Why can’t society take care of its elderly? Seth Sternberg thinks he has a solution
There’s a particular class of companies in the world I like to call “Total NewCos.” These are firms attempting to solve massive and intractable social problems through the application of technology and innovative business models. In the past we’ve covered many of these kinds of companies, including AltSchool and Grail Bio. Joining those ranks today is Honor, brainchild of entrepreneur Seth Sternberg. He presented Honor, which is attempting to reinvent the home senior care market, at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year. Below is a video of his presentation, and a transcript, edited for clarity.
Seth Sternberg: Hello, everybody. How are you doing today? Thank you, John, for having me. Appreciate it. I want to take you guys quickly through Honor. I’m one of the co-founders and the CEO.
After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Trump didn’t invite him back, but NewCo Shift Forum did.
Take one look at Andy Slavitt’s Twitter feed, and you’d think he was still running the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal agency responsible for our government’s trillion-dollar healthcare budget. But Slavitt left when Trump showed up — and since then, healthcare has moved from political football to existential conundrum. Slavitt’s a man on a mission — he’s deeply aware of the intricacies, politics, and human costs of getting healthcare policy right, and he’s mad as hell about where things are headed under the Trump administration. We brought him to the NewCo Shift Forum just two weeks after Trump took office. Below is the video and transcript of his conversation with Dr. Jordan Shlain — edited for clarity.
Jordan Shlain: We’re going to have a little chat with Andy Slavitt. Andy, why don’t you come on up?
Massive data problems plus massive markets mean a big opportunity for companies like Color Genomics
Health care is a multi-trillion dollar market awash in data, but thanks to regulatory and political sclerosis, it’s been a difficult sector for NewCos to gain a foothold. But that hasn’t stopped a new wave of startups from trying, and perhaps the most interesting are focusing on the intersection of genomics, lethal disease, and preventative testing. We covered Grail Bio last year, and for this week’s Shift Dialogs, we speak with Elad Gil, a co-founder of Color Genomics, which like Grail is working on new approaches to battling cancer. And as Gil explains in our interview, there’s far more potential for Color’s services than just cancer detection — as genomic testing costs scale toward zero, the potential for saving lives scales up. Below is the interview in both video and text, edited for length and clarity.
John Battelle: Welcome, Elad. To start, what’s Color Genomics founding mythology? How did you and your co-founders come up with this idea?
Unified conservative government in Washington has given Republicans an unobstructed path to repeal Obamacare. As Vice President-elect Mike Pence recently assured a group of Heritage Foundation donors at the Trump International Hotel, “We’re going to repeal Obamacare lock, stock and barrel,” calling repeal the incoming administration’s “number one priority.”
But as clear as the repeal path may be, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the actual merits supporting the unrelenting conservative attack on the law. As it turns out, the case against Obamacare is incredibly weak.
After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. He’s leaving soon, but his legacy is just getting started.
Andy Slavitt left a successful career in the private sector to take what many would call a thankless job. For the past two plus years, he’s been the acting head of CMS, better known as the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid. That job has the largest budget in the land — a trillion dollars — more than two-thirds larger than the Department of Defense. When we spoke earlier this Fall, Slavitt knew he was most likely going to be out of a job come January 21st — his role serves at the pleasure of the President, and no matter who won, it was probable he’d be replaced. However, his name was whispered as a candidate for other top positions in government, had Clinton won.
Trump’s election has eliminated any doubt of that, but it has also animated Slavitt’s Twitter feed, which was already spicy by government standards (though certainly not as spicy as the new President elect). Consider this tart rejoinder:
I joined government in 2014 from the private sector. I can say with confidence that it is harder to govern than criticize the government.
With Honor, Seth Sternberg and team hope to redefine how we care for our elders
After selling his first company, Meebo, to Google in 2012, Seth Sternberg was actively on the hunt for a new idea. Meebo was fun — it helped publishers engage readers through chat and advertising — but Sternberg and his co-founders wanted to have a larger impact with their second company. They came up with three criteria: First, the company had to make people’s lives fundamentally better. Second, the company had to be really hard to build, but address a real market need (as opposed to creating a new need, like Facebook did). And third, the company had to be have the chance to be really big — like $100 billion big.
These were the questions turning over in Sternberg’s mind as he visited his mother several years ago. Almost immediately, he noticed she was having trouble driving, and realized she’d need help if she was going to stay in her own home back in Connecticut. Sternberg had built a life and a career on the other side of the country, in Silicon Valley — he couldn’t be around to care for his mother every day. Who could he trust to help?
The other day, I got several letters in the mail. One was from the healthcare marketplace, reminding me that enrollment for 2017 coverage begins on November 1st. The rest were medical bills, some of which are about to go to collections, that I can’t pay for. This isn’t new to me. When I first got sick back in 2010, I wasn’t insured at all. I have so much outstanding medical debt that subsequently went to collections that I’ll probably never be able to get loans for school, a house, a car, or anything else. My credit is under 600, and I don’t think it’s ever actually been over 600. I didn’t even have enough time to build credit — I was only 19 years old when I got sick.
We live in an era of stunning innovation yet stagnant growth. In Vox, Timothy Lee explores various ways to explain this “productivity paradox” (not to be confused with the other productivity paradox, the one that wondered why infotech wasn’t making the U.S. more productive). The conventional argument is that we’re measuring badly and failing to capture the positive impact of all those innovative ideas. Either that, or we’re over counting the amount of innovation that’s actually taking place and thereby expecting more growth than we’ve really earned.
But what if it’s an accurate picture, and somehow our innovations are actually holding growth down? The more productivity we eke out of traditional manufacturing jobs, the more people end up taking service jobs, which aren’t as optimizable. We end up in a society where “a small minority of people will produce the world’s material goods and automated services, while the rest of us are focused on providing personalized services to each other.”
A conversation with the peripatetic Dr. Jordan Shlain on the “hairball” of healthcare, insurance companies, sugar in our food, and why you have to keep filling out the same form over and over
Dr. Jordan Shlain is a fixture in the Silicon Valley scene, a sharp witted, opinionated, and always on physician whose unusual career includes founding several health-related companies, inventing a new approach to private practice, co-founding a non-profit dedicated to redefining society’s approach to sugar in our foods, and launching Tincture, a publication which seeks to elevate our cultural conversation around health. Shlain also frequently flies to Washington, DC, where he speaks to policy makers about the frustrating realities of healthcare as a practicing physician.
Shlain is also a close friend, and he happens to be my doctor as well. He’s deeply connected to nearly every specialist in the Bay area and beyond, and is certainly a good man to know should you ever find yourself in a complicated or challenging health crisis. His approach to patient care is not for everyone — his practice, which has offices in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles, is high end and quite selective. But while many doctors are experimenting with atypical approaches to primary care, Shlain stands out for his outspoken beliefs about how our healthcare system is broken, and what it will take to fix it.