Having spent a collective 80+ years as investors, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking at, participating in and attending a wide array of healthcare events. These have spanned everything from international, curated summits, health system-led symposiums and major annual health technology gatherings. We thoroughly enjoy being at organized events and the second-annual HLTH conference this past week in Las Vegas was no exception. In just two short years, it has instantly become a marquee event and provided a venue for reconnections with colleagues, industry experts, 7Wire Ventures portfolio companies, journalists and the next exciting crop of entrepreneurs.
As we started reflecting on the week (and decompressing from the craziness that is Las Vegas), we realized the multitude of learnings coming out of the conference. Here are our top three observations and afterthoughts from our many conversations.
The entrepreneur pendulum continues to swing more than it has in the last few years toward working with incumbent healthcare entities rather than full disruption.
Whether it was during standing-room-only panel discussions on the bright blue conference stage, in the web of meetings, meetups, handshakes in the hall, or whispers in every nook and cranny of quiet space, this narrative was prevalent.
Our firm believes in this way of operating in today’s current healthcare structure. Granted, not everyone at the event felt the same - some view this paradigm as bowing down to the problem rather than empowering true innovation to drive a solution. Nonetheless, it was invaluable to engage in myriad discussions on this topic.
Ultimately, we believe that while it may seem more exhilarating to solve problems from a disruptor lens, it’s the new entrants that find a way to complement, collaborate with (and in many cases improve) the offerings and operations of major healthcare entities that stand a better chance of thriving.
The second observation that stood out for us was that the cornerstone of the 7Wire Ventures thesis, the Informed Connected Health Consumer, is here to stay...and that’s inspiring.
This characterization is something that our firm has built its philosophy on, and across the many interactions we saw and heard, this theme is something organizations are striving to enable. There are many innovations and initiatives underway to help whole populations get more connected and knowledgeable about their own health. By achieving this, on both the physical and mental fronts, we create a stronger healthcare system and lower-cost outcomes. It was hard to move about the event and not talk about or overhear some interaction that didn’t include an element of the Informed Connected Health Consumer. Improving healthcare is one of the world’s most important problems and the more the eager leaders, innovators and every other side of the healthcare ecosystem can meet at a forum like HLTH, the more we will see new ideas, technologies and business models materialize.
Lastly, as we got into Day Three of HLTH, there was one thread that we just couldn’t shake from our brains - the ongoing battle between new entrants like Amazon and the industry stalwarts.
As venture capitalists, it’s in our nature to advocate for cutting-edge thinking and improvements, but dare we say, blind adoration for the aforementioned group of new entrants continues to be worrisome. Yes, it is exciting to see such demand for improving the healthcare space and the dollars committed to doing so. However, a key component not getting enough discussion out in the open is that without immense industry experience, the road to success is an Everest-like climb.
We would have liked to have witnessed more vibrations onsite about the importance of longstanding healthcare operational experience. Perhaps we just needed more of the healthcare systems executives themselves to have joined the HLTH discussions. As Lydia Ramsey, correspondent for Business Insider wrote in the Dispensed newsletter: “The lack of many health systems with the presence of a number of retailers and newer care models that bring services outside the hospital has me wondering if health systems are ready for the new competitors — or if those retailers and new models are about to eat health systems' lunch.”
We had the privilege of sitting down with Lydia for a dynamic conversation at HLTH; she is a must read.
HLTH returns to Las Vegas next year and 7Wire Ventures will be there. Come find us to continue the conversation.