Town Hall Ventures to Focus on Building Companies Driving Higher Quality and More Affordable Care for Most Vulnerable Americans
New Partnership Is Led by Andy Slavitt, Trevor Price and David Whelan
May 8, 2018 — (Minneapolis, MN, and New York, NY) – Today, three health care industry leaders announced the formation of Town Hall Ventures, a venture capital firm that will seek to invest in health care technology and service companies transforming care delivery to America’s most vulnerable populations. The firm is being built on a foundation of broad and deep expertise in building companies to improve care in Medicare, Medicaid, risk-based care, complex conditions and in addressing social determinants of health. These areas of focus touch almost 120 million Americans and approximately $1.2 trillion in annual health care spending.
Town Hall Ventures will be led by Andy Slavitt, the former Administrator of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (“CMS”) and Group Executive Vice President of Optum; Trevor Price, Founder of Oxeon Holdings, a retained executive search and investment firm; and David Whelan, Managing General Partner of predecessor firm Oxeon Ventures and formerly General Partner & CFO of investment firm Accretive LLC.
The Town Hall Ventures team brings a commitment to public service, extensive business experience and a strong track record in founding, investing in, and leading highly successful companies that have made a national imprint on our health care systems. Additionally, Town Hall Ventures will benefit from a unique network of mentors, experts and community leaders to support Town Hall’s portfolio company entrepreneurs as they endeavor to transform care in communities across the country.
The firm has been formed around a rare combination of entrepreneurial, executive, policy, regulatory, financial and investment expertise. As a former administrator of CMS, Mr. Slavitt brings a unique lens to the policies and regulations impacting Medicare and Medicaid populations. He also has over a decade of first-hand experience leading the growth of Optum from its inception into a large multi-billion dollar enterprise. Mr. Price, who is remaining in his role as CEO of Oxeon Partners, has created the leadership teams for many of the defining companies innovating in Medicare and Medicaid, including Evolent Health (NYSE: EVH), Landmark Health, Oak Street Health, Cityblock Health, Aspire Health, VillageMD and Bright Health, as well as having led Oxeon investments in each of these companies. Mr. Whelan brings a significant reputation as a health care investor who has developed, launched and invested in a number of companies at Oxeon Ventures and previously as General Partner and CFO of Accretive LLC, an approx. $500M AUM private equity firm, as well as Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group as a founder of the airline Virgin America. In addition to the three partners, the founding team includes: David Mishkin, Town Hall Ventures Investment Director with health care investment experience; Natalie Davis, Town Hall Ventures Director, and formerly Senior Advisor to CMS Administrator Slavitt; and Lauren Robb, Town Hall Ventures Investment Senior Associate, who was previously a Director at Optum- a health services, technology, and innovation company.
“As a nation we have significant health care infrastructure serving healthy populations while lower-income communities go underserved, leading to vastly poorer health outcomes,” said Slavitt. “We are at the beginning of a wave of innovation serving Medicare and Medicaid populations. Town Hall is being formed to help lead this massive and necessary shift. The answers are not always traditional; they involve investments in underlying systemic issues as well as innovative approaches that improve people’s health and well-being.”
Town Hall Ventures announced its first investments, including:
Cityblock Health, Inc., built in partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to provide primary care, behavioral health, and human services to address unmet health and social needs in urban populations;
Somatus, Inc., an innovative company revolutionizing treatment and new models of care for chronic kidney patients;
Welbe Health, LLC a provider of integrated medical and social services to frail seniors who qualify for PACE.
Aetion, Inc., a provider of real-world analytics and evidence to help biopharma companies and payers better understand how drugs work in the real-world to enable value based care.
“Without Town Hall and the resources and expertise they bring to bear, our goal of transforming care for urban and low-income populations would be moving far slower. In a short time, they have helped us roll out services in our first community, hire a first-class leadership team, and prepare ourselves for the daunting set of challenges that often substantially slow market entry in new health care organizations. As a first-time entrepreneur, Town Hall surrounded me with a group of experienced leaders and operators across regulatory, management, fundraising, and technology unparalleled in health care,” said Iyah Romm, the CEO of Cityblock Health.
“Identifying talented entrepreneurs and helping them through the painstaking process of building a great company is something we are passionate about,” said Trevor Price. “We believe we will see more entrepreneurs whose missions are to serve the tens of millions of people whose lives can be improved by innovations that allow them to receive the absolute best quality of care, whether being treated at home and/or in other comfortable and low-cost settings.”
“Our objective is to be a catalyst and investing partner to spur substantial investment and entrepreneurial commitment to the rapidly emerging opportunity to support real health care solutions for Americans all over the country,” said David Whelan. “With Andy’s, Trevor’s and my personal involvement, we look forward to sparking a series of Town Hall companies over the next few years and supporting them to change health care for the better.”
About Town Hall Ventures
Town Hall Ventures is a venture firm headquartered in New York and Minneapolis that invests in health care companies primarily serving vulnerable populations covered by Medicare and Medicaid. With deep experience building businesses, serving in major public and private sector roles, building premier executive teams, and investing across technology and health care, Town Hall partners with entrepreneurs to build transformational businesses from the idea stage to the growth stage.
About Andy Slavitt
Andy is founding and general partner of Town Hall Ventures. Andy brings decades of private and public sector leadership in health care, business and technology. Over his career, Andy has led many of the most significant and successful initiatives in health care impacting millions of Americans and the shape of the health care system. Andy previously served as the Acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under President Obama. He spent a decade at Optum, an organization he helped lead from before its formal inception to the time where it exceeded $35 billion in revenue. In the 1990s, Andy was the founder and CEO of HealthAllies, a digital health company that served the un- and under-insured.
