Home Interviews Chris Paquette of DeepIntent: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Chris Paquette of DeepIntent: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Maud DeVito
Chris Paquette of DeepIntent: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Paquette.

Chris Paquette draws upon his multifaceted technical, scientific, and entrepreneurial expertise to provide healthcare marketers with cutting-edge marketing technology solutions. After graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in Bioengineering, Paquette launched a career that has placed him at the confluence of advertising, healthcare, and technology. Prior to DeepIntent, Paquette was a Data Scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he developed systems that leveraged machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve patient experiences and outcomes. Paquette co-founded DeepIntent in 2016. Recently, Chris was named to MM&M’s ’40 Under 40′ list and won PM360’s 2020 Trailblazer Vanguard Award.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Chris Paquette: I graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a degree in bioengineering and my specialization was in machine learning. My first job was in ad-tech — I’ve always been fascinated by the way the Internet connects people with information — and after that, I moved on to Memorial Sloan Kettering. There, I was a data scientist working on machine learning-based solutions, and I often spoke to patients about how difficult it was for them to learn about disease diagnoses and treatments. Take those experiences and converge them; that’s the genesis of DeepIntent.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Chris Paquette: Speaking to patients about their experiences really resonated with me. It helped me recognize the value programmatic advertising could unlock for marketers when applied to healthcare in a privacy-safe way. Realizing how powerful machine learning could be in terms of mining healthcare data to get the right information to people inspired DeepIntent, where everything is driven by a core belief that marketing technology can measurably improve patient lives.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Chris Paquette: Entrepreneurs are not naturally born; it requires an attitude and affinity for risk that I believe is learned through experience. Most importantly and above all, it requires a vision. I thank my parents for giving me the all-important foundation of a great education, which set the table for all the other experiences of my life.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Chris Paquette: I was inspired by my father. When I was 12, long before I began my career, my father was misdiagnosed with the wrong type of cancer. He felt in his gut that something was off, so he got a second and a third opinion, which ultimately saved his life. For people to be able to do that, they need information. The quest driving me throughout my career has been to get relevant information to patients in a timely manner so they can have more informed conversations with their doctors.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Chris Paquette: DeepIntent was the first demand-side platform (DSP) built purposefully for healthcare marketers to run programmatic campaigns end-to-end within a single platform. Other platforms require a patchwork of point solutions, which introduces gaps in capabilities and data inconsistencies, which are detrimental to performance and reach. With the introduction of a new product launching in April, we are the only DSP that combines real-world clinical data with real-time script optimizations. This enables marketers to go beyond clicks and impressions, and measure and optimize their campaigns toward business and patient outcomes.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Chris Paquette: I have an unrelenting drive to realize my vision, which is a must for any leader, especially as the business grows. In that regard, my flexibility is just as important as my passion and drive. DeepIntent started as a two-person company so I was naturally involved in every aspect of the business, but as we scaled (quickly!) it was important for me to be flexible enough to recognize that while I loved being in the weeds of the product, I needed to focus on what will continue to grow the company. The trait that was most crucial there was the fact that I’m a great judge of character. I had to determine the right people in order to build a world-class team, which is what I’m most proud of because DeepIntent couldn’t have come this far without them.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Chris Paquette: Early on, my business partner and I put too much blind faith in the venture capital market. When we founded DeepIntent, I was only 26. Self-funding the company, we were young and green and so eager to get deals that we overlooked cash flows. Capital had dried up for new DSPs by 2017 and we bled. Our financial situation was dire and luckily, we found a more sustainable route to funding in the form of corporate investors. I can’t say I regret following any advice to pursue venture capital because it was a learning experience with a valuable takeaway: Cash flow is king.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Chris Paquette: Take a step back. DeepIntent has been a fast-growing company, thanks in large part to a world-class team of individuals willing to step up and get things done. However, there are only so many hours in a day, and recognizing that helps me help them avoid burnout. I felt our team heading in that direction, especially with the blurry line between home and work while everything is remote, so I decided to refine our approach to meetings. In February, I implemented Mindful Meeting Scheduling, which was a simple solution to a growing problem. We no longer have internal meetings on Wednesdays, which gives everyone the time they need to be heads-down, stay focused, and get things done.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Chris Paquette: Technology evolves constantly and as a tech company, your product has to evolve along with it. Though DeepIntent has changed over the years, our clients are just as happy with us as they’ve ever been because of our vision. Everything we do speaks to our core mission, which is encouraging for clients because they know that we’re fundamentally driven by helping them help patients with our innovative products.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Chris Paquette: Loyalty works both ways and your vision is fundamentally why people do business with you. Clients can tell when money comes before the mission, and when that’s the case, they know that business decisions aren’t necessarily made with their best interests in mind.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Chris Paquette: When you start a business, you’re passionate about the problem you’re looking to solve and it can very easily become an obsession. I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself, but I make a point to be more mindful of the other dimensions of my life: my family, my friends, my health and fitness. You don’t want to look back and realize that you gave the business all you had while neglecting everything else. In the same vein, taking time to step back from the problem you are solving is a healthy and essential part of the entrepreneurial process. I can’t begin to tell you how many times even something as simple as taking a walk has given my mind the space needed to process and think through a problem with much success.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Chris Paquette: No entrepreneur is handed success. While some companies may appear to have a straight line to success, that is never the case. Behind the scenes, entrepreneurs struggle with problems that often exist far outside of their comfort zones. Handling that discomfort is a key attribute of entrepreneurship that differentiates from a “regular job.” Anytime you operate outside of an area of comfort, there is inherent pressure for you to learn — and learn quickly — how to get to the right answer or mobilize the right people or resources that can get you there.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Chris Paquette: PM360 named Patient Modeled Audiences (PMA), our patent-pending audience targeting solution, one of the most Innovative Products of 2020. That was particularly gratifying because PMA is an instrumental part of our mission to improve patient lives. Collecting insights about who patients are in aggregate, we’re able to extract personas from that data. Marketers can then connect with them in a HIPAA-compliant way and if even 1 out of 3 people finds any particular ad relevant, we can help them and contribute to a healthier population.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Chris Paquette: Early on, DeepIntent nearly went under because of cash flow issues. My wife, Kelly, wrote me a check for $15,000 to cover some expenses, including payroll. It was at that moment that I realized that behind every story of success is a network of friends and family that want nothing more than for you to succeed. They are the unsung heroes of entrepreneurship. Their blind belief in you, often for no other reason than love, is one of the many learnings that made this journey of starting my own business so special for me.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Chris Paquette: I didn’t actually cash that check. The gesture in and of itself was enough to motivate me to do what was necessary to make the business not only survive, but thrive. This was 2017, which ended up being the first year of our 3X year-over-year growth streak.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Chris Paquette: Reaching and maintaining your peak performance as an entrepreneur requires work to build and maintain a solid foundation across all aspects of life. This foundation consists of five pillars, also known as the 5Fs, coined by author and wealth advisor James Hansberger: Family, Friends, Faith, Fitness, and Finances.

