Benjamin Lefever of Certintell

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Benjamin Lefever, the founder and CEO of Certintell, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Certintell – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

For years, I worked with healthcare clinics that provide services to uninsured Medicaid users and other vulnerable populations through the biotechnology company Genenetech via telehealth. From that, I had the idea to provide telehealth technology and services to safety-net providers to improve access to care for their low-income patients.

There is a shortage of providers in primary care, particularly with safety-net clinics. Safety-net clinics provide comprehensive health care services to low-income communities. We support the ‘quadruple aim’ of health care, which includes:

  1. Helping safety-net clinics improve patient engagement. We support patient engagement by connecting our Certified Clinical Health coaches with patients in the home via our proprietary video and connected devices technology.
  2. Supporting population health in low-income communities. We provide a comprehensive health risk assessment via telehealth. This identifies patients that are at risk for complications around chronic and mental health challenges.
  3. Lowering the cost of chronic patients by supporting safety-net clinics through telehealth technology and our highly trained clinical staff. Through our proprietary workflows and connected devices, we decrease high-cost care settings like the emergency room.
  4. Improving health care worker satisfaction by providing staff support for high-risk chronic patients. Providers are overwhelmed. They don’t have enough to time to spend with their high-risk high-cost chronic patients. We integrate our clinical staff and use technology to help engage these patients that need additional support.

Through these four areas, we are closing the care gap.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

As the founder of the company, the top three challenges I experienced centered around fundraising, workload, and also recruiting talent once you’re able to expand. The fact is, it’s really hard for one person to run a company, especially in the beginning. The sheer amount of work you need to do as a single founder can be overwhelming, because in the beginning, you have to do everything yourself, including sales, marketing, engineering, and customer support.

Once a company grows and you’re able to hire, recruiting is also challenging. Learning to identify the right candidate based on a balance of experience and the culture you want to create at your company is a lot tougher than it looks. Like so many aspects of being a sole proprietor, it takes patience. You will make mistakes (I certainly did), and you have to learn how to both promote those who do well and to part ways with those who are not the right fit, which is never easy.

What does the future hold for Certintell?

We are growing fast with providers by integrating our solutions to help deliver quality patient care to high-risk, high-cost patients. We are starting to have conversations with payers. We’ve also partnered with the leading health plans with a focus on Medicaid and dually eligible plans to support their goals around patient engagement, which is where our future growth plans are rooted.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Des Moines?

As an entrepreneur, Des Moines represents incredible opportunities. The access to capital is there. Iowa State University is 30 minutes away. You have access to large businesses that can either help you succeed, or become your clients, and while that may be true in a lot of communities, what Des Moines provides is all that infrastructure with a clean slate. The community of business leaders, state government resources, universities, and other important connections for those starting out is very accessible.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to surround yourself with an exceptional team committed to the vision early on. This might mean giving up some equity, but it’s critical for early success. Pitch your startup to as many people as possible for feedback. Don’t hold things tight to the vest thinking someone will steal your idea – just make sure you have the right protections in place, and they won’t. It’s so important to get feedback on and practice your pitch, particularly as you prepare to raise capital.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series