Founder Spotlight: Zachariah Reitano, Ro CEO
This month, we’re sitting down with Zachariah Reitano, cofounder & CEO of Ro, a direct-to-patient healthcare company providing high-quality, affordable healthcare without the need for insurance. Ro’s services include telemedicine, in-home care, diagnostics, labs, and pharmacy.
Here’s a lightly edited version of the conversation:
Q: What advice would you give to founders who are currently building in the healthcare space?
A: Since our founding, there have been a number of changes in the digital health space—the biggest one being the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid pulled the future forward, and fast. During the pandemic, patients got to experience the convenience of healthcare from their homes and they loved it. Virtual care is now a much more popular place for patients to start their healthcare journeys. It’s on us to continue improving the patient experience and broadening the types of care we can provide.
The one thing that hasn’t changed for Ro over the years is listening to our customers. We are building a patient-centric healthcare system—that destination doesn’t change. Our core philosophy has stayed true and our north star has stayed constant throughout. Founders need to identify their own north star so when it comes time to be nimble in times of change, they don’t lose sight of their destination.
Q: You started Ro with a narrow and deep focus, figuring out how to do one thing really well and then expanded from there. Is this something you recommend all founders do or does this specifically apply to healthcare?
A: Great products — no matter the industry — take a long time to build. It’s key to have an extremely long term mindset. Ro has always, from an investment and technical standpoint, taken the longest view in the room. Since our founding, we expanded our platform to deliver high-quality, end-to-end care — from diagnosis, to delivery of medication, to ongoing care. Our vertically integrated platform seamlessly connects the most important parts of care delivery — the doctor’s office, labs, and pharmacy nationwide. Ro’s dedication to investing in the development of our platform has enabled us to now offer care for more complex, chronic conditions. But it has always been the plan to take on more complex care.
I would encourage founders to always have the longest view in the room based on their north star. With this in mind, every decision in between will become instinctual to fight for customers in any industry.
Q: What challenges did you face in starting Ro that you wish someone told you earlier on in your journey?
A: Over time, we’ve been more and more comfortable with a strong attract, strong repel culture. In the beginning, we were not as explicit about creating that kind of environment. But with time, aligning around that ethos has enabled us to better focus on what we’re trying to achieve.
Q: Can you tell us about the evolution of the company? What were some of the key inflection points, and what did you learn from those moments? Any regrets?
A: Even from our initial focus on Roman and a narrow set of conditions, we always knew that we wanted to establish end-to-end ownership of the care delivery process. Through strategic acquisitions and platform development, we have seamlessly connected all of the disparate parts of healthcare — the doctor’s office, labs, and pharmacy — on one vertically integrated platform. While we initially excelled in providing high-quality care for conditions like ED and hair loss, our platform has evolved to support complex care management for ongoing chronic conditions such as obesity, and we are open to supporting patients with more goals through Ro.
Q: You just launched The Body Program, a comprehensive obesity care program. In what ways will these products transform the future of the healthcare industry?
A: The Body Program is a comprehensive obesity care program that pairs the most clinically effective prescription obesity treatment, called GLP-1 medications (like Ozempic or Wegovy), with high-quality care (1-1 provider consultations, lab testing, nurse coaching, weight tracking, and 24/7 messaging) to help patients achieve their weight loss goals. The Body Program truly demonstrates our dedication to investing in the development of our vertically integrated platform.
Obesity care isn’t only about weight loss, it’s about helping people live healthier, longer lives. The clinical evidence that treatments like Wegovy can help patients achieve these goals emphasizes just how important it is to dramatically expand access to this treatment option. With growing evidence, patient demand, and convenient telehealth platforms like Ro, we can break down barriers and get this treatment in the hands of the millions who need it.