Sehreen Noor Ali – Co-founder of Visible Health

Episode 64

My guest Sehreen Noor Ali is the co-founder of Visible Health, a VC-backed startup that crowdsources expertise to help parents better navigate their child's developmental health path. She is an award-winning growth strategist working at the intersection of technology, business, and inclusion. Sehreen started her career as a public servant and diplomat, helping execute President Obama’s initiatives in entrepreneurship, education, and innovation in the Middle East and South Asia. Later, she led business development for and built out the sales functions for three start-up teams at Kaplan. Sehreen is a startup advisor, founder of EdTechWomen, and on the Advisory Board for SXSWedu. On today's show, Sehreen shares the personal story behind what inspired her to start Visible Health, and she talks about how she raised capital for the startup, the importance of asking for help, and much more.

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Kara Goldin: Hi, everybody. It’s Kara Golden from Unstoppable with Kara Golden and I’m here today with a very, very special guest, very excited to have Sehreen Noor Ali on the podcast. Hello, how are you?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Hi. I’m good, Kara. How are you?

Kara Goldin: I’m good. I’m good. Sehreen is the co-founder of an incredible company called Visible Health and if you aren’t familiar with it, we’re going to chat a little bit more about what she’s up to. Sehreen and I actually are in this incredible list, it’s called B List and it was co-founded by Rachel [Squar 00:00:40] and Gwynneth and we are super, super excited that we were able to connect here. And I love what she’s doing and so I’m super excited to just let everybody know a little bit about what she’s up to. So a little bit about what, just overall, what Sehreen has been doing and where she came from and a little bit about overall what Visible Health is too.

But first of all I’m going to read a little bit about your background which is so, so incredible. You’re a graduate of Brown and Harvard and then you started your career at the U.S. Department of State as a public servant and diplomat helping execute President Obama’s initiatives and entrepreneurship. Very, very exciting. Education and innovation in the middle east and south Asia, that’s a continuation of the first roll up, actually. Later she led business development for Noodle and built out the sales functions for three start up teams at Kaplan. She is a start up advisor, founder of Ed Tech Women and on the advisory board for Essex SWE… is that how you-

Sehreen Noor Ali: South by Southwest Education.

Kara Goldin: Oh by South by Southwest… okay, I should know that. Come on. And not the very least of what she does, she’s a mom of two incredible little girls and today we’re going to talk a little bit more about why she created Visible Health and what she’s learned along the way on the entrepreneurial journey. So welcome, welcome Sehreen.

Sehreen Noor Ali: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Kara Goldin: Yeah. Super excited. So talk to me a little bit about Visible Health and what… I mean, you left really incredible roles in government and decided to do this. So what was sort of the itch that you got you to ultimately move this forward?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Well I feel like it’s a story of making lemonade from lemons. So I actually had to leave my job in 2018 at Kaplan because my daughter got diagnosed with a medical condition. And it became very clear that there was no way I was going to be able to work if I really wanted to find out what she needed. And so I think oftentimes when… I went in being like, “Well, it’s a medical condition, there must be a straight path of treatment.” And nothing could have been further from the truth. And so in the year that I ended up working on setting up her care and investigating, quite frankly.

I realized that there was a ton of other parents like me who weren’t getting their questions answered from the medical system. And they were turning to other parents for help. So it was anything from, “You know what, my pediatrician told me to wait and see but I have this nagging feeling that my child’s inability to walk is linked with the fact that they’re not talking that much. What should I do?” And so when I was thinking about going back to my career, I had the opportunity to join a startup generator and at that point, it was fairly de risked, I had already not been making money and so I made the decision of, “Let’s see.” I know that there’s a market here for parents who are underserved when it comes to health information. Let me just see what happens. And what happened was I met a co-founder who became passionate about this problem after I explained to him what I had seen in the marketplace. And so that was the genesis of Visible Health.

Kara Goldin: Very, very cool. Prior to this… I mean, when did you actually start Visible Health? In 2018 or when you were-

Sehreen Noor Ali: No, 2019. So October 2019 and then we got our first set of pre-seed funds two months later.

Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. And so had you always been in New York or were you actually [crosstalk 00:04:46]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: No, not at all. Yeah, so I moved to New York in 2011. So I feel like enough time has passed that I can say I’m a New Yorker but I lived in DC before that when I was with the state department and I traveled to several different countries with the state department.

