Meet the CEO who wants to take walks with every person in his company

GoodRx co-CEO Doug Hirsch shows us his calendar.

Calendar series

We take you inside a day in the lives of the world’s biggest tech execs.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

This is the first installment in Protocol's new Calendar Series, where we take you inside a day in the lives of the world’s biggest tech execs: the meetings on their agenda, how they manage their time, their best productivity hacks and what they prioritize in a busy day.

Doug Hirsch is the co-CEO of health care company GoodRx alongside business partner Trevor Bezdek. He characterizes himself as a “product entrepreneur,” and he and Bezdek split CEO duties, with Hirsch acting as more of the company’s “public face” and Bezdek responsible for more of the business development. Before co-founding the health care company with Bezdek and Scott Marlette in 2011, Hirsch was the VP of Product at Facebook, where he helped create Facebook Photos.

The Santa Monica-based company’s been busy. Just this month, it acquired vitaCare Prescription Services for $150 million in an effort to grow its pharma manufacturer solutions business.

Hirsch and I got together last week on Zoom to talk about what’s on his calendar today, March 22.

His schedule has been edited for brevity and clarity.

8-8:45 a.m. | Peloton

I’m celebrating my 500th ride tomorrow, so I’m very excited. I’m an Emma Lovewell fan. I do some athletic activity every morning before I get going. Sometimes I’ll do a pretty long morning walk, weightlifting, something every day so that I’m not sitting at the computer eating.

10-10:30 a.m. | Interns: Cecily and Cassie

I usually meet with all the interns at some point, either when they start or toward the end of their tenure at the company. On this particular day, I’m sitting down with some interns to talk about how to work in tech and health care, welcome them to the company and hopefully encourage them to continue to keep up the good work. This particular internship program is meant to prepare women and gender-expansive adults to be software developers. We’re really trying to build diversity in our workforce, especially in software development.

10:30-11:30 a.m. | Strategy check-in

We have two different executive check-ins. One’s a smaller group of about five people, and one’s about 20 people. We do a biweekly check-in to make sure we’re on the same page. It’s pretty fast and doesn’t always go the full hour, because why take up the time if we don’t need it?

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. | Doug’s thinking time

I really need to book out time, because otherwise my entire schedule gets filled. As much as I love interacting with folks, I do need to actually do what I like to do best and think I’m best at, which is building great products and thinking about the future of the company. I have six hours a week where no meetings get scheduled, where I need to just go deep, do some writing and use a whiteboard. I would love to tell you that nobody disturbs me, and it’s perfect. In practice, especially as a public company, I’m not going to say that I get a full six hours of that quality time.

One example of something I used this time for was in December of 2020. My son wanted a new PlayStation for Christmas, and I went on the internet and searched “PlayStation” and quickly found out that there were no PlayStations anywhere to be had unless you scalped one from StockX for like a billion dollars. And then I thought to myself — and remember, this is the end of 2020 right at the cusp of FDA approval for the vaccines — “Wait a second, this exact problem that I’m dealing with to get a PlayStation is going to happen across America and the world as everyone frantically tries to find these vaccines.” So it was during one of these times where I thought, “What if we built a vaccine finder? The data is out there, but people don’t know where to look.” I think in the span of two hours, I thought about it, actually called the guy who owns the data who worked for the government and basically kickstarted that project. And we launched it about three months later.

2-2:30 p.m. | Iced tea walk with Kraig A.

Kraig is a GoodRx employee. I try to walk with every employee, and I do this two or three times a week. It’s funny because sometimes people will show up at my office, and they have a PowerPoint ready, and I’m like, “No, we’re going for an iced tea walk.” We’re walking to the nearest coffee shop down the street, about 10 minutes away. When you’re sitting in a conference room or if they come into my office, it’s like, “I’m in the boss’s office, so I must behave accordingly.” And the relationship between the two of us is clear: boss here, and employee here. Those are two words I hate, by the way. But the minute we get on the street, we’re just two people going to get a drink together.

I think they’re kind of shocked. Because then I ask them, “What do you do for fun? You got any kids?” and that kind of stuff. And all they want to do is talk work. But I think the way to ultimately have a tighter working relationship is to start by just getting to know each other. It’s also a way to impart our values. I spent a few hours this morning working on our values. And at the end of the day, if I send you a PowerPoint with values on it, you put it in your trash, right? I think you got to eat, sleep and breathe it. And that’s kind of what the iced tea walk is about.

3-3:30 p.m. | GoodRx provider deep dive

One of the things that’s most important to GoodRx is people think of us as the place that consumers come to find information savings for prescriptions. But actually a huge part of our operations here is working with providers, health care professionals, and looking at ways to improve their experience. And if we can give them the tools, they can help more people in a more efficient way. Because there’s a lot of doctors out there that are like, “I’d love to sit down with someone and talk for 20 minutes about the price of the drug you’re trying to get at 19 different pharmacies.” Some folks may have the time to do that, and other folks are just like, “I want to be able to move on to the next patient but know that my patient got the best price.” So that’s what the deep dive is about.

