Don Mathis moderates a distinguished panel at SXSW to discuss the challenges of — and opportunities for — innovation at very large corporations…..
IN APRIL 2018, Independence Health Group and Comcast announced a unique partnership to create an innovative patient-centered technology and communications platform.
In this episode of the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast, Helen Leis, Partner in the Health & Life Sciences division at Oliver Wyman, sits down with Brian Lobley, President of Commercial and Consumer Markets at Independence Blue Cross, and Don Mathis, General Manager of Growth at Comcast NBCUniversal, to learn more about how this partnership may change the healthcare consumer landscape.
Together, Brian and Don explore the genesis of this deal to unite a renowned global media and technology company with a leading health insurance company. They also explain their joint goals to leverage data and create an appropriate bespoke experience for consumers. And, they discuss the challenges and opportunities that stem from bringing a healthcare insider and a healthcare outsider together as one.
Says Don, “At Comcast NBCUniversal, we believe we can offer the approximately 75 million people across 23 million households that we serve directly, and by the virtue of this partnership well beyond that number, an opportunity to take control of their healthcare journeys and to change the outcome in a process that has a lot of friction, discomfort, ambiguity, and not very much information. And we can impact that.”
Says Brian, “Healthcare is rapidly changing for consumers. We are focused on building and collaborating on solutions that help answer the most prevailing question in a healthcare journey: What should I do next?”
If you told Frank Cary – CEO of IBM in 1980 – that eventually his $26.2 billion revenue company with 341,000 employees would be overtaken by a 40-person upstart with less than $8 million in revenue, he’d have likely considered the notion ludicrous in the extreme. IBM’s decades-long technological dominance seemed unassailable. Yet by late 2014, Microsoft had eclipsed IBM’s revenues. Agile, innovative and more in tune with a rapidly changing environment, the once-tiny start-up surpassed the incumbent.
The IBM/Microsoft story is a parable of corporate hubris, and the story of an organization with a hide-bound structure designed to compete in an earlier era versus the forces of disruptive innovation. Its lessons can be applied in many circumstances – indeed, to Microsoft itself vis-à-vis competitors such as Google. But it also can serve as a powerful cautionary tale in defense acquisition policy: In the Department of Defense (DoD), technological dominance is often taken for granted despite the high-profile roll-out of a “third offset strategy.” Indeed, the argument of the day is over whether many of the organizational structures designed for a different age have outlived their usefulness. The IBM/Microsoft analogy works pretty well, except for an important distinction: The stakes are radically higher in defense acquisition reform. Read more….
I stepped on stage with Kyle Harty and Wick Vipond from Allen Gerritsen agency to discuss how social advertising is coming of age and Sunoco brand success across-social network campaigns. Check it out!
Although some predict that Facebook’s salad days will soon end, brands shouldn’t believe it.
The company remains on the forefront of the digital revolution, from virtual reality and artificial intelligence to rapid and creative global expansion of Internet availability. At the same time, Facebook’s infrastructure continues to create an entirely differentiated way of digital marketing that is measurably superior to the deeply flawed cookie-based ad tech stack.
Fred Warmbier is a brave man. As the owner of Finishing Technology, he’s in charge of a fairly large team of employees. And, like any boss, he makes mistakes. The difference is that most of us don’t blog about it in the New York Times. In a recent post, he tells the story of his difficulty letting go of being the ‘hero.’
When a company is young and there aren’t so many moving parts, its fun being the person who steps in to solve problems. As the owner of a company, or a member of executive leadership, we have the authority to make big decisions on the fly, and the company is still being run in our own ‘image.’
But that role isn’t sustainable. Stepping in to solve problems can actually create an environment where we are expected to take care of problems. What is a much stronger option is to trust big decision-making and problem-solving to other team members, department heads and the like. This kind of empowerment turns the team into excellent problem-solvers, and also avoids the likely scenario where people resent the boss coming in often to tell them what to do.
Changing from a directive management style to become a delegator is tricky…most of us know this. Letting go is hard after we’ve built up a fondness for the way we handle certain responsibilities. But for a growing company, nobody can be everywhere to solve manage every issue that pops up. Not only that, but we really don’t even want to be that person. It’s draining, and can make us cynical.
