Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I grew up just outside the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a small and loving family — my mother, father and sister. My father initially pursued a career in Minor League Baseball, later transitioning into accounting, and eventually becoming a salesperson in the telecom space back in the day. My mother dedicated 35 years to being a schoolteacher, while my sister worked for Accenture Consulting for over 15 years. However, she decided to prioritize a better life over burying herself in work, transitioning to become a full-time mother and chef.
My childhood revolved around constant athletic competitions and I had very little focus or interest in school. It felt like a whole-day event, but it never managed to capture my interest. Reflecting on my academic adventures now, it doesn’t seem to line up, does it?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My first job in the real world was working for Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Billy Ripken. I admire these two gentlemen for two things. First, they are very skilled at the game of baseball and second, they are incredibly meticulous about keeping their baseball stadiums clean and enjoyable for everyone.
There were many nights when I witnessed Cal and Billy, cleaning up the parking lots, by hand, to ensure that the job was done in the best way possible, setting an example for others. Humble and amazing life lessons there.
Later, I saw Cal Ripken Jr. at a conference I was attending, sponsored by the health insurance company I was employed by at the time. I hadn’t spoken to him for maybe five or six years at that point. At the end of his speech, he came through the crowd, slapped me on the back and said, “Hey Urban.”
A classy, classy guy! The life lesson here is to be kind, be loving, be focused and don’t be solely about yourself.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about your gratitude for that?
Here’s my short story that I like to call “3 Johns and Jeff.”
The first John that I met was a mentor when I began working for Cigna in the early 2000s. This John approached me just after I was recognized for winning several community health service awards and gaining significant media coverage. He welcomed me, mentored me and connected me with other executives who shared the same love in curiosity as he did. This support helped me advance many ideas and my higher education — John Murabito.
The second John that I encountered was the president of a Medicaid plan for a large integrated delivery network in Pennsylvania. I met him in my early 30s and he welcomed me into many conversations, great dinners, and supported my pursuit of higher education as I aimed to fit my skill set into different organizations. A great supporter and a stylish individual, famous for his bowties — John Lovelace.
The third John that I crossed paths with was John Yount, the chief innovation officer of FinThrive. I met John through several good friends and he took a significant creative risk on me. Although I’m not a traditional marketing, product or sales person, I excel in understanding people and personalities in ways that make deep, authentic connections to facilitate meaningful change across healthcare. John recognized this and helped me explore various ideas that led to what we now call our biggest idea — the Data Humanity Lab. Through this initiative, we make large data donations to improve health equity programs that positively impact families and households across the country in a meaningful way.
Finally, there’s Jeff, one of the smartest people I know, not from an analytical perspective, but from a puzzle-piecing, dot-connecting standpoint. Jeff is relentless in his learning and in supporting and teaching others. I’m truly thankful to have met Jeff Becker. He is a very important person in my growing career and in my life.
Can you please give us your favorite Life Lesson Quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Recover.” This simple word was passed to me by my father many, many, many times before he passed away at the age of 55 when I was 19 years old. The reason why he repeated this word to me so often was for me to understand that failure is inevitable in life and that I must be able to recover to find a way to achieve success, no matter what I choose to pursue. “Recover” is the ability to build grit, to build toughness. It’s a commitment to never give up, to never stop and always find a way. This is more than a mantra. It’s a piece that I carry with me.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Three characteristics that summarize myself, my little life and some early successes are:
Number one, recover. Know how to bounce back from failure or challenges.
Number two, be loving. Always lead with authentic love and acceptance — not aggression. Play offense, not defense.
Number three, be curious. Always aspire to learn, whether it’s in an academic setting or from individuals who have wisdom to share. Don’t stop learning. Keep downloading information for your brain!
All these personality characteristics became very helpful when I found myself at the age of 30 grappling with alcoholic addiction and going into rehab. I underwent a 30-day outpatient program and have been attending AA meetings for many years. Having been a big party guy throughout college and my adult life, I realized the need for a change. As I worked my way back from poor choices and addiction, my wife supported me, my family understood me and cared about me. Now, I can take my life experiences and make an impact in my career and community.
I took the best parts of my addictive personality and channeled them into a more highly functioning model to contribute something meaningful. I embrace being an alcoholic, as it means I am very aware that I cannot have substances. However, I am also very aware that I am a hard worker, much like many addicts in recovery who have overcome their active addiction.
Okay super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the technology or medical devices that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
I want to help health plans, providers, life science and health tech organizations better understand adverse life events at the individual and family household level. These real-world events are directly connected to how someone perceives and utilizes healthcare, influencing the duration of their healthy life. This is the human condition viewed through data, not just claims but real-world data. We aim to positively impact the workflows, models and programs used in the healthcare ecosystem today.
How do you think your technology can address this?
I work with many healthcare startups, and their most significant contribution that is evident in society now is their ability to facilitate meaningful human connections. This often serves as a supplement to and complement for in-person interactions. It’s a blending of the worlds of virtual reality and reality in a more harmonious way. Though it’s not perfect yet, it’s making progress.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
We have a very limited time existing as humans on this planet, at least to our understanding. With that said, I’ve always thought in a peculiar way. I don’t believe I’ve ever fit the exact mold of a high-achieving academic or businessperson. I simply like to make people happy and try to care about them in the most authentic way I can. Even if someone is a grumpy, negative person, I still do my best to show them love.
Given this perspective, I’ve always looked at very large for-profit organizations as places that need to change behavior to impact what they claim to do. For instance, health insurance organizations and healthcare tech startups all use the word health. In my view, if you’re talking about health, you better be a healthy individual, exhibiting behaviors and habits that align with achieving better health for the lives you serve. Unfortunately, this is not true for literally millions of companies with this word in their brand title.
Here at FinThrive, one thing we’ve begun to do is break the mold and lead with love to improve health, technology and life. We’re achieving this through amazing programs such as the data lab, our highly popular and visible podcast series, leadership articles and research partnerships as well. We don’t think about selling here. We think about partnering and focusing on the end outcome that has a notable positive impact on the healthcare system. At least, that’s how I think and many other impactful leaders here think the same way.
How do you think this might change the world?
Data donations and social good tech will undoubtedly make a significant impact!
In my opinion, every credit bureau should contribute to data donations for research. While these organizations excel at scoring human credit use and buying behaviors (so what), they often fall short in creating measurable “good” on a repeatable basis. Our data donations at FinThrive are breaking that mold and I challenge others to do the same!
Additionally, I believe the technology we’re advancing through AI and robotic process automation is incredibly helpful. It’s providing people with more time to focus on being human and executing deeper, meaningful impacts with others in their conditions, health and business positions. Deploying data donations is something I hope will influence other competitors and companies to follow suit. I want to “good bully” as many other companies as possible into doing something better than what they’re doing today.
With the data that I am familiar with at FinThrive and the technology we are developing, I do not see any drawbacks. However, I do notice many bridges that need strengthening to help healthcare and health plans worldwide do a better job. I anticipate that many health plans and healthcare providers will increasingly rely on technology beyond their current walls and sophistication levels. It’s an ongoing trend.