Reflecting on 10 Years of Helping Build Healthier Communities

While a lot has changed over the past decade (our hair, definitely, and the company’s original Saint Bernard logo, for sure…) our essential commitment to collaboratively leading Community Health Transformation in the US has never wavered. As Intrepid Ascent celebrates 10 years of success this year, we’re taking a moment to look back on how we got started, how far we’ve come, and where we’re headed next. 

Our origin story. 

Intrepid Ascent began in December 2013 with Mark Elson and Alex Horowitz — two colleagues coming off a big project with the California Health Information Partnership & Services Organization (CalHIPSO) and wanting to launch their own venture to continue supporting systemic change. Both of them had grown up in small towns in rural California’s Central Valley  and shared a passion for helping communities that shone as bright as the neon orange walls of their original co-working space in Berkeley. The very first Intrepid Ascent mission was anchored on supporting community health primarily through information technology: 

“Intrepid Ascent is a California-based consulting firm that guides healthcare organizations through the adoption and use of information technology to reach the heights of their clinical and business goals. Our consulting and management services identify strategic pathways to integrated care, helping organizations find and implement tools that fit their context.” — 2013 mission statement

The duo quickly found success with community partners and hired their first employee, Katelyn May in 2016, who is still part of the team today. “We started out as ‘the rebel alliance.’ The scrappy young group that’s just trying to help out and get it all together. As we’ve grown, we’ve kept that strong core identity. We try to work together as a team and figure everything out,” said May.

During that period of expansion, the company grew to 10 people working together in a WeWork office. Intrepid traded the Saint Bernard logo from the founding years for a mountain theme of helping clients navigate “healthcare terrain” with the “intelligent use of data to improve care coordination and population health.”

A large Alameda County Whole Person Care project became a key leveling-up point for the team. This pilot project tested coordinating housing, medical, mental health, and addiction treatment services for the county’s most vulnerable residents. With Intrepid supporting every step of the way, our team sharpened their expertise in community engagement and implementation along with technology and policy work. With this project, and the experience of supporting five other Whole Person Pilots across California, the mission had evolved to include a commitment to “improving health outcomes one community at a time” by 2019.

Like many organizations, the COVID pandemic changed the landscape for Intrepid Ascent. While the team had already begun working on New York-based projects d before 2020, the move to remote work enabled Intrepid to expand further beyond California  — taking on national projects and working from home offices ranging from Colorado to Croatia.

Preparing for this anniversary, Intrepid rebranded in 2023 and launched a fresh look that still includes a nod to our mountain themes but now brought to life with illustrations by artist Elaine Chen. Today, our team is centered around two headquarters, one in Brooklyn, NY and the other in our original city of Berkeley, CA. We continue to work with impactful organizations including the California Department of Health Care Services, Anthem Blue Cross, Sonoma County, the California Health Care Foundation, the Health & Wellness Council of Long Island, and Aliados Health as well as county programs on the frontlines with their communities — and are especially excited about opportunities related to recent Medicaid expansion focused on supporting the most historically underserved communities. 

“Intrepid is today experiencing the most dramatic growth in our 10-year history,” said Karen Ostrowski, Chief Operating Officer. “There is so much momentum and positive energy among our team, our clients, and our network, it is truly remarkable. The most critical thing for us at this moment is retaining our strong culture and holding true to what makes us unique.”

Intrepid Ascent’s decade by the numbers.

  • Grown from 2 to 23 employees, today working across 9 states.
  • Supported 87 clients across 7 states, including 2 national programs and 1 international.
  • Delivered on 234 individual projects.
  • Provided 94,157 hours of consulting time.
  • Sent 424,120 Slack messages.

Looking ahead to the next decade.

Intrepid Ascent is continuing to scale and grow as we enter the next decade of transforming community health. Alex shared from his personal experience that “having been a part of a massive, nationwide initiative to try to ‘modernize’ the healthcare system Mark and I knew coming away from CalHIPSO that in order to enable real change for community health providers in California (and beyond) we needed to have the freedom to unleash our full creative potential and also to meet community providers where they were and where they wanted to be. Intrepid has made those local approaches to complex problems possible and affected real change for our clients in the process.” Reflecting on the decade past, CEO Mark said the best advice he learned from his startup experience is to “be true to yourself and leave it all on the field every day, then don’t worry about results that are out of your control and embrace the next challenge.” 

Collaboration remains at the center of Intrepid’s work as we head into the decade ahead. “It is now widely accepted that in order to support person-centered care that creates environments for people to thrive, disparate care teams need to work together,” said Danielle Carter, vice president, community change. “I am so excited to see how our robust experience working with healthcare and human services organizations will continue to position us to support this alignment and engagement across the nation!” We are looking forward to working with local communities and healthcare organization leaders to create impactful, connected, modern, and compassionate whole-person health for everyone.