Kara Goldin: That’s right. What do you think are some of the issues that parents have just around having kids with special needs? What do you think above and beyond trying to find networks, what do you think is kind of the biggest challenges [crosstalk 00:05:14]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah, well I think it depends on where they are in the journey. By the time you’ve sort of identified that your child has special needs, I think what you’re working against is a sense of invisibility. You’re fighting an education system where you might not be able to get the resources you want. You’re so mired in the medical system that it’s not clear to you which specialist is really in charge of your child’s care and you’ve already had the realization that, actually, as a parent you’re in charge of your child’s care. And that’s really tough.

And on top of that you have the social aspect, right? I hear stories from parents all the time about how their kids can’t get play dates with anyone because they don’t understand what their child is going through. And I think of all the stories that I’ve heard, it is that component of the social, lack of social connection, that’s the most heartbreaking. If you’re in the beginning of the journey, it’s also very scary because you’re a new parent, you think something might be challenging your child but you’re not getting the information you need and so you’re going to WebMD, you’re going to Dr. Google and all of them say go to your doctor and you’re like, “Well, I just went to my doctor. What are you offering me in terms of additional information?” And so that’s a very scary uncertain point too but you’re not so seasoned that you know where to go to yet.

Kara Goldin: That’s interesting. And so it’s primarily parents or who’s ultimately crowd sourcing into this?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah, it’s parents. So one of our thesis is that the more information sources you have about health, the better, as long as it’s data driven. And in that line, parents especially are really important experts because they see the longitudinal time frame of a condition, right? They’re seeing it from the moment that they get concerned to hopefully the moment that it gets resolved or at least treated. And that information is not always captured by the medical system because you go in as a parent, one, you’re scared you’re not always remembering what to write down. And, two, as a parent, you’re dealing with things that sit outside the medical condition, like medicine.

So for my daughter, for example, she gets speech therapy. And I remember talking to our speech therapist and asking her when we were doing research like, “What do you wish the medical system would tell a parent?” And she’s like, “I wish parents knew that there isn’t any doctor who is a specialist on speech in the early days.” Your pediatrician isn’t an expert on speech. ENT, not an expert on speech. A speech therapist is an expert on speech. And so crowd sourcing parent’s expertise with all these different touch points of a treatment actually give us more data points than if we had just gotten the same medical record. And that’s why it’s so important for us to crowd source the story from the parent and then use our matching algorithm to share that story with another parent.

Kara Goldin: Interesting. Before Hint, my husband’s actually our chief operating officer, but before Hint, he actually came into a start up that was… he was an attorney prior in tech in his previous life and there was a doctor that founded a company in the early 2000s called Z Medics. And he actually was a colleague of my father-in-law and so that’s how they met. And anyway, it was a company called Z Medics and what they were doing was actually taking your patient interview and your concerns and they were asking experts from all over the world like they had Crohn’s disease, for example, like what were the additional things that you could… that you should be thinking about, what additional tests, et cetera, that you should be looking at.

And as these questions started coming in, they’d go out and find these experts. So there was just like… so the thing that, their sort of purpose was that oftentimes you go to your local doctor and you’re relying on them but they’re not really experts maybe in the thing that you’re looking for. Or they’re just human, right? So they’ve got one opinion and so if you could crowd source this and so anyway, it was way before its time. This is almost… it’s 20 years ago when they were doing this. And they ultimately ended up running into HIPAA laws and some issues around it. And then they sold it off to the Bosch Foundation in Germany. And it’s still being used. Yeah, it would be actually a really, really interesting… I mean, potentially a great kind of vehicle for a partner for you to look at from a fundraising [crosstalk 00:10:25]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah, that’s so interesting.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, it was super interesting. And it was great. I mean, I’ve talked to people about it since and they’re like, “Wait a minute. This is like telemedicine in some respect.” And it’s basically-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Because you realize… you ask people a lot of questions about things, right? We instinctually go to our peers to get their opinions and they’re sort of like a natural vetting process that we go to. Like, “I’m going to ask this person about this. I’m going to ask another mother about this because I know intuitively they’re as discerning as I am.” Right?

Kara Goldin: Yeah.

