted information on healthcare professionals and the work they are involved in. H1 also allows doctors to update their profiles to reflect their latest accomplishments, research work, affiliations and more.
Data available on medical providers is highly detailed, including specialties and research interests, what healthcare plans are accepted, referrals to and from which practices, and the types of medical conditions that patients have. Data points also include academic publications and any clinical trials the provider is conducting or contributing to.
That depth of information allows H1 to serve three main client bases; patients, when they use “find a doctor” pages to select their medical provider, are perhaps the most visible. Pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and insurance companies use H1 as well, to identify, engage and educate doctors on new therapies, evidence-based medicine and patient outcomes, for example. Doctors also use the site to connect with each other whether to refer patients, for research purposes or to find clinical trials.
Right now, Katz is committed to fulfilling H1’s healthcare mission, helping patients and doctors find the right opportunities. But he also has another idea that’s truly out of this world, dubbed “nature in space.” Today, only a few human beings live on the International Space Station. A few decades from now that math may change, but the basic human need for nutritious food will not.
That day hasn’t yet arrived, and Katz couldn’t find backers for the project — yet. In the meantime, H1 fulfills a more tangible and immediate need for access to healthcare information.
“Eventually, someone is going to need to grow fruits and vegetables in space — whether in two years or 20 years or 50 years,” he says. “The time for that idea will come.”