Overhyped? Grand Rounds CEO on Big Data, Dog Delivery, & Bubbles

6/2/14Follow @xconomy

Owen Tripp, the CEO of Grand Rounds, likes trying to solve high-level problems. His company aims to make it easier for all patients to access specialists at the top of their fields, and to save employers money by cutting down on unnecessary procedures.

Tripp has an interesting view of broader tech issues. Previously, he co-founded Reputation.com, a company that looks to manage personal information available online, a service he believes is even more important in the post-Snowden era. Tripp also spent time as a manager in user behavior intelligence at PayPal.

I recently talked with him about a lot more than his current startup. Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation about smart companies, tech in the healthcare industry, and puppy dog delivery.

Xconomy: What do you think is overhyped in the tech world right now?

Owen Tripp: The list of things I think is overhyped is longer than the list of things I think are appropriately hyped. I think big data is massively overhyped. There’s nothing new about collecting data. We used to call it database engineering. It didn’t sound cool enough. The question is, how can we take datasets we’re doing and draw them into action? I’m deeply interested in that.

I actually benefit from this, but there are so many companies in the logistics of everything that you can literally get puppy dogs delivered to you. Those are the gimmicks now. You can get puppies delivered in real time. You can’t have 50 companies doing that. It doesn’t make sense for our environment to have 50 companies driving around with micro deliveries.

More at home in healthcare, I’m pretty worried about the notion that wearing something on your body will solve your future cancer and cardiac problems. Wearables, while great, are a long way from being used by physicians to diagnose disease. I’m a buyer on the idea, but a seller on the current version. More energy should be poured into real medical problems than helping already healthy people stay healthy. San Francisco is an incredibly healthy space. Fly to Omaha, Nebraska, and nobody wears them. It’s a bigger challenge.

X: What other companies are you watching?

OT: I love what One Medical is doing. I like what Doctor on Demand is doing. Castlight Health is another one. [It’s a] transparency tool. They’re like comparison-shopping for medical stuff. If you think about it, you don’t know what the cost of a doctor’s appointment is. They’ll tell you ahead of time what one test costs. It’s really important for people trying to manage healthcare spend. It’s a totally straightforward concept in the rest of life. Healthcare being weird, makes it really hard.

X: If you had to go work for another company, where would you go?

OT: That’s a more complicated question. There are companies I admire that I wouldn’t want to work for.

I’d work for Evernote. I just love Phil [Libin’s] approach. He has this line of, “We want to be a company that’s around in 100 years.” If you think about it, there’s never been a tech company that has lasted that long. IBM is coming up on that now. Most tech brands fade and disappear over time. Think about Hotmail.

I love Evernote’s culture. I love that managers are required to serve coffee to employees for a shift a week. I love that he values people. He’s kept it small even though the brand has gotten bigger.

X: Do you think we’re in a bubble?

OT: We’re always in a bubble. On a macro level, sure. On a micro level, no. Look at when Google was founded and when it went public, and those were two absolutely shitty economic times. Look at when Uber was created and when it’s likely to go public. Great products thrive despite economic circumstances. We don’t sweat it. We have companies that are really enthusiastic about [Grand Rounds]. This sounds simple, but it’s true. If we focus on building a good product, it kind of doesn’t matter. If the bubble bursts, it will make it easier for me to hire great people because the dog delivery companies will go out of business.

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