Andy is currently Board Chair of United States of Care, a national non-profit health advocacy organization he founded. Andy leads a number of national health care initiatives, including one on the future of health care, which he co-chairs at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Today he is a highly recognizable voice in health care, with a regular column in the USA Today and regular appearances on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. He is listed in the Politico 50 and was recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the 10 most influential people in health care.
Andy graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
About Trevor Price
Trevor Price is founding and general partner of Town Hall Ventures. Trevor is also the Founder & CEO of Oxeon Partners, a retained executive search and investment firm in the health care technology and services industry. Trevor will continue in this role along with being a General Partner at Town Hall Ventures. During his time leading Oxeon, Trevor’s role as a trusted human capital partner to the CEOs and Venture/Private Equity investors behind many of the high growth innovative health care companies has been critical to their success and is of unique value to Town Hall Ventures. Trevor also led Oxeon’s investments in these companies and will continue to do this but now within the Town Hall Ventures mandate. He was previously a Partner and Senior Vice President at Daversa Health and has been an entrepreneur, starting and growing a variety of technology and service companies.
Trevor is an Adjunct Professor of Health Care Entrepreneurship at the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business. Outside of his “day job”, he co-hosts A Healthy Dose, a podcast where he discusses the latest hot-topic issues with leaders across the health care industry. Trevor sits on the Board of Directors of Docent Health, Risalto Health and Prep For Prep, an organization supporting high-potential youths of color in New York City.
Trevor graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and currently lives in New York City.
About David Whelan
David Whelan is founding and general partner of Town Hall Ventures. David is Managing General Partner at Oxeon Ventures, a predecessor firm to Town Hall, where he has overseen the company’s previous investment portfolio and leads the firm’s venture start-up studio. Under David’s oversight, the ventures studio designs, provides initial capital for, incubates, and builds de novo or purpose-built-from-scratch health care companies. Before Oxeon, David served as CFO and General Partner of Accretive LLC, a private investment firm specializing in building disruptive startup companies. David was also Vice President of Corporate Development with the Virgin Group, where he led development of Virgin America.
Previously, David was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs in London and Sydney. He serves on the board of Friends of Hudson River Park Trust, an independent nonprofit dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Hudson River Park.
David holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce from Bond University in Queensland, Australia. He currently lives in New York City.
Contact: Chris Fleming, (202) 631-0929 , email@example.com
Mia, Co-President for Oxeon’s Invested Executive Search business, is largely focused on leading the search organization and building leadership teams for high-growth Healthcare IT and Services clients across Oxeon’s portfolio organizations. Prior to joining Oxeon, Mia spent 15 years in commercial leaderships roles within the medical technology industry at Guidant, Boston Scientific, and Biotronik, launching disruptive technologies across the US, Europe, and Asia. Mia is inspired by Oxeon’s mission and is determined “to make people healthier” via her work with innovative organizations and in her leadership role here. She is based in New York City.
Most of us don’t need a reminder about the glaring lack of diversity in the Boardroom, and I won’t harp on that for this article. But I do want to provide some context for the story I will share today about women in the Boardroom.
In one respect, we’ve made great strides in this area. The national campaign working to increase gender diversity on corporate boards — “2020 Women on Boards” — stated in their 2016 mid-year report that most Fortune 1000s are exceeding expectations for increasing gender diversity: 42% reported having at least one woman on their board; and, of the Fortune 1000 companies with a female CEO or Board chair, 88% and 86% respectively have met or surpassed the benchmark of having 20% or more women on the Board.
On the other hand, the data remains discouraging. Earlier this month, Forbes published an exposé by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and her new Boardlist Index, which plans to measure public and private Board seats filled by women. She found, as of the end of June 2016, that only 6.8% of private tech companies’ and 10.2% of unicorn companies’ board seats are filled by women.
I held my breath and decided to take a peek at the Oxeon portfolio; in a quick scan of our investments, I was pleasantly surprised. Of our 20+ investment portfolio companies, there are women on the Board at eight of them—nearly 39%. Of those eight, two are sitting CEOs and two board seats are held by Annie Lamont, a close friend of Oxeon and prolific healthcare investor in her own right.
Simple answers of gender equality aside, why does this matter? My answer is rooted partly in data—many studies correlate stronger company performance with diverse boards (gender, or otherwise), with the logic that diverse boards are better at pushing other angles of opportunity, holding themselves accountable, and thinking about key challenges in new and creative ways. But, as a mom with a young daughter, as a mentor and leader of a group of insanely intelligent, capable women at Oxeon, and as myself — a motivated, career-driven woman — I can’t go without saying the issue extends into the emotional for me. And with that in mind, the core issue here is one of access. And we can do better.
Ten percent of Board seats turn over at S&P 500 companies per year. Despite these open seats, women still weren’t represented — the churn didn’t increase women-filled board seats by even one percentage point from 2014 to 2015. Access to Boards, for anyone, is limited. This is exacerbated by women’s continued absence from major leadership roles within their organizations, another theme that has been exhausted at this point. As an executive search professional I knew I could play a role effecting change on both fronts — a serendipitous encounter showed me how.
A Serendipitous Encounter…
“And last on the standby list… Mia Jung.” I leapt to my feet, grabbed my bags, and sprinted onto the NYC-bound flight after an action-packed weekend celebrating my best friend’s 40th birthday in Miami. Time to sit back and relax…
Frankly, I remember appreciating the “airplane mode” silence as a chance to focus on one of the most challenging searches I had been given to-date. On the heels of a $25M Series C capital raise, the Board of a mobile health technology company had enlisted us to find a Chairperson. I recently, and proudly, had presented a slate of twenty “rock star” candidates to the Search Committee. While they commended me for my efforts, they were quick to highlight that all of my candidates were men. I couldn’t believe I had missed something so obvious, and committed to bringing diversity to the slate. As I re-scanned the list of candidates who fit the profile — sitting or past CEO, prior Board experience, healthcare background — nearly all were men. I couldn’t help but wonder… by the time my 2-year-old daughter Lexi was an executive, would the same challenge still exist?
