We created Menagerie to make it easy for modern couples to confidently choose their wedding vendors. We envisioned a future where every couple would be able to receive personalized virtual wedding assistance and was equipped to seamlessly discover high quality vendors that fit their budget, style and vision.
Along the way, we grew our team, launched a MVP, joined an accelerator and received funding, pitched at Demo Dayon both coasts, and worked very hard to deliver our vision to our couples. While there was much success to be celebrated along the way and our second launch in November showed promising initial traction, we eventually discovered that we were struggling with product-market fit.
In this reflection, I summarize and share our biggest learnings, and express gratitude to all those who inspired and supported us along the way. I hope this can not only become a valuable read for existing and future founders, but also motivation knowing that regardless of the outcome, you will have helped people and/or businesses along the way and that this startup journey will forever be one of the most rewarding experiences and greatest learning opportunities of your life.
Following an unprecedented election that left Americans divided and displaced, the media in battle over facts with the Trump administration, and the security of every individual uncertain and threatened, we are now witnessing an explosion of organizations and startups focused on uniting people and leveraging the power of collaboration to collect data and build technology to secure our freedom and future.
Fears of government defunding data collection, manipulating data sets and mis-communicating politically inconvenient research have inspired the founding of organizations like Data Refuge, a distributed, grassroots effort around the United States in which scientists, researchers, hackers, students, librarians and other volunteers are collecting government data to preserve it and keep it publicly accessible. Their focus on climate and environmental data is in defense of the White House removing climate data from the EPA website and screening scientific research. Others, like Open Context are helping preserve, annotate and share archeology data.
Find out what other government data is being removed from the Internet at Sunlight Foundation, where they are actively tracking the removal or changes to data sets.
Collaborative research platforms will emerge in every industry to not only aggregate and maintain integrity of data sets but also enable individuals to accelerate the development of solutions independent of government funding and policies.
This is Wikipedia on steroids and much more. Data.world is a social network exclusively for people who want to find and collaborate on building data sets. Similarly, ResearchGate provides a professional network for the scientific community to connect, collaborate, share results and drive progress. Already, more than 11 million scientists and researchers use it and are uploading more than 2.5 million publications each month.
Beyond the civic tech and education categories, this same model of empowering individuals to organize and work together to problem solve has also been successful in transportation with Waze, financial investing with Numerai, app development with GitHub, data science with Dataiku, startup solutions with ProductHunt, and many more.
Success of these platforms have initially been driven by users who are mission-driven, motivated by gamification/monetary rewards, or seeking to build an online portfolio. These platforms crossed over the chasm from passing curiosity to active and productive engagement, enabling them to truly provide more value with each user and establish a sustainable data network to help them accelerate solutions. And as these platforms grow, they will become future leaders in their industries and many will redefine our workforce.
As Washington continues to war over “Repeal and Replace” of the Affordable Care Act, one thing is certain: the need for affordable and accessible healthcare that is patient-centered and personalized. Millions of women, senior citizens, employees and independent business professionals will be affected by the expected changes to Obamacare, including, but not limited to, reduced health benefits and preventative services, discontinued subsidies, and rollback of Medicaid.
Waiting for sweeping government changes is not the solution, and development of innovative health solutions have already been underway. There’s no question that the future of healthcare is digital, where individuals are equipped to self diagnose, doctor communication is remote and timely, medication is on-demand, and data is empowering prevention, drug discovery and development. Concern and curiosity motivated me to explore our current healthcare progress and available solutions.
Remote care delivery will evolve to become the first point of contact for everything healthcare
There have been a number of telehealth startups that have entered the space in the last ten years, spanning doctor discovery and scheduling, remote care delivery, prescription management, patient monitoring and education, and more. However, remote care delivery proves to be a unique entry point with strong network effects that will enable it to quickly scale and evolve to offer services and products across the healthcare space.
