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A lot of entrepreneurs take the lessons and — if all went well — proceeds from their companies after exiting and put them back into a new idea. Serial entrepreneurship, as they say. That’s basically David Vivero’s story. He sold a tech startup to Zillow, where he then worked as an exec. When it was time to move on he knew he was going to start another company.
“That whole beautiful benefits experience you had, you’re kind of on your own now.”
Where his story differs is that the idea for his next venture — which turned into Amino — came from the one-page COBRA document he received on leaving Zillow. The lack of transparency was frustrating. Also, it was kind of a lonely experience being out from under the employer’s umbrella. “That whole beautiful benefits experience you had, you’re kind of on your own now.”
So, he took what he calls a “tour” through the healthcare system, which for him revealed two issues complicating the process:
“One, I was alone. COBRA is your first taste of not dealing with your employer directly…but I had a unique case because I had a unique condition and wasn’t able to get insurance on the individual market as an alternative.”
Here is another place where David’s story differs from many. He had an entrepreneurial mindset and decided that this was where his next startup would come from. Zillow was built on transparency and helping consumers make better decisions, so why not take that background and translate it into healthcare?
“Healthcare has become more than just a health issue. It’s a personal finance category.”
From there, it was a matter of going from the superficial problem — consumers struggling to understand their coverage and care options — and doing what David considers the foundation of entrepreneurship: “fundamentally understanding a problem and discovering something that’s already there.”
In this case, the lack of transparency was only part of it. The deeper issue was (is) that “Healthcare has become more than just a health issue. It’s a personal finance category.”
“We’ve always been viewed as passengers on this ship, not captains of our own vessels.”
When looked at through that lens, the way people think about healthcare can change. But the problem, as David sees it, is that healthcare hasn’t engendered the trust we see in other industries. He pointed out that if you’re booking a flight, you have an airline you probably check first. If you’re designing a vacation, you have a travel website you look through. Looking for a doctor…not so much. And the reason for that is because we patients have had little say in the matter. It’s been top down, dictated by the industry. “We’ve always been viewed as passengers on this ship, not captains of our own vessels.”
So now, Amino is trying to help set up healthcare the way other industries operate. The company’s platform let’s people search for the best providers for a specific condition or treatment based on several factors including age, gender, location and insurance. There is also a tool to estimate the cost of a limited but growing number of procedures.
The point, David says, is that it’s not about trying to get people to spend more or make people make decisions out of fear. It’s about thinking of individuals making just another personal finance decision, and building trusted brands to help guide those decisions the way Expedia or Kayak do for travel:
“Our perspective is that every market deserves an independent, convenient, unbiased resource that helps people transact and feel good about the decisions they’re making.”
It’s important to note that not all of this comes down on “the industry.” David notes that consumers have had access to “all you can eat” healthcare in the past, where we patients had little incentive to avoid more testing and more treatment. So tools like Amino were neither “possible nor necessary” a decade ago. Today, thanks to financial necessity and technological advances, better consumer resources have become both.