Olivier Chateau is co-founder and CEO of Health Union, where his vision and desire for innovation is a driving force behind its platforms, services, and solutions. During his ten years in pharmaceutical marketing, Olivier gained experience in consumer marketing, insight creation, digital technology and analytics, which he leverages along with extensive commercial knowledge of the healthcare market to develop unique opportunities that connect patients, professionals, and industry partners to improve health decisions. Olivier’s passion and enthusiasm for Health Union is contagious, inspiring the team to think bigger, to be creative, to do what hasn’t been done. His favorite saying (written on the wall in Health Union’s office) is, “If you believe your dreams are achievable, they are too small. Dream bigger.”
How did the concept for Health Union come about?
Health Union was created as a result of both personal and professional experiences that led to the discovery of unmet needs. As a professional marketer in the pharmaceutical industry, it was always a challenge for us to engage patients in meaningful ways. I then went through my own personal health challenge, and felt like information was spread all over the place. I wanted to find one place that would give me the answers that I needed for my specific challenge. These two experiences led to the creation of Health Union, a digital health company that creates condition-specific online health communities tailored to meet people where they are on their journey and deliver the information, support, and connection they seek.
How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was incredibly exciting and challenging at the same time. Transitioning from large corporate America to entrepreneurship was a roller coaster that nothing in life could prepare me for. It was a year of incredible achievement, as well as failures, and we learned so much.
What was your marketing strategy?
The marketing strategy was to generate awareness and interest among key decision-makers in the pharmaceutical industry. Because we had spent so many years on the client side, we had a lot of contacts, and were confident in the value Health Union would bring. We initially focused on leveraging those personal contacts and generating word of mouth. As we saw our vision to help people with challenging, chronic health conditions be successful, and saw the community development model working, we began replicating it. Providing new, original content daily, and moderating social interactions that fostered a safe and supportive environment proved to help these people live better and provide valuable opportunities for our clients. With more online communities, we expanded our team and our awareness efforts further into the pharmaceutical industry.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We learned a lot in the first two to three years, mostly by trial and error. Once we refined the community model, we were able to scale and expand to address many more chronic health conditions. From 2010 to 2018, we have expanded our family of online health communities to 19 chronic health conditions and expect to launch 15 more in the next 24 to 36 months.
How do you define success?
To me, success is based on creating value for all parties involved – the people impacted by these conditions, industry partners and our company, Health Union. We pride ourselves on doing well while doing good for people, and we see that every day through the number of people who visit, return, and engage both online and through social media. The sense of community is nothing short of spectacular. That’s success!
What is the key to success?
First and foremost, we never step away from our mission to help people, regardless of revenue opportunity. Our focus is on people, not profit. We believe if we bring value to people, we can then bring value to our partners, which in return generates value for the company.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Never give up! Entrepreneurship is hard and doing it right is even harder. In the early days of building a company, it is tempting to cut corners or take shortcuts at the detriment of doing it right. A business’s long-term value is realized when things are done right and there’s a true purpose that is far greater than generating revenue.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“If you think your dreams are achievable, they are too small. Dream bigger.”
“Facts are friends.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When you are challenged with selling the value of your services and differentiating your company and money is running out.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I am convinced that what we are doing is making a difference and creating value at the same time.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Understand your market extremely well. It is easy to focus on, or fall in love with your idea or product, but understanding how it will deliver value in the marketplace is the real challenge. How will differentiation be created and valued? How will success be measured?
Finally, company culture is not a nice thing; it is the only thing. Culture in a small company defines everything people do and is the single fastest enabler of future growth. We wouldn’t have achieved the impact or success we have today without the people who make up Health Union. People leave bosses and company culture, not products or marketplaces.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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