Samar Parikh is a consumer-focused healthcare innovator. Currently, he is the co-founder and CEO of Pathfinder Health, a digital health app that uses machine learning and behavioral science to maximize child developmental potential to enable better family outcomes. Prior to Pathfinder, Samar launched D8aDriven, an ML/AI-based eCommerce optimization software company. He spent over six years at Amazon where he helped lead Amazon’s entry into healthcare, including prescription pharmacy. He has also served on corporate boards and is an advisor to other health and technology startups. Most of all, Samar cherishes his time as a father.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
Growing up I moved around a bit, but most of it was in Waltham, Massachusetts. I also lived with my uncle’s family in India for a few years in both elementary school and middle school. I struggled a lot while growing up and I had a difficult relationship with my parents. Throughout my childhood, I felt pretty alone, not really fitting in. While in India, I was an outsider because I had come from the States, but in the States, I was an outsider because I was from India. Plus, I didn’t really develop my social skills until much later in life, so I had a really hard time making friends. As a result, I also had a lot of time on my hands. I would spend this time in books and trying to solve really hard math or science problems. When I was young, I wanted to become an inventor. Reading about Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, I knew I wanted to build things that helped solve big problems. The adversity I faced early on helped build resilience and grit. Eventually, my experience also helped me identify that I wanted to have a positive impact on people, especially kids, which is why I started working at Children’s Hospital Boston when I was 15 and haven’t stopped working with kids since. But most importantly, I knew that I wanted to be the best father I could possibly be when I had my own family.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I started a business of doing other people’s homework when I was young so I would have some spending money to buy science kits and music albums. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I gave it a go on some ideas when I was younger, but after losing what was a lot of money at the time, I knew I wanted to build my skillset so I could do it right and do something big. After the Army, I sought to build that skillset – business school, finance, then operating at the intersection of technology, healthcare, and consumer goods at Amazon. Oh my god, I learned a lot at Amazon, but there was always something pulling at me. So, I decided to start D8aDriven in 2019 which I bootstrapped and became the cash flow for Pathfinder which I started in 2020 and it took me back to my roots and in the space, I really wanted to operate – helping children and families
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Validate your assumptions as early as possible, especially about whether there is a market or need for your product. When we started D8aDriven, we already had a few customers lined up – we experimented together to build what is truly a standout product in its segment. At Pathfinder Health, we did the same thing, this time with the largest potential customer we could get. I see too many founders who have built an awesome product or solution that’s looking for a problem to solve, often because they built it based on their biases or assumptions, but didn’t validate it early on.