Sehreen Noor Ali: And you don’t have that opportunity. Like right now, people are in Facebook groups. I’m on tons of parenting Facebook groups. And super useful in some ways but I am literally up until 3:00 in the morning trying to find an answer to my question. And then I’m like, “How much do I weigh that expertise?”

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, totally.

Sehreen Noor Ali: And is their child like my child? There’s too much sort of like manual calculation that I have to do. And so a lot of what we’re trying to do is make them easier.

Kara Goldin: I also think that another piece of this is that if there was a way to actually see if there were people that had the same issue maybe five years ago, right? So that you can actually have visibility into understanding and comfort in sort of knowing what to expect because I think that is really the fear, right? I have a child that had some learning issues early on and it was really hard to kind of figure out exactly and now she’s in her last year at university. It’s all fine, right? But she also learned to educate and basically stick up for herself and advocate for herself in a way that was really helpful.

But, again, I wish that I would have found those parents that would have said… like I don’t think I found one single parent at that time when we figured this out when she was probably six, seven years old who said, “It’s going to be okay.” Right? Like, “I’ll tell you what this is 15 years from now.” Nobody was abl to be that person and you kind of fill in the blanks what the issue is but that’s ultimately what you’re looking for. And, again, it’s only one other person’s opinion on it and obviously things vary greatly and whatever but I just think it’s like-

Sehreen Noor Ali: But imagine if you had a group of those people.

Kara Goldin: Totally. Yeah, no I think [crosstalk 00:13:24] that’s why I’m loving what you guys are doing.

Sehreen Noor Ali: Right. It’s interesting because I talk to a lot of parents who say exactly what you’re saying. So who are past the journey but then look back and they’re saying, “If I had that, that would have made me feel so much less anxious and so much more confident about the decisions I’m making.” And so we internally, Alex and I, talk about seeing the ways for early childhood health and development and it’s very similar. You need people who are with you on the path but slightly ahead, right? Slightly ahead and then way ahead because a lot of the questions once you do have your treatment plan is, “Well what can I expect?” And doctors, for understandable reasons, they will not answer that question for you no matter how much you press them, they’re not going to.

Kara Goldin: No, it’s so true. And I also find… I mean, I’ve also found that it was… I don’t know, I feel like it also just depended on other factors and I think that that probably varies by family as well that it’s just if they’re… what size classroom were they in, what kind of therapy did they have? All of those kind of issues were things that I was really looking for. So you mentioned Alex, so Alex is the co-founder. How did you find a co-founder?

Sehreen Noor Ali: So we both entered the same start up generator program. And-

Kara Goldin: Which was?

Sehreen Noor Ali: It’s called Antler.

Kara Goldin: Okay, awesome.

Sehreen Noor Ali: Antler. And I went in with this idea of there’s a market here. I had done market making after my state department career in tech start up and he had left [inaudible 00:15:14] space looking to do something that was mission driven and related to children. And so it was literally the perfect match. We were the first two people in our cohort of 100 people to actually start working together. A lot of other founders broke up and found other founders but Alex and I started working together. And it’s been a really amazing partnership ever since.

Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. And have you had to raise money for-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, for the… and how has that gone?

Sehreen Noor Ali: It’s good. So Antler is one of our investors. And we were also one of only two teams to get investments from New Lab down in Brooklyn, the innovation and tech center down in Brooklyn. And so we’re very proud of that. And then in Q4, we will be going out for our sort of next pre-seed round. And it’s going fine. I think it’s an interesting environment to be raising money. We’re having good conversations with VCs that we really like and VCs who appreciate that what we’re trying to do is have impacts that is in line with the business model. So it’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur because they’re just more broad, embracing of that kind of [crosstalk 00:16:36].

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no definitely. Definitely. So what do you think is… what lessons would you give to the tech entrepreneur. I mean, we’re talking about this on hopefully the heels of ending the COVID situation, we’re not quite sure but what do you think is like… what advice would you be giving to entrepreneurs right now who are kind of in this same zone at the moment like whether it’s… I mean, it sounds like you’re in a pretty good spot in terms of you raised money, right? So you’re able to build on that, you’re not sort of out of cash at the moment and coming into this. But what advice would you give knowing what you know today?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Oh, one very tactical thing would be just like work your network. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of amazing advice from people just by reaching out to them and telling them what I’m doing. So we have someone from WebMD who has given us really great feedback. I can’t think of anyone who’s a product manager and that one’s actually from Ed Tech women, the network that I created myself. I was just sort of trying to talk about other people’s accomplishments and I said, “Oh, by the way, I’m doing this.” And that sort of came out of nowhere. Someone else I reached out to just helped me get the lay of the land.

