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Start-up generation

Natalia Adler

Co-founder and CEO of Pebble Analytics

Natalia Adler holds a master in Human Rights from Columbia University and a French Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude and with the highest honors. She spent over 14 years with UNICEF in Africa, Central and South America, and in the US. She has conceptualized and led the Data Collaboratives initiative with NYU’s GovLab and other partners, which leverages data from companies like Bloomberg, Telefonica and Microsoft to tackle some of the world’s most complex challenges, including epidemics, suicide or migration.


“Pandemics are everyone’s business, so we need a broader vision of how to not only create global public goods but also build a system that helps pay for them”


Pebble Analytics wants to prevent the next pandemic. Its Early Warning System crowdsources health data directly from the general population and creates decision intelligence software that helps public authorities improve health outcomes and businesses mitigate economic disruptions. They are a business with a purpose.


1. Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve seen good ideas in the public sector fade away after the original investment has dried up, so I wanted to bring market solutions into the equation. I wanted to show that we can create positive social change and make a profit. Pandemics, for example, are everyone’s business, so we need a broader vision of how to not only create global public goods but also build a system that helps pay for them.


2. What has been the most important strategic decision you have made so far?

Leaving a secure 14-year career with UNICEF in New York to become an entrepreneur in Barcelona was not only life-changing but also a strategic decision. The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Barcelona is more manageable than in New York and there’s a lot of talent here (plus the weather is nicer!). I also believe this leap of faith shows my commitment to our mission and moonshot goals. 


3. What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Don’t take shortcuts.” When you’re so busy, it’s tempting to outsource tasks you don’t enjoy or skip certain steps to get ahead. But building a company –from idea to reality– is a monumental task and requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears. So I’m learning to welcome –and even enjoy– the pain that comes with this transformational process.


4. Tell us one thing you wish you had known before you started your company.

“The buck stops here”, meaning: you hold all the responsibilities. This requires a shift in mindset, from employee to entrepreneur. This shift doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a growth process. You’re not born an entrepreneur. You become one.


5. Tell us one strategy you use at your job that is also useful in other areas of life.

When everything seems urgent, and you have fewer hands on deck, it’s important to prioritize. Keeping a longer-term strategy in mind –even when it’s hard to see two steps ahead– not only helps me focus, but also keeps me positive when I encounter obstacles. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


6. And now what? What milestones do you want to achieve in the short term?

We’re finalizing our first prototype with the Government of South Africa and are in negotiations with nine other countries in the region to create AfyaNet, a network of National Health Institutes leveraging technology to identify and forecast infectious disease outbreaks. We’re also designing an Early Adopters’ Program with pharmaceutical supply chain companies to help us test our products. Plus, we’re currently self-funded and will be looking to start an investment round in January.