Charity Dean has been in the national spotlight lately because she was among a group of doctors, scientists and tech entrepreneurs who sounded the pandemic alarm early last year and who are featured in a new book by Michael Lewis about the U.S. response, called The Premonition.
It’s no wonder the press — and, seemingly moviemakers, too — are interested in Dean. Surgery is her first love, but she also studied tropical diseases and not only applied what she knows about outbreaks on the front lines last year, but also came to appreciate an opportunity that only someone in her position could see. Indeed, after the pandemic laid bare just how few tools were available to help the U.S. government to track how the virus was moving and mutating, she helped develop a model that has since been turned into subscription software to (hopefully) prevent, detect, and contain costly disease outbreaks in the future.
It’s tech that companies with global operations might want to understand better. It has also attracted $8 million in seed funding Venrock, Alphabet’s Verily unit, and Sweat Equity Ventures. We talked late last week with Dean about her now 20-person outfit, called The Public Health Company, and why she thinks disease-focused risk management will be as crucial for companies going forward as cybersecurity software. Our chat has been edited for length; you can also listen to our longer conversation here.
TC: You went to medical school but you also have a master’s degree in public health and tropical medicine. Why was the latter an area of interest for you?
CD: Neither of my parents had college degrees. I grew up in a very modest setting in rural Oregon. We were poor and by the grace of a full ride scholarship to college I got to be premed. When I was a little girl some missionaries came to our church and talked about disease outbreaks in Africa. I was seven years old, and driving home that evening with my parents, I said, ‘I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to study disease.’ It was outrageous because I didn’t know a single person with a college degree. But . . my heart was set on that, and it never deviated from it.
TC: How did you wind up at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, instead of in private practice?
CD: It’s funny, when I was finishing up my residency — which I started doing general surgery, then I pivoted into internal medicine — I had a number of different doctors’ private practices come to me and try to recruit me because of the shortage of women physicians.
[At the same time] the medical director from the county public health department came and found me and he said, ‘Hey, I hear you have a master’s in tropical medicine.’ And he said, ‘Would you consider coming to work as the deputy health officer, and communicable disease controller, and tuberculosis controller, and [oversee the] HIV clinic and homeless clinic?’ And . . . it was, for me, a fairly easy choice.
TC: Because there was so little attention being paid to all of these other issues?
CD: What caught my attention is when he said communicable disease controller and tuberculosis controller. I had lived in Africa [for a time] and learned a lot about HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, vaccine-preventable diseases — things you don’t see in the United States. [And the job] was so in lockstep with who I was because it’s the safety net. [These afflicted individuals] don’t have health insurance. Many are undocumented. Many have nowhere else to go for health care, and the county clinic truly serves the communities that I cared about, and that’s where I wanted to be.
TC: In that role — and later at the California Department of Public Health — you developed expertise in multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Was your understanding of how it is transmitted — and how the symptoms present differently — what made you attuned to what was headed for the U.S. early last year?
CD: It was probably the single biggest contributor to my thinking. When we have a novel pathogen as a doctor, or as a communicable disease controller, our minds think in terms of buckets of pathogen: some are airborne, some are spread on surfaces, some are spread through fecal material or through water. In January [of last year], as I was watching the news reports emerge out of China, it became clear to me that this was potentially a perfect pathogen. What does that mean? It would mean it had some of the attributes of things like tuberculosis or measles or influenza — that it had the ability to spread from person to person, likely through the air, that it made people sick enough that China was standing up hospitals in two weeks, and that it moved fast enough through the population to grow exponentially.
TC: You are credited with helping to convince California Governor Gavin Newsom to issue lock-down orders when he did.
CD: Everything I’ve done is as part of a team. In March, some amazing heroes parachuted in from the private sector, including [former U.S Chief Technology Officer] Todd Park, [famed data scientist] DJ Patil, [and Venrock’s] Bob Kocher, to help the state of California develop a modeling effort that would actually show, through computer-generated models, in what direction the pandemic was headed.
TC: How did those efforts and thinking lead you to form The Public Health Company last August?
CD: What we are doing at The Public Health Company is incorporating the genomic variant analysis — or the fingerprint of the virus of COVID virus as it mutates and as it moves through a population — with epidemiology investigations and [porting these with] the kind of traditional data you might have from a local public health officer into a platform to make those tools readily available and easy to use to inform decision makers. You don’t have to have a mathematician and a data scientist and an infectious disease doctor standing next to you to make a decision; we make those tools automated and readily available.
TC: Who are your customers? The U.S. government? Foreign governments?
CD: Are the tools that we are developing useful for government? Absolutely. We’re engaged in a number of different partnerships where this is of incredible service to governments. But they are as useful, if not even more useful, to the private sector because they haven’t had these tools. They don’t have a disease control capability at their fingertips and many of them have had to essentially stand up their own internal public health department, and figure it out on the fly, and the feedback that we’re seeing from private sector businesses has been incredible.
