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September 24, 2015

Startup CEO Tim Barry ’93 Reflects on Cornell’s Role in His Success

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For Tim Barry ’93, the road to becoming the CEO and founder of a healthcare startup was not always easy. However, his time at Cornell was crucial in teaching him that philanthropic and business success should go hand in hand.

“It’s an environment that makes you figure out who you are and what makes you tick,” Barry said, crediting his Cornell education for his success. “The people there actually care about you.”

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Tim Barry ’93 is the founder of healthcare startup VillageMD.

In addition to playing as a tight end on the football team that went on to win the 1990 Ivy League Championship, Barry said he also took many meaningful classes. Several professors made a strong impact on him, including Prof. Deb Streeter, applied economics and management, who currently still teaches at Cornell.

“I feel so lucky to have had this experience in my life,” Barry said. “Unlike so many universities, there is this social pulse that people who go to Cornell have. … I’m going to assume it was a similar place as to what it is now: a bunch of people who were all pretty excited to be there, a lot of pretty intelligent people. We loved the fact that it was somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. It created a pretty unique experience because of that.”

An important lesson he said he learned at Cornell is the idea that “you can have a growing and thriving business and do good,” Barry said. This idea has guided him throughout his career.

Barry founded his first startup when he was in his twenties. The startup — a knowledge repository company called EvoKnowledge — was founded upon Benjamin Franklin’s ideas that “knowledge is not knowledge until shared,” he said.

Though he eventually left the startup, Barry remembered it as “an amazing product, amazing experience, but not a gigantic overall business success.”

His former Cornell roommate introduced him to health insurance company Blue Shield of California, where Barry ended up working for a couple of years. However, Barry said he was continually frustrated by the lack of partnership between healthcare providers and health insurers.

“Blue Shield wasn’t waking up everyday thinking about how to better help physicians optimize the way they can deliver care for their patients and our insured members,” Barry said. “They weren’t thinking of a partnership model.  My experience there introduced me to how screwy the healthcare system could be.”

Intent on changing America’s “screwy” healthcare system, Barry left Blue Shield to assume senior executive positions at several companies across the healthcare spectrum.

“We have an opportunity, in many ways an obligation, to create a better healthcare system in this country. It’s sad when we have healthcare quality scores that are slightly better than third world countries, and our healthcare costs are 2.5 times the cost of other G8 countries,” Barry said. “I wanted to build a model to employ our resources to patients most in need, so they don’t need to navigate the healthcare system on their own.”

Barry went on to found VillageMD, where he is currently the CEO. The company collaborates with primary care physicians in order to maximize success in the changing healthcare environment. According to Barry, their goal is simple: to be the largest and highest-performing primary care-led network in the nation.

VillageMD works with physicians to build “unique and comprehensive relationships with patients to achieve the best clinical outcomes” by using current data-driven technology and remaining focused on the health care experience of patients and physicians, according to Barry.

Barry said his time at Cornell has been influential in shaping who he is today. Reflecting on his time at Cornell, he remembered the “very bright, community-service oriented people” he encountered on campus.

“People had a level of humility,” Barry said. “We were being stretched intellectually and emotionally. At Cornell, I met amazing people — some of whom have been a part of my life for the past 20 years.”

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