@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.