Transforming the Nursing Industry: Iman Abuzeid’s Mission to Reduce the Nursing Shortage

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

Dr. Iman Abuzeid is the co-founder and CEO of Incredible Health, a career marketplace with custom matching technology that offers hospitals the fastest, most effective way to hire qualified permanent nurses. As a former medical doctor whose immediate family includes three surgeons, Iman understands the importance of helping health care professionals find and do their best work. 

Incredible Health is based in San Francisco, backed by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and is used by hundreds of leading hospitals across the country, including HCA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Stanford Health Care, Baylor Scott & White and many more. Abuzeid also holds an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

In this Q&A, she shares why she started Incredible Health, her advice for other founders, and the most valuable lessons she’s learned in her career.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I believe that entrepreneurship is the epitome of what you can do with a business career. The thrill of starting something from nothing and creating a solution that has a massive industry-changing impact is what motivates me. 

Both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs and their drives heavily influenced me, so starting a company is something I’ve wanted to do for over a decade. I made the leap 3 years ago, when the stars aligned and the timing was right: The market was ready, and I had a fantastic CTO and co-founder, Rome Portlock.

Q: What issues did you see in the health care field/profession before you started your company?

By 2024, the United States is poised to experience its biggest employment crisis to date, a shortage of 1 million nurses, putting patient care in jeopardy and hospitals at risk of significant financial loss.

While there are numerous job boards for health care professionals, Incredible Health is the only career marketplace where hospitals apply for nursing talent, rather than the other way around. Our platform reduces the impact of the nursing shortage by creating a community where nurses can manage their careers from start to finish.

Q: What inspired you to start your company?

I founded Incredible Health with our CTO, Rome Portlock, after hearing about how frustrated Rome’s siblings, both nurses, had become in their search for a new position. My siblings are doctors and were frustrated by constant understaffing. We wanted to develop an automated system that would drastically increase the speed of the hiring process for both hospitals and nurses.

Q: What problems are you trying to solve with your company?

We are working to solve the nursing shortage by helping health care workers find and do their best work. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this shortage, highlighting the need for qualified nurses across the country. 

In 2020, we launched our Pandemic Hiring Suite, an expanded platform to better serve hospital clients and health care workers in the wake of COVID-19. The updates enable even more rapid and seamless hiring of permanent, specialized nurses to less than 12 days, while simultaneously avoiding the high costs associated with hiring temporary travel nurses, leading to hospital savings of $2 million per year in travel nurse, overtime and HR costs. 

Q: What is your advice for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?

Make sure that whatever you’re working on and whatever idea you come up with is at least 10 times better than what is already out there. It’s hard to get traction and attention, as well as the right employees and customers, if you’re building something that is only slightly or incrementally better than what is already available. Be ambitious and dramatically shift your product or your services away from the status quo.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or “personal mantra” you use to keep yourself motivated?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I believe that you shouldn’t stand on the sidelines watching people do things; you should get in, be proactive, fix things, and make a difference and impact

Q: How have you integrated your values and mission into your own company structure?

When Rome and I founded Incredible Health, we wrote down our vision, mission and values. Incredible Health’s vision is to help health care professionals live better lives, and the mission is to help them find and do their best work. The vision and mission are the guiding light of our company. 

We also have 11 values that are the operating system of the company. The values are how we work together; they’re used during employee interviews in our hiring process, employee onboarding, and performance evaluations. Values include “Customer Obsession,” “Speed,” “Disagree and Commit” and others.

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned from raising your Series A round of funding?

One of the biggest lessons I learned during the fundraising process was that traction is not enough to spur action. Without treating our fundraise as a rigorous process, and clarifying our ambition of creating the category-defining, market-leading company in health care labor, we may not have achieved nearly as good of an outcome. 

Q: What are you going to use the new funds for?

We are expanding our platform across the country and launching a range of free services and tools for nurses–from free continuing education courses accredited in all 50 states, to an exclusive support network for nurses. We’re also growing our team.

Q: How did you know you were choosing the right investors? What have they brought to the company?

Jeff Jordan of Andreessen Horowitz is a master of marketplaces. He was the CEO of OpenTable, president at eBay, and an early investor and board member at Airbnb, Pinterest and Instacart. His strategic knowledge is incredibly helpful to me as I navigate the rapid scaling of our marketplace. James Joaquin of Obvious Ventures has been a CEO or founder seven times, and has built his companies to IPO, so his operating experience is very helpful as I grow the team and create a robust, high-performing culture. 

I knew I was choosing the right investors when their expertise aligned with what I needed to grow, and their references with other CEOs were very strong.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as the founder of your own company?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the team is the company, and the company is the team. Assembling a high-caliber team is one of my most important jobs, and that has made a dramatically positive impact on the company. Top teams identify problems clearly and rapidly, and find and implement effective solutions quickly, too. I’m fortunate to have a world-class team at Incredible Health, and I’ve seen the impact on our customer, product, growth and processes.

Dr. Iman Abuzeid, Co-founder and CEO of Incredible Health
  • Originally published December 29, 2020, updated January 7, 2021