The Ezra Klein Show: VC Bill Gurley on Transforming Health Care

In November of 2015, I posted a tweet that declared Benchmark was interested in discovering Internet healthcare investments. Our firm has had the good fortune to invest in many two-sided networks that used information aggregation, supplier aggregation, and user generated content to attract and inform consumers and resultantly disrupt and change different industries. Examples of such companies include Yelp, OpenTable, GrubHub, 1stDibs, DogVacay/Rover, Zillow, and Uber. It only seemed logical to us that the same opportunity should exist in healthcare. Most people are aware that healthcare spending in the U.S. has risen to 17-18% of GDP and is grossly out of line with other comparable nations. Additionally, all of us that have been consumers of the U.S. system are blindingly aware that numerous inefficiencies exist in the system. Simply put, there is amble room for improvement. So if Internet and mobile technologies can be used to change real estate or transportation, why not healthcare?

Over the next two years, I looked at many healthcare IT investment opportunities – I went “all in.” It’s worth noting that our primary focus was on technologies that aided and improved primary care, which is about half of the U.S. market in terms of revenue dollars (there is no question that digital tools will successfully impact specific acute diseases/disorders, but it’s our intuition these are best left to 100% focused HC investors). At first, this deep dive proved frustrating. The more we learned, the more we realized how much we did not really understand. The U.S. healthcare system is confusing and complex. Eventually, however, we gained our footing and developed a mental model for the industry and a framework for where opportunities do exist. We also discovered what we believe is a large and investible trend/theme. In May of this year, Ezra Klien, who is remarkably informed and intelligent on the topic of healthcare, was kind enough to include me on his podcast to discuss and debate my learnings. That podcast is included here along with a transcript.

 

 

Ezra Klein:  Hello and welcome to the Ezra Klein Show, a podcast on Vox Media Podcast Network. I am Ezra Klein and my guest this week is Bill Gurley. Bill is a general partner at Benchmark, one of Silicon Valley’s really legendary venture capital firms. He is one of Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capitalists. He was named the venture capitalist of the year in 2016 at the TechCrunch’s annual Crunchy awards. He’s been an early investor in Grubhub, OpenTable,Uber, and Zillow and all kinds of things. A very, very smart guy, a very thoughtful guy. We’ve been talking recently because he’s been thinking a lot about healthcare.

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How Consumer Brands Can Connect with Customers in a Changing Retail Landscape

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When news broke earlier this year about Amazon’s courtship of some of the world’s biggest consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, it touched off a wave of speculation. Was the e-commerce giant engaged in a long game to alter the relationships between consumer goods makers and their brick-and-mortar retail partners? However it plays out, Amazon’s outreach exposed a digital divide in the consumer products world. On one side is the growing interest of brands in direct-to-consumer (D2C) models. On the other side are persistent worries about conflict — not just with traditional distribution channels but also with retailers carrying the brand. To bridge this gap, we’ve identified seven tactics that pioneering brands have used to arrive at an effective digital strategy: Understand how digital serves different consumer segments. Brands can deepen engagement by bringing people together for shared experiences. Kimberly-Clark, for example, specifically designed its Huggies rewards club to attract and educate new
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Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries was one of two books I read this weekend (the other was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness). It was outstanding. I made it the August book club book for my dad and my brother. And then, this morning, I woke up to the following headlines. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. There is now a long history of governments trying to control the Internet. One approach over government is censoring the Internet; another is weaponizing it. The Red Web covers Russia’s history around the Internet starting during the Cold War with a focus on the last twenty years. While Russia had a slow start, the Internet played a big
Continue reading "Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries"

Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries was one of two books I read this weekend (the other was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness). It was outstanding. I made it the August book club book for my dad and my brother. And then, this morning, I woke up to the following headlines. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. There is now a long history of governments trying to control the Internet. One approach over government is censoring the Internet; another is weaponizing it. The Red Web covers Russia’s history around the Internet starting during the Cold War with a focus on the last twenty years. While Russia had a slow start, the Internet played a big
Continue reading "Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries"

How Retail Can Thrive in a World Without Stores

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Kenneth Andersson for HBR
Historically, shopping has been a sensory experience. Store associates served as personal shoppers, helping customers pick out items. Shoppers gauged quality by the look and feel of a product. They asked for sales associates’ opinions when they tried on clothes. It was as much an emotional experience as it was a physical, tactile one. That traditional “personal touch” shopping experience is hard to replicate online. As more companies struggle to find their niche with the modern consumer, they’re turning to new technologies to recreate this sensory experience. What’s emerging is what I call the “StoreHouse” — a hybrid model that merges the physical benefits of a real-world store with the convenience of home. To embrace this market shift, retailers will need to experiment with a range of technologies and strategies across marketing, supply chain, and merchandising. Here’s how some brands are already doing this:

Making the bedroom the
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