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Cedarians in (Zoom) Cafes Getting Coffee – With Midori Uehara, Head of Business Development


Welcome to the latest edition of Cedarians in (Zoom) Cafes Getting Coffee. Let's check in with Midori Uehara, our Head of Business Development.

Hi, Midori! You’re in San Francisco. What’s your go-to morning drink?

French-pressed coffee with a splash of milk or cream. We like Sightglass Coffee, and we make it from home. When I go out for coffee, I like to go to Blue Bottle. Usually I’ll have no more than two cups of coffee in a day, and I try not to drink caffeine after 12 or so. If I need an afternoon pick-me-up, I’ll opt for Diet Coke or tea—something with a little less of a jolt!

That’s some serious restraint. You came to Cedar fairly recently, after we joined forces with OODA. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you got into healthcare technology? What was your path after college?

I studied human biology in college, and then I went into management consulting right after graduating. That was a business boot camp for me. I’d never been exposed to the business world before—my parents are both scientists. I was working at Bain and Company, but I knew that I wanted to get back into healthcare and work for a mission-driven organization. So I started looking at opportunities to do that, and I found Castlight Health, which is also in San Francisco, and at the time was focused on cost transparency for the employer benefits market. I joined on the implementation side and worked with our employer clients and other stakeholders, including health plans and other third-party data providers, to implement our product. I found it very fulfilling to work toward a mission of improving cost transparency in the system—and to move from consulting, which was all strategy, to an operating company where we were actually looking to deliver a solution and install it. So that was my foray into healthcare technology.

Then I went to graduate school, where I completed a joint MBA and MPP, which is a master’s in public policy, and got a chance to work a whole host of other parts of the healthcare ecosystem, including at the policy level doing some projects with state governments. Coming out of school, I was looking for an early-stage opportunity where I could wear many different hats—and that’s when I serendipitously ran into Seth Cohen [co-founder and co-CEO of OODA Health] at a healthcare conference. He and his partner, Giovanni, were looking to start a company and trying to figure out who would be on the founding team.

It was destiny! And you all launched OODA in 2017. Now OODA is part of the Cedar team (yay!), and as a combined company we can align payers and providers to create a better consumer healthcare experience. Can you tell me how your role has shifted, and what your responsibilities are?

I’m really excited about the combined company. My role is head of our business development function. We're responsible for unlocking growth opportunities that are inaccessible through our standard sales. To give you a few examples, there are distribution partnerships with companies that have existing relationships within the market, with whom we can craft compelling joint go-to-market messages and strategies to mutually accelerate and grow sales. There are also some longer-term relationships that we're setting up with the established players—EHR companies are a potential area for partnership and combined growth.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity in your new role?

I think that the market is recognizing that there's a need for everyone to work together for better outcomes, and there's a need from providers for a drastically improved patient experience. So the confluence of those factors makes working in business development and partnerships super exciting. We're delivering a fantastic solution, and the market is recognizing the need for it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I love that my job is a mix of internal and external collaboration and meetings. I think an ideal day would combine those things, so that I would have an external meeting—in-person (safely!), so we could sit around the table with a partner, where there's mutual value to be created and excitement to move forward. We’d have a really energetic discussion about how we might work together, and then would follow that with some internal meeting time to identify opportunities or plan a partnership. So definitely a meeting-heavy, interactive schedule with enough time in between to prep and catch my breath—that's a great day for me.

Finally, what are you most passionate about, at work and in life?

I love combining ideas to solve a problem with a team—working with people who have different skill sets and experiences, and bringing those things together to achieve a solution. I think that's awesome. I really love the intellectual exercise of problem-solving combined with teamwork and collaboration.

And if I try to identify themes across professional and personal, I’m a big sports enthusiast. I grew up playing sports—I played field hockey in college—and I just love team sports. I've continued to play them. In my free time, I play in a soccer league, and I love the teamwork and the camaraderie on the field. I love getting exercise and having fun while doing it. The joy that I get from playing team sports is huge.

Thanks, Midori! Great talking with you.

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