Healthcare in a startup mindset
By Rob Nagel
The Kellogg School of Management is known for a number of things, including its team-based approach and growth-focused curriculum. From a 10,000-foot view, at its core, Kellogg has always been known as the marketing school, although more recently it has the distinction as the consulting school. What is less broadly assumed, but equally important, is its voice in innovation and healthcare. It’s these specific areas where I became keenly interested in Kellogg when considering business schools, and ultimately what I’ve determined to be my path as an MBA candidate.
Startups are in and cool, however their fundamental value is in disrupting or advancing markets that are established, but in some way broken in terms of the customer’s engagement and ultimate satisfaction.
I’d probably be breaking an unspoken law if I failed to mention Uber in a piece about startups, but the core need addressed by Uber only existed because an established market was not satisfying customers to its potential. We have seen this disruption in many industries, from hospitality (AirBnB) to weight-loss (MyFitnessPal) in order to re-align industry business models to focus — at their core — on the customer.
Healthcare has plenty of money, energy and lip service being thrown its way by people who want to take that success and apply it here. Unfortunately, healthcare suffers from unique challenges that happen when your next best option, or opportunity cost, may be seriously harmful to your health.
What Kellogg has done is provide the tools and resources to students so they understand the macro-economic factors in this industry before attempting to create “the next Uber / Netflix of healthcare.”
Courses like U.S. Healthcare Strategy work to enrich how we approach the question of quality and customer satisfaction when the end customer — the patient — is rarely the person wielding the purse.
Courses such as New Venture Discovery help insert design thinking into solving strategic problems, like how to keep children still in an MRI machine without sedation (hint: it involves an MRI machine painted like a pirate ship and narrating a siege for their imagination).
And experiential opportunities, like Medical Product Early Commercialization, get students in front of healthcare startups to assess their go-to-market strategy, test their hypotheses and develop financial forecasts.
The second leg of an MBA experience geared around healthcare innovation is to identify what you want out of your summer. There are many established healthcare employers who recruit on campus, as well as a number of growth-stage firms in this industry that seek out Kellogg students. Many carve out specific strategic internships around new product launches, marketing initiatives and targeted R&D decision making. These paths are worn to various degrees, facilitated by the Kellogg alumni network.
Alternatively, students can work through various partnerships the school has to engineer an “enterprise” or off-campus internship search. Examples include MATTER, the health incubator in downtown Chicago, as well as Venture Lab, an experiential course where you intern during the quarter with a VC firm, of which a number are healthcare focused. Settings such as Kellogg’s Business of Healthcare Conference are also an opportunity to learn about cutting edge ways the private sector is trying to improve patient outcomes and to network with industry leaders.
Such experiences are tactile opportunities to learn what it truly means to disrupt or innovate in this sector, as those words tend to be hyperbole without substance behind them. My experience to date has been one where Kellogg provides the tools and resources to not only survey and understand the unique market challenges, but also to determine ways to make meaningful and substantive change. Whether its coursework that pairs MBA candidates with medical students or an alumni network that spans from the Kaisers to the Fitbits of the world, the challenge is not what opportunities are available but rather which to choose.
I’ve decidedly stuck to my guns and continue to recruit through the enterprise or off-campus route, using the .edu email address liberally. It means forgoing the comfort of knowing your summer plans by the end of January, but it also means engaging with founders and thought leaders in the space where I’m most excited to work.
I’ve chosen health startups because of my deep passion for solving patient — and more broadly — healthcare consumer problems within a small, dedicated team. I’m hopeful to have the opportunity this summer to affect change in this industry, using the skills and tools I’ve acquired through Kellogg’s resources.
Rob Nagel is a first-year student in Kellogg’s Two-Year MBA program. He is focusing on healthcare strategy, entrepreneurship and innovation. He previously was a senior consultant at PwC.