Sunday, October 14, 2012

Show Me The Money




With twelve years, two companies and a total of $100 million in venture capital funds raised, Jeff Tangney knows his way around health tech. The Epocrates and Doximity co-founder said the health tech landscape is changing and offered entrepreneurs in the field a little guidance.

Following our last post here on Digital Health Space, here is more ‘sage’ advice.


In health tech, you’d be hard pressed to find someone better positioned to advise entrepreneurs than Jeff Tangney. In 1999, he launched the now-public Epocrates , a maker of mobile health apps for doctors. And then in 2010, he founded the “LinkedIn for doctors,” formally known as Doximity.

With twelve years as a health tech entrepreneur under his belt, he’s been around the block, so to speak, when it comes to raising capital ($100 million in total), working with venture capitalists and building a company. This week during Morgenthaler Ventures’ DC to VC health tech startup showcase at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, he spoke about his experience to a crowd of entrepreneurs, investors and health IT professionals.

Even though the complicated and regulation-heavy nature of the field has traditionally kept more investors and entrepreneurs out of health, he said, he’s starting to see that change.

More investors paying attention to health

Not only is the bloom coming off the rose a bit for consumer internet companies that produce a few hits but may not generate overall positive returns, he said, more investors are realizing that health is ripe for technological disruption.  Public offerings from companies like Epocrates, Vocera and Athena Health give investors additional reasons to pay attention to health, he said.

He acknowledged that interest in health from traditionally consumer-focused investors tends to peak every five years or so, but said it still seems as though interest is higher than it’s ever been.

“Because it’s complicated, fewer people want to make the investment in really learning it, but if you do as an entrepreneur or investor, it’s a good place to be,” Tangney told me. “[In my experience], there are more investors than there has been, and more money, because people realize the delivery of health services is a big problem and needs better technology. Software may be eating the world, but it hasn’t even taken a nibble yet out of healthcare.”

In addition to sharing a broad view of health tech at the conference this week, he offered health tech entrepreneurs a few pointers. Different companies might find success with different approaches, but here are four tips to consider.

If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.

As students at Stanford Business School, Tangney and his co-founders started Epocrates as a class project and benefited from the guidance of advisors. But when the project became a company, those advisors became investors.

Asking for advice, he said, lets people feel like they’re contributing in a meaningful way and doesn’t put their guard up.  If they already feel personally invested, they might be more likely to contribute financially, too. But if what you want is real advice and not “soft pandering,” he said, ask for money, as it’s the best way to get real candor.

What is more important than money ?

As you talk to investors, focus on the people, not the money.

When founders start fundraising, it might be easy to focus on the number, Tangney said, but you’re better off in the long run by focusing on the people. As people often say, taking money from investors is like entering into a marriage and, since you could be dealing with them for the better part of a decade, he said trusting and valuing their input is important.


In summary:

If you’re targeting doctors, focus on these three things.

Given the changing health landscape, he said, it’s a tough time to be a physician. There are more demands on their time and more technology thrown at them that doesn’t necessarily help doctors but executives in the C-suite.  So, if you’re a startup focusing on doctors, Tangney said, offer them something that saves them time, makes them money and improves the quality of care (in that order).

That last one goes down hard, but the truth of the matter is that physicians are being squeezed from all sides, decreased reimbursements, costs rising faster than inflation, and more  bureaucracy emanating from the accountable care act. 

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