Cosmonaut: Why I Am Investing in Health, Not Healthcare

Esther Dyson in Zero GravityIt’s not often a cosmonaut/venture capitalist/writer/net visionary comes to town. You would normally need three or four speakers to cover that range of experience.

But Esther Dyson’s (@edyson) resumé includes that and more. An active investor, she is also on the boards of 11 companies. Her past successes have included Flickr, del.icio.us, Medstory and MeetUp amongst many others.

She is currently a director at consumer genetics company, 23andMe, and has become an active investor in air and space.

Dyson was invited to Dublin by Shay Garvey of Dublin VC firm Delta Partners (@deltaVC). She spoke to a well-attended gathering at the Science Gallery (@sciencegallery) earlier this month.

Although an investor with a keen interest in the health sphere, Dyson said her talk was not about investing, as such, but about some of the “fundamental cool changes I see happening.”

In a wide-ranging talk that drew on mathematics, game theory, health and space travel, Dyson predicted social networking will drive individual motivation to improve health. “That’s a really exciting frontier for the next 10 years,” she said.

While healthcare is a “known and understood field,” there is a new market for “good health,” Dyson said. There is a huge and well-developed market for bad health, she said. This includes bad food, a lack of exercise, built-in evolutionary cravings for salt and fats, and “a market fuelled by huge amounts of advertising.”

The market for good health up to now included things like gyms and running shoes. “There was no much you could sell about health,” Dyson said. “It was like housework.”

But the convergence of social media and mobile tech will help drive behavioural changes, Dyson said. Meanwhile, advances in genomics and technology will continue apace. Dyson said she was convinced that it will soon be possible to measure “all kinds of bio markers” in our blood.

But even though it is becoming increasingly easy to monitor health, “there is still one thing missing and that’s motivation,” Dyson said.

That is where social media plays a role. Once people start sharing results, they start to check in on each other and encourage improvements.

She saw early adopters — as always — leading the way. They will be followed by employers for a number of reasons, said Dyson. “They want their employees to think they love them” and health programs are one way of doing that. Then large, established health companies and agencies get involved. “That’s my beautiful, naïve, elegant version of the future,” she said.

Part 2 is continued here.

Zero G image of Esther courtesy of erikamann_rep on Flickr.

2 thoughts on “Cosmonaut: Why I Am Investing in Health, Not Healthcare

  1. Pingback: John P. Muldoon » Why I Am Investing in Health, Not Healthcare – Part II

  2. Pingback: John P. Muldoon » Paying for Broken Resolutions – Literally

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