Muttering to myself, I caught the attention of the woman to my left; she asked what I did for a living. I shared that I was an executive recruiter and was struggling to build a diverse slate of candidates for this particular Chairperson role. She furrowed her brow and informed me that it had been a journey to her first public board seat, and she was fortunate to have some influential mentors throughout her career. My eyes widened—what were the chances? We discussed her career trajectory within American Express, the US government, Estée Lauder, and finally to her current position at Pfizer and as a Board member for WPP. She gave me a few recommendations, her card (Sally Susman, EVP, Corporate Affairs), and wished me luck.
Well, as luck would have it, a week later, I was fortuitously asked to collaborate with Halle Tecco of Rock Health, and Leslie Henshaw of Deerfield Management, on a “Women in the Boardroom” panel discussion. We were asked to host a panel addressing the challenges women faced in becoming a Board Member—I knew Sally would be the perfect hostess. She graciously accepted, and shared her now-famous “7 tips for Landing a Board Position”, which has received more than 26,000 views on LinkedIn.
The panel was immensely successful in stimulating a conversation amongst these healthcare executives. I was surprised to be pulled aside by Leslie after the panel discussion for a brainstorming session. Leslie argued that, given the caliber of women in attendance, any one of them could have been considered “Board-worthy” but seemed to lack mentors, support, and, most importantly, access to opportunities traditionally granted to men. A-ha.
In our conversation, Leslie also called out the unique vantage points from which Deerfield and Oxeon could approach this challenge: we each had portfolios of companies we were starting, had invested in, or were working with closely, and thus, had access to a much higher volume of Board seats in comparison to other constituents. To do this, however, we recognized three efforts were vital for success:
- 1. We needed to commit to granting appropriately skilled women Board seats across our respective portfolios
- 2. We needed to assemble a select group of women to participate
- 3. Recognizing that many of these women may have never before sat on a Board – public or private – we must prioritize building a support network, creating a series of educational sessions, and providing access to mentorship from women who have previously served on Boards.
Women in the Boardroom 2016
Fast forward a year later. We recently completed our first Women in the Boardroom series, co-hosted by Oxeon and Deerfield, as a direct result of that brainstorming session. With the ultimate vision to match this group of women with appropriate opportunities across our respective portfolios, Morgan Flannery, Oxeon co-Founder, and Karen Heidelberger, a Partner at Deerfield, helped build an educational series. Bringing together an intimate group of highly qualified women, the series focused on highlighting the key responsibilities and challenges of a Board Member. We were tremendously lucky to have my old seatmate Sally Susman (EVP, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer), Esther Dyson (Founder, HICCUP/ Way to Welville), Catherine Bromilow (Partner, PwC’s Center for Board Governance), and Annie Lamont (Managing Partner, Oak FT/HC) as speakers across four events, covering topics ranging from how to interview for a Board, to specific case studies on the intricacies of a Board role and how to navigate them.
Many themes emerged over the course of these four sessions. Ironically, many had nothing whatsoever to do with being female, but extended into the intricacies of taking a Board seat for the first time. One clear theme, however, emerged around the power of networking. We felt, from the beginning, that a series rather than a panel, would allow women to connect and build a foundation for reciprocal relationships, which we already see happening. During one of our sessions, we learned a best practice for networking: always have the names of five women at the ready should you be asked to provide recommendations around an open Board seat. Given such limited Board vacancies, it is critical for women to be well-positioned to seize an opportunity when it arises. We feel this Women in the Boardroom initiative is a crucial next step, in not only discussing the gap in diversity, but creating an approach to act on available opportunities.
This call to action, exemplified years ago by my first conversation with Sally Susman aboard a flight from Miami to New York, is why this approach is different than other female executive initiatives. This all happened when two women made a connection, but weren’t satisfied with just “talk.” We are eager to see the fruits of our efforts to build a source of Board opportunities, but, more importantly, a network of supportive women, potentially resulting in the placements of high-caliber talent in these coveted positions. We believe strongly that small changes—acting on the power of networking—can make a huge difference, and it’s clear that this is an effort that can exist outside of the Oxeon and Deerfield networks.
Tom, a Director at Oxeon, focuses on building leadership teams for high-growth Healthcare IT and Services clients, including athenaHealth, ABILITY Network, Crossover Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Pamplona Capital, and many others. Most recently, Tom has driven Oxeon Holdings internal growth, working to shape the company’s go-to market efforts in the organizational design and development space, as well its portfolio expansion into the data science and machine learning community. He is also involved in internal operations and Oxeon’s ongoing efforts to support portfolio investment’s commercial activity.
The numbers are staggering. From 1999 to 2014, over half a million Americans died from overdoses of drugs, both legal and illegal, and more than half of the overdose deaths in 2014 involved some type of opioid.1 The heroin crisis that preceded this current epidemic leveled communities across the country, and even today, 125 Americans will die from heroin-related deaths.2 As we go about our lives in the era of 24-hour news cycles, we all too often find ourselves attempting to comprehend crises like this one, but unable to do so, we shake our heads and move on. Not in this case.
These numbers aren’t just statistics — these numbers are personal. While writing this article, I’ve had two teammates experience tremendous loss at the hands of this country’s prescription drug problem, and it hurts. The article that follows benefited from tremendous input, support and collaboration with Oxeon teammates, and outstanding executives and mentors across our network. What’s remarkable here is that many of these same people are in a position to help SOLVE the problem, and that potential for change is where I want to focus.
