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A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life: Dr. Rick Henrikson, CEO & Founder of Ongo

Rick Henrikson is the CEO of Ongo, a company building a no-code platform that helps creators easily launch and grow their own businesses, starting with branded mobile apps for health and wellness experts. Rick started Ongo a few years ago after recognising a need for more science in the consumer wellness and preventive care industry.

Coming from a PhD in Bioengineering and previous work on FDA-regulated consumer products, Rick wanted to put advanced technology in the hands of every expert creator so they can focus on what they do best – content and community. 

This journey was precipitated by a cancer diagnosis in 2018. On his journey through hospitals, surgery, and chemo, Rick wished he’d had access to better guidance and support systems. Rick and his team have built Ongo to help anyone on a health and wellness journey get the guidance and support they need.

As the “Chief Everything Officer” at a startup, Rick’s role varies quite a bit day-to-day. On any given day, he could be reviewing new product designs, troubleshooting issues with the engineering team, talking with customers, meeting with investors, recruiting awesome new people, or doing an assortment of random tasks.

Most importantly, Rick tries to shape the culture and direction of the company so that they can best fulfill their mission to empower everyone to reach their full potential, with science. 

Stopping to take in the sights on a jog along the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Rick spoke to Talking Influence telling us a little bit about what his typical day in the life of a CEO and Founder looks like. 

8:30 – 9:00: I usually wake up naturally without an alarm (there are few things worse than being jolted out of sleep prematurely). I truly believe sleep is the “most important meal of the day”, so I try my best to be well-rested. I’ll usually do a brief journaling exercise on my Whoop band, logging anything from the prior day that may have impacted my sleep quality (caffeine and alcohol are usually the biggest culprits!). 

I’ll also usually check my email during this window, just to see if there is anything urgent that has come up over the evening. And I’ll make a stop at the restroom to brush my teeth and weigh myself on my digital scale (I’ve now got over eight years of weight data). I believe digital health measurement can be an important tool to stay in touch with your body and wellbeing – and have found it critical when troubleshooting issues over the years.

9:30: Go for a short jog or walk if I have time (depends on the day). Then head over to our office, which is fortunately right across the street from my apartment in San Francisco.

Dropping by the Ferry Building on the way back from a jog. Our mission at Ongo (“We empower everyone to reach their full potential, with science”) is inspired by a favorite Gandhi quote: “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems”.

10:00 – 10:15: Meet with the team for our daily stand-up meeting. It’s a good time to sync up with everyone and find opportunities to unblock my team members. We each report what we did the last day, what we’re going to do today, and any blockers we need help with.

10:30 – 12:00: I’ll usually have some meetings during this time that are centered around product development or issue tracking. I love working with our talented designers and engineers to tease apart problems and come up with creative solutions. If I’m going to have any caffeine, I’ll generally do it during this time window. I’m *very* sensitive to caffeine, so if I drink any after 1 pm, I won’t be able to sleep at night. But I find the boost can be helpful, particularly on days where I have to grind through a bunch of tasks in the afternoon. 

Note, I generally only eat meals between around noon and 8 pm. I rarely have any breakfast at all. I know there’s some controversy around this diet, but I find it works naturally for my body.

A view of the new Ongo office on a light day. Given Covid restrictions, we are still operating on a fairly remote basis as a company.

12:00 – 13:00: I’ll usually have lunch during this time. It varies by the day – sometimes I’ll walk home (right across the street) to have a casual lunch. Other times, team members and I will walk to a nearby restaurant or park for lunch (Yerba Buena Gardens is our go-to spot, just a couple blocks away from the office). I try not to eat anything too heavy – some foods will destroy my productivity in the afternoon.

13:00 – 15:00: I’ll usually try to schedule meetings during this time. I’m more likely to be a little sluggish after filling my belly, but I’m an extrovert so I find meeting with people can counterbalance the low energy that I might feel working on more tedious tasks. I might be meeting with team members (regular one-on-one’s, product meetings, etc.), customers (learning about needs, answering any questions that I can, etc.), or investors.

Getting lunch in Yerba Buena Gardens with some of the Ongo team. Pictured from left to right: Rick Henrikson (CEO), Mujtaba Hassanpur (CTO), Jack Schiavo (Senior Software Engineer).

15:00 – 19:00: This is usually one of my most productive blocks of time. I try to minimise meetings during this time as I feel higher energy and can make a lot of progress on my to-do lists. These tasks can be all over the place – ranging from making comments and edits in Figma to architecting bigger picture plans for the business. I’ll also usually block some time out to batch through any important emails that have come in recently. Though in general, our team tries to avoid email. Most of our communications happen in context (for example, in threads on our project management tool, ClickUp, directly inside our customer support software, etc.). We use Slack for any urgent pings (or lunch invites), and email is primarily used for external communications (with clients, investors, etc.)

19:00 – 20:00: I generally try to have dinner in this window. One of my go-to options is baked salmon and broccoli (healthy, delicious, and easy to cook and clean up). I’ve been trying to be more veg-forward lately, so I’ll sometimes have vegetable curries or these amazing veggie tacos (love the Trader Joe’s soy chorizo). And before Covid, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a dinner meeting. But that’s a bit less frequent these days.

Lunch with some of the San Francisco Ongo team at a local Japanese restaurant. Pictured from left to right: Jessica Oda (Account Manager), Chearim Park (Designer), Jack Schiavo (Senior Software Engineer), Mujtaba Hassanpur (CTO), Rick Henrikson (CEO).

20:00 – 23:00: Depending on the day, I may dive in and finish up a few more lingering tasks. Or I may spend some time relaxing or catching up with friends. During Covid, I’d sometimes use this time to schedule virtual happy hours with people I hadn’t seen in a while. On my best days, I can use this time for a creative pursuit (like writing or strumming on the guitar).

23:00 – 12:30: This is usually wind-down time for me on weeknights. I’ll generally be brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. And most every night that I’m not super exhausted, I’ll spend 30 minutes to an hour reading on my Kindle. I generally cycle between nonfiction and fiction (mostly sci-fi and fantasy, but I do love some absurdist comedy like Vonnegut). You can check out my reading list

On a weekend night, I’ll likely still be out somewhere with friends. On most Fridays, I meet up with a group of friends from college in SF where we can share a meal, catch up, and possibly watch some ridiculous programming.

Here’s a dramatic scene from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with friends.

12:30 – 1:00: I usually am drifting off to sleep during this window of time. If I’ve done a good job, I’ll generally get 7.5 hours of quality sleep and wake up well-rested for a brand new (and likely very different) day.

It is great to learn more about the companies and roles out there that can benefit creators. It was also very interesting to learn how Rick’s own health journey led to him creating a platform that enables more and more people to get on a healthier path in life. 

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