Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kickstarter for People Instead of Projects?

I've always been fascinated by the idea of investing in people. On more than one occasion, I've met a person that I've been truly impressed by and have thought about how amazing it would be to invest in them, their ideas and their career. This is also one of the reasons why I'm excited about investing in passionate entrepreneurs by learning more about angel investing and venture capital.

Recently I discovered a new website that takes this idea of investing in people and makes it into a business. Similar to Kickstarter and MedStartr (basically Kickstarter just for healthcare companies), there is now a company called Upstart, where "the startup is you" and others can invest in your career or ideas if you are a recent undergrad or graduate student. In fact, I was talking to a Stanford GSB alum who recently received the seed funding for his startup through Upstart, which fascinated me because it was such a unique new way to raise money that I hadn't heard of yet.

Upstart is a community of "Upstarts" and "Backers," where the "Upstarts" are able to raise a certain amount of money (they need to reach at least $10,000) for a small amount of their future income (the max being 7% of their income over 10 years). Based on a statistical model the company uses, it says that the average "Backer" tends to receive an annual 6-8% return on their investment, which of course also depends on the "Upstart" they pick by browsing through their profiles, but this is still a very decent return given the state of the public markets today.

I think this is a nice option for raising funds for recent graduates who have a cool startup idea, but are unable to raise funding through the traditional method of angel investors and VCs.  It's also interesting that most of the "Backers" on the site right now are actually angel investors or VCs who want to invest directly in very promising individuals and their ideas. At the end of the day, I truly believe that early-stage investing comes down to investing in the right people and teams and Upstart is a unique new way for people to invest in passionate and creative young adults.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicago Health 2.0’s Hacking Healthcare Event

I often find that some of the best ways to discover new ideas for startups is through attending local meetup events around the specific industry that you're interested in learning more about.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Chicago Health 2.0's Hacking Healthcare Series, which was centered around the topic of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the new opportunities it would open up for healthcare startups.

It was interesting to hear that over 10% of the population is already covered by ACOs and there are ~350 ACOs in the U.S. today with the largest one located in Chicago. The basic idea of the ACO model is that there will now be quality metrics that will drive how physicians and providers get paid (instead of being paid by patient volumes) and we will now have healthcare managers that work with you and your physician to not only improve your care, but also reduce unnecessary spending and over-treating of patients with repeat procedures, scans and unnecessary tests. The savings generated through this new model will then be divided between the payer and the provider, so initially it seems that the patient and employer does not save much money on the reduced healthcare costs, but they will hopefully benefit through better quality of care.

The most interesting part of the conversation was when the discussion turned to advice for startups. The two tips for healthcare startups were summarized as: 1) Follow the Money and 2) Don't screw with the money. 

The idea of "Follow the Money" is to make sure that as a startup working with healthcare companies, you need to make sure to understand that these companies are not only working for improved patient care, but they are also following the monetary incentives that the government is creating to help reduce costs and improve healthcare quality (i.e. government incentives to implement electronic health records).

The second tip, "Don't Screw with the Money," basically means that as a healthcare startup you need to make sure that your business model does not hinder the transition from Fee-for-Service to the ACO model of paying for quality, since this is most likely the future direction that the healthcare industry is moving towards.

Specific ideas for healthcare startups that follow these two pieces of advice include discovering a new method using the combination of programming and statistics to help insurers determine which patients can become high risk under this ACO model to help diagnose them early on before implementing a treatment plan. This could theoretically be done by looking through 2-3 years of historical claims data on patients to identify those with high healthcare costs.

Another idea for healthcare startups is to figure out a way for EMRs (electronic medical records) within a system and outside of a system to be able to communicate with each other. We will need to discover a way to add a layer over traditional EMRs to help implement a way for various healthcare systems to transfer information to each other electronically. 

Overall, we will see healthcare moving towards personalized medicine at a faster rate with improved treatment plans that are tailored for specific individuals. Also, it's clear that our healthcare system is at least 10 years behind the banking system because we need a similar platform or model as online banking, but for our healthcare industry. I think within the next 5 years, we will have a for healthcare which includes charts and graphs to help us track and analyze our health and share this information with our doctors. I personally cannot wait until this is developed because I believe it will help give consumers more transparency into their personalized healthcare and also motivate them to take better care of themselves by exercising more and eating better as they are able to see the benefits of small changes in their behavior showing up in the trends they are tracking online. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, New Habits

I’m usually not a big fan of coming up with New Year resolutions. However, I've recently become more methodical about putting together a list of goals for the new year and reviewing how the past year went across various aspects of my life from career, health, friends, family, community, personal, financial etc.

