OrganizedWisdom Recruits Experts to Filter Health Information on the Web
When I met OrganizedWisdom co-founder Unity Stoakes for lunch on April 22, he had been awake for 40 hours, embroiled in a manic effort to recover from a massive Amazon cloud breakdown the day before, which nearly brought his site to a standstill. OrganizedWisdom is a health-information aggregator in New York that relies on cloud-computing services from Amazon. The startup had just launched the beta version of its redesigned site when the cloud failed, taking it down along with Foursquare, Reddit, and many other websites. “It was like Armageddon,” Stoakes says.
Luckily, OrganizedWisdom had performed a backup just an hour before the Amazon breakdown, so Stokes and his team of about 20 employees would be able to recover relatively fast, he told me as he sat down for lunch. Stokes was too tired to eat the bright green pea soup he ordered at Soho House, a private club and boutique hotel he belongs to in the Meatpacking District. But his fatigue faded fast as he began to describe the changes that the four-year-old site is undergoing.
Stoakes and co-founder Steven Krein—both longtime Internet entrepreneurs—founded OrganizedWisdom in 2007, five years after selling their previous Web startup, Promotions.com, to iVillage. “We were thinking, ‘How can we apply everything we learned in terms of technology and marketing to something meaningful?’ Stoakes says. “That’s how we got involved in health and wellness.”
The idea came up when a former board member was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Stoakes and Krein sat down with Krein’s brother, a surgeon, and spent hours combing the Internet for clinical trials, research, and other information. Then they put together what they called a “wisdom card”—a list of links related to pancreatic cancer. That, they believe, helped their friend get into a clinical trial of a drug that extended his life for four years.
“We decided to scale that experience and create wisdom cards on every [health] topic,” Stoakes says. OrganizedWisdom aggregated links to journal articles, blogs, and articles on sites such as WebMD, for a range of health and wellness topics. Revenues came primarily from advertising.
OrganizedWisdom raised $3.1 million in 2008, which included a a Series A venture capital round plus funding from about 30 angels, and the company is now profitable, Stoakes says. And now it has attracted a new angel investor, Gerald Levin, the former Time Warner CEO who is best remembered for leading what turned out to be a failed merger with AOL. On April 5, Levin joined OrganizedWisdom’s board after making an undisclosed investment in the company. “Organized Wisdom has everything I was looking for,” Levin told me in a phone interview. “It’s using the disruptive technology of the Internet to change the most fundamental part of our society—our health.”
Levin is helping OrganizedWisdom’s team transform the site from a mere aggregator into a sophisticated filter, designed to point consumers to the most trustworthy experts in health and wellness. Stoakes says it was Twitter that made him realize OrganizedWisdom had to change. “You started to see for the first time this social graph emerge, which people were using to be guided to useful information,” he says. ” But most people don’t have doctors in their social graph. And they can’t easily call up a surgeon or allergist. We figured if we could make that expert social graph available to anyone for free, it would be very valuable.”
So OrganizedWisdom’s team spent about 18 months identifying more than 6,000 doctors, nurses, scientists, and other health experts who were somehow active on the Web. Some had their own blogs, others were sharing links to health information or publishing articles in online journals.
Using those experts as a filter, OrganizedWisdom launched what it calls “expert health alerts.” Now, whenever people land on the site, they are invited to sign up for e-mail alerts on the health topics that interest them. They’re sort of like Google alerts, but more fine-tuned, Stoakes says. “Say you have a peanut allergy and you want to stay abreast of any new content on that topic,” he says. “Instead of random links coming to you, OrganizedWisdom will only send you links from doctors, or nurses, or allergists.”
Stoakes invited me to try the new service, so I signed up to receive alerts on two topics I’ve covered extensively: anti-aging medicine and sleep. I specified that I only wanted articles on aging provided by doctors. (I didn’t want to choose “all experts,” because I didn’t want my in-box inundated with articles from dermatologists about the latest anti-wrinkle potion that Hollywood starlets use.)
I was impressed with the quality of the results. One doctor posted links to several articles from the LA Times, including one about … Next Page »