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 Founder Spotlight

Shelli Pavone of Inlightened

Want to know what it is really like to start a company? In our Founder Spotlight series we have candid conversations with real founders about the good, bad and ugly of getting your hands dirty and building a business.

Meet Shelli Pavone of Inlightened. Inlightened is the only network of curated and vetted healthcare experts that leverages diversity, quality, technology, and transparency to facilitate collaboration, enable responsible disruption, and advance innovation in healthcare. We had the opportunity to speak with co-founder and CEO, Shelli Pavone to learn more about her journey, her passion for the healthcare industry and her love of travel and sparkling water. Learn more about Inlightened and the important work they are doing.

What’s your story? How did you get here?

We (Co-Founders Shelli Pavone, CEO & Michelle Higginson, COO) have spent our careers working in healthcare and startups. As part of that work, we had a front-row seat to many of the industry’s successes and failures. One thread that wove its way through all of them – lack of subject matter expertise and engagement. We embarked on extensive research, interviewing both innovators and experts to wrap our arms around the opportunity to fill this gap. We decided to build a business to fix what’s broken with expert networks, market research firms, and healthcare consultancies by facilitating collaboration between the boldest innovators and the brightest healthcare minds. Inlightened is transforming the delivery of healthcare professional (HCP) insights.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Inlightened is the only network of curated and vetted healthcare experts that leverages diversity, quality, technology, and transparency to facilitate collaboration, enable responsible disruption, and advance innovation in healthcare. There is consistent, recurrent feedback that healthcare innovations don’t address the needs of their target market and miss the mark in terms of improving care and outcomes. We created Inlightened to bridge the knowledge gap that contributes to these issues, and enable access to valuable insights. Our goal is to eliminate obstacles and empower the healthcare community to design solutions that will actually succeed in making an impact. Clients span stealth-mode and growth-stage digital health startups to leading life science organizations, with use cases across due diligence, product development, and clinical trial staffing.

How many pitches did you give to get funding?


What keeps you up at night?

What keeps me up at night is passion to revolutionize the healthcare industry and make a positive impact on people’s lives. The endless possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead of us are both exciting and daunting. However, the thought of waking up every day with the opportunity to make a real difference is what drives me forward. I strive to make the right choices that will not only ultimately impact the business, but hopefully healthcare innovation as a whole.

What is your favorite beverage?

I’m a sparkling water aficionada.

Are you a risk-taker and/or how did you learn to embrace risk-taking?

I’ve been working in healthcare for more than 20 years, with incredibly valuable experiences across pharma and health tech. I wouldn’t say I’m a daredevil, but over that sort of career, you get comfortable with a certain level of calculated risk. That’s where the magic happens.

Have you had to pivot since your initial idea/product/solution?

We’re still driven by a mission to democratize access to diverse, quality insights through Inlightened. So I wouldn’t say we’ve pivoted so much as the use cases we had foreseen – competitive intelligence, due diligence, product development, etc. – have ballooned. As we’ve significantly grown the network and expanded the talent of our supply side, we have been able to service virtually every client request that’s come our way, even the ones we never saw coming.

What is something that fits into the “If I knew then what I know now” category?

As female founders in health tech, we quickly realized how homogenous the field can be. It was so clear that value was provided through gatekeeping, and client needs are assumed and reactively served.

If the innovators – those designing solutions to improve things like policies, systems and delivery methods -are limited to sourcing experts from their own networks, we are missing valuable outside opinions, insights and expertise. Without these external perspectives, diversity in healthcare innovation is not possible, and nobody wins.

What we’re doing is not revolutionary, but we’re doing it differently than anyone else ever has. I think that’s been key to our success.

What are your passions/interests outside work?

I like to travel, explore the wine and food various cities (near and far) have to offer, and spend time with family and friends. I enjoy putting a lot of thought and effort into events and celebrations, big and small.

Do you have any pets?

A siamese cat named Shishito.

What is one thing people don’t know/misconception of being a founder?

I think there’s an assumption that you have it all together – you’re confident, you’re out there doing your own thing, and how amazing is it to build your dream over someone else’s?! But imposter syndrome is real, and there’s such a vulnerability to having your identity tied up in your business, and your employees’ livelihood.

What advice would you give someone starting their own business?

Push through – don’t give up. Throughout the Inlightened journey, we’ve had several people encourage us to push through the lulls, doubts, and disappointments that inevitably come with starting a new company. We used that encouragement to realign with our mission and stay the course.

The Founder Spotlight Series focuses on the entrepreneurial journey. At Buzzy Rocket we are passionate about helping entrepreneurs share their vision. Interested in participating in the Founder Spotlight Series? Contact the Buzzy Rocket team. 

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