While the barriers to entry are low, new entrants’ will face a difficult and costly uphill battle as they attempt to bring on high quality providers onto their platforms, and compete to secure employers and health plan contracts in advance of leaders like Teladoc, MDLive, American Well and Doctor on Demand, who are already expending significant costs to capture market share of these customers. A robust salesforce and brand awareness are key to penetration, but also not effective without offering ease of product implementation & interoperability, billing & claim filing, and regulatory compliance (HIPAA, NCQA). The strategy to secure employers and health plan contracts is an attempt to capture mass membership quickly and establish high switching costs as many self-insured employers (ASO) and insurers may only adopt one telehealth platform; according to a 2016 analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office, ~155 million Americans have employer-based health insurance coverage.
However, there is room for certain specialist-focused telehealth startups, such as Spruce, who is primarily focused on the dermatology market, which remains untapped by incumbents and accounts for >5% of annual visits, or 56 million visits. This type of specialist visit is recurring and typically costs higher (up to 3x – 4x the cost of a primary care visit).
The existing focus among players remains client growth, but the future indicator of market dominance will be member conversion and [recurring] utilization to drive PMPM, visit fees and secure client relationships. Achieving these future indicators will rely on management, business models, consumer-centered & mobile-optimized products, and seamless integration of concentric mergers.
Why now? – Political
This future of healthcare has been accelerated because of easing regulation on telemedicine definition, reimbursements and coverage. Already in 32 states and the District of Columbia there are parity laws that require private insurers to cover telemedicine visits the same way they cover in-person encounters, and in 49 states and District of Columbia reimbursements are now provided for video visits in Medicaid fee-for-service programs.
Additionally, more states have removed the requirement for a tele-presenter to be present during a virtual consultation. Finally, 18 states have enacted laws to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which will begin to grant crossborder licenses.
Why now? – Social
Easing regulation complements today’s consumer needs. Consumers no longer want to pay high costs for healthcare and are looking for more personalized care at a time when many of the other decisions they make on a daily basis have been empowered with technology and made more affordable, accessible and personalized (i.e. food, wealth management, online streaming, transportation, travel, shopping). Early direct-to-consumer fitness trackers and health apps invited consumers to increasingly value and invest in their health, and track their own progress and symptoms.
Telehealth will continue to gain traction especially at a time when Repeal and Replace Obamacare risks exacerbating lack of access and rising costs. Approximately 1/3 of all ambulatory care visits, or 417M, are treatable via telehealth, which would result in an annual saving of $6 billion in U.S. healthcare costs. Cost saving opportunities via telehealth are also true for other specialist services.
Big 4 Telehealth
The four largest telehealth players are Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC), MDLive, American Well, and Doctor on Demand. Despite Teadoc’s current leading market position with ~17M members, it still represents only a minority of the whole market.
Of these four, Doctor on Demand (DoD) is unique as it does not charge a “Per Member, Per Month” (PMPM) subscription fee, which typically costs $1 PMPM. Unlike the other three, DoD only charges visit fees, which they keep ~25%:
$49 for a 15 min consultation
$79 for a 25 min consultation
$119 for a 50 min consultation
$99 for a 25 min consultation
$229 for a 45 min consultation
As telehealth platforms compete for employers, DoD offers an affordable option without the PMPM fee. While DoD’s model lacks the initial recurring revenue from PMPM fees, it is able to more easily align with the cost savings and ROI incentives of employers, drawing evidence that utilization rates are below 5% with other major players; Compared to Teladoc’s 5%< utilization rate, DoD boasts a much higher utilization rate of 25%-30%.
In other words, the cost per visit with Teladoc is significantly higher than $49 when factoring in PMPM. This strategy has had promising evidence as DoD now has about 400 employers (200% increase YoY) including Comcast and Union Bank & Trust, covers more than 45 million Americans and has secured relationships with UnitedHealth, Highmark*, Humana, and a number of Blue Cross Blue Shields.
*Highmark ended $1.5M contract last year with Teladoc to switch over to DoD and American Well. Most Teladoc contracts are only 1-year old…
Adoption goes both ways.
Slack, Dropbox, LinkedIn and many others have demonstrated that adoption goes both ways. And similarly, monetizing the B2B becomes much easier to achieve if you’re able to demonstrate success with B2C. DoD has since introduced a Per Provider Subscription Fee…(I don’t have numbers around this).
