@techvitamin 2.7: T.A. McCann, serial entrepreneur, ex-pro sailor, on healthcare tech and grinding it out

If you're competing with T.A. McCann in the startup world, know that he's raced around the world in boats, in horrible conditions, and has probably surrounded himself with people who, like him, will not complain because they enjoy the grind -- after they've been strategic and have arrived at the race with the tools to win. Which he's done. A lot.
T.A. McCann

If you’re competing with T.A. McCann in the startup world, know that he’s raced around the world in boats, in horrible conditions, and has probably surrounded himself with people who, like him, will not complain because they enjoy the grind — after they’ve been strategic and have arrived at the race with the tools to win.

Which he’s done. A lot.

T.A. was the Founder and CEO of Gist, which he sold to Research in Motion in 2011. He’s also a relentless contributor to the Seattle startup scene, whether as part of TechStars or Startup Weekend, as an Angel investor or now as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Providence.

It’s fun to talk about sailing as a metaphor for the startup life. The parallels are clear, and being a member of an Americas Cup crew, and working with Larry Ellison so closely, is such rarified experience that it’s worth covering a bit, which we do.

If you're competing with T.A. McCann in the startup world, know that he's raced around the world in boats, in horrible conditions, and has probably surrounded himself with people who, like him, will not complain because they enjoy the grind -- after they've been strategic and have arrived at the race with the tools to win. Which he's done. A lot.
T.A. McCann’s boat in the Americas Cup

Outside of sailing, we cover a lot of ground, including his investment theses (data, mobile, and being attracted to things he himself would find useful); how to get healthcare tech into the hands of populations that need it but maybe can’t acquire or use it easily (old or poor or both); whether the insurance industry would completely subsidize the distribution of smart devices, say, if it led to better outcomes; whether the AI Doctor is more of a stand alone “entity” or whether it’ll mostly augment.

Here’s a clip of T.A., talking about the types of people and ideas he’s looking to meet and potentially invest in or collaborate with:

Have a listen!

Play

@techvitamin 1.2: Former Swype CEO Mike McSherry and Sundar Balasubramanian on Healthcare Tech

Mike McSherry
Mike McSherry, Entrepreneur

This episode ranges pretty far afield. It’s mostly about healthcare tech of course — because that’s what Mike and Sundar are spending their time on right now. But they are serial — and very successful — entrepreneurs and have a unique perspective on tech, entrepreneurialism, and what might work. They’re pretty fearless.

Mike in particular has picked and created winners in radically different domains: he’s founded phone companies (yes, plural), and a company that sells embedded device software. Shree, who joins the episode as a guest host, has long had an interest in healthcare tech.

After having sold their startup Swype to Nuance for $100M, Mike, Sundar and Aaron Sheedy eventually moved on to figure out the next thing. The first post-Nuance project involved rocket propelled drills. This is discussed in the podcast, and happily, they didn’t incinerate themselves in the basement of a UW building.

They are now EIRs at Providence Health and they can pretty much explore whatever they want. Devices. Services. Prevention. Tech to reduce readmit rates. I don’t think they are developing new drugs, but they have a pretty broad scope.

In this episode we talk extensively about what they’re seeing, including new exciting new areas of innovation, things that are harder than they expected, and areas that’ve surprised them. We talk about Shree’s tow truck metaphor (which really is perfect).

One topic that I haven’t seen discussed before — though I’m sure it has been — is whether this incredible innovation will really serve those who are most sick, or those who are collectively costing the system the most. It’s one thing to be rich and have a drug cocktail customized to your genome, and another thing to be poor and sick. Is the life expectancy gap between rich and poor going to expand at a more rapid rate? Does drug innovation target the most broad causes of illnesses, or ones that have a good chance of getting paid for?

Based on what these guys are seeing, one thing seems really clear: being paid a fixed, and ever lower, amount for certain procedures is providing massive motivation for the providers to innovate cost out of the system. God bless America.

Sundar is currently an EIR at Providence Healthcare. Prior to Providence, Sundar ran product management at Swype which was his second adventure with Mike McSherry. Before that Sundar worked for Mike at Amp’d Mobile as well. Sundar has also held multiple product management roles at Qualcomm working on mobile OS’s, emerging market smartphone strategy, and mobile commerce. Sundar is a Seattle transplant, originally from California. He graduated from U.C Berkeley and has a background in Computer Engineering. He’s a backpacker, hiker, technologist, and dog-owner.
Sundar Balasubramanian

We touch on Amazon’s Echo a bit too. All of us have been involved in Speech and Natural Language processing, and this device, which is a far more disruptive factor in the market than most people know, may come to be the most surprising application of these technologies. Amazon is doubling down in a big way — as they should.

Play