Proust Startups

Proust Goes Tech With Sami Inkinen, Founder And CEO Of Virta

As the co-founder of Trulia, Sami Inkinen led real estate website to a $2.5 billion dollar acquisition in 2014. Since then, he has shifted gears.

As the CEO and Founder of Virta, Sami has endeavored to help diabetes patients get off medication and reverse their disease. Virta supplies patients with a platform through which they can improve their health by direct communication with medical professionals which monitor their progress. The San Francisco-based company gained attention after raising $37 million in 2017.

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A CEO with hefty, admirable goals, Sami is a meticulous, articulate, and adventurous individual. He opened up to Crunchbase News about what keeps him motivated, how he evaluates himself, and what has inspired him in this round of the Proust Goes Tech series.

What would you otherwise be doing right now?

Really nothing else. Almost everything I do, I do by choice. I consider myself a very lucky person to be able to do that.

What is your main fault?

My inability to give up. I become obsessed about completing things. I think that is my main fault. I think perseverance can be very helpful. But it can also be something I sometimes have to fight against.

What is your idea of misery?

Lack of emotional or physical discomfort.

What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

Vulnerability and authenticity.

What is your chief characteristic?

Energy.

What skill do you wish you possessed?

Actually this is easy. I don’t really regret anything in life, but there’s a tiny bit of me that wishes I had gotten into music. I’d love to be able to play a musical instrument very well.

What is your most impactful book?

Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand.  It is not only an amazing story about forgiveness and kindness, but it also inspired my wife and I to row across the Pacific Ocean—California to Hawaii—in a rowing boat, unsupported, in 2014.

It took 45 days and three hours.

What defines success for you?

I have written down an inner scorecard that has about a dozen different criteria. The scorecard doesn’t involve dollar signs or how many times I have been mentioned in the press.

I evaluate myself every year based on that on a scale from one to four. Four meaning I succeeded and one meaning I sucked. That literally defines success to me.

When is confidence lost?

Hmm… it definitely relates to people.

I think it’s when I see that I have hurt someone or someone’s’ feelings or emotions because that’s really never my intention. So when that happens I lose confidence.

Which buzzword is exhausted?

Unicorn.

What virtues do others have that you don’t?

The ability to be kinder and softer to myself [and] to be less self-critical.

What impact do you want to leave?

I’ll answer this in two ways.

Right now I feel that I am allocating most of my hours awake in the most optimal way to have the impact in the world of reversing diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. That’s what I’m working on. It feels very meaningful and purposeful.

Jumping into the last day of my life, I would want others who knew me to say “he was a good person.”

What’s the biggest problem tech is failing to solve?

I’m a technologist and engineer and my education is in physics, so I think technological advancement will solve all problems. I think the question is really just about timing and urgency.

So what is a problem that we should be able to solve faster with technology? I would say the most important would be inequality. All types of inequality, but specifically economic inequality.

Editorial Note: Answers edited for brevity and clarity.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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