This is a defining time for healthcare – the winners have yet to take all and new entrants will need to be thoughtful about their unique entry point and resourceful with acquisition.
Today’s couples are planning their own weddings. But in a world without the wedding planner and the success of their wedding contingent upon hiring the right vendors, they are spending more than 150 hours searching and emailing vendors for quotes, organizing their research in spreadsheets, and managing their wedding costs and emotions.
Content platforms, such as Pinterest, may have brought wedding inspiration to the masses but have failed to assist couples with execution — photos often redirect users to blogs and e-commerce sites that have reposted the vendors’ works for content on their own sites. Couples are victims to their wedding vision without a way to easily find the vendors they need and understand the cost of their wedding aspirations.
Current wedding tools, such as spreadsheets, complicate rather than simplify the planning process. The Knot and Weddingwire provide checklists as a primary tool for managing wedding details and tracking progress; however, checklists fall short of functionality. These tools lack the beautiful, stress-free wedding experience that they ultimately intend to deliver.
Today’s engaged couple is online. They want to be actionable and efficient with wedding planning, not just inspirational. These are the modern challenges of wedding planning.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to resolve these problems and plan our weddings seamlessly online. Well, my co-founder, Harlan, and I believe we create the world we want to live in, and so we started Menagerie.
Menagerie makes it easy for modern couples to collaborate, organize and confidently choose the right wedding professionals, all in one place.
Harlan and I are veterans of the startup community, and specifically startups that combined platform-enabled solutions with new industry business models to democratize desired products and services traditionally unaccessible and expensive to individuals. We are strong believers that many traditional industries have yet to evolve to deliver more convenience, resolve sustained pain points, and empower their workforces. Our own experiences with weddings and startups made us believe the wedding industry was finally due for this change.
From working with David’s Bridal in 2012, I knew that many of the existing wedding players were once again reaching an inflection point. Their ad-reliant business models hinder their capability and pace of delivering solutions to address the above-mentioned challenges of wedding planning; because while they search for a disruptive play, they are still being held to the existing metrics of their business. The absence of such solutions was evident in the behaviors of my engaged friends and also for Harlan when he was planning his wedding not too long ago. Additionally, from Harlan’s experiences with Work Market, Lot18 and co-founding Reonomy, it was clear to him that this was another opportunity to combine technology, data and talent to deliver a desired experience and better solution for individuals.
However, it wasn’t until we began meeting brides, grooms and vendors at wedding expos that it occurred to us that there has never been a better time than now to build Menagerie.
Most couples we met were navigating the wedding planning on their own, which reflected the recent growing popularity of wedding coordinators and partial-service or month-of wedding planners in the past five years. Couples also expressed frustration with the overwhelming amount of online content that did not ease the learning curve or decision-making process. While talking with vendors, they spewed their frustration with the high costs of visibility with more custom service vendors entering the market (i.e. $500/month to list on The Knot with no guaranteed bookings). Vendors also confessed to their high spending on branding, development and business tools.
We found ourselves at the intersection of these major business, technology and wedding trends. We discovered the vision we shared was no longer a luxury but a necessity. So we got to work.
Today, Menagerie is helping couples in New York by matching them with vendors that fit their vision, budget and preferences. At the same time, we have also helped many wedding professionals remove the high costs and barriers to gaining customers.
While we’re excited about what we’ve built today, we’re even more excited about tomorrow and those that will be joining us along the way! This summer, we are joining Matter to help us accelerate our future and achieve our wedding vision.
A few days at SXSW is enough to challenge your current perspective and expectations of the future of markets, industries, technologies and human behavior. This year at SXSW Interactive, social media, connectivity (IoT), 3D printing, healthtech and sustainability were all major topics of discussion.
The newest member to the tech community, Meerkat, proved that video is the future as a form of communication between individuals, not just brands to individuals, and that communities quickly form around the sharing of short, real-time and visual content. Meerkat successfully leveraged an existing social network, Twitter, to create overnight communities and viral content.
