When I met fellow Gigya board member Jake Winebaum, a serial entrepreneur in 2008, I knew he would start another company that would transform industries and that I wanted to partner with him. He had a storied career already — founder of Family Fun magazine, president of Disney online, co-founder of Internet incubator eCompanies which launched companies like Jamdat, Boingo, and founder and CEO of Business.com. As is often the case with Series A investments, I did not know which hill Jake would choose to climb, but I knew he would successfully reach the summit. Today, almost exactly seven years after our initial partnership, he has merged his latest company, Brighter, with Cigna and is joining their team to drive the digital transformation of healthcare.
Our journey together has been an interesting one. After hearing his father-in-law talk about his frustration with the high cost of his recent dental work, Jake started thinking about ways he could use technology and consumerism to help patients get control of their health care costs and better navigate the healthcare system. He founded Medical and Dental Commerce Corporation, later named Brighter, as a marketplace platform to seamlessly connect patients and providers initially focused on the $140 billion dental market. We led the $5 million Series A on December 21, 2010, and were off to the dentist’s office.
As a good example of how patience and persistence have paid off for Jake and as lessons learned for other entrepreneurs, here are the highlights of the three major pivots that Brighter made over the past 7 years:
- The initial direct-to-consumer go-to-market strategy was financially unsustainable due to the hyper-local nature and infrequency of dentist visits by uninsured patients ;
- The transformation to digital dental plans for self-insured employers was successful with the employers, their employees and providers but the administrative fee revenue model was untenable;
- Finally, the company found traction by licensing their SaaS digital health platform to large insurance carriers like Cigna, Aetna and Delta who wanted to deliver powerful, personalized digital experiences to their subscribers.
Jake is a successful serial entrepreneur (starting his first business Same Day Fish in college!) who had the resilience to pursue his dream. As he built Brighter into a culture of excellence in Los Angeles, and successfully raised $54 million in capital from top-tier venture investors, he kept his eyes on the prize.
It has been an honor to partner with Jake and the Brighter team, and their milestone today reinforces a few of my core beliefs around start-ups:
- Building companies is like running a marathon, not a sprint;
- Companies die of indigestion, not starvation;
- Companies need to provide solutions that are pain-killers, not vitamins;
- Entrepreneurs need to build a culture of nimbleness as dinosaurs never survive;
- Having a customer-first mentality and surrounding yourself with excellence are key ingredients for success.
I look forward to watching the Brighter way thrive at Cigna, as their digital health platform enables Cigna to accelerate and expand its consumer initiatives and provider partnerships.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on December 14, 2017.