How I fell in love with—and invested $250k in—the BETTER App

I never invest in music or healthcare startups. In music, anything that’s interesting to consumers is quickly slaughtered by the rights holders, and in health, anything interesting is brutally murdered by red tape.

At least that was my thinking until I fell in love with a simple little App called BETTER.

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What is BETTER?

BETTER is an App that pairs you with a PHA (personal health assistant) in a Facebook-like feed. It costs only $20 per month for individuals and $50 per month for families.

Once in the App you can ask your PHA to do something for you. In the last six months I typed in the following questions and got the following actions:

1. “I get motion sickness and my friend gave me a pill called something like macklazine and I’d like to get a prescription for it for my vacation in Nantucket.”

The PHA informed me that the real name was “meclizine,” talked to my primary care doctor and got me a prescription for a patch that my doctor felt was even more effective. I went on a boat for hours around Nantucket and felt like an old sailor with an iron stomach for the first time in my life!

I would have never taken the time to make the phone call, but because I had the App I literally typed in the request while I was vacationing in Italy. BETTER is an awesome name for this App, but it could also have been called EASY!

Oh yeah, my PHA pinged me when the pharmacy had the drug ready.

Time saved: 2–3 hours.

2. “I’ve caught my daughters cold, and I’ve now got a tickle in my throat, a headache, body aches and a cough. Help!”

My PHA got my primary care doctor on the phone, he knew my symptoms already and we got some meds to a brand-new pharmacy in San Francisco (didn’t have one yet since I had just moved up here).

Time saved: 2 hours.

3. “Here is a photo of a mole on my ankle I’ve had since childhood—it just started bleeding! I’m concerned because my uncles all have skin cancer. Can you find me a dermatologist in San Francisco?”

PHA sent me three doctors, their reviews, and the times they had available. I picked the one I liked best, and they set up the appointment.

Time saved: 3–4 hours.

4. “I’m going to the dermatologist you set up, but I don’t want to fill out any paperwork or sit in a waiting room—can you help?”

My PHA did a Docusign for me to fill out on my phone and let the office know I that I needed to get in and out as fast as possible. Got three moles looked at and one removed—in under 30 minutes.

Total time saved: 4–5 hours.

 

Why this is so great

The health system is a complete mess and is massively time consuming. My family pays $15,000 per year for our health insurance, but we don’t use it much because it takes so long to wait on hold for doctors, get appointments, find out if folks are in our network, fill out paperwork, and generally manage everything.

With our PHA we pay $600 per year—far too cheap in my mind—and we use our healthcare at least 3x more.

For 4% of the cost of our health care we receive 300% of the value! It’s insane!

 

What do I want next from BETTER?

First, I want to have my doctor in my feed. In fact, I want all my doctors in my feed: my GP, my weight-loss doctor (down 20+ pounds and going for 10 more!), my dermatologist (for the moles), and anyone else my PHA hires for me.

Second, I want all my documents inside of BETTER with all my doctors seeing all of the paperwork—and an audit trail to see if they open them!

Third, I want to use a 3rd-party testing service to take blood, saliva, and other tests for me every six months and put them into my BETTER app—alerting my doctors to them so they can do a review and give me any feedback.

Fourth, I want BETTER to take my weight from my Withings scale and my data from my Basis Watch and give it to my PHA, wife, and doctors.

That’s the thing about an inspiring product, when you find one you just come up with all the things you want to add to it!

Whenever I get that feeling I just write a check, and so I gave BETTER $250,000 and I’m planning on giving them another $500,000 with my AngelList Syndicate in a couple of months when they get their next set of features done.

I love the service so much I bought it for all of my employees because so many young people get health care and simply do not use it because it’s too confusing! I’ve had employees come to work sick because they simply don’t have the time or inclination to find a primary care doctor—or even a walk-in clinic! Thousands of dollars in health care that goes unused because young folks don’t know how to use it.

The healthcare system is a mess, that’s why hiring your own PHA—and I call them an advocate NOT an assistant—is so brilliant. Medicine is broken and you NEED an advocate fighting for you and your family.

My main concern right now for the company is they are charging TOO LITTLE. I’ve asked them to add the features I’ve discussed above and charge me $100–150 per month (literally 2–3x as much) because that’s the value I’m getting!

I do hope you try the product out because I think it’s a revolution.

Now, if only I could find a music App to make me change my mind about investing in music startups!

Oh yeah, I asked BETTER to give me a discount code. For 50% off the first paid month, go to www.getbetter.com/app to download the App, and then type jcal in as the referral code on the sign-in screen.

all the best, @jason

PS — I just hosted BETTER’s founder Geoffrey Clapp on This Week in Startups. It’s an amazing discussion about how BETTER works, and the challenges & opportunities of innovating in healthcare. Check it out — http://goo.gl/HYfp7b

PPS — I’ve written two other “Why I invested in…” posts. For Calm.com, which is doing amazingly well http://goo.gl/TdZgWf, and for Swell, which was bought by Apple http://goo.gl/pYPQN0.