With so much content flooding the twitter streams during SXSW, from meerkat tweets to keynote quotes to party pictures, the hashtag proved its power and necessity to individuals. With the hashtag, you were able to find everything related to a campaign, event, brand, discussion all in real-time and instantly react to it. #FOMO would be even worse without the hashtag.
At a panel called “Breaking News in the Age of Snapchat”, a White House Senior Advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, and News and Guts CEO, Dan Rather, emphasized the distinction between news and content. Social media has completely redefined who is a reporter and the role of a reporter. With the barriers of information distribution removed, traditional systems will need to adapt quickly to these new channels to be able to manage their own content and distribution (but of course there will never again be complete ownership of information with the growing adoption of social media across the world). I share the same views that live-streaming video services will do to television news what blogs did to printed news.
#Content is not news. #News is content. News is what the people need to know. #SXSW Meerkat : TV news has potential what Blog : Print news
Lyft stepped up its game with Lyft Line, while the SXSW shuttle was a total fail and ultimately converted shuttle pass holders to lyft riders. With Lyft, there was a $10 fixed price per ride as long as you requested Lyft Line. Profitability aside, the campaign was successful with new lyft users and communicated loud and clear its mission – to reconnect people and communities through better transportation. Would love to see some of those numbers from Lyft after SXSW.
The limited transportation options in Austin was also a reminder that there is much innovation needed still in transportation, including public transit, real-time navigation and road closure/traffic/accident notifications, and parking. Most recently, Leap Buses launched in SF to provide a more convenient public transportation solution that enables riders to continue their mobile experience on the bus and access wifi, food and drinks all from their phones. It’s no doubt that connectivity is the next big thing in transportation.
Leap Buses also makes me wonder if individuals are willing to pay a premium to ride Leap Buses because of their need to access wifi while in transit or if they just want the more luxurious experience compared to the regular buses. Or maybe they want to be surrounded by the type of people who value the availability and use of such technologies – tech-savvy individuals are a new class in our society that now exist between the upper middle class and upper class. These type of people are the ones who have transformed Uber into a successful global luxury brand.
At the Interactive Innovation Awards, there was indeed a transportation category and the company that won was Guide Dots – an audio-based guide app for the visually impaired.
Diversity and Workforce
Diversity was a big topic this year at SXSW, while the Pao vs. Kleiner trial continues. I appreciated that more industry leaders, including many women, voiced their opinions about evaluating individuals not based on ethnicity, gender or sexuality but based on their unique background and what they bring to the table. I truly believe that until companies and individuals stop encouraging women and employing or promoting them in order to “achieve” diversity in their workforce, will we be able to reach equality. Equality is not in the numbers, its in the mindset.
We are at the heart of the “mobile workforce movement” as Kevin Gibbon, CEO of Shyp, calls it. On-demand services such as Uber, Lyft, 3D Hubs, TaskRabbit, Seamless, Wun Wun, and many others enabled individuals to create value with their idle talent, time and assets. I’m particularly excited to see so many individuals become merchants of their own skills and small business owners. As the mobile workforce grows, we will begin to re-define what it means to be a contractor or part-time employee, and tangent industries such as insurance will evolve to service this new workforce (Check out how my friend Tristan Zier’s startup Zen99 is supporting contractors).
I noticed a growing presence and emphasis on HealthTech at SXSW this year, including a health and medtech expo at the JW Marriott Hotel. We are seeing more technology applications in the healthcare space (Go SOLS!) and there is a lot of discussion about the future of remote [self] diagnosis, health monitoring from afar, preventative solutions and use of wearables. Many venture capital firms have recognized this opportunity and need for innovation and healthcare and have already begun investing heavily in this space.
We are seeing new tools for diagnosis, such as the aliveCor and Cell scope that have re-invented the stethoscope and otoscope, respectively. However, on the wearables side, there is struggle to establish trust and engagement with both the consumers and providers. We continue to see a high drop-off rate with consumer engagement with wearables; the length of use is not long enough for the consumer to benefit from the device’s collection of the individual’s data. As such, the consumer is unable to see or benefit from the long-term use of the wearable. There needs to be a series of measurements over time and visual data to help individuals understand their health and encourage preventative behavior (i.e. decreased smoking benefits are made aware to the consumer through the wearable)
While I agree that the fashion first approach is necessary at the point of purchase with the consumer, incentivizing individuals to buy the product, it does not prevent the product from becoming an idle asset (My Nike Fuelbandlooks great on my dresser…).
