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After four years at CNBC and a decade in journalism, it’s time for a new chapter.
When I started off as a health-tech reporter, the mainstream media wasn’t paying much attention. That’s now changed. Patients are using virtual tools to interact with their care team, and hundreds of smartphone apps to track their health goals. Technology giants like Apple and Alphabet are entering the space in a big way, and the traditional health care companies are building digital teams to modernize their systems.
Health-tech is uniquely challenging but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. Many of the founders moving into the space are motivated by the mission. Some never envisioned starting a company, but did so after a brush with the system. There are much easier ways to make money than trying to fix health care.
It’s personal for me, too. So starting this week, I’ve joined OMERS Ventures (OV) as a Principal, focusing on investing in health-tech. I’ll be meeting with founders, diligencing deals, and supporting our existing portfolio.
Leaving reporting is bittersweet. It has felt like more than a job to me. I’ve met some incredible people along the way, and I’ve been challenged by fantastic editors at publications like CNBC and Fast Company to look beyond the press release for the real story. My advice to entrepreneurs engaging with reporters is to share the setbacks, and not just the successes. The founders you read about most often in the news are typically the most open and the most vulnerable.
Follow my writing
Writing will remain a big part of my new role. You can follow my health-tech newsletter here -- “Second Opinion” -- where I’ll share thoughts on the industry, interviews, and analysis. To give you a taste, the first edition will be a deep dive on the future of pharmacy tech, which is timely in light of Amazon’s recent moves. I’ll also share some thoughts about transitioning from media into venture and tips for founders looking to share their story.
I know that you’ll enjoy hearing from Michael Yang, my occasional co-author and the Managing Partner at OV. He has been my go-to for years for questions around pharmacy and employer health - and together, we’ll be exploring some new territory together. More on that in a bit.
Why OMERS Ventures?
I knew that if I made the leap from journalism, I’d need to find a fund with a great team, strong values and a commitment to hiring diverse voices.
OV is best known in Toronto, Canada, but we also have offices in Palo Alto and London, UK. I’ll be working most closely with our Silicon Valley team: Michael Yang, Michelle Killoran, Alyssa Spagnolo and Eugene Lee, who each have their own areas of focus (for Michelle, it’s PropTech; Alyssa specializes in Insurtech and Eugene has deep knowledge in all things workplace SaaS).
In the U.S., OV takes a proactive, thematic approach to investing, with a roadmap and a carefully constructed portfolio. In other words, no FOMO. We’re multi-stage, so we can be there for a startup’s full journey. It’s also an opportunity for me to get in at the ground floor and help build a firm in the biggest venture market in the world.
You may recognize OMERS as one of Canada’s largest pension plans and its members include employees at school boards, children’s aids societies and emergency services, among other municipal organizations. Its venture arm, headed up by Damien Steel, currently manages more than $1.5b. So far, OV has made more than 60 investments across North American and Europe. We just raised Fund IV, a $750m trans-Atlantic fund earlier this year.
The Bay Area team has invested in two health-tech companies since Michael joined in January of 2019: PeerWell, a musculoskeletal solution, which works with carriers and employers like Kroger to help patients recover from surgery, and WithMe Health, a medication guidance company that works with plan sponsors on both price and utilization of prescription drugs. Check out the rest of the portfolio here.
What’s next in health-tech for us?
The opportunity is wide open. We’re looking for software only, tech-enabled services or brick-and-mortar health care solutions.
We’ll need some time to refine a thesis, but here’s a shortlist of areas that Michael and I will be looking into.
Behavioral Health: There are some extremely compelling companies forming in this space, but it’s not a solved problem. We’d love to meet with founders working with specific patient populations.
Aging in Place: Are you solving the problem holistically that really incorporates care in the home? If so, get in touch.
Healthcare payments: Health care is expensive and opaque, and we’re planning to dive in on cash-pay solutions and new financing options.
Demographic-specific healthcare: Increasingly, we’re realizing that medicine shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. We’re looking to catch up with founders thinking through solutions for the LGBTQ community, primary care for kids, solutions for women managing menopause, and more.
Dental, vision, dermatology: These categories often feel more overlooked within traditional health-tech, but there are some fantastic emerging businesses.
Environmental health: We’re in the midst of a pandemic, as we attempt to mitigate the impacts of climate change. All of this is having an effect on our health.
Public health technology: Where are the entrepreneurs looking to provide new tools and resources to public health, so we can be better prepared to face off to the next pandemic?
Fertility tech: There’s a growing demand for fertility services, with as many as 1 in 8 couples struggling to conceive. Many of the existing solutions are high-cost, and failure rates are high. If you’re looking to improve the status quo, let us know.
My goal is to continue to play a role in the community I've come to respect so much, albeit from a different angle. Subscribe - and I’ll share everything I learn from this new adventure along the way!