TC: I could see hedge funds and insurance companies gravitating quickly to this. What are some customers or types of customers that might surprise readers?
CD: One bucket that might not occur to people is in the risk management space of a large enterprise that has global operations like a warehouse or a factory in different places. The risk management of COVID-19 is going to look very different in each one of those locations based on: how the virus is mutating in that location, the demographics of their employees, the type of activities they’re doing, [and] the ventilation system in their facility. Trying to grapple with all of those different factors . . .is something that we can do for them through a combination of our tech-enabled service, the expertise we have, the modeling, and the genetic analysis.
I don’t know that risk management in terms of disease control has been a big part of private sector conversations, [but] we think of it similar to cyber security in that after a number of high-profile cyber security attacks, it became clear to every insurance agency or private sector business that risk management had to include cyber security they had to stand up. We very much believe that disease control in risk management for continuity of operations is going to be incredibly important moving forward in a way that I couldn’t have explained before COVID. They see it now and they understand it’s an existential threat.
You Can’t Sponsor Dreamforce. So You Should Sponsor SaaStr Annual 2021 in September!
Dreamforce has followed SaaStr Annual as the second major Cloud event to come back. Dreamforce will be the week before 2021 Annual, and capped at 5k attendees. Tickets will be very hard to come by and most companies will not be able to formally sponsor the event this year.
So what to do if you want to engage with 5,000+ founders and Cloud execs this year? Sponsor 2021 SaaStr Annual!
More details here.
Booth selection is already underway so HURRY up and sponsor ASAP!
The 7 Ways Prospects Choose One Vendor Over Another
There’s a basic set of criteria most buyers look for. And breaking them down also shows us where the openings are for new entrants:
- Most trusted brand. In the end, 80%+ of buyers are going to pick the most trusted or one of the most trusted brands in the space. This is not irrational. Most of us don’t have the time or often the skills to truly decide which vendor is best. Brands are proxies for quality and trust. Imperfect proxies for sure. But proxies.
- The one specific vendor with that key 10x feature. This is how some startups break into a space. Sometimes, a new entrant may be feature-poor and relatively new — but it has a new take on a space and has a new critical “10x” feature for you that no leading vendor has. A customer will often pick a new vendor if it has a critical integration, a critical workflow, a critical dashboard, etc. that the established leaders don’t. More on the 10x feature here.
- Far better performance etc. A version really of the “10x feature”, but sometimes a specific vendor will have far better performance for a certain use case. Algolia search, for example, is 10x or more faster for certain types of search — but not all. Datadog also won here in part by making it far easier to monitor and manage all the critical parts of your application stack.
- The one that is far easier to deploy. We don’t all have time to deploy Salesforce. Pipedrive could be deployed in minutes. That led to a $1.5B exit.
- Cheaper (sometimes). It’s hard to build something big just because it’s cheaper. SaaS isn’t a commodity, not really. Every vendor is different. But once a market leader starts to go upmarket and get more expensive, that does leave a lot of room at the bottom. Often for several unicorns. More on that here.
- The most enterprise vendor. Sometimes, the market leaders aren’t enterprise-focused. This can create a niche for a more secure, more trusted, more workflow-ed vendor in the space. A related post here.
- A vendor tailored just for your vertical. Vertical SaaS is booming. Why? Having a CRM, an ERP, a marketing automation solution tailored to your industry can be super helpful. Veeva is a great example, with 1,000+ customers for CRM and vault products for healthcare.
Which are you?
And a related post here:
Why B2B startups will be the dominant startup species in Europe
The recent wave of European unicorns is dominated by B2B startups. About 60% of the European startups that gained unicorn status in the first quarter of 2021, have a B2B business model. And with Celonis we’ve just seen a new B2B ‘decacorn’, the first one to have risen out of Germany.
But why are European B2B startups increasingly successful, and what makes them so attractive for investors?
1) Excellent technology is part of Europe’s DNA
Engineering know-how and scientific innovation is part of Europe’s DNA. Bullet-proof technology has been the foundation of the continent’s strong industrial heritage. Over the last years, we have seen deeptech startups rise out of Europe building key technologies that are paving the way for the digitization of entire industries, driven by visionary founders with bold ambitions. If we can connect engineering excellence as well as our entrepreneurial talent even more, we will be able to see more B2B companies such as Celonis, Sennder or cargo.one who are on their way to become global category leaders out of Europe.
2) Growing number of enterprise customers
With rising pressure for change in corporates and entire industries, the procurement departments of incumbent players increasingly purchase from and collaborate with startups. Key infrastructure technologies such as cloud computing have already laid the ground work for a fast transition into a new era. After all, we have seen a mindset shift towards startups within established companies, from innovation to proof-of-concept projects to being perceived as a relevant supplier for the business. Combined with a growing maturity of the offering of B2B startups, as well as the growing understanding for digital solutions, this creates the perfect time for startups offering solutions that help manage the needed transformation. The global pandemic has even accelerated this trend, as agile B2B startups offer the right solutions to support this transition. We are experiencing this change with our Next47 Go-to-Market team every day supporting our portfolio to grow their revenue.