I think along with reviewing your goals, at the start of each year, it's also important for me to think about the things that I am most thankful for. Every year this list seems to get longer as each year ends up being better than the year before (it's a well known fact that we get happier as we age up to a certain point). And while this year I'm thankful for many things, one of the areas that have really helped me improve and that I'm looking forward to taking advantage of again this year is all the technology that makes my life simpler and helps me focus on self-improvement. Many of my New Year resolutions this year involved creating new habits to work toward personal development goals. A lot of these resolutions came about through all the self-reflection that I had to go through for business school applications. They have also been inspired by the numerous articles and blog posts that have been written about how to use new technology to help keep your New Years resolutions (TechCrunch and BBC).

A few of the new applications that I plan to use this year to help tackle some of my goals include:

·         100Plus: to help develop new and healthier habits. I especially like this app compared to a few of the other digital health applications that focus on improving health because it starts out by asking you a few questions and then calculates your hypothetical life expectancy. From there it uses gamification techniques to motivate you to do new tasks and pick up new health habits to add to your life expectancy score. I'm currently at a life expectancy of 88 years, 5 months, 3 weeks and 1 day and given the fact that I've had a few relatives live past 100 years, I'm hoping that I can get that number to grow to a few additional years by completing 100Plus daily "Hopps"
·         iPad: to motivate me to cook more. I just read 4 Hour Chef and I want to try and learn how to cook at least one new meal a month
·         Podcasts and Wikipedia to brush up on languages starting with Turkish, French and Spanish. Here I'm taking another tip from Tim Ferris by focusing on the 1,000 most frequently used words in each language
·         Learn to code (Python and Ruby) using all the free resources I can get my hands on - Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, Codecademy and this site
·         Basis: I'm still waiting for my Basis to finally ship so I can use it to track heart rate, stress, sleep, exercise, etc. I currently use the FitBit and really enjoy it, but based on everything I've read, I'm looking forward to trying this new device out to see if it's worth all the hype
·         Project 365: to help my get back into photography by reminding me to take a picture every day with my iPhone
·         Continue to read a book each week. I have a very long reading list that I keep through both Google Docs and Goodreads and with my library card, I always seem to have the maximum number of holds on both physical books and ebooks. Keep a look out for a new startup called Oyster which will be like a Netflix or Spotify for books.
·         23andMe: to learn more about my health through my DNA. I've gone back and forth about whether or not I would want to know if I'm predisposed for certain conditions and I've finally decided that I think it's better to know in the event that there is anything you can do to help improve your health.
·         Sleep101: I'm getting rid of my old alarm and now focusing on not only tracking my sleep but also making sure I wake up around the right time in my sleep cycle.
·         Buster: to help write more regularly each day. I used to just use pen and paper but I wouldn't do it everyday and I would forget. Buster is a great motivator because I become disappointed if I miss a day since I'll see a mark on the website showing which days I've missed. I also really enjoy how it analyzes my writing to tell me how I'm feeling based on the words I'm using and what I've written the most about and whether I'm feeling more introverted or extroverted based on my writing.
·         iPhone Timer: to help time myself during meditation. It's amazing how many books I read last year that all mentioned the benefits of meditation (clear head, reduce stress, visualize the future, gain energy, improve optimism, etc.). While I tried last year to make this a daily habit, I failed miserably because my mind would wander constantly and I would often sneak a peek at the clock to see how much time passed. Now I just set my iPhone timer to two minutes and hopefully by the end of the year I can ease myself into longer 10 or 15 minute sessions.

I know this seems like a long list of new habits I’m trying to pick up, especially since many people recommend picking one new habit each month and focusing on just that one until you've maintained it for 30 days. We all have a finite amount of willpower, but since I've never been the type to wait, so I'm just going to challenge myself and go after them all at the same time. I have a feeling that not all of these new habits will stick throughout the year (which is why I'm not referring to them as New Years Resolutions), but if I can benefit from even a few of these new technologies listed above, I will consider 2013 to be an overall success!