PPPS — Are you ready to change your life forever? We’re hiring a Designer in Residence and a Developer in Residence for The Incubator! http://goo.gl/GiseZU

Are you ready to change your life forever?

Are you ready to quit & change your destiny?

Here at LAUNCH our mission is “to support founders & inspire innovation,” and today we’re thrilled to announce our “In Residence” program — a chance for you to change your destiny in this life!

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This Thursday we are starting the LAUNCH Incubator, as you may have read. We have seven (perhaps eight if they sign their contract today!) of the most promising startups I’ve ever seen in eight years of hosting the Launch Festival and across 80 investments (Uber and Thumbtack.com are in those 80, so that’s saying something).

Each of these startups represent another 30+ qualified applicants we didn’t take (so, they are the top 3% of the class).

We will be accepting a “Designer in Residence” and a “Developer in Residence” — DIRs for short — for the Incubator starting next Thursday.

The goal for the DIRs will be one of the following:

a) join one of the seven startups as a founder
b) start their own startup during the Incubator (which we will fund with $25,000)
c) learn a ton & get automatically accepted into the spring LAUNCH Incubator class

Here are some other particulars:

1. You don’t have to quit your job right now, you simply need to be able to get to the Thursday night incubator classes by 5PM.
2. The worst-case scenario is that you sit in on 12 of the most informative three-hour classes taking place in the Valley — for free!
3. You need to be world class, not up-and-coming. If you think you’ll be great only after coming out of this experience you’re not the right person. You need to be an elite developer or designer coming into the program — that’s why we’re giving you the slot!
4. Designers: we need to see exceptional work.
5. Developers: we need to see exceptional code.
6. Your participation will be kept 100% confidential — or I will tweet to 200k+ folks that you got the slot. Your choice!
7. You’ll give feedback to each team, each week. So, only free if you feel like helping out. The concept is for you to get a feel for the other teams and decide if you want to jump on their rocket ships.

If you think you have what it takes: apply!

Designer In Residence, LAUNCH Incubator 2015 Winter Session:https://launch.submittable.com/submit/37334

Developer In Residence, LAUNCH Incubator 2015 Winter Session:https://launch.submittable.com/submit/37250

In other LAUNCH Festival news:

Amazing speakers:
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn
Joanne Wilson, Gotham Gal Ventures
Halle Tecco, Rock Health
Yancey Strickler, Kickstarter
Angela Benton, NewME Accelerator
Chris Sacca, Lowercase Capital
Gigi Brisson, Attractor Ventures
Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia
Cyan Banister, Banister Capital

Amazing partners:
Connect.com (http://connect.com); IceHouse (http://www.icehousecorp.com); Sequoia Capital (https://www.sequoiacap.com); InvisionApp (http://www.invisionapp.com); Javelin Venture Partners (http://www.javelinventurepartners.com); Macys (http://www.macys.com); Expedia (http://www.expedia.com); Nordstrom (www.nordstrom.com); .Me (http://domain.me); .CO (http://www.go.co); DFJ (http://dfj.com); Get Invited (https://getinvited.to); Modulus (https://modulus.io/); Message Bus (https://messagebus.com); Sinch (https://www.sinch.com); Firebase (https://www.firebase.com); FullContact (https://www.fullcontact.com)

Apply to LAUNCH on stage: https://launch.submittable.com/submit/36488

A complimentary ticket just for you & your best friend, register here:
http://goo.gl/M1Ev6x

all the best, @jason & the amazing LAUNCH Team

PS — I had Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins fame on This Week in Startups: it’s one of my personal top five interviews of all time:http://goo.gl/Igs0n5. Thanks to our partners FreshBooks and Citrix Sharefile for sponsoring this episode.

PPS — We are looking for a contract- or full-time writer to do startup profiles for our new product “The LAUNCH Ticker Pro.” The LAUNCH Ticker Pro (LTP) is $1,000/year and publishes 150 in-depth profiles of emerging startups my team is considering for the Festival, investment, or the podcast. We are thinking this elite product will only have 100 subscribers and we’ve already signed up five of them in the first week. Apply at http://goo.gl/hzZVry & to signup for LTP visit:http://launchticker.com/plans

PPPS — The LAUNCH Festival costs us $1.4m to put on and we make $0.000 running it. We do it to help founders. As such, we rely on sponsors to help us break even. Everyone who buys a $14,000 sponsorship gets us 1% of the way there, and they help subsidize the 9,500 people who come to the event on scholarship (for free!). PLEASE BE A HERO AND HELP US! Email me personally jason@launch.co and let’s do it!

How to Launch your startup in 100 days — at LAUNCH Festival!

In 109 days we will host the 8th annual LAUNCH Festival…

… and you’re launching your startup at it!

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Over the eight years, I personally selected and coached startups including: Dropbox ($10B+ valuation), Mint (sold to Intuit for $170M), Yammer (sold to Microsoft for $1.2B), Red Beacon (sold to Home Depot for $70M+), Clicker (sold to CBS for $100m), FitBit ($300M+ valuation), Swype & TrueCar (IPOed this year, $1B valuation) for their six monumental minutes on stage.