  1. Family: No one in your life is more important than your family. They’re great checks and can tell you when you’re working too hard! Similarly to how my wife wrote me a check for no other reason than love and blind belief in me, the love you share with your family is your last safety net emotionally — and occasionally financially.
  2. Friends: Seeking out and building meaningful friendships is paramount to success. I stay in close touch with friends of mine from various parts of my life, and these relationships help awaken me to see different perspectives. Opening your eyes, your friendships can also help guide ways to improve your own experience.
  3. Faith: While I’m not particularly religious, I have a deep appreciation for community, our society, democracy, and the fundamental beliefs shared by all Americans for life, liberty, respect for others, and the pursuit of happiness. As a CEO, I try to view all the work I do through this lens and evaluate the performance of my company through one question: Are we making the world a better place?
  4. Fitness: Looking back on the last several years, I can confirm that whenever I prioritized my fitness, both exercise, and diet, I felt the best about my work, which ultimately led to further success in business. Of course, there are times when you need to be heads down and fitness can be an easy area to slack. However, finding the right balance is key. As a runner, I try to run at least three to five times a week, which gives my mind and body precious time to separate from work and focus on my own well-being.
  5. Finances: Without money, it’s hard to be in business. That goes for you personally as well. For an entrepreneur, solid finances give you the space to focus your energy and mind on the problems at hand, instead of making ends meet. It’s not impossible to be an entrepreneur in this situation, but financial health certainly pushes the odds in your favor. That’s why you should put extra effort into making sure you are being mindful about your own needs.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Chris Paquette: To me, resilience lies in one’s ability to roll with the punches. Everyone is going to experience setbacks. The most successful entrepreneurs aren’t those who win every time — nobody does — but those who learn from their losses. Entrepreneurship is all about course-correcting and treating everything as a learning opportunity.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Chris Paquette: I participated in a military program similar to ROTC during my time in college. This required me to train over a summer in Marine Corps Base Quantico, training and studying to be an officer. Unbeknownst to us, one of the courses we had to complete was designed to be essentially unachievable. However, the instructors were tasked to evaluate each candidate on one thing: resilience in the face of uncertainty and persistence amid impossible odds. Scenario after scenario, I rallied my squad to think outside of the box for every problem that confronted us and eventually scored top in my class. This is when I realized that I thrive in situations that are dynamic and uncertain: a key for success in entrepreneurship.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Chris Paquette: Going back to the question about resilience, as I roll with the punches, something that keeps my spirits up is remembering that DeepIntent is bigger than myself. The American healthcare system is plagued with inequality and inefficiency, and I see our company as part of the system. With targeted, informative advertising, both patients and their providers can learn more about their treatment options. Greater awareness facilitates strong, bidirectional relationships, which is what ultimately leads to better patient outcomes.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

Chris Paquette: Culture starts at the top and I’m a big believer in leading by example. In 2013, Harvard University and University of California-San Diego researchers studied social contagion and found that positive attitudes are actually contagious! My passion for DeepIntent and our vision trickles down to my team, which carries through to the way they serve our clients.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

Chris Paquette: “Sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up.” The Mindful Meeting Scheduling is a great example of what happens when you take a step back and really look at what is and isn’t working. It’s always a risk when you rebuild processes, but as Catherine DeVyre from IBM said, “The seven most expensive words in business are, ‘We have always done it that way.’”

How can our readers further follow you online?

Chris Paquette: 

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherpaquette

Twitter — @ctpaquette

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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