Apr 21, 2011, 1:32 AM, Posted by Al Shar
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the International Business Forum’s first Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, which was held in New York City (Pioneer was a sponsor of the event). The sessions were good and had valuable content, but rather than rehash them, I will focus on those things that I learned about how some leaders in fields outside of health and health care think and work. Unlike many of the meetings we attend, this one was “created for all private equity investors and healthcare professionals to capitalize on the transformation of the healthcare industry.” This focus seemed offer a potentially different approach to technologies that can effectively support healthcare.
And while, superficially, the meeting was quite a bit like many others I’ve attended, there are a number of subtleties that are important and might help us in our work here.
- Finding a niche in which one can make inroads is more likely to succeed than a full on confrontation. A successful business strategy must be pragmatic.
- While high tech and wiz-bang solutions may excite, looking at good, stable and proven technologies used innovatively stands a better chance of adoption.
- Fail early; be prepared to walk away before considering multiple alternatives that might work. Don’t become too committed to either the idea or the constituency that might benefit.
- Be adaptable; be prepared to grow a small and peripheral kernel of a much bigger project. Major successes can grow from components that begin as ancillary to the main concept.
- Make sure that the right people are involved.
I think we in Pioneer do a fair amount of thinking along these same lines, but sometimes with what are likely to be different outcomes. For example, with regard to number one above, while we understand the value of finding a safer place to begin innovation, we seem to be more willing to directly confront conventional wisdom. With regard to number two, I think we’re more ready to look to a more unproven and less well vetted technology, with the belief that the technology will mature and become more stable. As for the third point, because the good that could come from success is so compelling, we sometimes are more unwilling to just walk away. While I can cite some major projects (most notably Project Echo and Changemakers) that have come somewhat unexpectedly from others, we don’t tend to look at the small opportunities that may emerge from grander visions. Finally, while we certainly want the right people involved, we’re unlikely to take the innovators and, as a condition of funding, make them turn over the enterprise to another.
Are these changes that we should make? I don’t think so. We are different and our measures of success need to be different as well. However, understanding the world and the way innovation can be supported by early and mid stage investors can help inform us in seeking breakthroughs with the potential to generate significant health and social impact.