February marked a milestone for Infinitus as we celebrated five years. From the initial spark of an idea, to the role Bruce Willis played in early tests, to the real change Infinitus is effecting on the healthcare ecosystem today, it’s been quite a journey. 

As we reflect on half a decade of Infinitus, we sat down with Infinitus Co-Founders Ankit Jain and Shyam Rajagopalan to gain insights into the highs, the challenges, and the invaluable lessons learned along the way.

Here are their answers to five questions in honor of five years of Infinitus.

Q: Starting a company is obviously a lot of hard work, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t had fun along the way. When you look back at the last five years, are there any memorable moments that stand out? 

Ankit Jain: We knew it was kind of a crazy idea to assume that humans at call centers would talk to a machine. We thought, before we give up our jobs, why don’t we try a test call to a payor and see whether they will talk to a machine? 

We called UnitedHealthcare, and it was a little bit of a gimmick where we had recorded a machine saying something like, “Hi, this is Eva calling on behalf of Bruce Willis, and I’d like to collect benefits.” The first agent we called hung up on us. 

We were like, oh boy, maybe this is a terrible business idea. But Shyam said, “Why don’t we give it a second try?” And the second agent took the call. We were like, “Ah! This person’s talking to a machine!” And we just kind of talked about Bruce Willis. It was that moment of inspiration that made us go, there’s something real here. Let’s go build it.

Shyam Rajagopalan: There were a lot of interesting moments where we accelerated some launches at breakneck speed that first year. As we got our first pilot landed, one of the things we realized is we had this incredible system that allows people to make phone calls on behalf of providers and pharmacies and get the information back … but we had no way for them to actually interact with us and send us their requests. 

We’d signed up a pilot, and then within two weeks we needed to build an API, a web application. And the two or three of us that were here at that time were able to build an entire web application, documentation, and APIs, and launch everything in those two or three weeks. Looking back, I didn’t think it was possible. I look back and say, “Wow, that’s a startup, right?” You can just launch a full enterprise application in a few weeks, the kind of things that would take large companies months and months.

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice that you’ve been given along the way?

SR: Ankit always tells me to be fearless, and I’ve been trying to do that over the years, and that’s what I tell all my engineers as well. We all have this echochamber of belief that we can solve really challenging, seemingly impossible problems and work together to make it happen. It’s a value I really hold dear to my heart.

AJ: As we’ve gone on this journey, the thing that I’ve realized is, in most cases, it’s a question of when, not if. That’s true about us getting our customers. That’s true about the inevitability of what we are building. 

People should not be making these phone calls. People should not be receiving these phone calls. All of this needs to be digital. And the way you get to that endpoint of building a digitally connected healthcare system is grit. Healthcare isn’t the easiest place to effect change in, but I think it’s our team’s grit that is pushing us through. It’s our customers’ grit and wanting to change that and adopting these technologies that’s going to push this ecosystem forward.

Q: What are you most proud of so far in Infinitus’s journey?

AJ: The team that we’ve put together. It all comes down to people. It all comes down to the ideas and the execution, because you can have a thousand ideas, but you can’t deliver on them unless you have the people that can build on those ideas and execute on them. And we have an incredibly passionate group of folks that really want to use technology to improve healthcare. And bit by bit, we’re delivering on that. 

SR: I’m also most proud about the team. It’s something that’s very special at Infinitus. Everyone is so excited about the problem, and they take full ownership. People are not only passionate about the problems we’re solving at infinitus, but passionate about the larger healthcare ecosystem. In the early days, a lot of the company came into Infinitus never having worked in healthcare before, including me. The fact that we have inspired so many people to be really excited about this problem space, it’s something really cool that we’ve built.

Q: Based on what you’ve learned from this experience, what advice would you give someone who hopes to one day be in your shoes and start a company?

AJ: Leading with the customer pain point is so critical. Before starting Infinitus, Shyam and I spent a decent amount of time validating the market, going to potential customers and saying, “Would you pay for this? And how much would you pay for this?” The advice I have for anybody who’s enterprise-focused is: sell and then build rather than building in a vacuum and then iterating in that vacuum until you have the perfect product. 

SR: The thing that makes people succeed at a startup is not creating any boundaries around your role. When you first start a startup, you’ll be one of maybe two people, right? If you’re an engineer, you have to be willing to do front-end engineering, back-end engineering, machine learning. You have to be willing to do everything that’s required. And the interesting thing is, even as a company evolves into an early-stage or mid-stage startup, those things still happen. 

The best product managers can go in and do analytics queries. The best engineers can define product features when there’s no product manager. Even today, the most impactful engineers we have are folks who have no boundaries and just own things end to end. It makes you really successful at a startup.

SR: And it makes you successful everywhere. Not just at a startup, but also wherever else you may go in your career.

Q: Any closing thoughts, as you look ahead to the next five years and beyond?

SR: This experience has almost been like having a baby. When I had my first baby, somebody told me, “the days are long and the years are short,” and I’d say the same thing about Infinitus. Every day is an interesting challenge, and you have to have that grit to get through it. And then you zoom back out and look at five years like, “Wow, we’ve built a lot of amazing things over the last five years, but they were built with one hard day’s work at a time.”

AJ: It doesn’t make sense that it’s been five years. It still feels like we’re just getting started, and I think the idea that there’s so much ahead of us continues to excite me, scare me, and make me want to somehow slow time down so we can do more.

Infinitus is transforming the healthcare ecosystem, but that’s impossible without our fearless, determined customers. To learn more about how healthcare organizations – from Fortune 500 payors to patient support programs and everyone in between – are embracing AI to create a better future, check out some of our customers’ success stories.