Emissary is Joining Primer

Jonathan Howard
3 min readApr 29, 2016

Three years ago, I heard the story of my friend’s mother, who thought she had great U.S. health insurance. To get the arthritis treatment she needed, she was still forced to fly her whole family to India for a month. She saved ~$40,000, and reported better care than her U.S hospital. But it wasn’t easy. She happened to know someone who knew someone she could trust — there were no good options online. That same month, Tom and I started Emissary, with the vision of giving everyone in the world access to that kind of world-class care at a price they can afford.

This month, we made the difficult decision to shut it down.

While it was clear we were building something people wanted at Emissary, tough margins in the industry showed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to build a company with the kind of impact we were looking for, and we’ll be returning money to investors. I want to thank them for taking a chance on our team and vision, then both supporting and challenging us along the way. Most of all, I want to thank the team, especially Tom, Lyle, Nate A, and Nate B, who showed dedication, long nights, and creativity, while tackling tough problems to the end.

While the shut-down stings, I’m proud of what we accomplished. Our network saved people millions of dollars on medical and dental care, even caught cancer early for a customer, who sent us the most rewarding email I’ve ever gotten.

Along the way, we beat industry averages for time-to-purchase and paid acquisition, while maintaining our commitment to phenomenal patient experience. We got love from Product Hunt, friends, even Lyft drivers. We learned Spanish, international business, phone sales, customer development, and more about the health and growth fields in two years than I would have thought possible.

Emissary’s Alpha trip to launch in Costa Rica, featuring our friends and first customers: Tim, Jimmy, Spencer, and Doriane.

However, I’m happy to announce that Emissary will be joining Primer! As a cross-functional growth team, we’ll carry on the type of user research and funnel work we built at Emissary. Primer solves many of the same pain points we experienced building Emissary’s products, and we’ll help grow a company we think will revolutionize how people like us build and grow mobile apps.

I’m looking forward to continuing our team’s work at Primer. Our job will be to fall even more in love with the startup ecosystem, talk to app developers all day, and help them succeed. (If you’re friends with someone helping grow a mobile app — whether it’s founder, PM, marketing, engineering — please intro me! I want to buy them lunch and talk about their passions.)

On a more personal note: Support from fellow founders was invaluable to me these last three years. I sincerely want to pay it forward. If you want an outside, confidential, perspective on anything that’s “bringing you pain”, please reach out any time on Twitter.

- Jonathan

P.S. If you’re an Emissary customer, we’ve already emailed you contact info for your doctors and coordinators directly. For those new or curious, see the Emissary site for that same information.



Jonathan Howard

Conversation beats argument. Technical founder/advisor helping startups w/growth, research & prototyping. CTO Rupie.io. Alum of Minted, Google, others.