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The 59-second Digital Health pitch is too short for words
The Digital Health investment frenzy is running out of superlatives. Words are crowd-funding out the clichés – are we nearing a tipping point, re-imagining, having a frictionless health experience, or becoming consumer cultural force? Watch this overview of the 59-second pitch – and wonder, have we ever seen such breathless entrepreneur energy and excitement since the days of the dot-com boom and browser wars? Executives of these companies are practiced and smooth – eliminating needless words and clearing of throats, they cram confident assertions about money raised, consumers helped, design implications, and future strategy -- into 59 seconds. Speed dating investment meets deal-making -- and optimists claim that the pace of deals will apparently be solid in 2014.
Brevity is the mantra in consumer health deal-pitching. This seems to be very trendy – the 2013 mHealth Summit packed multiple pitches into fairly brief time slots as well. Apparently we will see more of these ahead, along with much advice on how to pitch. Consider terms like speed dealing, competitive pitching rounds, or AARP’s LivePitch in which consumers get a chance to vote. Nearly $2 billion was poured into digital health startups in 2013 – no wonder the pitch frenzy. The number of pitches will grow and hyperbole will explode in 2014. The pace of pitches will accelerate – everyone wants to be a boat moving upward in this amazing -- though perhaps revenue-free -- rising tide. From 59 seconds, perhaps we will hear the 20-second pitch – or even the 140-character Tweet pitch, spoken from a podium at an investor event, with #invest and #health flashing on the monitor. Actually, how is 59 seconds so different from 140 characters?
Remember slides? Back in the days before speed-dealing and pitch marathons, instead of 59-second pitches, investors (and industry analysts) sat through the 59-slide pitch -- let's pause and remember the phrase "Last slide, please!" Or they embraced the Guy Kawasaki 10-slide model -- which now seems so yesterday and, in fact, was eons ago, in those good old days of 2005. But by 2009, Guy discovered Twitter – and by 2012, plaintive posts wondered if Guy doth Tweet too much, filling up followers' Twitter streams with all-Guy-all-the-time. How the mighty may have shrunk the material. Ironically, Guy’s slide deck template is pretty much what the 59-second pitch needs to encapsulate (problem, opportunity, growth plan). But in the 59-second model, it will take practice to fit in the competition, unfair advantages, 5 year business revenue-expense plan, and detailed milestones (like ship dates) -- all without pausing for a sip of water.
Parallel health tech universes are underway. On the one hand, we have the 59-second pitch of consumer-oriented Digital Health/wellness startups. On the other hand, we also have the multi-year FDA approval cycle for drugs, medical devices, hospital and clinic equipment -- not to mention health IT systems from the long-time players like Epic and Cerner. Americans became somewhat healthier in 2013 than previously. The rate of growth in health care costs, measured by insurers, continued to slow in 2013 – although that has been attributed more to muted economic growth. But what did any of these changes have to do with the boom in Digital Health startups, the frenzy of investor pitching, the pace of deal-making and the ever-shrinking pitch? Are these parallel lines going to intersect – and at what point? And is that what investors believe when they listen to a 59-second pitch or scan the list of upcoming and past pitch events?