Ayesha Khalid beautifully summarized one of the most pressing questions in healthtech: “How can information from all these apps and devices feed to EMR providers to enable effective and consistent information sharing between the patient and provider for more accurate health monitoring and diagnosis?”
Convinced you’re going to be at SXSW in 2016? Great – here are just a few tips before you set out for next year then.
– Pick out your top hotels for the day and just jump in and out of talks at that location. Each hotel has a theme.
– Pick talks on topics that are foreign to you. This is an opportunity to learn not to reassure your knowledge on a topic or justify your opinions.
– The keynote speakers is a Must attend! Illuminating, educational and inspirational talks from industry leaders.
– Explore topics across industries – finance, health, fashion, enterprise, etc. This is your chance to gain a holistic view on the latest leading technologies in the world.
– Challenge yourself throughout the week to meet someone new. SXSW is one of the best and most natural ways to meet people.
– Party. But don’t party too hard – lesson learned.
We live in a world where achievement defines us, not our character, generosity, passions or dreams. And that “achievement” is defined as money, fame or power. Society continually defines success for individuals at every age, erasing our unadulterated aspirations. The media paints the picture of a successful individual with their top lists of industry leaders, highest paying jobs, and most likely to succeed with this type of major in college. Most recently, publications have attempted to rank colleges differently with evaluating top colleges being institutions where students are more likely to result in a higher income…While the intention to move away from school prestige to a more practical ROI on education is thoughtful, this creates an even bigger issue of perceiving academic success with the ability to make more money, defining post-college success as income. Why do we try so hard to quantify success?
This is why we have cycles of graduating students wanting to be investment bankers and consultants one year, and engineers and entrepreneurs another year. But do any of them Really want to be those things? Schools react to this phenomenon and start creating programs that encourage more students to pursue these careers, asking alumni to support the school for such initiatives, and hoping to rank top on the list for schools that support careers in the field. And It’s a dirty cycle.
In college, I had started a program called BrightEyes out of my frustration that my school didn’t provide opportunities to easily get my foot in the door with the best companies. I got my first job out of college by impulsively traveling to New York and demanding to meet with executives at companies that I wanted to work for, and sneaking into USC’s recruiting session and pitching myself for the job. Soon after I started the program, I realized it wasn’t about providing career opportunities through BrightEyes, but helping students rediscover their true passions and unleashing and augmenting their inner voices to ask themselves what they truly aspired to do. Success in the program became defined as helping students become self aware and honest with themselves.
I’ve recently read numerous articles on “following your passion is bad advice.” At first, I nodded in agreement and part of me has always believed that those “successful” people say it, but that’s never how they got there. But now I revisit that piece of advice, and I realize there’s more to interpret in what appears to be such a shallow lesson. We can’t take the statement literally, rather we have to understand it to be a metaphor for chasing our curiosities and fearlessly trying new things to discover what makes us happiest – you don’t know what you love until you’ve already experienced it. “Follow your passion” is about happiness. While this may appear obvious and so many also preach happiness as success, few let this drive how they make decisions in life, especially when we are young and vulnerable.
I wish the word Failure didn’t exist. For so long, I’ve feared it and let it influence me. It’s a word that people constantly use incorrectly because, the fact is, it cannot be defined. It is a word that relies on short-lived perception and interpretation. It is not about being fearless of failure either. It is that we do no see failure, we don’t acknowledge it’s existence, because the decisions we make are ours and those are the best decisions we can make. Our experiences shape us, and we always come out stronger than we entered. It’s not failure, but opportunity. You cannot fail when you don’t believe it’s possible.
Let’s reevaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and challenge ourselves to not fear the unknown and rid any possibilities of failure from our decisions. Let’s save future generations from becoming a victim to the existing notions of success and failure.