Why would a health tech entrepreneur go to the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference?
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is a mystery to many people. The invite only conference used to mainly attract an exclusive group of investors and top executives in the pharmaceutical industry. In the last few years, with the explosion of healthcare technology, that has changed. Digital and health tech companies, healthcare incubators and VCs now also converge on Union Square in San Francisco in January, whether or not they are invited to the main event.
“I didn’t even know JPM existed until about four years ago, even though it is now in its 35th year,” according to Zac Jiwa, CEO of MI7. “All I knew is there is a large healthcare-oriented conference in San Francisco around the second week of January and all the elites go. I have been in healthcare technology as a CIO of a hospital, as a leader for an EHR vendor, working for Microsoft, and working for the federal and state government, and in year 15 of my career, I am just finding out about JPM. That’s surprising because I am a networker, a people person, a business development guy,” he says.
The annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference brings thousands of investors from around the world together. The hundreds of companies presenting run the gamut, from start-ups to those with more than $300 billion in market cap, and encompass the entire global healthcare landscape, including pharmaceutical firms, healthcare service providers, profit and not-for-profits, and medical device companies. – J.P. Morgan
“Last year, I went for the first time. I was kind of in awe and caught off guard,” explains Jiwa, “JPM is unlike any conference I’ve ever been to. Let me be clear, I didn’t go to the actual conference which takes place in the Westin St. Francis hotel by invite only. But it’s all the things that happen around the conference.”
“The first time I was completely lost walking around trying to find the central hub where everything was happening. Fortunately, I had some meetings scheduled. But just walking around Union Square, you meet people and have coffee. There is a lot going on at the conference, but you have to know what and where. You can find out by doing a lot of advance work or by going to one of the receptions at night just meeting people and scheduling a time to have coffee the next day,” he says.
“Last year, I was really not efficient. This year, I was much more strategic in finding out who I wanted to meet with. There is no roster that I know of, but there are a lot of my clients and prospects who would be there. Many people go to get funding, but I didn’t go for funding. I see JPM as a business development and partnership opportunity to get face to face with a lot of people in a short amount of time. I was highly focused and had an amazing week this year, getting deals done that I could not have done over the phone,” he says.
Healthcare is so personal that if you can get in front of someone and shake their hand – it doesn’t matter if you’ve been talking for a year – it’s getting 15 minutes to build that relationship and rapport. – Zac Jiwa, CEO, MI7
Jiwa says he was successful in forging many new opportunities from just having coffee or attending the many receptions associated with the Health Evolution Summit, Kleiner Perkins, the Startup Health Festival, athenahealth, GE Capital and others.
Advice for health tech entrepreneurs
“Union Square, the second week of January, is one of the most valuable places to go,” says Jiwa. His advice for startups:
- Do not show up without a plan.
- Go to as many receptions as you can.
- Reach out to who you know is going to be there, even if it’s a cold call.
- Plan your targets and you will find a lot of serendipity.
- Hang out in one of the key hotels. You don’t have to stay there.
“Everyone is staying in fancy hotels. I am a capital-efficient entrepreneur coming into the city every day from an Airbnb. It doesn’t really matter. You pick a hotel or anywhere around Union Square and say, ‘I’ll meet you there.’ People are more than willing to meet, if you’ve got something interesting.”
“I walked into the Hyatt on Union Square just looking to find someplace to plug in my computer, and ran into at least 10 people I knew or had been introduced to. You’ll find a lot of serendipity.”
If I was a newbie next year, I would get in touch with Unity Stoakes at StartUp Health or Matthew Holt at Health 2.0, and ask, ‘How can I participate?’ They both do side events, the StartUp Health Festival and Wintertech during the conference – it is a great entry point and a great reason to be there. – Zac Jiwa, CEO, MI7
Takeaways from JPM
The mood at the conference shows “no slowdown to health tech investment,” said Jiwa, “The new administration has a lot of folks concerned. Change means change, but you need to continue to invest. Most of the funds have shifted to Series B.” He says investors are looking to make additional investments in companies they have funded in earlier stages, and are getting rid of investments dying on the vine.
VCs have gone through the honeymoon phase. They realize everything is much slower in healthcare. There are no unicorns in healthcare. – Zac Jiwa
“Investors and entrepreneurs are coming to understand healthcare is a longer play,” explains Jiwa. It make take 10 years to build to a value and revenue standpoint, not the three to five years that VCs are used to.
Trends that will shape healthcare’s future
“In the future, the consumer/patient will demand more control,” says Jiwa, “The market is setting the tempo. Because healthcare is so controlled by the federal dollar, funding 50 percent of healthcare, it stifles a lot of our innovation.”
How do we get there? According to Jiwa:
1. Value-based tools are going to fuel the future of healthcare.
“Value-based care means a lot of consolidation in the health plan space and the provider space. It means containing costs, controlling the patient’s ecosystem, and some really great tech tools – analytics tools, risk management tools. The climate has changed. I don’t think we need EHRs. We need CRMs or Patient Relationship Management. You need a tool that collects data, of course, but then collects actionable insights. Value-based tools are going to fuel the future of healthcare.”
2. Transparency for the consumer.
“More people have higher deductibles and are paying cash. I am looking for the best value and the best quality care. I want the app and the technology that tells me accurately who is going to give me the lowest price and the better quality.”
3. AI has the potential to transform healthcare.
“Voice-assisted technologies are going to tell me what I want to know. For example, Amazon Alexa getting smarter is interesting from the consumer standpoint. What happens when you incorporate that type of device for patients and real-time clinical decision support and the disruption of the EHR?”
4. Precision medicine, not just for oncology, but precision healthcare for wellness will make healthcare more wholistic.
Challenges for tech entrepreneurs and the hospital CIO
“Hospitals have made large purchases over the last five years, and now they have a bunch of tools that they are struggling to figure out how to make work together. They have to figure out how to get this data, manage the data, and get insights on the data, so they can follow through with the promise of data as a transformer of care,” says Jiwa.
Hospital CIOs’ heads are going to be spinning around data. The successful application developers in 2017 are going to need to help CIOs figure out: how to get the data, where to put the data, how to measure the data, how to visualize that data in a way that informs decision-making. – Zac Jiwa
“There is not going to be a lot of investment in new technology for hospitals. CIOs are going to be working with less, and concentrating on keeping the lights blinking and the data servers running. Data will continue to shift to the cloud,” says Jiwa,”There will be a lot of spend on BPO, particularly consulting services like Accenture or Deloitte.”
We are going to see a whole new plan next week. We’re going to have to do this big shift, and expect that it’s going to be unfunded. – Zac Jiwa
He says, “Developers need to focus on delivering an acute touchpoint value, something simple. Find your champion, an executive champion so interested and excited about what you can do for them, that IT is in execution mode. Make it as simple as possible for the IT organization to say okay. Don’t create another project in their queue. Make it as frictionless as possible.”
Mission possible: the secret sauce
List of private receptions at JPM from MacDougall Biomedical Communications
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