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Livongo's founder says that tech workers want to work at mission-driven companies: 'They come to us'

Key Points
  • Livongo's executive chairman said it's gotten easier for health-tech companies to recruit from tech behemoths because tech workers care about the social mission.
  • Livongo is based in Silicon Valley, a stone's throw from companies like Apple and Google.
  • It is one of a growing number of companies in the health-tech space, which are selling tools to employers and health plans. 
Livongo co-founder and executive chairman Glen Tullman speaks at CNBC's @Work conference in San Francisco, California, on Nov. 4, 2019.
CNBC

For health-technology start-ups, hiring technical talent from Silicon Valley can be a tricky prospect. Companies like Apple and Facebook are paying massive salaries, making it challenging for any upstart to bring talented workers into their ranks.

But Glen Tullman, the executive chairman from Livongo, a health-tech start-up that recently went public, says it's getting easier to do just that.

Tullman described his experiences hiring talent on stage at CNBC's @Work People + Machines vent on Monday, where attendees gathered to discuss the future of work.

Tullman co-founded Livongo almost a decade ago to help people with diabetes manage their condition using technology. He built the business to a public offering earlier this year by selling tools to employers and health plans.

The company has now expanded its reach to patients with other conditions, including hypertension, and it offers a mix of connected devices and behavioral coaching. Over time, the company has gathered large data-sets about patient health, which can help it figure out which interventions are working.

So the company is constantly hiring technical folks to its Mountain View, California, headquarters to help it parse through the data. On stage, Tullman noted that it's getting easier to poach technical talent from Silicon Valley's behemoths. Many of largest tech companies have faced their fair share of scandals in recent months, ranging from antitrust concerns to an increasing spotlight in the media about their lack of diversity.

"We are in the heart of Silicon Valley and interestingly, a lot of people say you're down the road from Google, how in the world do you recruit?" Google is notorious for retaining employees through its high salaries, free food, and its suite of health benefits.

"Well the answer is they come to us," Tullman explained in an interview with CNBC's Jon Fortt.

In a followup interview, Tullman said that about two-thirds of their hires have a chronic condition, like diabetes, or have a family-member who does. That helps them overcome any discrepancies in the kind of salary that LIvongo could offer, versus a company like Google.

Tullman described Livongo's team as "about a third are behavioral scientists, data scientists and software engineers." Its head of HR, Arnnon Geshuri, hails from both Tesla and Google.

Other health-tech companies shared the same sentiment with CNBC, and noted that it used to be far more challenging to recruit from big tech, but opportunities are starting to open up. The health-tech industry raised more than $8 billion in funding in 2018 alone and now boasts a few public companies, including Livongo.

Stride Health CEO Noah Lang said his company, which helps people in the gig economy with their health benefits, has hired a handful of folks recently from large tech companies that tend to offer high compensation.

Companies with a social mission have a "strategic advantage," he noted. "I see a lot of people who are looking specifically at ed-tech and health-tech, because the need a break from advertising models and want to get closer to the problems that real people face."

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