Ian Shakil (E’06) is the co-founder and CEO of Augmedix, a health care documentation automation platform that rehumanizes the doctor-patient interaction and saves doctors many hours of paperwork. Ian found his passion for healthcare as a Biomedical Engineering student at Duke and worked in a variety of roles in the healthcare industry before starting his own company.

Duke I&E: Since your BME degree at Duke, you’ve always taken roles in the life sciences industry. Walk me through that discovery process for you.

IS: I’ve always been fascinated by high tech, and on top of that I want to be in do-good, mission driven organizations. Those two passions have brought me to healthcare over and over in my career. I studied BME at Duke because of the versatility of skills it gave me. My first job was a really cool rotational program at Edwards Lifesciences, and from there I went to Stanford, “the Duke of the west,” for business school where I maintained focus on healthcare and digital health.

Duke I&E: Why did you decide to go to business school, and what did you hope to get out of it?

IS: I had a really good run at Edward Lifesciences, where I had five managers and five unique rotations where I experienced a variety of both engineering and business roles. I reached a point where some of my direct reports had MBAs, and it was seen as a strongly desired qualification for me to have a graduate degree to continue to rise in that corporate environment. Additionally I wanted a moment to breathe and reflect, expand my network, and potentially hop into a different path – perhaps startups. I used the MBA experience as a bookmark to pivot into an entrepreneurial path, and of course Stanford is a perfect cauldron of innovation to make that happen.

Duke I&E: You started Augmedix after business school. What motivated you to start the company?

IS: I always knew I wanted to be in startups, but didn’t know if/when I wanted to found a startup. So right out of business school I started working as an employee at a young startup. Due to a chance encounter, as I was hanging out with friends a few months after I started my new job, I learned about the new Google Glass; at the time, no one had ever heard of it. I was flabbergasted by how cool it was, and I immediately asked, “What about applying this to healthcare and doctors?” A few weeks after that, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I quit my job and started Augmedix as the first Glass company. My cofounder at the time was a fourth year medical student at Stanford, and he dropped out to found the company with me. Four years later, we have over 1,000 people working for us.

Duke I&E: What were some of the challenges you faced when you first started Augmedix, and what are the challenges now?

IS: Our main challenge when we started was proving credibility so that we could get the investor community to take us seriously. We also needed the support of conservative health systems and organizations so they could entrust us with data. Proving that out was incredibly hard, and we did so with a lot of hustle and creativity. Now that the company has matured, our challenges are on team building and organizational dynamics so we can continue scaling and growing. Keeping everyone’s KPIs and workflow streamlined is important, especially now that Augmedix has offices in five different countries. In achieving harmony among the team, we’ve learned to hire slow and fire fast, that culture eats process for breakfast, and to hire ahead of the curve so we don’t have to be reactive and firefight for what we need for tomorrow.

Duke I&E: What do you want to say about the impact you’ve made with Augmedix when it’s all said and done?

IS: On a mission driven level, I want to say that we re-humanized doctor-patient interaction at scale. Doctors depend upon Glass and our platform of services like they depend on their stethoscope, every day. I want to be able to say that we’ve “bent the cost curve” and helped to alleviate the shortage of medical doctors in this country. Internationally, I want to say that we’ve created tens of thousands of high purpose jobs in countries that need employment, without taking away from the US job market. Financially, I want to build an iconic, enduring, highly valuable company.

Duke I&E: Any advice for current Duke students?

IS: There are no rules, so don’t follow the paths of people before you who take comfort in cookie-cutter jobs. There’s a million possibilities out there and you can build your own rules. It takes hustle, creativity, and a willingness to fail. Honestly, ask and you might get it. I encourage you to be unconventional, take smart risks, and surround yourself with great people so you can build a network from a young age. Focus on the karma of giving and getting. The other thing is that too many Duke graduates try to be generalists for too long. Go down that rabbit hole and become a master in some domain or function. You don’t have to do it for life but it’s great way to learn how to learn.

Life’s too short to not have fun. I’m having a lot of fun and I hope I inspire others to also have fun and pursue passions with meaning. Speaking of which, Augmedix is currently hiring and we would love more Dukies to join the team!

To learn more about Augmedix, visit its website.

To read about more Duke Entrepreneurs, click here.

Interview by Judy Zhu

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