The American healthcare system continues to face a critical shortage of nurses: More than one-third of the nation’s hospitals have a nurse vacancy rate that’s higher than 10 percent, and an additional 500,000 RNs are expected to retire by the end of this year.
That’s where Incredible Health comes in. Founded by Dr. Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock in 2017, it works as a super-duty LinkedIn for nurses. Some 60 percent of the nation’s top-ranked hospital systems—including Cedars-Sinai and Baylor Scott & White—have signed on to the platform, paying the company to list their open jobs while Incredible’s proprietary algorithm matches the best candidates to the open roles.
Recently, the startup announced that it has raised an $80 million Series B round of funding—a cash infusion good enough to lift its valuation to $1.65 billion and vault its CEO, Abuzeid, into rarified air: one of only a handful of black female founders to run a company valued at more than a billion dollars.
The announcement comes less than a year after Forbes named Incredible Health to its 2021 Next Billion-Dollar Startups list; at the time, the company stood out for its profitability and the way it uses machine-learning technology to connect nurses to better-paying, permanent positions at a faster rate than traditional recruiting takes (14 days versus the standard 82, Abuzeid says).
“If we definitively want to be the market leaders in healthcare labor, we do need to expand,” Abuzeid said. “That’s what some of this funding is about. We do need to continue to scale from 25 states to the rest of the country, [and] we need to add more roles beyond nursing. Because doctors and physical therapists and pharmacists can benefit from this.”
Unlike temporary staffing marketplaces (like Nomad Health), Incredible Health focuses on filling permanent positions. Abuzeid says the efficiency her platform adds to the hiring process creates a win-win for all parties: health system executives save $2 million per hospital per year that would otherwise be spent on temporary workers and HR costs, while nurse salaries get boosted by an average of 17%. What’s more, she adds, her company’s software ensures that skilled nurses get matched to jobs where they might have been overlooked under traditional hiring practices.
“If you’re a healthcare worker or nurse, you shouldn’t have to rely on your connections and who you know, or nepotism or anything like that to get the job,” Abuzeid says. “And the amazing thing about technology is that we can level the playing field.”
Existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Obvious Ventures also participated in the round, as did a bevy of new investors including health system Kaiser Permanente (an Incredible Health customer), NBA star Andre Iguodala, and Charli and Dixie D’Amelio (of TikTok influencer fame), who joined via their 444 Capital Fund. Abuzeid is hoping the sisters’ massive social media platforms can, in turn, help boost Incredible Health’s engagement with customers.
“Gen Z nurses, and millennial nurses are very active on social media,” Abuzeid says. “Including the use of influencers is very, very important as part of our growth strategy and our ability to engage with talent.”
As Abuzeid works to level the hiring playing field for healthcare professionals, her company’s new status as a unicorn marks a tiny step forward in what can be a prohibitively inequitable entrepreneurial environment. Less than 2% of all venture funding went to female founders last year, and less than 1% went to female founders of color. That Abuzeid is her company’s CEO, and an immigrant, too (she was born to Sudanese parents who were at the time living in Saudi Arabia), puts her in rare company. But as Base 10’s Hill notes, “it’s 2022. This should not be as rare of an occurrence as it is.”
Abuzeid agrees, but accepts her position as a role model for others. “I hope that I’m a proof point to everyone who says that it can’t be done,” she says, while advising those who look like her to “compartmentalize” the bias in the system and focus on their visions and missions. “And to those who are unfortunately driving some of that bias in the system, at the end of the day, it’s probably not a good idea to overlook female CEOs or Black CEOs. Because they’re driving an enormous amount of value in business. And you overlook it at your own expense.”