For CTO and co-founder Elliot Cohen, PillPack is a balance of micro and macro. In the big picture, the California native who received his master’s degree from MIT’s Sloan School of Management is passionate that his online pharmacy is helping address a problem of an imbalanced health care system that prioritizes the needs of physicians and payers ahead of customers. On the small scale, he counts the fact that his dad uses PillPack to help manage daily medications as a highlight of his career—though the company’s nearly $1 billion sale to Amazon in June can’t hurt either.

PillPack’s purpose is deceptively simple. The Somerville-based company ships medications to customers in presorted packs and helps them manage refills, payment and notifications with a dashboard built from proprietary software. Cohen, a computer engineer with a background in neuroscience, met his co-founder TJ Parker—a second-generation pharmacist who witnessed customers’ daily hassles—thanks to MIT’s Hacking Medicine event. The duo won the 2012 hackathon with their vision for PillPack and caught the eyes of investors, who provided the capital to help the company blossom into a nationwide accredited pharmacy. In those early years, Cohen focused on how PillPack could help the 30 million Americans who take more than five medications every day.     

As for that Amazon acquisition, don’t expect Cohen to bow out of the company anytime soon. “The decision to partner with Amazon was really about how to fulfill our original mission of bringing PillPack to every consumer, and they gave us a really unique opportunity to do this to scale,” Cohen says. “I’m very excited to be here for years to come.”

What have you learned from a setback in your career?

“Years ago, I worked in concert production and was answering phones one day. With a rock star manager on one line, a pop singer’s agent on the other and a customer calling with a question about tickets on a third line, I made the mistake of brushing off the customer. My boss came over and promptly hung up the phone on the manager and agent. She told me to figure out who the customer was, call them back and make it right. That lesson in priorities has really stuck with me over the years, and is a core principle for PillPack.”



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