3) Global opportunity by day one
Once a solution is found for a market or use case, it can easily be rolled out to companies sharing the same specific problem regardless of national borders. As opposed to B2C startups which often operate on a regional level and which often face different consumer needs, lifestyle, and culture in different geographies, B2B founders can think and go global right from the start, which very often means addressing a bigger market. At Next47, none of the companies we have invested or seen at Series A stage have local market revenue alone.
4) Today’s B2B startups have better exit opportunities
Although recent developments suggest that every startup will become a unicorn and sooner or later moves towards an IPO, we all know that this is not the case. So, let’s keep M&A deals in mind as a key exit option. In addition to the continued trend of US tech companies acquiring European startups, there is also an increasing number of European corporates buying local startups. And as the European ecosystem matures, there will also be more high-growth tech companies that will grow through M&As to secure their market position and expand. With increased exit opportunities of B2B startups, the space becomes again more attractive for investors.
With these four aspects gaining momentum, we will certainly see the current B2B trend as the beginning of a new era: the era of B2B startups as the dominant startup species in Europe.
Reentering the Age of Integration to Become Truly Connected Enterprises
Click to learn more about author Suraj Kumar.
While integration has been here for decades, it has transformed to adapt to connectivity challenges over the years. With the proliferation of data, devices, and systems, organizations have a pressing need for a seamless, integrated approach – becoming truly connected enterprises that can maintain competitiveness and deliver new experiences to customers.
According to CompTIA, there will be no “next big thing” or timely buzzword describing an emerging technology that drives growth and traction. Rather than focusing on industry hype, the focus is quickly pivoting to having a strong foundation that fosters resilience and drives transformation. This includes working with and maximizing what organizations already have: using integration to combine IT building blocks, people, devices, and processes in innovative ways. Smart companies are those that spend more time on better understanding an ever-growing set of IT building blocks and then on fitting the pieces together to drive digital transformation.
This is good news for integration because it adapts every time a new tech standard comes along. Now, with no new, shiny object lurking around the corner, companies can understand exactly what they need to integrate and what capabilities they should invest in. The API revolution may have created a way for businesses to digitally connect, but with digital transformation at the forefront of most organizations’ minds – and budgets – becoming a truly connected enterprise should be the focus. Ultimately, achieving this requires adopting an Everything-as-a-Service mindset.
Microservices and API management tools can help here. Having access to integration capabilities across today’s most important technologies like IoT, cloud, and AI can prepare an organization for its digital transformation journey. Below, I’ll break down how integration can improve user experiences and business optimization. There’s plenty of data and technology that businesses should pursue as they integrate, and it’s imperative that they know which options are best for their digital transformation journey.
First and foremost, you cannot change anything – let alone everything – overnight. Much of this takes patience. Today, APIs are the interface of a business as digital transformation and the need for an open connected world have been driving factors for API and integration solutions. With that being said, I recommend creating an API layer if you haven’t done so already. Organizations have built processes, but now it’s time to shift. Putting an API layer in front allows a front-end application to be API first, providing the ability to build without changing the back end, as well as enable multiple types of interfaces and mobile or web apps. Rapid changes your organization is making due to the pandemic cannot be addressed without APIs. However, to be effective, API and integration innovations must demonstrate how they can help simplify and accelerate digital transformation journeys for customers as well as facilitate the ongoing journey based on customer reality.
With the growing number of SaaS applications and cloud footprints in an enterprise, hybrid integration is also a foundational factor that must be taken control of and utilized in delivery processes. To maximize the benefits of integration, the stacking of foundational infrastructures like SaaS and AI can increase user experience and deliver automation. Hybrid integration is now critical because it can assist in streamlining and creating efficient processes that eliminate roadblocks as organizations unify cloud footprints and transition to digital (a huge goal!).
Successful application integration requires a unified approach with hybrid integration solutions, APIs, and microservices. Microservices have evolved as a next-generation application architecture. A microservices-driven architecture leverages cloud-native principle – implement quickly, deploy fast, and scale – empowering IT to quickly respond to business needs by building, deploying, and scaling applications, all with microservices. When managed correctly, microservices can proactively identify and solve problems a company may not even be aware of yet, making it essential for overarching business strategy, not just IT.
Many organizations are progressing on their digital transformation journeys – and it’s only just beginning. According to data from our company, 97% of businesses believe digital transformation will probably continue this year, making the commitment to become a truly connected enterprise imperative for companies looking to go completely digital. Recognize that integration is a key ingredient to this journey, which can only begin by taking that first step. Be patient and embrace your assets for a new connected world that will drive transformation, customer experiences, and revenue.
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