-By Brad Svrluga, GP at Primary Venture Partners
The healthcare industry today finds itself at a truly unprecedented crossroads. On one side of the table, we’re seeing an astonishing rate of innovation and investment in bringing increased levels of efficiency to an industry that has historically been slow to adopt new technologies. According to CB Insights data, healthcare IT (HIT) investments made up over 15% of total venture investments over the last two years. We at Primary have been swept up in that wave, as well, seeing more and more HIT-related deal flow, and we’ve been excited to see great progress in two of our latest healthcare investments: provider credentialing platform CredSimple and Healthify, a comprehensive software solution that addresses social determinants by streamlining care coordination for Medicaid patients.
And yet, on the policy side, it seems we’re moving in quite the opposite direction, with an administration that is hell-bent on dismantling the current payer landscape. We wait with bated breath as a small roomful of GOP senators holds closed-door discussions to determine the direction of our nation’s healthcare system. Not surprisingly, this is raising alarm bells across party lines, as it’s the first time such a drafting is taking place without broader hearings or formal, open drafting sessions.
In the face of these competing forces, two individuals have stepped up to foster productive dialogue between all corners of the room by building a new kind of community that hasn’t existed before in the healthcare industry. That duo is Anil Aggarwal and Jonathan Weiner, who have figured out the magic formula for creating one-of-a-kind communities in massive industries that are undergoing huge structural changes. Needless to say, we didn’t hesitate for one second when Anil and Jonathan came to us with their idea for changing the dialogue in healthcare via their latest creation, HLTH.
Anil and Jonathan are the proven masters at building these platforms, having done it twice before - and with groundbreaking success - first with Money20/20 and then with Shoptalk. The two have been longtime partners; together they successfully exited their payments platform Clarity to TSYS, and then had an even larger sale of their alternative payments platform TxVia to Google in 2012. On the heels of their TxVia success, they tapped into the massive wave of transformation in the FinTech space and bootstrapped the launch of Money20/20 in 2011. The platform was a wild success, immediately becoming the industry’s definitive gathering place, and it was acquired by i2i Events Group in 2014.
Realizing they had a knack for building groundbreaking communities in rapidly evolving industries, Anil and Jonathan shifted their attention to the NextGen Commerce world in 2015, and launched Shoptalk. Shoptalk has been an even bigger hit than anyone expected; the first two events were completely sold out, having attracted the biggest names in the industry - from C-level executives at Amazon and Target, to CEOs of today’s leading ecommerce brands, to leading ecommerce investors - and the group is now expanding across the pond with its its first Europe show set to take place in Copenhagen in October. Anil and Jonathan have proven twice now that if you take a fresh approach to building open dialogue and convening the biggest influencers from all parts of a given industry, you not only start to impact the direction of that industry, but you can also build a hugely profitable business.
On the healthcare front, Anil and Jonathan believe that critical dialogue has been failing to happen in the right way in the confines of the traditional industry events and dry, regulatory-focused proceedings. HLTH’s first conference, to be held in May 2018, is poised to change the dialogue. With a rockstar roster of speakers already lined up, representing the vast constellation of major industry participants, including payers, providers, employers, pharma, government, and disruptors, the event will delve into the latest technologies, trends, and business models affecting the industry.
The key to launching a successful conference, Anil has always said, is to do so right when an industry is at an inflection point, and to focus not on tactical best practices - as so many others do - but rather on strategic shifts and trends currently disrupting the industry. The healthcare industry is unique in that its disruptors have pushed it to this critical precipice, while it’s being held back simultaneously by a host of often-opposing regulatory forces, many of which are currently in question. In short, the time has never been better for a meeting of the minds. HLTH will bring together the innovators and incumbents of this massive industry in the hopes of fostering productive conversation that has the potential to impact the direction of disruption and drive positive social change. Anil and Jonathan have an incredibly important opportunity before them and, given their track record, we have complete faith that these are the guys to pull it off.