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Internal memo: PillPack founders will leave Amazon at the end of the month

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PillPack founders TJ Parker, left, and Elliot Cohen. (Photos via LinkedIn)

PillPack co-founders TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen will leave Amazon, four years after the tech giant acquired the online pharmacy in 2018 as an early step in its broader push into healthcare.

Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, informed employees in the group about the impending changes in an internal email this morning, obtained by GeekWire. Describing it as bittersweet news, Lindsay wrote that both Parker and Cohen “have decided to leave Amazon later this month.”

“It can be hard to see leaders leave the company. However, in some ways, it’s also natural,” Lindsay wrote in the memo. “If you ask TJ and Elliot, I think they would say they are entrepreneurs at heart, who love chasing the next big idea, getting it off the ground, and the thrill of seeing their idea come to life. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do next.”

In an accompanying memo, Parker wrote that he and Cohen “are excited to spend lots of time with our families, get in a bunch of days on the mountain, and after some R&R will likely both return our focus to starting, investing in, and advising other healthcare and consumer-focused businesses.”

The memo confirms an Axios report in July that Parker would be leaving in September. He and Cohen were shifted to roles as consultants last year, when Lindsay, an veteran Amazon executive, was named to oversee Amazon’s healthcare initiatives. Axios’ Erin Brodwin also broke that earlier news about Parker and Cohen. Amazon at the time disputed the characterization of the changes as demotions.

Lindsay wrote in his memo that both Parker and Cohen “played a leadership role in identifying John Love as the leader to drive the next phase of Amazon Pharmacy growth, and they’ve spent the last 8 months ensuring that transition is as smooth as possible.”

Love, who has been at Amazon for more than 16 years, shifted into the role of vice president of Amazon Pharmacy and Pillpack at the beginning of this year.

It’s the latest shakeup for Amazon Healthcare, following the company’s decision, announced last month, to discontinue its Amazon Care primary health-care services at the end of this year.

Amazon initially launched Amazon Pharmacy in November 2020, building on its 2018 acquisition of PillPack. Amazon is competing against traditional pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and RiteAid, big retail rivals such as Walmart and Target, and healthcare technology companies such as GoodRx.

We interviewed Parker last year on GeekWire’s Health Tech Podcast to learn more about Amazon Pharmacy.

Here are the full memos from Lindsay and Parker.

Email to Amazon Health Services employees from Neil Lindsay, SVP of Amazon Health Services

Health Service team,

I wanted to share the bittersweet news that TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, the founders of PillPack and our partners in developing the Health Services strategy, have decided to leave Amazon later this month. TJ and Elliot have had a significant impact on Amazon and the Health Services organization, and while they will be missed, we’re grateful for their contributions and wish them well on their next endeavors. 

When they joined Amazon, TJ and Elliot brought with them extensive experience and knowledge about pharmacy and health care, along with a strong conviction that the industry could be more customer-centric. Driven by their vision and customer obsession, the PillPack business and capabilities became the foundation of Amazon Pharmacy. TJ and Elliot led the build-out of Pharmacy as an on-Amazon experience along with a variety of B2B partnerships, putting our pharmacy services on track to solid growth. Like all of Amazon Health Services, the foundational work that enables growth is a heavy lift. TJ and Elliot championed the investment needed and recognized when to transition to new leadership. Both played a leadership role in identifying John Love as the leader to drive the next phase of Amazon Pharmacy growth, and they’ve spent the last 8 months ensuring that transition is as smooth as possible.

As you know, we are working on an important, missionary opportunity to make it easier for people to access the health care services and products they need to get and stay healthy. This mission will require us to extend our capabilities and build new ones. It will take patience, determination, and persistence. We are on a path to help improve the customer health care experience, and TJ and Elliot helped define that strategy. They’ve worked closely with me, and other Health Services leaders, to identify the vision and path forward for our emerging health care efforts. I’m grateful for their insight and guidance, just as I’m appreciative of the help we’ve received from others along this journey.  

It can be hard to see leaders leave the company.  However, in some ways, it’s also natural. If you ask TJ and Elliot, I think they would say they are entrepreneurs at heart, who love chasing the next big idea, getting it off the ground, and the thrill of seeing their idea come to life. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do next.

This is a handing of the baton moment and I want to personally thank TJ and Elliot for their contributions. I hope you’ll all join me in doing so and in wishing them well in their next endeavors.

Neil

+++

Hey Team,

Roughly a decade ago my heart was racing as I pitched the idea of PillPack for the first time to a room full of doctors, engineers, and designers at MIT Hacking Medicine. The idea had originated out of the experience I had working in pharmacies as a kid, watching my dad build a long-term-care pharmacy with similar packaging, and my interest in design and tech. Looking back, I could have never dreamed of the places this idea would take me over the last decade. I’m writing to let you all know that Elliot and I are moving on from PillPack and Amazon at the end of the month. Out of everything, it’s the people that we met along the way and that joined us on this journey that we’ll remember most fondly, and we’ll miss you all.

So many memories over the last decade stand out.. shipping our first PillPack back in late 2013, our misspelled “killpack” pharmacy license from Wyoming, expanding “suite 2012” in Manchester to the entire first floor, celebrating our launch of PharmacyOS in Somerville, late night jams in the “pillpack condo” in Park City, fighting on behalf of our customers in 2016 and tearing up as I read the stories of the people we’d been able to impact so positively, seeing the tremendous joy and happiness throughout the teams the day we announced the acquisition by Amazon for $1B in 2018, and launching Amazon Pharmacy in the fall of 2020.

You should all be so proud of what we were able to achieve together — we’re beyond any other similarly situated healthcare startup in the scale and impact we’ve been able to have over the last decade. And we were able to create disproportionate value for the investors and team members that bet on us early. It was a hard decision to decide to step back last fall, but the decision was made easier after we knew that such tenured Amazonians as Neil and John would be taking over and we’re confident they’ll continue to operate and innovate on behalf of our customers.

As for what’s next for us, Elliot and I are excited to spend lots of time with our families, get in a bunch of days on the mountain, and after some R&R will likely both return our focus to starting, investing in, and advising other healthcare and consumer-focused businesses.

Wishing you all the best and filled with so much gratitude..

TJ and Elliot 

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