It’s Not Your Fault, But It’s Your Responsibility

Note: This week’s edition is a little heady. I had a bit of a rollercoaster week energetically, and really wasn’t sure where I was going to land. I like where I did, but it’s heady. So apologies if it goes over yours, I’m definitely not trying to.

In recent conversations, when people ask me what my number one passion is, I say “well-being”. This came as a result of my career in innovation.

If you know anything about my story, you know I dropped out of college and years later started my career as a software developer by teaching myself how to code and hanging out with programmers at user group meetings. This was in 2000, before people were talking about “teaching everyone how to code” and “STEM” in education. It was just my read of the shifts in the market, and my lack of affinity for the establishment, that allowed me to run head first in this direction… and ultimately be successful.

In 2007, I started my career as an entrepreneur. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is an order of magnitude more difficult than working for someone else. The stress is incredible, and that often leads to stress relieving habits that are not very healthy. I picked up a bunch of those habits.

In 2014 when my partner Vic and I decided to go all in on Jumpstart Foundry and make it a healthcare focused innovation and investment business, I had no idea how much it would change how I viewed the world. Over the course of the last five years, I’ve learned about the depths of the national emergency that is our current healthcare system. Healthcare is the number one issue in national elections, but usually it’s about access (to health insurance) and household cost. When you are inside the industry, the dysfunction becomes much more obvious and scary.

The two big issues that we talk about inside of the healthcare industry are cost to the country (it’s hovering around 20% of GDP) and poor outcomes (meaning we are not getting healthier, we are getting sicker).

I won’t get too wonky with you here, but this is really scary stuff for the future of this country. Here are two graphs to just drive the point home: GDP and Obesity.

Bad, bad, bad.

Ok, Marcus… where are you going with this.

I’m getting there…

So, here’s the thing. Year after year we’ve been investing in companies (we have over 60 in our portfolio now) and gathering industry leaders at our annual conference, and nothing really felt like it was going to move the BIG needle. That’s not to say people didn’t have great intentions or didn’t want to work hard, but the inertia of “business as usual” is incredibly difficult to overcome.

I was starting to get cynical, but one day I started really looking at my own health. I realized I was working in the healthcare industry on trying to “make things better” for three years and my own health was actually getting worse. The habits I picked up trying to manage stress as an entrepreneur were killing me.

And that’s when it all sort of clicked for me. Innovation, whether it’s happening in the market or on oneself, requires doing what most others aren’t doing.

Do you know how weird I feel not drinking (for now), fasting, doing mobility work, trying crazy diets, measuring my blood sugar and going to therapy? Super weird.

But guess what. The conventional wisdom from the health experts for decades led Americans to avoid healthy fats and eat a bunch of processed foods with chemicals and sugars that were terrible for us. It really wasn’t until the Internet age when alternative voices had a platform to challenge the establishment, that we were able to get away from the terrible guidance we were living under.

Since doing all the weird stuff, my results are undeniable. I’m moving in a biometric trend line opposite to the average African American 43 year old male. But it’s not easy at all. I have to do research, shop differently, attend lunches and just drink water while everyone else eats. And… be made fun of. That’s right, you will actually be made fun of for standing out and moving differently, even when it’s for your own benefit and clearly working.

Thanks to the Internet, we have the opportunity to act as an individual, seek truth and leverage it. But societal inertia is not sending us in that direction. Rather it is sending us in the direction of normalizing dysfunction and making innovation seem silly or even fraudulent.

And here’s why I opened with a picture of Elizabeth Holmes.

The hot topic of last week was the biopic on Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, The Inventor. The cliff notes version of the story is that she is a pathological liar who goes to great lengths to defraud her investors, the businesses she sought to partner with and even the government. Makes for a great movie. Theranos, after hundreds of millions of dollars in venture investment, is no more. And many in the healthcare industry point to it as an example of why Silicon Valley will not be successful in healthcare.

The only problem is, they will. One day soon, a real Theranos will come. And the entire healthcare lab business will be rocked to the core. Elizabeth Holmes’ tale of deception is a Red Herring.

Recently, there was another film made about Silicon Valley. This one was a series on Nat Geo called Valley of the Boom. It’s about the dot com boom and covers three companies from that era. Netscape, TheGlobe.com and Pixelon. Pixelon is the Theranos of that era. It was a company claiming to be able to stream live events. There was no technology to accomplish this. The guy who founded the company was a major conman and wanted felon, David Kim Stanley.

In the series, Mark Cuban is one of the narrators, talking about what a fraud Stanley was. Of course the irony here is that Cuban went on to lead Broadcast.com (a company that actually accomplished what Pixelon claimed to) and sell it to Yahoo!, making him the billionaire that we know him as today. Just last week, the UFC announced they are moving ALL of their pay per views to ESPN+, a 100% streaming platform. We’re there; streaming live events over the Internet, the Pixelon vision, is now a 100% reality.

Stanley was a fraud. Live streaming events on the Internet was not.

Innovation is always ridiculed, until it inevitably wins. Innovation is undefeated.

The world will continue to ridicule you if you try to innovate. Yes a small group will cheer for you, but for the most part you will be going against the grain, my friend.

If you have this thing in you to make things better, then you have to accept this as part of the deal.

They put sugar in everything. Sucks. It’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility to find a way to not eat it.

They will call your ideas crazy. Sucks. It’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility to stay positive and push forward.

They will tell you change isn’t going to come. They’re wrong, it’s coming. It’s your responsibility to remember that.

You can’t be a change agent if you are worried about fitting in. Fitting in is the path to irrelevance.

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