Savvy Co-op Founder Jen Horonjeff Recognized for Daring Entrepreneurship

Savvy founder Jen Horonjeff speaks on a panel about co-ops and big data at last month’s Co-op IMPACT Conference.

Entrepreneur magazine last week named Jen Horonjeff, founder of Savvy Cooperative, one of its Most Daring Entrepreneurs of 2018. Hononjeff appears alongside notable CEOS, creators and innovators ranging from Elon Musk to Chance the Rapper.

The recognition is part of Entrepreneur’s annual issue profiling leaders who have taken bold action, dared to go big in 2018 and inspired others to go even bigger.

Designed to bridge the gap between patient insights and practitioners, Savvy Cooperative connects healthcare companies, researchers and practitioners with patients who can directly inform their work—and get compensated for doing so.

“Savvy’s model of patient-ownership is considered innovative, but to us as longtime patients, it just made sense,” Horonjeff said in the co-op’s announcement of the recognition. “People will be more engaged if they have a say in designing the systems and products they use, and share in their rewards. At Savvy, this isn’t a customer loyalty program—it’s ownership.”

From the magazine:

Medical industry conferences often have a “patient representative” sitting on panels, voicing the needs of the patient. And for a long time, that person very often was Jen Horonjeff. She was a patient-centered outcomes researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, and has had juvenile arthritis since infancy. “I was happy to help, but I also wanted more diverse voices than just mine represented,” she says. When she suggested that panel organizers broaden their reach, many said they didn’t know where to look. That’s when Horonjeff realized: The medical industry may treat patients, but it doesn’t do a good job of hearing from them.

Horonjeff figured she could fix this problem. First she reached out to her own networks and found a flood of patients eager to have their voices heard. Then she partnered with Ronnie Sharpe (who grew up with cystic fibrosis and founded a social network for others with the disease), and in 2017 the two officially launched Savvy Cooperative. The platform connects patients with healthcare companies, startups and researchers eager to reach them for focus groups, user testing, surveys, and one-on-one interviews. In the first year, patient “gigs” (as the engagements are called) ranged from testing a wearable device prototype to participating in a market research panel on metastatic breast cancer.

From the start, Horonjeff and Sharpe settled on a co-op model: Anyone can participate, but if people buy a share of the business (for $34), they’re a member. The more active members are — meaning the more gigs they complete — the larger their portion of the profits at the end of the year. “We didn’t want to perpetuate the power dynamic of a small number of people benefiting from a large number of people doing all this work,” she says. “Patients should have a voice in what we do, and they should be compensated for sharing their info.”

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