One advantage of car travel is being able to watch a landscape turn. Back in Chicago, my hosts had sent me off with a bag of popcorn—a sample from their daughter’s new business—and it became my road trip snack of choice. As I drove east from Cleveland, through Buffalo and the Adirondacks, I found myself munching on the popcorn, blasting the AC, and watching the scenery unfold as if it were a summer blockbuster. The plains of the Midwest gave way to woods and lakes. Formerly wide and straight roads were introduced to this crazy thing called curvature. I coasted along, happy to be reunited with a place that looked and felt more and more like home. I eventually made it to Maine, where I met another Chicago-based entrepreneur, Tracy Heilman ’88, at her lakeside summer cottage.
How bout them Adirondacks?
While this house is mostly devoted to vacation rituals like laying in the hammock and riding bikes, I learned that it is also the site where she and her future business partners retreated almost ten years ago and drafted the groundwork for their new company—Subimo.com. Before it was acquired by WebMD, Subimo helped consumers detangle the world of healthcare by providing valuable, digestible information. Tracy had previously been working for a company that collected data on behalf of businesses in the healthcare industry, but she recognized that the insights gathered would be useful to consumers as well. At the time the Internet was relatively new, but it seemed like a great way to connect people with the information they needed. Needless to say, she and her colleagues were right!
Now, after selling the company and learning a lot about the industry, she’s moved on to a new venture called ConnectedHealth. Like Subimo, ConnectedHealth helps consumers better understand healthcare, but in this case, it’s the specific area of health insurance. The site will sort, compare and eventually sell different kinds of plans. If there’s anyone out there like me (befuddled, overwhelmed and pretty much shy of the industry altogether), and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone, this site will find an audience.
When I asked Tracy about her out-of-classroom experience at Williams and any potential connections to her career, she had a new realization. She was part of an organization (I believe now defunct) called 10 to 1, a student-run helpline whose hours were 10pm to 1am. Her job was to respond to any questions ranging from where to get good pizza to how to address depression. Today, the Web helps us answer many of those questions, but it’s comforting to know that even pre-Internet, Tracy had a thread of helping others running throughout her path.
The whole family! (Doesn’t this picture just make you want to swing by Goff’s)