I knew a little bit about the VC land scape but not enough to really go out on my own and I really did need mentorship in that space and so a lot of people have been more than happy to spend 45 minutes with me and share their 10 years of experience and it saves me days. And so I just haven’t been afraid to ask for help and I think the assumption that people will be generous is a much better assumption to walk in with than to be afraid of asking people for help.

Kara Goldin: I think that’s so so key. I tell people the exact same thing and I think what I’m also hearing from you is that you walked into this with a purpose, obviously. And you were like trying to solve this problem and you just thought, “If I can actually get the word out, maybe I can really solve this problem for a lot of other people.” I talk about this all the time, with the founding of Hint, that I didn’t have any experience in the food and beverage industry. And I had been a vice president at AOL and I was managing a bunch of people and had sort of like… was kind of at the top of my game and then all of a sudden I decided to lug cases into whole foods and try and get it on the shelf. And my friends, I’m sure you had the same thing, people were like, “Wait, what are you doing? Why are you doing this?” And all of that. And I loved the idea… or I should say I was okay with the idea of not really knowing everything.

People would come to me and ask me to make decisions and teach them and everything and all of a sudden, I’m in the student role where I’m learning all these things and I’m just reaching out to anybody who would talk to me and lots of different industries, it sounds like the same for you. And I still want to be learning, part of the reason why we launch deodorant and launch all these new things is my need for like not to be done learning and I feel like that is the perfect entrepreneurial story because when I hear entrepreneurs say, in my space, like, “When can I stop going in the back room and merchandising product?”

Sehreen Noor Ali: You can’t.

Kara Goldin: Ever. I’ve been through this whole COVID, I’ve been spending every day, I’m going into stores to help the sales team so that they can call on less stores. And so I’m going into one or two stores and I go in early in the morning and later at night in order to avoid crowds. And part of that is also to sort of help my team but part of that also is to have my eyes and ears making sure that it’s safe for the employees and all of that. But I think that it’s also just the curiosity side of this and I think that it [crosstalk 00:21:25]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Exactly. I was about to say the same word. Yeah.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, to every industry which is like that’s [crosstalk 00:21:32]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah, I have not been this engaged with my work, maybe ever. If I could, I would be working 24/7. [crosstalk 00:21:42] joy. Not because I had to but because I genuinely love what we’re doing and I understand the road is going to be hard and that’s okay because every time… I sort of walked into it being like, “There’s a market. There’s a market. There’s a market.” And proving that to multiple people gave me such deep satisfaction that it’ll probably sit with my for the rest of my life. And now when I talk to parents and Alex and I talk to parents and we hear these pain points, I think it just drives us so much more and then the more you talk, the more pain points you see. And so even testing with messaging has been a huge evolution.

Like I thought I had it right six weeks and I probably think I have it right today and I know I don’t have it right. But it was like simple. We were sort of talking about parents of children with developmental delays and then this week we were testing messaging on, “Have you ever been told by your pediatrician to wait and see? And did you decide not to?” And like that hit a nerve with so many people and even that’s interesting. Like what does that say about this person’s emotional journey? And how-

Kara Goldin: Right, it’s super interesting. Yeah, and how do you use social media to kind of attract people and let people know what you’re doing?

Sehreen Noor Ali: So we’re still fairly early days on that. Right now we’ve been trying to engage on Facebook. And it’s confirming what one of our initial hypotheses was which was that parents would willingly give us medical information on their child. We’ve proven that many times over and Facebook is the way that we did it, right? Because what’s happening on Facebook is that there are parents who have a lot of questions and are looking for peer emotional support that it supersedes their fear about putting private data on Facebook, who owns that data, right? And so that is a very interesting case study for us because part of it is like do you… I don’t put that much information about my family on Facebook. But that sort of shows you the need.