Late last year, the Obama administration enlisted the help of over 40 national provider groups to tackle the nation’s growing prescription drug abuse problem, and the epidemic of heroin-related deaths that it has precipitated. The NBA, Google, and the New York Times lined up to donate ad space for PSAs, and retail pharmacies accelerated their community outreach and training efforts across the country. Dr. Oz has even taken time off from debating late night television personalities to support the cause.
Here’s what we’ve learned from early efforts at addressing the epidemic: the startling data makes a clear case that the proliferation of prescription opiates has created a largely dependent class, a majority of whom will at some point — should they survive addiction and the specter of overdose — be thrust into the illicit drug trade in search of their next dose after being denied their prescription fix. We as a nation now know how this generation of opioid abuse has formed. The old adage “admitting you have a problem is the first step…” could not ring more true. With nearly 32% of all opioid prescriptions subsidized by employers (resulting in $8 billion in additional spend per year)3, we have the data and resources required to identify pre-existing patterns and symptoms of those already trending or actively engaged in a cycle of addiction.
Established organizations like Anthem and Cigna began their own formal outreach to patients this summer who fall into prescription patterns that indicate the potential for abuse. Other groups such as the Pharmacy Quality Alliance and Prime Therapeutics have done tremendous work examining the clinical implications of multi-prescription overdose victims and their interactions with their pharmacy benefits, as well as the performance of CMS’ Overutilization Monitoring System in patient populations. Their work has already enabled managed care organizations to identify patients for case management and intervention. We’ve taken the first steps, but we’re leaving too much on the table, with a gap in connectivity – combating this epidemic will require us to work smarter, and be coordinated across the healthcare ecosystem.
Employing the same methods Facebook uses to serve us ads, and Amazon uses to accurately predict our optimal laundry detergent ordering cycle, we can “capture” patient signals and patterns that exist before the first prescription is filled and sold off to the highest bidder, or worse, over-utilized in a fatal outcome. Instead of falling back on traditional means of examining usage, we need to double-down on future-state, data-driven approaches to saving lives.
Oxeon client Cogitativo puts these practices to work, combining a team of world-class data scientists and best-in-class machine learning production. Using descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics, CEO Gary Velasquez and his team have identified thousands of patients seeking poor performing, out-of-network medical and mental health services that impact quality of care.4 Using data science and machine learning, we will better understand how changes in care coordination impact our ability to intervene and drive recovery, moving to proactively engage those at risk and get them out of harm’s way.
We need to build on this approach, and encourage national payers and providers that are focused on utilization to invest more deeply in acting on available data that clearly indicates patterns of abuse. The next frontier requires us to proactively identify our neighbors who are at risk and get them out of harm’s way, all while expanding our knowledge of what’s working in the fight against the cycle of abuse. A critical first step will require a thorough examination of how to advance our efforts by leveraging data science and machine learning.
Working in this data-driven way to combat the opioid epidemic also presents us with opportunities to apply our learnings to other disease states. We could begin to identify patients with depression or other sources of fraud and abuse tied to prescription drugs. We could use this data to create engaged, disease-specific care management and community-based, tech-enabled solutions. Oxeon client and portfolio investment Quartet has worked on the disease state front and done just that, partnering with leading Blues plans like Highmark to identify patients with undiagnosed mental illness and addiction challenges, coordinating specialty treatment before acute symptoms emerge.
In March of this year, a STAT-Harvard poll found that 41% of Americans knew someone that had abused prescription painkillers in the last 5 years.5 Efforts are underway to mobilize public resources to combat this public health crisis. But the epidemic will not slow if legacy organizations and new ventures do not leverage existing data assets in new ways to drive treatment and identification to combat the crisis. We can begin to recover from one of America’s bleakest public health moments and spare countless neighbors and friends from the pain of addiction and its grip on their future.
It is my hope that we embrace the opportunity to begin or continue to reach into their communities, both local and national, to solve this crisis. All of the data and science cannot replace the human element of support for those who most require our empathy and compassion.
Get help for and seek resources to support those battling with substance abuse problems: 1-800-662-HELP.
1 CDC. Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014. January 1, 2016 / 64(50);1378–82
3 ASAM. http://www.asam.org/docs/advocacy/societal-costs-of-prescription-opioid-abuse-dependence-and-misuse-in-the-united-states.pdf
John serves as a Senior Associate at Oxeon and has been largely focused on building leadership teams for high-growth Healthcare IT and Services clients including Landmark Health, Clover Health, GoHealth Urgent Care, Oak Street Health, AVIA Health Innovation, Bright Health, and many others. John has also worked closely with Oxeon’s large non-profit clients, including leading Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Marketing Officer searches at Sutter Health and working closely with Intermountain Healthcare on their innovation strategy. John is also actively involved in evaluating and managing the firm’s investment portfolio and equity-oriented strategy, sourcing and evaluating multiple direct Oxeon investments. John is based in Chicago, IL.
We talk a lot about different kinds of capital in the venture world: direct investment capital, human capital, relationship capital. The last few years have seen an unprecedented amount of venture capital funding into early stage companies. I was lucky enough to listen to Bobby Franklin, the President and CEO of National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), speak at MedCity Invest, a recent healthcare investment conference in Chicago. One of the key themes of his presentation was the growing rate of venture investments in early stage companies – VC dollars invested increased for the third consecutive year in 2015, hitting its highest annual amount mark since 2000. Without getting into comparisons to 2000, there’s a simple truth within this data: companies are flush with cash.
Bill Gurley’s excellent recent blog post, “On the Road to Recap,” highlights some of the problems this has led to, particularly with the “Unicorns” of Silicon Valley: record high burn-rates (which he estimates might be 5-10x those of the 1999 timeframe), “most companies operating far, far from profitability,” and “excessively intense competition driven by access to said capital” for companies chasing the increased valuation headlines. This “capital glut” within many of the Unicorns of Silicon Valley may ultimately lead to actions undesired by any founder, investor, or employee of these companies: down-rounds, loaded term sheets, and unachievable sales goals. According to Gurley, “more money will not solve any of these problems – it will only contribute to them. The healthiest thing that could possibly happen is a dramatic increase in the real cost of capital and a return to an appreciation for sound business execution.” For entrepreneurs and investors seeking returns in this environment, I would add to the list of Gurley’s remedies: a deep appreciation for the value of human and relationship capital.
