I am clearly on a digital health kick, blog-wise, as I look back on my last few posts. Having spent time at both CES and the JP Morgan Healthcare conference, where digital health was a hot topic, it seems that the subsector is definitely having its day in the sun. I was particularly honored to be named among the 2013 “Top 50 in Digital Health” by a group comprised of Rock Health, Goldman Sachs, Silicon Valley Bank, and Fenwick & West. There are some pretty smart people on the list with me and it is very gratifying to be in such great company (nice article about the list by Wade Roush at Xconomy can be read HERE).
On the other hand, I was feeling a little inadequate being on the list without my own digital health start-up to show for it. I mean, hey, there I am among the actual innovators who dreamed up such cool companies as MC10, Evolent, Pokitdok, Athena Health, and a host of others with only my investment checkbook and blog to show for it. Given that it is the year of the wearables, as anyone who went to CES could readily attest, and that the entrepreneurs in that sector were well represented in the Top 50 list (FitBit’s James Park, Misfit Wearables’ Sonny Vu, etc), I have decided to throw my own hat (wrist?) in the ring on this sector.
Of course, I must admit to some advisory support and probably give a small equity grant in my new company to the guys at Cambia Health, who provided the adult beverages and conversation that helped inspire this idea while we were hanging out at the JP Morgan conference. And of course I went through my own super-efficient lean start-up methodology while walking up and down Powell and Geary Streets last week, speaking to potential customers and partners randomly selected because I know them and find them amusing (shout out to Susan Stimson and Nancy Lynch!), but I think this is a whole new twist on the wearables concept that solves the critical challenges of cost of goods, inventory management and especially consumer distribution and engagement.
Ready? Here’s my idea: I am going to leverage the approximately 200,000 prisoner ankle bracelets handed out annually to those who have made a negative impression on the criminal justice system and make those this generation’s wearable di tutti wearables. Those ankle bracelets are already wired, so it will be easy-peasy to add a sensor to them that tracks steps, heart rate and, potentially, calories burned when they are loading ammunition into a clip. And just think, for those offenders who are lonely at home, we can add a social networking component so they can jog around their backyards in a virtual team, spurring each others’ good health with every monitored step and competing for the title of healthiest home-based prisoner. In keeping with the trend to make wearables fashionable, I will offer my new creation in either “Orange is the New Black” or the traditional black and white striped version.
At a market-standard $99 and 200,000 units a year with no hardware costs and distribution fully covered by my business partners in the criminal justice system, I will be making a killing (off those who may have actually done so). Revenue, low cost of goods and an existing and already funded distribution channel, plus a generous helping of digital health buzzwords: wearables, home monitoring, persistent consumer engagement, social networking; I think this business has it all. And best of all, the product won’t face the risk of customers tiring of the device and throwing it in a drawer, as they simply can’t take it off. Ever. In fact, if it is removed, the device will conveniently bring in law enforcement to be sure the consumer remains “engaged,” as it were. Now that is sticky.
I haven’t yet decided whether to call my new wearable the JailBit or the Miscreant Shine (I have ruled out Nike Fuel Brigand and Jawbone Up The River as simply too lengthy for the packaging), but either way, I think this is my ticket to 2014’s Top 50 in Digital Health list.