Fred found himself managing out of habit, rather than really considering what was best for his team, himself, and his company, fighting one fire at a time. By pulling himself out of the picture several times, he found that his great staff were quick to step in and handle it themselves. And, get this, the world kept spinning!
Changing management style is scary, particularly after having success managing in some particular way. But as companies grow, roles expand, and the job description evolves. What’s great about Fred is that he has the self-awareness to examine what isn’t working around him and be able to pinpoint himself as the cause. As he pulls back from fighting fires, he finds himself missing the thrill of being the hero. And, like all of us, he isn’t quite sure what’s around the corner. This is what growth feels like.
For the last few years, the venture capital and start-up community have exhaustively explored the idea that there is a “Series A crunch”. Opinions differ – sometimes sharply – on the topic.
It goes like this: After slogging through six months to a year of frenzied product development and user testing, seed-funded tech start-ups are fatally hitting a wall — the million to several million dollars in VC funding they need to scale up their cool new services is nowhere to be found. The result is the cruel and needless throttling of a vast stream of promising fledgling companies down to a mere trickle of survivors. Share of seed-funded companies that won’t be able to get follow-on funding: 61%.
In mid-2014, William Hsu of Mucker Capital wrote in re/code: “the distance between that “eureka” moment when an entrepreneur has an idea, to getting funded by a seed-stageinstitutional VC, has become the valley of death — littered with companies that just simply could not get off the ground with little fanfare, attention, or data.”
With 2014 being a massive year for tech M&A, some of the Series A crunch concerns have been alleviated by the availability of early stage “acqui-hire” exits; as Jacob Mullins notes in Business Insider, “Google, Facebook, and Twitter cut the path for the acqui-hire and eased the Series A crunch.”
So maybe there is no crunch, or if there is, it isn’t the horrific “valley of death” that some believe. But crunch or no, from my experience it is certainly difficult.
My company, Kinetic Social, raised its Series A in May, 2013 – a combination of equity and venture debt. We raised our Series B in early 2014, all equity and substantially larger ($18 million versus $8 million). And yet, while both were challenging, the Series A was definitely the harder raise.
Why? In our case, there were at least three significant challenges to surmount:
- We were out raising money from entirely new investors, pitching our company to venture investors who had barely heard of us.
- We were operating in a sector (paid social advertising) that was largely unproven at that time.
- We operated in a crowded industry segment with literally dozens of companies (50+ in our space) that had some form of seed or early stage capital… and some that were further along than that. As AdExchanger’s Zach Rogers puts it: “To many, it seems the landscape of social ad buying platforms has been rapidly commoditized … But Kinetic is betting that it’s early innings for social marketing, and that the winners will bring special-sauce optimization to multiple APIs.”
We were indeed betting on the “early innings” concept Zach suggested. Moreover, we were convinced: 1) what we had already built at Kinetic would command an investment from a smart venture capital firm; and 2) Kinetic would stand out from the pack with a clearly differentiated product and solution. In effect, we were going to market to ask (new) investors to pick us as the likely winners in our crowded space.
Fortunately, it worked. But it wasn’t easy. We contacted about 60 firms, pitched to 30 or so, and ended up with three term sheets – all in roughly one year’s time. Our conviction got us through the process – we believed we were on to something substantial. The combination of a talented team and a strong market opportunity propelled us to realize our vision.
It also helped – a lot – that the market for our services began to shift in our direction. In particular, social media advertising began to evolve from being a primarily earned (free) media model to a primarily paid advertising model. And while we weren’t surprised, we spent a long time in 2012 and early 2013 hoping the pace of this change would accelerate. We began to see it in early 2013 – it’s no coincidence that we closed the Series A shortly thereafter.
Bottom line? The Series A is hard, but raising it simply means you must prove that you have something real. Once you do this, once you prove that there is a bona fide market opportunity for your idea, there is smart capital out there to back your enterprise.
Don Mathis is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kinetic Social, a social data and technology company focused on making sense of the world’s social signal. He also serves in the US Navy on reserve duty, where he is an Expeditionary Combat Logistics & Anti-Terrorism Officer.