I think what we’re trying to figure out is where else can we start getting in front of these parents and I think it is actually more broadly parent facing media and mom media. Whereas initially I thought it would be more segmented. And of course we have our own persona about that parent but I think we need to go fairly broad.

Kara Goldin: It’s interesting, in the last year and a half, I have gotten really active on Twitter. And I love Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn but I’ve gotten really active on Twitter and I think that it is a huge untapped market for what you want to do. It’s just amazing how many people have these things that they’re trying to figure out and there’s so many people who… there’s so many resources. I mean, this is a crazy, crazy sort of analogy but I have an issue with my Mac that I’ve been trying to figure out for the last two days where the sound on videos for on my YouTube and on my LinkedIn just like it wouldn’t come through. I did everything.

I was troubleshooting it, I was looking all over the internet, couldn’t find it. Finally at like 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I said on Twitter, “Hey, I’ve got this problem and no sound coming out of these videos and it’s coming out of Spotify for audio coming out of the videos.” In 45 seconds, I had two programmers who sent me code to fix the problem and I was kind of like, “Okay, all right.” One of them is kind of like… I looked at his profile, he had 35,000 users and he was an engineer. And then another one was like worked with Apple and anyway-

Sehreen Noor Ali: That’s amazing.

Kara Goldin: No, it was amazing. And then they told me… I can barely code but this was even much more advanced than I was even capable of and so they told me, “Hit the tool bar, do this, do this.” I was like oh my god, it worked. And again it’s the crowd sourcing. I’m also working on an initiative that I told the List about for clean water. And I have learned so much from people on Twitter as I announce this stuff. I’m like, “I’m looking to really understand what’s going on in Newark.” And people are like, “Oh, here’s some data. Here’s this, here’s this.” And it’s amazing. And then I’ll also have people oftentimes DM me about very personal stuff.

But they saw my question and I just like… I mean, I love Twitter so much for that reason that I just feel like they’re there and they don’t get credit for it because you always hear that there’s the trolls and there are those people but there’s also these people where they really kind of… I think they can be a little more sophisticated too, if that makes sense, not to say that Facebook isn’t but I bet you would find a pretty interesting audience.

Sehreen Noor Ali: That’s interesting. Yeah we should. Yeah, we’ve never… I’ve never quite cracked Twitter.

Kara Goldin: I hadn’t [crosstalk 00:27:30] either. And I had a guy that worked for me a couple of years ago who just loved it and he was really the one that kind of showed me and now, I mean, it’s funny, I was on the phone with Twitter the other day. They reached out to me and they’re like, “We use you as an example all the time of like… ” And I’m like, “Me?”

Sehreen Noor Ali: How funny.

Kara Goldin: “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Yeah, I just said, “I just ask questions like this.” And I’ll wake up on Monday morning and I’ll be like, “Oh, first 10 people to DM me get a case of Hint.” And I mean, people are like, “Yay.” I’ll do it the-

Sehreen Noor Ali: The fact that it’s not so premeditated and a plan makes it even better. That’s probably why you’re so good at it.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, exactly. And I’ll do stuff, I’ll show stuff that we do on Hint and this, I mean, we’ll show components of this on it too and to get people into the podcast as well. But I don’t know, I think that’s my pitch for Twitter. I think it’s really… it’s a place where, especially if you’re searching and you’re trying to crowd source people, I think there’s a lot of parents on there that have reached out to me, especially being an entrepreneur who has children, people have reached out to me saying-

Sehreen Noor Ali: That’s fascinating.

Kara Goldin: Yeah. That they’ve been trying to solve this issue and yeah, I really-

Sehreen Noor Ali: That’s cool.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, so anyway.

Sehreen Noor Ali: I will do it. You know, it’s funny because I am not super active on any social media before I started this business. I just had the people in my network on Facebook but now I’ve had to think a little bit more about actually being visible and what that means and how many people do you need? But also we’re very sensitive to my daughter’s story. It’s a little bit ironic, we have a company that’s crowd sourcing stories and then I am very cautious of what I tell people because it’s also the find line of wanting her to tell her story. So social media is still something I’m new at, in a way.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, it’s the entrepreneur’s dilemma, the founder’s dilemma because I think especially if you have a purpose and you’re trying to figure out exactly who owns that purpose, too, right?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah. Well I do. I mean, you’re synonymous with Hint. I literally can’t think of one without the other. And so that’s a huge success, I think. I think that’s what we should all be aspiring to do. So yeah-

