Tracy Heilman '95
start-up to 'Best of the Web'
Kellogg alums built a winning team and thriving company, improving
consumer access to healthcare
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.
others have noticed: In December, WebMD Health Corp. acquired
the budding business for $60 million.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
advice to current Kellogg students with the entrepreneurial
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."