Let’s take a second to define “human capital” and “relationship capital” and what it means for scaling venture-backed companies today. Human capital encompasses everything people bring into an organization – their skills, experience, grit, passions, etc. Relationship capital is much more than someone simply joining an organization with a “rolodex” – it’s the sum of an organization’s connectivity to the marketplace: how will this company be received by anchor partners or customers? How will this company navigate the complex relationships within the existing healthcare ecosystem? Both forms of capital are difficult to quantify, and rightly so, as they’re both fundamentally about people.
In healthcare, I would argue that human capital and relationship capital are even more valuable. Established players are not easily disrupted; sales cycles into the provider and payer space do not match those of a traditional enterprise software company; and, unfortunately, the industry can be quite unforgiving to first-time healthcare entrepreneurs. Great human capital can navigate most effectively through the complex term sheets Gurley warns may be incoming. And like top tier venture capital, great human capital attracts other A-players into organizations. Great relationship capital can accelerate healthcare’s notoriously long sales cycles. Great relationship capital can lead to a company partnering with a top tier anchor client.
It’s no secret that venture and private equity firms looking for outsized returns have been forced to put more and more dollars to work into earlier stage companies. At Oxeon, we’ve seen this trend in real-time: multi-billion-dollar private equity funds financing companies when they are no more than a PowerPoint deck put together by a brilliant entrepreneur, strategic and corporate funds increasingly funding early stage companies where they can add immediate strategic value, etc. Venture capital firms are building out more robust, and more strategic, human capital and business development teams for their portfolio companies as they continue to find competitive advantages in this capital-rich fundraising environment. On the portfolio company side, the Chief People Officer role has emerged as one of the most critical early executive hires. With an executive focused exclusively on talent – and when talent is treated as a strategic focus and not simply a function of HR falling alongside other administrative responsibilities – companies best prepare themselves for massive scale and for putting their hard-earned investment capital to its most effective use. A Series A company I worked with recently brought in a Chief People Officer as their first executive hire post-financing in anticipation of more than doubling their employee base over the next year.
Gurley clearly identifies the downsides of some of the investment “capital glut” we’re seeing in the venture space, and the winning companies will be those that maximize the value of other forms of capital – human, network, and experience. At Oxeon, we seek to bring these additional sources of value to our clients and investments through our intense focus on relationships, talent, and organizational design. While the greatest companies are always built by the most exceptional people, I believe we’ll see that proven out more when we make it to the other side of this venture capital cycle. Overinvest in relationships and people – with human capital and relationship capital, there’s no such thing as a glut.
Royal is co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Docent Health. He led the ideation and incubation phases of the business in the Oxeon Venture Studio, working closely with internal teams and friends of Oxeon to test, refine and build the business. His focus on the convergence of the patient experience has been honed over fatherhood of three children and a variety of management, strategy, and operational leadership roles in the provider setting – starting at Deloitte Consulting and most recently from Aetna / Healthagen, where he worked in the Innovation and New Business Development group before joining Oxeon to help build out the Venture Studio.
Place: The Harvard Business Review
Topic: The shifting consumer landscape
Journal contributors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gillmore are positing a completely new way of thinking about how consumers value goods and services. The duo goes on to proclaim “the next competitive battleground lies in staging experiences.” This was the core thesis of their editorial “Welcome to the Experience Economy”; that products and pricing were now secondary to the consumer experience. Revisiting that piece, nearly 20 years later, we find ourselves in the very ecosystem they predicted. One where consumers aren’t satisfied with decent, they expect delight. And providers don’t just work to deliver a service, they strive to choreograph customer journeys and craft branded experiences that differentiate themselves from competitors.
As you undoubtedly know, consumer empowerment has shifted a variety of landscapes, from banking to hospitality, retail to travel. Across each, digitization and the redeployment of labor have reshaped nearly every preconceived notion of what a standard service experience should be. Today when I think back and recall standing in endlessly wrapping queues at the airport to wait for an airline representative to print me my paper boarding pass, I can’t help but think “how primitive!”
Unfortunately, healthcare has been startlingly idle when compared to these adjacent industries.
Which is why we created Docent Health.
At Docent Health, we’re working not just to empower provider systems with amazing technology, but to completely redesign the end-to-end patient experience.
With the unprecedented momentum we are seeing today – as provider systems shift from a physician-centric delivery model to a customer-centric delivery model – top clinical outcomes are not enough to create lasting customer satisfaction and loyalty. Modern health systems are competing for patient volume and retention as systems consolidate and new healthcare delivery entrants (retail medicine, telehealth) emerge.
Unpacking this further, market forces such as federal reimbursement changes (HCAHPS) and increased patient consumerism driven by greater cost exposure and access to information (Yelp, Healthgrades, etc.) are empowering end-consumers in the exact same manner we’ve seen in the aforementioned adjacencies.
However, the demands of this tectonic shift go beyond technology. Health systems are being forced to completely rethink customer and product segmentation, non-clinical experiences, and managing against customer lifetime value.
Now, for a moment, translate all of those thoughts into a hypothetical patient experience. Imagine if every member of a health system – from the scheduling rep to the nurse practitioner to the team member preparing your room – knew you on a first name basis. And each of them knew the relevant information that mattered to you, for their job. Like that you prefer office locations near your work, that you want your discharge plans in a digital app, that the sink in your hospital room has been dripping all night. Think of how these seminal healthcare moments would be reshaped.