4-4:30 p.m. | Research

We have a product called GoodRx Health, and we publish incredible content. Think about the vantage point we have: A significant amount of prescriptions written in this country come through direct, so we know what people are prescribing. We know when people are depressed in Minneapolis versus San Francisco or whatever. So this is actually me working with Thomas Goetz, our chief of research and chief communications officer, to look at trends to understand what content we can write that’s better than the normal garbage that you get on the internet if you look up any condition, drug or side effect. We work on providing best-in-class content, often written by doctors and health care professionals.

4:30-5 p.m. | Trevor

Trevor is my co-founder, the guy I keep talking about. Trevor and I, surprisingly, even though we share an office, you’d be surprised how rarely we actually get to talk. He’s on the phone, I can hear him on the phone right now. So we try to set aside some time to catch up and make sure we’re in sync on the company and our priorities.

We usually schedule two walks on our calendars a week. We never get both. We usually put an hour, and it usually ends up being a half hour. But the point of that is, again, for us to get out of the chaos. Otherwise, we’re in our office, someone’s banging on the door, Slack’s going off. To be really able to talk about the future of the company in an uninterrupted setting often just means a walk around the block. I’m a big fan of getting outside. We talk about both hiring and HR and business development issues, M&A, to “Where’s health care heading in this country?”

Rapid-fire with Doug Hirsch

Outlook or Gmail?

Definitely Gmail. I do have a lot of issues with Gmail, which I was about to rant about on Twitter. When I mark something as spam, why does Gmail still let it through? It’s like the button when you cross the street that doesn’t actually do anything.

Phone calls or Zoom?

Phone calls for sure. In fact, I have started going old school and conferencing people on my iPhone. There’s all sorts of research that Zoom is stressful. By the way, plastic surgeons are making a ton of money off of it, because people look at themselves and go, “Oh, I’ve got to fix that.” I’m fine with Zoom for three-plus people, but when it’s one on one, getting on Zoom is a major pet peeve.

Optimal meeting length?

Depends. If it’s a check-in meeting, it should be 25 minutes. If it’s a real brainstorm, I’ll go for days.

Do you ever do focus days with no meetings?

I do them a lot, actually. I’m ultimately a product entrepreneur. I don’t think of myself as a CEO of a company. And my job is to stay in touch with the pain points that American consumers are experiencing. So I will spend time hanging out in pharmacies. I was at the doctor’s this morning, and I spent an extra hour after I left my appointment just interviewing the front desk about what’s going on. So, no meetings except for interacting with actual people with actual health care problems, if that makes sense.

Do you keep a separate calendar for your personal life?

I keep a separate one, but it’s visible so people know if I’m busy.

Is there anything you will make time for no matter what?

My son’s on the tennis team right now, and I will not miss one of his matches. I’m lucky that they tend to start at 4:30 or 5 [p.m.], so I just leave a half hour earlier. I’m not going to sacrifice my brief time with my kids for work.

Your favorite productivity hack?

I know this sounds so old school, but nothing beats a whiteboard and small group of people, as in less than six, preferably less than four, just hashing out a problem. Get a bunch of people in a room and not leave until we solve it. I know we live in a distributed Zoom world, but there is a chemistry that comes from being able to work in a room together and design products together. The perfect mode is: Everyone’s in the room together. The second option is to do another Zoom.

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

While there remains debate among economists about whether we are officially in a full-blown recession, the signs are certainly there. Like most executives right now, the outlook concerns me.

In any case, businesses aren’t waiting for the official pronouncement. They’re already bracing for impact as U.S. inflation and interest rates soar. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 — the highest increase since November 1981 — and the Federal Reserve is targeting an interest rate of 3% by the end of this year.

Keep Reading Show less
Nancy Sansom

Nancy Sansom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Versapay, the leader in Collaborative AR. In this role, she leads marketing, demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, events, brand, content marketing and communications. She has more than 20 years of experience running successful product and marketing organizations in high-growth software companies focused on HCM and financial technology. Prior to joining Versapay, Nancy served on the senior leadership teams at PlanSource, Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter.


SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.


These two AWS vets think they can finally solve enterprise blockchain

Vendia, founded by Tim Wagner and Shruthi Rao, wants to help companies build real-time, decentralized data applications. Its product allows enterprises to more easily share code and data across clouds, regions, companies, accounts, and technology stacks.

“We have this thesis here: Cloud was always the missing ingredient in blockchain, and Vendia added it in,” Wagner (right) told Protocol of his and Shruthi Rao's company.

Photo: Vendia

The promise of an enterprise blockchain was not lost on CIOs — the idea that a database or an API could keep corporate data consistent with their business partners, be it their upstream supply chains, downstream logistics, or financial partners.

But while it was one of the most anticipated and hyped technologies in recent memory, blockchain also has been one of the most failed technologies in terms of enterprise pilots and implementations, according to Vendia CEO Tim Wagner.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.


Kraken's CEO got tired of being in finance

Jesse Powell tells Protocol the bureaucratic obligations of running a financial services business contributed to his decision to step back from his role as CEO of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kraken is going through a major leadership change after what has been a tough year for the crypto powerhouse, and for departing CEO Jesse Powell.

The crypto market is still struggling to recover from a major crash, although Kraken appears to have navigated the crisis better than other rivals. Despite his exchange’s apparent success, Powell found himself in the hot seat over allegations published in The New York Times that he made insensitive comments on gender and race that sparked heated conversations within the company.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Latest Stories