Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has struggled with his ambitious solo start-up, the social network for activism Jumo, ever since its bumpy launch. Waning traffic and disinterested users were making it obvious that the site wasnot going to catch on, despite multiple redesigns; a tough pill to swallow for the wunderkind whose second act after Facebook, online strategy at the Obama presidential campaign, was another huge success story.
I recently spoke with a friend who said you should dedicate at least 4 to 5 years of your life to each idea/business you start. If at the end of that time period, it’s not working, move on. Considering we all work about 40 years of our lives, that means we’ve got about 8 to 10 ideas/businesses we can start in our lifetime. That’s extremely humbling. Eight to ten is such a small number.
I don’t talk about it much, but I failed pretty big. Hello Health was my baby. I went for it. I stood in front of the world and said this is going to revolutionize healthcare. It’s going to restore the good old-fashioned doctor-patient relationship, create a new business model for healthcare, and give doctors a new reason for doing what they do. It seemed the whole world rallied around me and this idea, no matter how naive I was. We opened up two practices in NYC and three amazing doctors helped us start the dream. It worked for a while. I’m not going to go into the details of what happened, but it can best be summed up with this:
A technological solution to a political problem will fail almost every time.
The first Hello Health office was a block and a half from my home. Every time I walked by that place, I was smitten, full of such pride and excitement. Now it’s “Williamsburg Day Spa.” Every time I walk by that, I feel deflated. But Hello Health is still going strong. It’s not a failure, just a change. My co-founder and his team are pushing ahead navigating some political land mines and changing strategy. We’ll see what happens. And, of course, I wish them all the best.
But I personally failed. I wanted Hello Health to be everything I dreamed it could be. That won’t happen, not in the way I envisioned it. That’s personally deflating and almost embarrassing.
I don’t have Chris’ track record. Although I count him as an acquaintance since he’s been at a few of my backyard BBQs, I admire him for his fortitude. When the world first heard about me, I surely wasn’t Chris Hughes. I was a young house call doctor fresh out of residency at Hopkins who started an interesting new practice. I was essentially a nobody.
But I’m a doctor, an entrepreneur, and a mission in an industry that’s probably the hardest to create a meaningful and scalable business. I’ve dedicated my life to making the world a healthier place. And, of course, in doing so, making a living for myself. I failed once, but there’s no way in hell I’m giving up. Grant and I have been taking our time to develop our next big idea. And we’re just about to get started. I’m even more excited about this business, since it’s much more refined, much more doable, and has all the wisdom and experience we’ve gained in playing around in healthcare for the past 10 years. So cheers to round two!