A Doctor’s-Eye View of Silicon Valley
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hearing about a problem and then thinking through how it “should be done.” That seems so simple, yet his ideas are game-changers. Given that he’s starting several companies, we actually met him at his attorney’s office, so there wasn’t a chance to see him with his employees. No surprise, Amir commanded the room, inspiring our small group with his experiences.
Another unique visit was to see Ephraim Heller at his home in the Valley. He sold his first company in 2004 to Abbott for $1.2 billion and is now back again—after a few other exciting projects—working on creating a pharma company, SynAgile. As successful as he is, I was surprised to find him so open and friendly. I also learned from him that big startups don’t necessarily need lots of employees, as you can outsource many tasks. In his venture he and his cofounder work from home and still do impressive things.
In addition, we met with several VCs starting with Doug Leone at Sequoia Capital. I didn’t really know what to expect from a big VC like Doug, but he had an amazing presence. He also was very honest about his work and industry, advising us not to be too polished, as rough edges reflect more honesty, and to focus on great markets instead of just cool technologies.
As for Sequoia’s office, despite its location on the famous Sand Hill Road, it looks like an unassuming office complex from the outside. However, once you get inside you notice the massive entry area and the complete lack of traditional artwork. Instead, they decorate the place with posters of the companies they started. That was the best artwork I saw on the trip.
Just down the road, we visited another huge player in the VC world, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Although it had a similarly understated exterior, the red Ferrari sitting outside caught my eye. We met with partner Isaac Ciechanover, who is a former physician focused on the area of healthcare IT. He was down to earth and approachable, asking us a lot of questions during our visit. As with my earlier meeting with Amir, it was inspiring to see how physicians can make a difference outside the clinic.
The trip to Silicon Valley introduced me to passionate people turning great ideas into actual practice. I took away several key points. First, a mission-guided team builds a meaningful product. HealthTap was a wonderful example of this. Second, physicians can play a broader role in healthcare, whether it’s creating exciting solutions or helping bring ideas to market. Finally, you never have to do it alone. Great ideas have great teams behind them.
After visiting so many different types of VCs and startups, I realized there is no stereotypical Silicon Valley type and even a geeky physician fits in well. It’s more about excitement and drive here. The trip left me more committed to entrepreneurship than ever before.