Day 4: Investing in people

The MAP16 Silicon Valley trip wrapped up with a wonderful schedule for the final day.

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Dr Aenor Sawyer leads the charge in digital health innovation at UCSF.

In the morning the group travelled to the UC San Francisco to meet Dr Aenor Sawyer who is the Associate Director of Strategic Relations for the Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF. Dr Sawyer is nothing short of extraordinary. Following a tour of the impressive facilities at the UCSF Medical Center, Dr Sawyer gave the group a wonderful summary of key trends in healthcare, carefully weaving in useful anecdotes that highlighted the similarities and differences between the U.S and Australian contexts.

From a rich and detailed introduction to digital health innovation, there were two clear standouts amongst numerable fascinating insights:

An informed healthcare model is desirable but hard to create.

In an era where we have more information than ever before and customer expectations have never been higher, healthcare is in drastic need of innovation to improve patient outcomes. An informed healthcare model where we have the right information at the right time to make the right decision is critical, and although this sounds simple, it is unfortunately not that easy.

Legacy issues such as the way healthcare organisations are designed to communicate with each other prevent easy access to data systems from other organisations. This makes it harder for one central flow of information (coupled with privacy concerns) to be obtained on a particular patient.

We don’t make it easy for innovators in healthcare

Many problems in healthcare may seem simple from the outside but become increasingly complex when the context and other issues are taken into account. This has resulted in many entrepreneurs working on problems in a very simple manner that aren’t feasible in practice.

Yet how are the entrepreneurs to know?  Hospitals and healthcare systems are not places where one can easily walk in to conduct customer interviews and nor should they be. UCSF has instigated an “office hours” type program whereby any entrepreneur can reach out to them and speak with the right people to obtain feedback on their idea, and if appropriate, they can meet with other people (and potentially patients) to fully apprentice the problem.

In healthcare there still remains too large a barrier in communication preventing problem solvers from fully understanding the problem.  (Shameless self-promotion here, but this is why the Melbourne BioDesign Program which pairs doctors, engineers and business students at the University of Melbourne has been so successful: it pairs the right types of people to understand and solve the problems in healthcare).

 

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Andrew Braccia shares what he looks for in a startup investment.

In the afternoon we travelled back to Palo Alto where we were joined by Andrew Braccia, a partner at Accel and one of the top tech investors in the Bay Area. Accel is one of the best venture firms in the world and has invested in companies such as Slack, Spotify, Facebook, 99designs, Dropbox, Atlassian and Xero. Accel has also been one of the most active Bay Area VCs investing in Australian companies (Atlassian, 99 designs, Invoice2Go, OzForex, Campaign Monitor).

Andrew provided a summary of his background, the rise of Silicon Valley and Accel’s perspective when it comes to investment. The two key pieces of advice from Andrew’s wealth of experience were as follows:

Invest in the entrepreneur, not the startup

While Andrew was working at Yahoo (prior to his time at Accel), Yahoo acquired Flickr, which had been founded by Stewart Butterfield. Following the acquisition of Flickr, Stewart went on to found another company called Tiny Speck, which was then backed by Accel and Andrew, who was now a venture partner there. Tiny Speck failed but Andrew had backed Stewart, who went on to found Slack, a real startup success story. This is an example where the VC backed the entrepreneur and their ability to build a business – which has ultimately paid a gargantuan dividend.

Silicon Valley is not as casual as it seems

Many people entering the Bay Area mistake the t-shirts and hoodies for a lack of professionalism. This is compounded by the fact that many entrepreneurs are surprised by how easy it is to get an initial meeting with somebody. What they don’t realise is that Silicon Valley is based on a pay-it-forward culture, and so although many people will provide you with one opportunity, if you waste that you’ll be done. Make sure you prepare for any meetings you have, ensure that you’re ready to perform, turn up on time and that you can make the meeting as mutually beneficial as possible.

 


 

Both founders and delegates returned to Australia with new perspectives and fresh ideas. We could write a full-blown essay with advice shared by each of the speakers across the four days, but to really be immersed in the learning and excitement of our trip, you’ll just have to apply to MAP and come with us to Silicon Valley next year!

 

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