ZappRx founder Zoë Barry tells Moneyish why it’s important to start fundraising early
Thirty-two year-old entrepreneur Zoë Barry entered the startup world with $100 in her bank account, $10,000 in debt on her American Express card and a vision to recreate the way specialty prescriptions are processed.
Growing up, Barry’s younger brother suffered from severe epilepsy and his condition required a complicated cocktail of prescriptions—all of which took a lot of time and energy to acquire. Because of the painstakingly long process Barry and her family endured every time her brother needed meds, she decided to create a high-tech system that would streamline the way specialty drug prescriptions are written and filled.
After graduating from Columbia in 2007, Barry was working in the healthcare field when she began developing the platform that would automate the convoluted prescription writing process. She is now on track to create a multimillion dollar enterprise.
Her company, ZappRx, simplifies the process required to order specialty medications, consolidating what is currently a multi-step, redundancy-laden and manual process. The platform collects and saves information needed to fill a prescription in one step and enables providers, pharmacists and payers to digitally interact with one another—reducing the need for fax and phone call interactions.
Barry tells Moneyish that she met her first few venture capitalists through recommendations from people she worked with on Wall Street. “Before my first investor meeting, I had no coaching, no mentorship—zilch. I remember being asked to email a pitch deck and it was at that point that I googled ‘startup pitch deck,’” says Barry. A few months later, after refining her deck and learning more about the fundraising game, she received her first $1 million of funding from Ryan Moore at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Atlas Venture. Barry says, “Most investments come in from business connections and the investor believing founders can execute when challenges crop up. It takes six to nine months to complete a financing, so don’t rely on pitch decks and cold emails!”
But before turning her dream into reality, Barry was in dire straits. With no experience in the startup world, she relied on guidance from venture capitalist Fred Destin, who she met after her first closing to do product work. “He really liked the minimum viable product (MVP) concept, a development technique which allows early adopters to provide feedback for ZappRx and offered to jump in and help us with user experience/user interface (UX/UI) design. He made me realize that it was okay to be a first time founder, a woman in tech and someone who didn’t know how to code, all in 7 critical words—don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Barry.
Since founding ZappRx in 2012, she’s raised $42 million and learned an invaluable amount as a female CEO. Her money has come from a variety of investors including Atlas Venture, SR1, Qiming and GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). For those with dreams of funding a startup, she says, “Start early. It takes about six months to raise venture capital money. There’s prep time where you warm up the market, and you need to get the jitters out with some throw away funds. You need to meet with a variety of investors and find the perfect mix of the right fund, the right individual partner at that fund and a fund in the right stage of its life cycle to invest in the stage of your company.”
In the five years that ZappRx has been in existence, Barry says she only just feels like she’s starting to be taken seriously. “I believe it’s much harder to be a woman in tech, but the tides are changing,” she says. When she didn’t make Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in 2015 after raising $8.8 million, closing three major pharma customers and hiring an entire tech team from Google—Barry was hurt. “I’ll never forget that, it stung,” she says.
Though her journey is far from over, Barry says she continues to be most surprised by the loyalty that has come out of team members who were willing to jump into roles at ZappRx. “They gave up jobs at real, big startups or major operations to come work with me,” says Barry. And while she acknowledges that entrepreneurs hit an astonishing number of potholes as they build a company from scratch, she says the keys to surviving are resilience, scrappiness and team camaraderie. “I’ve managed to rally my team with the tiniest of wins and keep them motivated despite catastrophic losses,” Barry says.
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