Kara Goldin: But it’s my story. But it’s like it’s my story and so I totally understand where you’re coming from but I also think that this is also a story of parents and people and trying to solve problems. So I think that’s like… and trying to solve problems for kids, right? Not just your child too like I think it’s solving that [crosstalk 00:30:39]-

Sehreen Noor Ali: And that’s sort of fun because I think people are really compelled to give their story if it helps someone else. There’s a lot of positives [crosstalk 00:30:49] in this and it’s really, really beautiful. When people get on the phone with us and we’re like… we try to explain what they do and we say, “It’s anonymous. You don’t have to put your name on it.” And some people are like, “No, I want my story out there. If it helps one child, I will do anything.” And so we get to talk to these parents and I think one of the things I think about a lot is when I talk about them, what I wish people would know about parents who might otherwise be hidden to their communities or peers is how commanding they are of what the hell is going on with the medical system.

It’s almost like when you hear them talk, it’s like, “Are you sure you’re not a doctor?” Because they’ve immersed themselves so much in trying to steer and navigate their child’s care that it is hard to see them as anything but an expert with a lived condition. I don’t know if that makes sense-

Kara Goldin: No, it [crosstalk 00:31:44] totally does. I think it’s frightening, right? So it’s really frightening. So you worked for President Obama and I read that he recognized you as… do you want to talk a little bit about that? Like how amazing… were you surprised on that day? I mean, that must have been just so cool.

Sehreen Noor Ali: Well I was surprised because it was a mall event and yeah, I got to tell him what I did and he was like, “Thank you so much for your service.” It was about a specific project that we had worked that was high profile. And so that was really fun and at that point I was like, “I’m done here. I can go start a new career.” And so shortly after I actually did leave.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, that’s awesome. I actually worked under [NACIE 00:32:37], I don’t know if you knew that. And I was-

Sehreen Noor Ali: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Kara Goldin: Yeah. So under Penny [Prtizger 00:32:43]. So I wasn’t in the very beginning of it, I was in the last six months of the administration. And then I stayed on with President Trump for not very long. And then decided to exit but it was amazing. I still go back to it, there were 30 of us in the group. And I still talk to a big chunk of those people in all different industries and really smart and ultimately trying to solve problems, right?

Which like I thought that that was… that was like a piece of government that I really appreciated because I thought even if I don’t know… there was this one guy, Joe, who I worked with who was very focused on coal miners or former coal miners in West Virginia and trying to figure out like how do we build that community back and figure out jobs? And, again, I know nothing about coal mines. I’ve never lived in West Virginia. It didn’t matter. It was just the fact like talking to somebody, “Here’s what the issues are, here’s… ” And we’d brainstorm, “Well, could we do this? Could we do this?” Anyway, it was super… I would-

Sehreen Noor Ali: That’s incredible that the state department in the government is an incredible, incredible pool of talent. I mean, the people that I worked with also worked on the same sort of portfolio and with some engagement, a lot of people will actually think one is running an entrepreneurship department at Tulane, another is a VC, several are VCs or started their own social enterprises.

Kara Goldin: That’s so cool.

Sehreen Noor Ali: It’s funny because when I moved to New York, no one knew what the state department was. And then recently, right? Because of the news, people were like, “Oh my god, you worked for the state department. That’s so cool.” And I had this moment at the state department once where I was like… I don’t know what had happened but I was telling a colleague, I was like, “It just struck me that this might be one of the most competitive places in the world, right?” Because in the government I was sort of used to people… like a lot of my friends were doctors or investment bankers or whatever else and I always felt like people don’t know the state department so it felt less elite or accomplished in a way.

And then I had this moment, I was like, “No, the way the HR system works here, it’s actually probably one of the most competitive places anywhere, right?” If you’re not competing for money, you’re competing for influence and public policy and a lot of very cerebral stuff and proximity to the president. And so it was a moment in my life where I was like, “Oh, don’t feel so bad for yourself. You’re doing pretty well.”

