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VCs discussed the importance of community in the startups they invest in
On Thursday, Vator and HP held their holiday salon gathering, called SplashX Invent Health - Vitality: Lifestyle as a drug, where a group of innovators, adopters and financiers got together to take a deep dive into new innovations and frameworks that could get people to be more proactive about lifestyle modifications.
One of the big topics of the night were the different factors that go into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both internal and external forces. One that came up repeatedly was the idea of community and the ways that being a part of a larger group can help keep people accountable.
The topic of community was discussed during the first panel of the night, featuring healthcare venture capitalists Ariel Poler, Slow Ventures' Will Quist and Jake Chapman of Alpha Bridge Ventures. The panel was co-moderated by Archana Dubey, Global Medical Director at HP, and Bambi Francisco Roizen, Founder and CEO of Vator.
Dubey started by mentioning some of the things she sees motivating people who come to her practice, specifically data and feedback, which help people see how they are progressing. She specifically asked Poler about his investment in called One Fix, which focuses on getting people to change one thing about their lifestyle to make them healthier or more productive.
"Your investment in One Fix, does that tie back to any data they give back that the patient or the end user, so they're starting to feel like it’s making their life better?" she asked.
Poler responded that, while the company is still in its early days, and is just getting started, "obviously there’s a feedback loop."
"You made me think of something that I think is pretty relevant. Have any of you heard about the weight scale without an LCD? It’s brilliant. What would your reaction be to a weight scale that doesn’t show you your weight? Well, guess what, every day there’s all this variability and you get in and you’re usually disappointed with what you see for one reason or another. The right way to give you feedback is to collect all that info, and then, at the right time frame, at the right moment, quantify the data, show you how you’re doing."
Community creates adherence
Quist then brought up a company he has invested in called Hip Sobriety, a company focused on getting "Millennials to reimagine their relationship to alcohol in a digital fashion."
"The really big thing about that was community. It’s one thing that in consumer apps you go through this whole world, you kind of take a round trip completely and realize that when you begin to bake community in, which has positive and negative reinforcements to it, you become accountable. You get the like, you get these feedback loops that really drive engagement and adherence. Paramount for us is data, the more you are actually having causation on moving a number the more it goes from vitamin to aspirin because have action to reaction," he said.
("Vitamin to aspirin" is a reference to something Francisco had said earlier in the night, about how aspirin shows an immediate impact but that vitamins take longer and don't show their true worth until much later)
"When you get out of that loop, community is a big thing we look for. How are you, in real life? There’s a whole other three hours we could spend the role humans with tech and data have for scaling access to services in healthcare but, in this world, it’s virtual or otherwise creating community. This company we backed called Hip Sobriety that’s doing this, largely for Millennial women but broadly the Millennial population, to reimagine their relationship with alcohol. They organically built this unbelievable online community where people started getting tattoos and staying in touch and looking for ways to recreate this culture in different fashions. The adherence and the change in lifestyle has been unbelievable from the community they've built."
Fran Ayalasomayajula, Senior Manager of Worldwide Healthcare at HP, then asked the panel is community is "a fundamental criteria you have as you look at companies with whom you invest, that they also have to have a community around their solution?"
Quist responded that he is "not nearly that dogmatic," but that it is something he looks for, especially in companies that can't provide hard data on their solutions.
"In places that we’re looking at that are trying to change outcomes, that don’t have data with causation, then I go down the line of adherence and if I don’t get to that point, community is one I like to look for. It absolutely goes in my adherence logic if it’s bakeable in this product."
"So, if that’s one of the recipes for success in driving outcomes, and driving outcomes from the perspective of the investor so that you’re able to hit return on your investment, would that then not become a criteria? How do you go about criteria in this space as you look to solutions? Is it because it’s a shiny new object and it kind of sounds good?" asked Ayalasomayajula.
Poler agreed with Quist that it isn't that cut and dry when it comes to investing.
"I think most investors, we don’t have a bunch of checked boxes. It’s much more intuitive, pattern recognition. Usually there’s one thing about it that we love and nothing that’s a showstopper. It’s very case by case," he said.
Community creates accountability
"I’m a big believe in community," Francisco chimed in. "I would say what community creates is accountability. If you want to change behavior, that’s one of the biggest factors that changes your behavior. Whether it’s accountability to yourself, your unborn child, your husband, your community group. These relationships are a big driver of behavior. So I would ask when considering an investment, 'Does this product create accountability?'" she said, pointing her question to Chapman and his investment in Avail, a hospital with concierge-level care tailored specifically with the community.
"What I like about Avail is that it captures all of this different data but, at the same time, they’re also capturing unstructured data continually, and I think that, combination, actually helps create a feedback loop and ongoing communication with the person," she said.
"It goes to what Will has been saying, which is that, quantified self 1.0 was all about collecting data, and what we’re doing now is trying to collect data and find something actionable with it. You have all this data you’ve collected in your life, what do you do with it to make your life a little bit better? Avail is trying to do that," Chapman responded.
"They collect a bunch of structured data points, they can import stuff from your Apple Watch or whatever, but then they also ask you questions throughout the week. And, over the course of a week or a month, those questions end up accumulating to what is a full panel of questions. They track that over time and start surfacing suggestions to you and useful information and data for your life. We’re still in the very early stages of being able go get data that’s not just your blood sugar level and your heart rate into these platforms, but I think it is where it will ultimately go."
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