Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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Subimo team: Heilman '95, Fiacco '86, Shevock '95
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  John Fiacco
  John Fiacco '86
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  Dave Shevock '98
  Tracy Heilman
  Tracy Heilman '95

From start-up to 'Best of the Web'

Trio of Kellogg alums built a winning team and thriving company, improving consumer access to healthcare

Three is definitely not a crowd at Subimo, a Chicago startup where Kellogg School alums John Fiacco '86, Tracy Heilman '95 and Dave Shevock '98 are working together to give Americans broader access to healthcare information through employers and health insurance providers. It hasn't always been easy, squaring Subimo up against competitive giants with advertising and marketing budgets quadruple its size. But, by using business smarts, teamwork, marketing savvy and determination, these three are winning the Kellogg way.

And others have noticed: In December, WebMD Health Corp. acquired the budding business for $60 million.

Healthcare cost transparency and consumer-directed healthcare were nascent ideas in 2000, even through the data showing how much healthcare procedures cost was openly available. That was the year Fiacco, Heilman and Shevock founded Subimo LLC with Ann Mond Johnson and Joe Donlan. They believed that the time was right for Americans to be able to shop for healthcare like they do for everything else – armed with cost knowledge and the ability to evaluate options based on quality and price.

"The information was being used by businesses," says Heilman, vice president of product development, "but it was far from accessible to those that needed it most — consumers."

Their first step in reaching their goal was to develop a business model that involved aggregated data to create customer-friendly online tools appropriate for those with no prior healthcare knowledge, while also licensing the tools to health plans and employers for use by their members and employees. The team hoped to educate people about healthcare options, leading to more informed consumers who would make better decisions.

"The more the healthcare system grants consumers control of their healthcare dollars, the more imperative it is that people have access to vital healthcare data," says Fiacco, executive vice president.

After the company's successful launch in 2000 and responding to immediate interest from health insurance providers and employers, Heilman and Fiacco were determined to capitalize on their momentum to solidify their market position and capture more market share. Enter Dave Shevock.

The Subimo co-founders tapped Shevock to leave his position at Pictage, a business he helped launch in 2000, and join Subimo as its first vice president of marketing. With the Kellogg team in place, Subimo began to tackle the challenge of raising its visibility.

Shevock brought on a small team from a leading Boston-based PR firm. Together, he and his colleagues worked with reporters to secure little-known Subimo major media play. Landmark press coverage occurred in 2005, when it made the "Best of the Web" list in BusinessWeek. Publicity, re-invigorated product management and packaging, innovative business development efforts helped enhance the company's prospects.

Today, Subimo's tools are available to more than 75 million members via 19 Blue Cross Blue Shield state health plans as well as many of the largest independent health insurance companies in the U.S.. The company's tools are also offered to employees by some of the largest employers in the country.

"It was the Kellogg School's emphasis on the case study approach to solving business problems that really equipped us with the imperative training and collaboration necessary for a start-up business to succeed," says Heilman.

Her advice to current Kellogg students with the entrepreneurial bug?

"Develop a great team and focus on your strengths and leverage them to create a viable, marketable product. We had a lot of great ideas when we started the company, but didn't have the resources to pursue them all. If we had gone out with a 'we'll be everything' strategy, I don't think we'd be around today."

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