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, no, no. It’s such a great experience. When I was in high school and part of the reason why I actually stayed on with Trump, he eliminated a bunch of people from the group when he came on but I had worked for Senator John McCain actually when he was in the House of Representatives and I grew up in Arizona. And it’s funny because John said something to me when I was in high school that has stayed with me forever that it doesn’t matter what party you ultimately go and work for and I might sort of edit that a little bit as time goes on but he said that the learning of really understanding how this stuff works is incredible.

I think all the time about should people go and do some kind of public service. Should they be forced to do that for like a year whether it’s working for your mayor’s office or working for a congress person or ultimately the president or whatever. You just learn how this stuff works and so many people just don’t really understand it and it’s just… it’s such a valuable lesson for everybody-

Sehreen Noor Ali: And skill, right?

Kara Goldin: Totally.

Sehreen Noor Ali: I think about being able to… I went from the state department to doing [inaudible 00:36:51] and sales. I mean, you can understand why that’s an obvious connection. But you learn to work with so many different people. And I worked in public diplomacy and public diplomacy is like similar to what public relations and partnerships would be in the private sector, right? So you’re constantly trying to get people to sort of understand your policy, foreign policy, hopefully like America. There’s just a lot of soft selling going on and it’s hard, it’s much harder to sell foreign policy than it is to sell a product that you can buy off a shelf. And so I think what living in DC and working for the government does is you really do have to find a way to get along with everyone to get stuff done. And you learn that by practice, you don’t learn that in school.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, I agree. It’s a super, super valuable lesson. So that’s amazing. So I ask all of our guests a couple of final questions and one is what makes you unstoppable?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Well I’m going to borrow from you a little bit but I think it’s my curiosity. There’s been a lot of stuff that I probably would not have wanted for myself over the past few years but there’s a lot of learning from it and I think positioning and just having the mentality of, “Oh, there’s something here that’s interesting.” I always think that there is a lesson for me in things that are hard. And it is proven true. When my dad passed away and it happened before I thought it was going to happen, there’s just so many lessons of gratitude and even thinking about my own legacy, that has helped me decide to start a company and put everything that I had at risk.

Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. So my podcast is obviously called Unstoppable. I have a book coming out in October called Undaunted and so I see a lot of undaunted in you as well because it’s sort of this… undaunted is just going and doing it and being okay with trying things and maybe they’re not going to work, maybe they’re going to fail along the way, whatever. You’re going different avenues and then you just keep going because it’s this curiosity, right?

Sehreen Noor Ali: It needs the velocity of it. Yeah, cool.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, which I love. And you’re smiling which is super, super awesome. And what is your favorite Hint flavor?

Sehreen Noor Ali: I feel like it’s a toss up. I like the mango and the pineapple. I also really like the deodorant, I have to say.

Kara Goldin: Oh you get bonus round over there for that.

Sehreen Noor Ali: I don’t know, I’m sorry. I had to take it. It’s pretty amazing. It’s not easy to make a product like that.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no. It’s such a great product. So where do people find you on social-

Sehreen Noor Ali: So on the social that I am on, it’s my full name @sehreennoorali, on Instagram and Twitter. And we’re migrating to a new name, in the next few weeks for our Visible Health [crosstalk 00:39:56]-

Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. I’m going to get you going on Twitter. I’m going to start tagging you and pulling you into these conversations.

Sehreen Noor Ali: I would love that. I can’t wait.

Kara Goldin: I think it’s sort of what’s needed and I think you bring a lot of great perspective into this as well. That would be super, super awesome. And we also talked about… so the current name is Visible Health, but you’re actually making a brand change, right?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yeah.

Kara Goldin: And to Sleuth?

Sehreen Noor Ali: Yep.

Kara Goldin: Which I think is a great name as well. So it’ll be available at what?

Sehreen Noor Ali: It’ll be available at

Kara Goldin: Hello Sleuth, okay. Wonderful. And then right now it’s at Visible Health. So wonderful, wonderful. Well thanks so much for taking time to do this and I’m so excited for everybody to hear your story and definitely go to and then and definitely, if this-

Sehreen Noor Ali: .co. Sorry,

Kara Goldin: Oh, .co. Sorry. Yeah, And definitely check out what Sehreen is doing. So thanks everybody.

Sehreen Noor Ali: [crosstalk 00:41:03] it was so fun to be here.

Kara Goldin: Thanks-