I was retired as CEO. Happily so — lots of kids, a great marriage and freedom from responsibility. The first company I co-founded didn’t do everything I had envisioned, but it did a lot and made a positive impact for those who used it. More importantly, it provided the best job in the world — emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and even financially — for twenty two years. I honestly felt like I had nothing to prove anymore. After all, like Bezos was heard to have said, “I loved the fourth grade….but that doesn’t mean I want to go back there.” So why go back?
First of all, conditions are perfect! After over a quarter century working in healthcare (and more if you include my days as an EMT and a medic), I have never seen such an alignment of technological, regulatory, and financial tailwinds. We sit now in the calm before a marvelous storm. The 21st Century Cures Act, implemented over the next two years, will require data-sharing among non-affiliated providers and provide individuals with electronic copies of their data. Alternatives to traditional Obamacare-compliant health insurance products are rising rapidly with a profitable shift to self-insurance now possible for employers of as few as twenty employees. With the compounding effect of unprecedented, exponentially rising access to capital, it’s hard to imagine we won’t view this era as an inflection point in modern healthcare. This is being proven out in some early data. Take, for example, the fact that during COVID in 2020, $14.8 billion went into venture backed digital health ideas! There are over fifteen thousand of these companies — all of them must either build their own full tech stack from scratch or buy fully integrated software that makes it very hard for them to build a unique tech value proposition.
Second of all, Zus doesn’t feel like building a traditional business to me. While Zus is a business, it’s a business that speeds up thousands of other businesses. Increasingly, there are so many experienced and talented people looking to create new things in healthcare and turn the previously impossible into possible. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to sit on a lot of boards, to make a lot of angel investments, or to otherwise assist in the crystallization and fruition of those ideas. There isn’t enough time to help them all personally, but Zus allows me and my co-founders to bundle up our knowledge to solve hundreds or thousands of the most common problems for these builders. It’s like having the chance to be on a thousand management teams — really stunning teams with tons of capital and brilliant boards — at the same time.
Third and finally, I think after 52 years and almost as many epic f-ups, I really understand what meaning in life is for me. I love nothing more than setting out on noble missions with people I love. Shackleton never made it to the South Pole or crossed Antartica, but we remember him for his unexpected, sensational journey. To build, explore, and persevere through great hardships and occasional successes is to find a fellowship, mutual aid, and inner deepening akin to no other. Like the Endurance and like all startups, Zus certainly won’t end the way we thought it would at the beginning. But the traveling will be extraordinary.
When you look at the companies we work with already — Firefly, Cityblock, Oak Street Health, Dorsata — these are some of the most exciting and game-changing healthcare organizations out there. As we look ahead at how Zus will enable them to overcome those common problems and challenges of creating a unified patient 360, offering superlative patient relationship experiences, solving patient identity on a national scale, and sharing their unique work frictionlessly, I can’t help but get excited, to shout it from the rooftops, and to write this post. I hope you feel that same excitement as well, because I want to work with you to create this future.