And moreover, imagine there was someone to guide you, that recognized your personality, your preferences, and your emotions as you went through your healthcare journey, someone who understood what you’ve been through and where you’re going.
In this experience economy, this shouldn’t be theoretical – this is how we at Docent Health believe every patient can and should be treated.
The beauty of this type of platform is that it goes beyond the consumer. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you work in healthcare, you generally arrived here out of a desire to help and assist others. And yet, many of us in the industry struggle to feel that sense of purpose and provide the level of empathetic, high-touch care we desire.
Be it a result of dated processes or legacy systems, it’s grown increasingly difficult for healthcare workers to see patients as people. And this is the other half of the experience coin. We have the opportunity not to just make the patient journey better, but to empower staff to relate to people and give the level of care so many seek. Whether it’s real-time patient sentiment feedback, dynamic task tracking, or the ability to seamlessly interact with peers to enable service recovery, Docent Health seeks to not only reengineer patient experiences, but to rethink how service providers collaborate and engage with the people in their care.
It’s with this unwavering focus that Docent Health was born. What was incubated in the Oxeon Venture Studio in the summer of 2015 has quickly earned seed funding (from healthcare powerhouses Bessemer Venture Partners, NEA, and Maverick Capital), has landed its first cohort of anchor customers, and is growing an exceptional team.
It’s a thrilling time to be in this space. And the beauty of this moment in time is that there’s a playbook already in front of us. Restaurants and hotels, airlines and banks – each has been rethinking customer journeys over the last three decades. The experience economy gave them no choice but to innovate and evolve, and now it’s pushing healthcare to do the same. This is precisely why Docent Health has worked diligently to bring together not just a core team of healthcare veterans, but also pioneers of service excellence from those exact industries.
It’s with this team, and with this shared mission, we aim to not just deliver an unparalleled platform, but to truly reshape the delivery of healthcare services. Perhaps one day not so far down the road, when we’ve accomplished our goals, we’ll all be able to look back at the current state of experience in healthcare and think to ourselves, “how primitive!”
Oxeon Senior Associate John Ferry weighs in at MedCity Invest as a Speaker during their Startup Workshop: Design a Product with Population Health in Mind. John will be speaking alongside Veneeth Iyengar of Sage Growth Partners, Alexis Skoufalos of Jefferson College of Population Health, Garrett Vygantas, M.D. of Jump Capital, and Stephanie Kovalick of Sage Growth Partners. The team will work with select startup companies to help fine-tune their products and processes so they consider population health in their designs, increasing their likelihood for reimbursement and higher profits.
MedCity Invest Speakers >>>
Deerfield Management and Oxeon Holdings have joined forces to expand their leadership roles in supporting innovative programs and practices to foster improved diversity in the workplace. Beginning in February and running through May, over 30 female senior healthcare executives with interest in corporate governance will receive training and guidance designed to help them obtain their first boardroom role.
Click here for more information >>>
Almost 4 years ago, I was sh*t-canned from my job. I didn’t do anything that lacked integrity, I didn’t fail at my job. I just wasn’t a good cultural fit. With my termination letter in hand (which I still have and look at periodically), I walked home from midtown Manhattan to let my wife know I was no longer employed. With every step, a new emotion dominated my mind; deep humiliation, anger, anxiety, entrepreneurial passion and on and on. I knew my then former boss was right in exiting me and I respected him for doing it. I learned a painful but invaluable lesson that day; cultural values are more important than anything else. I was wrong for them and they were wrong for me and with each block of that walk home, thinking about all the wrong that had been overlooked due to revenue, profits, success, etc, I came to know exactly what I wanted to do. I made a commitment, maybe without specific nomenclature, to the exact mission, values and culture that I would embody in this new adventure. Walking from a breakfast meeting at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan to Worth Street in Tribeca, grit prevailed and Oxeon was effectively conceived.
With four years of hindsight, that was truly a walk “home” in so many important ways. But on that specific day, the journey’s first stop was stepping off the elevator to tell my wife of my new state of unemployment. Megan immediately supported me, without hesitation and without equivocation, and with that, Oxeon’s conception actually occurred. In the hours that followed, two DVDs of Jerry McGuire were messengered to my apartment and Schuyler called to say he wanted to join me at the new company and I can remember telling him that there was a clear vision of how we would do things. For the public record, the dude was 22 years old, had just moved to NYC to join me at my now former employer and so his making that phone call is something I’ll never lose appreciation for. In the days that followed, Frank, Seth, Jeff and Dave all took major risks in supporting us as our first clients and investments at Evolent and Privia. Then Becca and Morgan were just crazy enough to join Schuyler to help start the company. Maura and Jamie followed them shortly thereafter and our merry band of healthcare executive search recruiters was beginning our summer tour! Since then, as clients, candidates, networking sources, advocates, or just friends of the firm, each of you has played a part in the tremendous growth of our company over four amazing years.
That day in November 2011 seemed like a lifetime in 8 hours, an amazing emotional rollercoaster. But it was good training for the past four years. Writing today, I’m beyond proud of what we’ve accomplished but also think that Oxeon is really just at its beginning. A highly specialized executive search firm with four team members has matured into an amazing collection of people with a very clear mission to impact the US Healthcare system. So, with that, I am going to take some space in FWIW to share some perspective on what is happening here at Oxeon and what you can expect in the next four years.
Let me start, first, with what hasn’t, and never will change. At Oxeon, we come to work every single day with a mission to “make people healthier.” For us, “healthier” holds several meanings. Internally, it starts with our focus on building a healthy culture and relationship with our employees, striking alliances (a term inspired by a great book—Reid Hoffman’s The Alliance) that serve to grow and nurture their individual aspirations as they contribute to our continued success as a company. Our mission has also served as a beacon in making decisions around our client base and portfolio; we are continuously astounded by the impact our clients make in transforming the way healthcare is delivered and paid for in this country, making people literally healthier each day, and, we believe, securing a foundation for a healthy American economy.