Those startups combined, and the 390 others that launched on the stage, are now worth well over 20 billion dollars.

You’re next!

Over 10,000 people are coming this year (more: jc.is/Festival15), and 3,000 will be in the room when you launch.

There is nothing that says your journey can’t start right now. You can launch a killer idea on that stage! Everyone in our industry is, with few exceptions, 1st generation. No one running a unicorn right now is 3rd generation Silicon Valley. Doesn’t exist. It’s not like the people who ran HP let their kids start Microsoft and their kids built Netscape before their kids created Twitter.

99%+ of the folks here in the Bay Area are *imported*, and most are from much humbler beginnings.

Just. Like. You.

Here is all you need to do:

1. Find a problem in the world that you think needs to be solved.

2. Build a team of three people including at least one awesome designer and two developers. If you’re a business person, get three partners.

3. Commit to working 40 hours a week on the idea: that’s only 6 hours a day.

4. You actually don’t have to quit your job—you just have to commit to not wasting time watching TV.
5. Do interviews with actual customers, ask them the basic questions like: “how likely would you be to use this product?,” “how much would you pay for this product per month?” and “how would you solve this problem if the product didn’t exist in the world?”
6. Release an MVP on stage that does at least two or three cool things in a simple fashion, explain how you’ll make money and what five things you are considering doing next (showing designs of those five things—mock ups are ok!).

That’s it.

All of you can do this, but few of you will.

50 of you will get on stage.

40 of those companies will get funded.

25 of those companies will make it to year two.

10 of those companies will have awesome exits.

Two or three of them will change the world.

My good friend Phil Kaplan told me once that an average person has a million-dollar idea every day. I told him that means a stupid person has a million-dollar idea every month and a smart person has a billion-dollar idea every week.

He agreed.

The ideas are out there. The problems are out there.

But folks would rather binge-watch Homeland and Orange is the New Black (both excellent by the way), rather than tackle the hard problems.

Will you “catch up on your shows” or change the world? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.

The LAUNCH Festival is for the folks who are willing to give up their TV and Xbox and focus their lives—even for a brief 120 days—on building a kick ass product.

If that’s you here’s what you need to do:

1. Sign up for this mailing list for updates from me: jc.is/1xdD5Cm

2. Follow twitter.com/launchfestival and twitter.com/jason

3. Watch This Week in Startups when you need a break: jc.is/1qs6BOP

4. Buy the Lean Startups Books

5. Study great product designs at Dribbble.com and Behance.net

6. Learn how to conduct user interviews & contextual interviews:
jc.is/1qs6vXx
jc.is/1u49rye

7. Make a plan to build the top three things — not all the things — that will build credibility with angel investors and early adopters.

8. Anything that doesn’t fit into the plan goes into the “not right now bucket” or “mock it up bucket.”

9. Refine your skills: go to TreeHouse, Lynda or YouTube and f@#$ing figure it out. Be resourceful because the Universe doesn’t care that no one taught you how to do it—it’s your job to do it!

10. Watch Startup Basics here: jc.is/1saU4yT

Credibility comes from how elegant and simple your product is, not how loud you talk.

You demonstrate your worth in this industry by building product and you build product based on your skills. Talk is cheap, ideas are easy and no one gives a s@#$t about your deck.

SHOW. ME. YOUR. PRODUCT!

Product speaks. Don’t overthink this.

Apply here to launch at the Festival: jc.is/1u2xfRV

There are four competitions:

1.0 competition: No screenshots, no press, no AngelList profile, no nothing! You are hidden and people see your product for the first time on stage. You don’t pre-brief the press, you don’t do a demo day before the Festival. You’re on lockdown!

2.0 competition: Whatever is released to the public, press and angellist is your 1.0 and we judge you on the new stuff the world has not seen. This means you have a MASSIVELY compelling new product.

Crowdfunding competition: You have an ACTIVE kickstarter, indiegogo, tilt, etc. campaign going.

LAUNCH Incubator: Six companies hand-selected to spend the next 12 weeks with us here in San Francisco: jc.is/1xzkxwk

Bottom line: you miss 100% of shots you don’t take. The LAUNCH Festival is the most open event in the world:

Free for founders to come: jc.is/1xl9swW
Free for founders to be on stage.
Free for founders to have a demo table (if your product is awesome).

It’s free because we have awesome partners like:

IceHouse (http://www.icehousecorp.com)
DFJ (http://dfj.com)
.CO (http://www.go.co)
Sinch (https://www.sinch.com)
Macys.com (http://www.macys.com)
Expedia (http://www.expedia.com)
.ME (http://domain.me)

IF you care about innovation, founders and startups help us put on the Festival: partners@launch.co. You’ll feel great about doing so, and you will sell into an audience of 10,000 folks who share these stats:

70% spend over $1,000 on personal technology annually
35% are going to buy hosting services this year
40% are founders
of those founders, 35% have raised money for their startup

The 200 companies on stage and in the demo pit, plus the hundreds more in the audience, will be the next Dropbox, Yammer and Mint. Sponsoring the event is how you meet them.

all the best, jason