Some people are smarter than others. Among the world's smartest are those with advanced degrees from Harvard and MIT.

Two such people got together to solve a big problem--the frustration that happens when patients get referred to doctors who are not the best qualified to treat their disease.

Those two people are Graham Gardner-- a graduate of Brown's medical and Harvard's business schools--who is cofounder and CEO and Julie Yoo, cofounder and chief product officer, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from MIT.

In 2014, their 93-employee Boston-based startup, Kyruus--(named after the concept of chirality "a form that cannot be superimposed on its own mirror image")--quadrupled its customer base in 2014 to cover 20,000 health care providers.

(The name refers to the different roles that physicians play as "researchers, educators, administrators, advisors, collaborators, consultants, or clinicians.")

Kyruus--which raised $11 million in a Series B round of financing in January 2013--is trying to solve a big problem. It cites research that 20 million times a year in the U.S., patients are sent to a provider who is not the right match for their condition.

This mismatch hurts patients. For example, Kyruus says that "one well-publicized study suggests that patients with ovarian cancer experience significantly better 5-year survival rates when treated by physicians who perform more than 10 ovarian cancer procedures per year."

How is Kyruus managing its rapid growth? Here are five of its growth principles.

1. Make meaning with mission

I found it amazing that Kyruus could hire so many doctors. After all, I had always thought physicians would be able to make the most of their intensive training by practicing medicine rather than being a corporate employee.

Not so fast. According to Yoo, "Physicians are increasingly unable to practice independently. Instead, they are health system employees and they spend so much time on administrative activities that they can't spend enough time seeing patients. Working at Kyruus, physicians feel that they can do their clinical work in a more meaningful way."

My takeaway is that startups can attract exceptionally talented people if they create an environment that does a better job than the competition at letting talented people work on what they believe is most meaningful.

2. Attract new talent through employees

Competition for the most talented people is fierce. Yet hiring a very smart person who does not fit with your startup's culture can be a very costly waste of everyone's time.

How do you win the war for talent that will excel in your startup? Encourage your employees to refer new hires whom they believe will work well in your company.

This is an important--but not exclusive source of talent for Kyruus. Says Yoo, "We have two talent source. First, is current employees who refer new hires whom they believe will fit well at Kyruus. And secondly we get people who are educated at local universities and work at large publicly-traded technology companies."

3. Get better customer solutions through diversity

There is an inherent danger in hiring too many people who are all the same--the conformity hampers creativity. If you put a value on diversity though--and you can get all those different people to respect each others' ideas--you can keep coming up with better solutions.

Kyruus hires lots of physicians and computer experts and gets them to work together.

This all starts with Yoo's appreciation for the value of diversity. As she explained, "I lived abroad--attending an international middle school with children of diplomats. I developed an appreciation for different opinions."

Kyruus incorporates this appreciation for diversity. "And when we have physicians and engineers in the same room, we want them to share that same curiosity about how each other thinks. We create a safe place to explore different ideas," explained Yoo.

4. Create a strong culture to speed up decision-making

If the CEO makes all the decisions, things slow down and that puts dangerous pressure on a startup's cash flow.

To avoid that problem, you need to hire the most capable people and embed them in a culture that frees them to make the right decisions without getting approval for each one.

Kyruus has created such a culture. Noted Yoo, "We operate on the principle that our people should be able to make a decision at 3am if needed. The culture values the best of physicians and engineers--high technical quality, data-driven decision-making, respect for the practice of medicine, and humility in serving our end-users."

Each startup has a different culture but Kyruus's suggests a useful principle--culture should empower people to make the right decisions without getting executive approval for each one.

5. Outdo your rivals

All this emphasis on people does not much matter if a startup can't grow faster than its rivals.

One way that Kyruus does this is through a sales strategy that signals to potential customers that it understands their problems and can solve them well.

Explained Yoo, "We have a different sales model--we don't use a traditional sales representative who follows the hunter archetype. We have a client director who is often a physician who can understand a health systems' challenges. The client director gets help from a clinical and technical expert during the sales process and manages the pre- and post-sales client relationship."

The principle here is that startups must use their talented people to deliver a better solution to the customers that they want to serve.

Put all five principles together and you can boost your startup's growth rate.

Published on: Feb 16, 2015
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