Lately, we have been thinking a lot about the meaning of “healthy” in another context. With a backdrop of, frankly, crazy-and-getting-crazier healthcare valuations, and accompanying “bubble” behaviors, we are acutely aware of our social responsibility to build and support healthy startups across our portfolio. We are fortunate that our Invested Executive Search firm enables us to have 15,000 annual conversations and deep relationships with leading healthcare executives. This position translates into a very unique opportunity to connect our healthcare company partners with the fundamental drivers of business growth: great people, great partnerships, strategic investment and next generation business ideas. So, without further ado, we are pleased to introduce you to the concept of Oxeon as a “Healthcare Growth Services” firm. In order to be a great Healthcare Growth Services firm without any dilution of the core of Invested Executive Search, we have consciously and successfully focused on our own great people and foundational business processes in advance of formally expanding the range of work we do. I am pleased to say that as we exit 2015, we are well positioned to continue to launch new business lines and bring exceptional senior leaders to Oxeon to help us achieve our mission of Making People Healthier. Let me explain.
Since our start, we have never strayed from the thought that with the 3-legged stool of successful entrepreneurship, great people were more important to achieving our mission than great products and big markets; sub-par leadership teams and executives can miss the opportunity inherent in both of the non-people legs of that entrepreneurial stool.
By all comparable metrics, our executive search firm continues to deliver great work in 2015. Our long-term client relationships, our stick rate and a Net Promoter Score greater than 80, determined through formal Client Satisfaction Surveys, are all indicators of our success in growing the firm while not diminishing the quality. But some things have changed. Known in our first couple of years for working with companies primarily at venture capital levels of maturity, this core segment now makes up one third of the over 100 searches we do annually. We have demonstrated success with companies at greater levels of maturity and now roughly another third comes from companies considered in “private equity” stage of growth; $25M to $500M in revenue and $10M to $150M in EBITDA. Finally, we have had great success serving some of the leading public HCIT companies as well as innovative healthcare systems, leading health plans, consulting firms and self-insured employers.
The range of executive roles that we recruit continues to span the entire C-Suite with 32% being at the CEO, President, COO and CFO levels and 33% being in the Sales, BD and marketing roles. We do 30+ searches in senior roles in Clinical, Technical, Legal and Administrative positions. We are incredibly excited to continue to deliver exceptional executive search to our many clients and partners.
The relationships gained through our executive search organization fueled a big year for Oxeon Investments in 2015. The centerpiece was the Initial Public Offering of Evolent Health, our founding client. We continue to see ourselves as an extension of this amazing company and are beyond proud to have contributed whatever little part to their success. Other major investments and step-ups in valuation at Village Practice, Landmark Health, Iora, Oak Street Health, Pager and others rounded out a good year. New 2015 investments included Imagine Health, Vida, Pager, Capsule, Quartet, PresenceLearning and others to be announced shortly. We continue to invest capital as well as a range of services to support the success of our investments and 100% of Oxeon employees still participate in all of our investment funds.
We believe that explicit missions, unshakeable and differentiated cultures, and a pitbullish commitment to human capital strategy amplify great teams and executives in an immeasurable way. To that end, we are currently working with some early anchor clients on a range of services that include; organizational assessment, executive assessments, alignment, employee engagement assessments and initiatives, human capital planning, succession planning, Interim Chief People Officers, and other key “strategic people initiatives”. Recruiting is critical but our clients have a much better chance of success when the entire “People” function is integrated and well planned. Our goal is to offer this service line broadly to our investment portfolio as part of our investments as well as to our clients as a service/product line. Stay tuned for more insight!
What has emerged out of four years of executive search, solely focused on Healthcare IT and Services, is a set of relationships that is both broad and deep. 15,000 conversations annually with senior healthcare executives will accomplish that! So, we are beginning the process of formalizing our prior success in facilitating opportunities across our relationships. Identifying opportunities to bring senior Provider, Payer, Self-Insured Employer, Technology and Service executives together around specific needs is something we’ve done historically on an opportunistic basis but we believe the time has come to formalize this offering.
De Novo Entrepreneurship
The same 15,000 annual conversations, when captured correctly and mined effectively, will lead to incredible insight in the problems, needs and opportunities across the healthcare ecosystem. Year one of our efforts to mine our conversations saw us start a venture studio from scratch, integrate it into the broader Oxeon Holdings family, write 25+ business plans, validate a handful and then start two companies de novo. Royal, Bryan and Morgan did an absolutely amazing job being the architects and the drivers of Patient Steward, Dossier and Cien overall. We are incredibly excited about the progress they’ve made and will be making a series of major announcements in the coming days about funding, clients and leadership for the de novo companies we’ve founded this year. We continue to be committed to launching new companies independently or in partnership with our clients, partners or investment friends, and welcome anyone to reach out if they would like to collaborate on something.
We continue to explore and work on other new Healthcare Growth product and service lines and expect Oxeon Holdings to continue to test, validate and then announce different ways for us to help our clients successfully transform the US Healthcare System. In order to scale our business lines – we must scale our people!
In 2015, Oxeon went through a very specific set of steps to attract, successfully integrate and retain great people while preparing to broaden the range of services we offer to companies, and I am thrilled to introduce you to five senior leaders who have joined Oxeon in this year.
It is impossible to explain the impact of the crew of people who started and built Oxeon with me. In a relatively short time, we’ve grown from a couple of us and a $20,000 monthly expense budget in 2012 to fifty plus employees and five distinct business lines. We looked at 2015 as the year to blend our internal team with external leadership, mentorship and expertise and I am excited to say that the cavalry has arrived. Say hello to them!
