Learning from Steve Case

I had the pleasure to listen to Steve Case speak at a General Catalyst event in Boston. It was interesting to hear about his early struggles and the importance of perseverance. The first startup he joined was selling modems and online downloads for the Atari game console in 1983. It sold so few pieces during the Christmas shopping season the Kleiner guy on the board reviewing the numbers in January said: “I expected that more than these would be shoplifted!” While that startup failed it allowed Steve to meet a lot of the people that would become instrumental in making AOL a huge success.

It’s also interesting to note that AOL took a long time to mature. At first modems were sold as peripherals to a very small subset of PC users. It was not until 1989 that IBM started shipping internal modems and 1992 before it became legal for AOL to interconnect to the Internet – which was previously reserved to academia and the government. In other words, it took a good 8-10 years for AOL to really hit its stride. As a result he suggested many entrepreneurs and VCs should try to stick it out instead of building companies for a quick flip because by exiting too early they are passing on the opportunity to build a $100 billion company. He suggested more of us should swing for the fences and have the tenacity, grit, courage and passion to see it through!

He also described what he’s doing with Revolution Health. As we all know and as Steve experienced with his brother’s Dan brain cancer and his various encounters with the health care system, health care is broken in this country. Consumers are not the decision makers, there is no consumer brand in health care and getting information and services is extremely inconvenient. He intends to change that.

His multi-prompt approach includes launching RevolutionHealth.com, a consumer facing health portal launched 12 days ago, and through an investment in health care facilities providing health care in Walmart, Walgreens and others 7 days a week for extended hours (10-11 pm at night at most places).

It’s a step in the right direction and I hope he will navigate the healthcare minefield that has had so many casualties (remember the hype around Healtheon?).

Fingers crossed!

  • Interesting post to which I can truly relate, having fought against a brain tumor and a cancer and having had to actually fight more with the system than with my ailments.
    Medical coverage, patient information, and FDA fast track approval for proven cures that have been used for decades in Europe would greatly help.
    If RevolutionHealth can remain an independant source of information, which WebMD used to be, then this will be for the greater good. However once revenues because the key of the website development and profits generated from premium programs are not enough, the temptation is big to accept adverstising from large medical corps. This can dictate a new way of presenting the information. Not in the best consumer’s interest.

    Being able to keep their neutrality will be critical to become “the” reference health site. Having a wiki approach could help guarantee the seriousness of the project.

    As for starting and growing a company without being solely focused on the imminent $ flip is a great idea when the founder is in charge. As soon as investors step in the horizon becomes closer and the potential for the creation of the next big value quietly disappears.

    Finally, regarding your last post on CBT, note that exercice does impact stress and anxiety (medium level). Depending on your vision, you can analyze it differently: CBT, SIT, DT, CFT.
    Please read this link: http://www.isma.org.uk/stressnw/exercise.htm

  • Users need a reliable source. Doctors need to know their patients are reading reliable sources. I can’t even begin to tell you how much internet misinformation can confuse people.

    I agree a wikipedia approach may be best for health education.

    That said I think there may be a disproportionate number of of people into alternative medicine who frequent certain sites and create a user bias.

    Moderation would be key, but who would be a neutral moderator?

    Medscape & Webmd have some great articles that are reader friendly.

    Another great site is called uptodate, but it’s by subscription. That said, given the amount of work going into the writing and researching and guidelines for practitioners, it is reasonable to be subscriptioned and to have only specialist write the articles.

  • We need in health what we have for cosmetics – granted that’s a lighter matter (http://www.cosmeticscop.com).

    I agree that on the internet if one does not know how to find his/her way misinformation will prevail, with all it can entail.

    The only solution i have personally found, not scalable for the moment, sorry, is to have 3 researchers dig in the latest studies, analyze the fundamentals: who funded (yes, there is a study out there proving that the resveratrol in chocolate will cure major ailments, who knows that the major fund contributor to the study is Mars? yes, the chocolate bar manufacturer), who established the protocol, who conducted the study and analyzed the results, etc….
    Based on 5 double-bling studies that stricly adhere to my principles I consider the info “safe” for dispersion. This means I can disclose and comment the results and use this content in books, articles and interviews.

    Ethics…it all comes back to this simple word.

  • Hi all,
    Thanks for an interesting discussion. I work at Revolution Health and noted that a few of you mentioned wiki style health products. If you haven’t already seen it, I wanted to introduce you to a new wiki style feature on RevolutionHealth.com called Health Pages. You can create your own Health Page on any topic using existing content on our site, or your own information. Pages can be built wiki style or they can be locked by the owner. The product is in beta right now, so please try it out and let us know what you think!

  • Great! To me this is a further proof of the seriousness of the project.
    I will ask my team to test the beta and will have feedback sent your way.
    ps: how will you moderate the content that’s posted on those individual health pages to prevent gurus of all sorts form posting distorted pieces of information?

  • Hi Valerie,
    Thanks for your question about moderation of our Health Pages. This is a long response, but I wanted to be fairly detailed….

    Our site has different kinds of content, including community provided content and editorial content that has undergone medical review. The editorial content on our site is created by Revolution Health, as well as our trusted partners, including Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Publications. With some exceptions, all editorial content on our site goes through medical review and this content is clearly marked, “Provided by Revolution Health” or “Provided by the Mayo Clinic” to help readers evaluate the information on our site. You can read our Editorial Policy to learn more. While our Health Pages (wiki-style or personal) may contain modules with articles from our site that have undergone medical review, they may also contain user-generated content that has not been vetted for accuracy.

    As for information entered by the community directly, we encourage readers to compare community entered information with the trusted information on the site. In addition, we have Posting Guidelines to help with “Rules of the Road” for what we regard as appropriate posts. We think that the community is best able to police compliance with these guidelines, and while we have moderators to spot check community postings to ensure conformity with the guidelines, we generally do not pre-screen postings and rely on the community to let us know when there are inappropriate posts on the site through use of the ‘report abuse’ function.

    Ultimately, health is a personal matter and we welcome people collecting information and sharing personal views on our site. We do, however, advise people to consult with their own health care professionals before making decisions about their health.You can view our Editorial and Posting policies at http://www.revolutionhealth.com/about/our-policies
    I hope that helps.


  • i totally forgot to blog about that event, Steve made some great points about the need for patience in a startup — from an entrepreneurs & vcs perspective.

  • A few interesting take-aways: 1 – If you are not getting the play you want and you believe in your product, put it out where its likely to be shoplifted. Grab mindshare. Worked for Microsoft, they didn’t fight piracy too very hard. 2 – AOL had a relatively short run at the top. If your goal is to make a company that is an almost complete analogy to a Silver Salute AOL would be the one. ( maybe in internet dog years it was a long time ) 3- After you have flipped your first company you have the luxury of getting a company that you can stick with longer. Thank god otherwise there would be no art in the aforementioned space. So THIS is why you talk in the direction of OLX being something you want to stick with. More power to you. I have a friend Phil I should tell you about sometime. No matter what we ever talked about his money quote was “Why we can build one of those”. You are going in the right direction to be a more interesting person Fa. That’s good. The main channels only seem to be flooded with the guys who just want to run the numbers up on the scoreboard. Really dull. Think “The Donald”.