What’s Brewing at Massive Health? A Chat with Newly Funded Co-Founders Sutha Kamal and Aza Raskin

2/2/11Follow @wroush

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make products that actually change users’ behavior. Why is it that you can have fantastically designed products when you want to make a phone call or listen to music, but when you’re sick you’re back to something that feels clinical and sterile? It’s no wonder people have trouble changing their behavior.

X: Isn’t one of the problems that there’s a fundamentally separate economy for healthcare? As soon as someone gets sick, it’s no longer consumer themselves making choices and paying the costs, it’s doctors making choices and insurers paying. In a market like that, how do you build products that restore individual control?

AR: There’s an analogy here, and I say it with humility—I’m about to compare us with Apple, so take it with a grain of salt. But if you look at the telephony space of even a couple of years ago, a lot of companies had to pander to the carriers, and they couldn’t make a product that focused on the person. Apple changed all that. So when we look at the health space, we see an analogy. Many companies work on the clinical side of things first. We want to flip that around and work with people first and the clinical side second.

Sutha Kamal: We’re going after a problem that’s been pretty difficult, but there are a couple of novel things going on in the landscape. Healthcare costs have been rising faster than inflation, but for the last few years some employers have begun to move a few of those costs back to employees, so people have having to take more responsibility. Through healthcare savings accounts they’re being given a tax-free way to save for their healthcare. So people are being given specific forms of control. And two-thirds of large employers are looking for ways to pay people to take better care of their health. We have a couple of novel approaches to helping with this, and that is why investors are coming to us.

X: What are those novel approaches?

AR: One of the major problems with medicine as it stands now is that you spend, on average, 7 minutes per visit with your physician. The average person with diabetes spends one minute talking about their blood glucose with their physician. That’s not enough time to determine trends or even to ask a simple question like “What can I do today to make my life better than it was yesterday?” But Silicon Valley is full of data geeks. We are data geeks. We can correlate all the activities you do—whether it’s exercise or controlling your blood sugar or your weight—to the kinds of actions that make your life better.

SK: One of the beautiful things about mobile is that you have this proliferation of really cheap sensors. Think about your smartphone—it has a camera, an accelerometer, GPS, a gyroscope. We are at an inflection point on the hardware side where the average consumer can … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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