For Jim and I, our first second day of work together occurred on 9/11/2001; our onboarding exercise was watching the incredible events of lower Manhattan as we were stranded in Jersey City together. Those events secured a strong tie between us, and as our Firm continues to mature in size and complexity, I am excited to bring him on as a key partner of mine in leading our finance, investments and much of our administrative functions. In our first at-bat, I was the product and strategy guy and he was the strategy and finance guy –that blend worked so well that we decided to get the band back together in this critical third year of Oxeon’s growth. Joining in early 2015, Jim has been instrumental to our organizational effectiveness, our investments, our forays into crazy entrepreneurial ventures and making sure that we don’t always roll 100% of our investment proceeds!
“Lisher”, aka Lauren has stepped in with an out-of-the-gates impact that has probably never been seen at Oxeon. Lauren comes to us after creating the CommonWell Alliance at McKesson/Relay Health, which brought together Allscripts, athenahealth and Cerner among other organizations, in the spirit of making people healthier by driving interoperability of data and technology across some of healthcare’s key players. Her experiences and network have leant tremendous credibility across the healthcare market, where she has already made waves in searches for Athena and an Intermountain and Cerner joint venture. Lauren is a continued voice of sanity and clarity across our crazy internal operations, and we are incredibly excited about the continued role she will have on executive search, operational effectiveness, leadership, mentoring, investing, business development and de novo entrepreneurship. A huge hire for us!
Alissa and I first met in the days following the creation of Oxeon and during the very early days of Evolent Health, where we were both working with their leadership team on consulting projects on human capital. We immediately connected and worked closely together as Alissa took a full-time role in the earliest days of Evolent. A great friendship ensued and after some downtime after leaving Evolent, she has joined us with the goal of bringing our culture and values to an office in Washington DC. Her career experience from amazing organizations McKinsey, the Advisory Board and Evolent is having an enormous impact on Oxeon. Keep your eyes out for an Oxeon office in the Nation’s capital.
In November 2014, the evening before Alissa was coming in to interview with my colleagues at Oxeon, I met Mia for an introductory conversation at a restaurant near our office. We have many mutual friends- all of them had told me that they thought Oxeon and Mia were made for each other. So I orchestrated an introduction (I am in executive search after all) and we met to talk about Oxeon and what a crazy little firm we were building. About an hour into the conversation, Alissa walked in to meet for dinner in advance of her interviewing the next day; she said hi and sat at the far end of the bar to wait for me to wrap up. Mia immediately gave me crap (as did the bartender) and the recruiting process was on. Suffice to say, that was a bar and restaurant tab that was well spent as today, Mia joins the firm as a Senior Principal. She joins us from Russell Reynolds and brings extensive knowledge and expertise in digital health as well as complimentary areas of healthcare not historically being an area of deep expertise for Oxeon. Before search, Mia worked at and led high performing teams for global healthcare companies like Merck, Guidant, Boston Scientific and Biotronik and is an incredible mentor and leader for the many rising stars in our company.
And Kate… let’s not forget Kate! Kate joins us after recently expanding her family with the addition of Theodore “Teddy” Harvey in May. We are most excited to welcome Teddy, who already rocks an orange Oxeon Onesie, as well as Kate, to the Oxeon family. An inside joke at the early stages of Oxeon was that we were all English and History majors and the only thing we all felt good about was our writing skills- this article may cause that statement to be seen as absurd. But Kate was actually a professional journalist producing award-winning articles around Hurricane Katrina among other major events. To see the interviewing skills of an investigative journalist applied to executive search is great; a source of differentiated executive insight and a benchmark for all of us! Kate joins us from Russell Reynolds where she worked on searches for Provider systems, private equity-backed healthcare companies and digital health. She brings substantial process commitment around executive search and is already having a huge impact in advance of our 2016 operating plan. She is a perpetual source of good energy coupled with a tremendous work ethic and exceptional executive search abilities within Oxeon’s portfolio.
So, in addition to thanking you all for your unwavering support these past four years, I now need to thank you for making it to the end of this article. My hope is that it reflects the wickedly fun and exciting energy that is pulsing through Oxeon as we head toward year-end. With new people and an explicit dedication to building new service lines, we head into next year with the feeling that we can do more than ever to affect change in the way our society keeps people healthy. Thank you to everyone reading this for your support. I consider myself incredibly lucky to do what I do and to work with the people I work with, both inside and outside our company.
Managing Partner Trevor Price talks healthcare, early-stage investing and entrepreneurship in Relentless Health’s latest podcast. Relentless Health Value is a weekly interview podcast hosted by Stacey Richter, a healthcare entrepreneur celebrating fifteen successful years in the business side of healthcare.
Click here to listen>>>
APCO recently released a whitepaper with panel commentary on “Digital Health: Value Recognition” featuring Oxeon’s very own Managing Partner Trevor Price along with a suite of other industry leaders. Among the topics of conversation were telehealth, consumer engagement, and wearables. The panel unanimously affirmed the importance of better communication in healthcare.
One of the major themes of the discussion centered around the alleged tendency of providers to not consider their patients as consumers with the idea being that health systems are missing opportunities to better connect with their target population and make the care coordination process more inclusive. Further, consumer engagement is critical to the profitability of any business. Behavioral health companies are slowly giving people the tools to take charge of their health. Gamification makes exercising and setting personal goals more fun. Meal tracking apps help visualize consumer’s behavior. Fitness wearables can aide in clear goal creation. Similarly, consumers are starting to demand ownership of, and access to, their health information and history. The average person is seeking greater autonomy with regard to their health, and can have their decisions better informed by the wealth of information providers and physicians can share. As Trevor puts it, “PR will serve its greatest purpose by getting the average consumers to understand how to engage in healthcare.”
Click here to read the white paper >>>