A former Kleiner Perkins investor is staking out the future of digital health. Here's why she just made an early bet on an in-home care startup founded by a former Uber exec.
- Lynne Chou O'Keefe is the founder of Define Ventures, an early-stage venture firm that invests explicitly in digital health.
- The former Kleiner Perkins investor told Business Insider that she wanted to invest in digital health companies at the earliest stages, where payoffs are bigger and regulatory hurdles are higher.
- On Thursday, Define Ventures co-led a $4.5 million seed investment alongside Kleiner Perkins in MedArrive, a startup that works with EMTs and paramedics to provide in-home, non-emergency care.
- Chou O'Keefe said MedArrive was a good example of the future of healthcare that Define believes in because it works within the existing healthcare system through partnerships but also puts the patient first.
- MedArrive cofounder and CEO Dan Trigub formerly ran the health division at Uber where he partnered with healthcare stakeholders to provide rides to patients.
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Lynne Chou O'Keefe was willing to bet her career on the future of digital health, and so far, it's paying off.
The former Kleiner Perkins investor left the iconic Silicon Valley firm to start Define Ventures, an early-stage firm that is hyperfocused on staking out claims in digital health.
Prior to the pandemic, Chou O'Keefe's gamble seemed risky but with long-term upsides. Now, while the coronavirus pandemic pushes the industry to new heights, it feels more and more like a sure thing.
"This has been our mission and our vision that we've built our carers on, and the opportunity set has met us where we are," Chou O'Keefe told Business Insider. "I liken it to a chapter in 'Outliers' that's about the right time, the right opportunity, the right team with the right skillset and right experience all coming together."
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Since Chou O'Keefe started the firm in October 2018, she's made 12 investments ranging from the earliest incubation stage all the way up to modest Series B rounds.
On Thursday, another startup joins the ranks.
Define co-led a $4.5 million seed round in MedArrive, a startup that provides non-emergency in-home care through a network of emergency medical technicians and paramedics in partnership with existing hospitals and clinics. Kleiner Perkins, Chou O'Keefe's former firm, also led Thursday's round.
Why Chou O'Keefe is betting on MedArrive
The startup hits all of Chou O'Keefe's sweet spots: it works directly with emergency medical services agencies to provide skilled care providers and has partnerships with hospitals and clinics who can refer patients to MedArrive's services.
It also helps that its cofounder, Dan Trigub, formerly ran the health division at Uber where he saw the complex logistics component first-hand while building a tool that patients wanted to use.
"This is not for the faint-of-heart entrepreneur," Chou O'Keefe said.
Although MedArrive wants to tackle some of the most difficult aspects of healthcare by selling to existing stakeholders, Chou O'Keefe said that was secondary to the overall goal of providing care in patients' homes when she decided to invest, a theme she thinks accelerated due to the pandemic but is here to stay long after it's over.
MedArrive wants to help medical professionals care for patients at home
Trigub said that the coronavirus pandemic created conditions for MedArrive to hit its stride even though he had been aware of the inefficient and complex healthcare system for years.
MedArrive isn't a replacement for primary care or chronic care, Trigub said. Instead, it's simply a way for patients to check in with a care provider in person from home.
"The concept of bridging care into the home is not a novel concept," Trigub told Business Insider.
What is new is who is providing care, Trigub explained. MedArrive partners with EMS agencies nationwide to send EMTs and paramedics on visits in addition to their time spent responding to emergency calls and crises that are part of the agencies' typical responsibilities.
Leading the health division of Uber, which provided patients transportation to hospitals and doctors' offices, created an aha moment for Trigub. He had the connections, tools, and new technology, to make that system more efficient.
With MedArrive, Trigub is leaning on his experience with logistics. But now his company is coordinating how to get trained medical professionals to patients' homes instead of the other way around.
At MedArrive, EMTs and paramedics are allotted hours to MedArrive patients through the agency they currently work for. It is more of a hybrid gig economy business model than what Trigub saw at Uber. The EMTs make some extra income, Trigub explained, and use more of the training they've completed by making calls for chronic care patients or non-emergency visits.
"On their day job they rarely use all their trained skills and they get very burnt out," Trigub said. "There's a lot of compassion fatigue because they see the worst of the worst and burn out quickly."
Doctors can opt into MedArrive through a paid partnership, Trigub said. He declined to provide specifics on how much a typical partnership costs the doctors, pointing to the variability that comes with larger contracts and differences in location. MedArrive is also working directly with insurance companies and programs like Medicare Advantage, he said, as a way for patients to pay for services.
MedArrive is currently operating in Florida, but has not publicly announced which doctors or hospitals it is partnering with. Trigub said he expects to do so in early 2021.
Trigub's pitch to doctors, many of whom are wary of new technology, is that MedArrive can bring the same care patients might get at a doctor's office directly at homes. It's not a competitor, and for underserved communities with far-flung patients, it could be a benefit to local medical professionals.
Over time, MedArrive could expand to include nurse practitioners or other highly skilled medical workers, Trigub said. That potential for growth and the meaningful impact was the cherry on top for Chou O'Keefe, she said, now that the country has realized how broken the US healthcare system is.
"I think we could not be building and imaging the future of healthcare at a better time," Chou O'Keefe said. "The opportunity and the need is so great and, quite frankly, we are feeling that with what's happening with the world today."
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