This week we feature SeeThru Advisor, Larry Friedberg. Larry holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and served as Director of Trust at eBay as well as Head of Trust & Safety at PayPal. He’s currently the Founder and Principal at 380West, a boutique marketing consultancy based in the Bay Area.
What brought you to advise SeeThru?
Pure coincidence. I was at a blockchain conference in April and sat in on a series of 2–3 minute presentations. Adi [SeeThru CEO] got up to speak and I was immediately intrigued by the vision and his desire to build a marketplace. I was at eBay and PayPal for 6 years and knew the challenges of building a marketplace but saw saw the potential in SeeThru to solve a big problem that no one else, to my knowledge, was tackling. During Q&A Adi and I discussed the challenges of building a marketplace and had a good back and forth and exchanged business cards. Within a few days, Adi contacted me. He wanted to talk further. Next thing I know, what I thought would be a thirty minute conversation with him and J.J. ran over an hour.
I was persuaded by the vision, dedication, and thought they had given to the problem — especially the complexity of the multiple perspectives of the payer and the humanized SeeThru matrix.
And I guess they appreciated my background in Trust and Safety at eBay and PayPal and both B2B and B2C credentials.
Describe the biggest change that you’ve seen in the healthcare space over the last 20 years?
I look at this question through the lens of a layperson. I’m a business person who also has been a consumer. In healthcare I think there have been a few big changes. The speed at which technology is advancing. Big Data is giving researchers access to information so much faster than even 20 or even 10 years ago. CRISPR offers possibly the greatest gift to curing diseases the world’s researchers have spent lifetimes trying to cure. With all this computing power, Big Data is changing the landscape. Same can be said for medical devices. Thanks to a new type of camera, ophthalmologists can today see incredibly vivid pictures of the retina they could not see even a few years ago. Researchers can even take in vivo images allowing them to track the progress of a disease in a mouse without destroying it.
The other big change is the advent of the internet; how it’s putting more knowledge into the patient’s hands. It starts with the creation of EHRs which give us access to our histories so that we can take more control and care of our own health. Online search and consumer-focused websites such as WebMD and MedicineNet allow patients to research and then ask more informed questions of their providers. The doctor still plays an important role, but the patient is being empowered to be more of a partner in the examination room. The more we’re connected with each other and the more patients and doctors narrow that barrier between them, the better healthcare becomes.
What do you view as the biggest challenge for patients today?
First of all medicine is an incredibly complicated field. It’s no coincidence that training goes on for seven to 10 years. So there is a built-in asymmetry of knowledge between doctor and patient. The web is helping to make patients better informed — but sometimes “over-informed” meaning they falsely diagnose themselves. But the bigger challenge is cost and the asymmetry of information caused by the Byzantine process of payer / provider / patient payments.
My wife had two foot surgeries this year and we didn’t really know how much we were ultimately going to have to pay until weeks later. When the final bill came, opening the envelope felt like getting ready for the worst part of a roller coaster ride. If you go to Amazon, you know exactly what you’re paying. In healthcare, the patients have the least amount of information. This is where I’d start on defining the pain points.
At any point could your career have taken a radically different direction?
Honestly, when I was a kid I realized that I really didn’t have the tools to play shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. So, I decided I really wanted to be a baseball broadcaster. I was looking at colleges where getting a degree in communications might be an option for me. However, I was the son of two parents who were insistent on pursuing a traditional liberal arts background, so there was no doubt about my direction. I ultimately didn’t become a broadcaster, but I learned how to communicate and write. I found I had a penchant for business. I’m still an avid Red Sox (and now San Francisco Giants) fan.
(This interviewer thinks Larry has an excellent broadcasting voice and may want to revisit this in the future.)
After your time at eBay and Paypal, what unique perspective does that give you regarding the marketplace SeeThru is building?
I think SeeThru is looking at the problem like three dimensional chess: how best to deliver value to patients, providers and insurers.
They are doing this through traditional marketplace practices of transparency, choice and a level playing field — working to unify buyers and sellers in a novel way: using transparency and a level playing field. That is smart.
***Rapid Fire Round***
a) If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Three Places: Martha’s Vineyard in Summer, Paris / Venice in Spring, San Francisco Area the rest of Time
b) What is your favorite TV series from the 80’s or 90’s? Seinfeld
(Interviewer: Good pick!)
c) East Coast Pizza Vs. West Coast Pizza? East Coast: Santillo’s Pizza in Elizabeth, NJ
d) Favorite Quote and/or Author? The Jewel by James Wright
There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.
Nathan Carroll is a medical student and MBA candidate at Rowan University. When not buried in the books, he is usually training in martial arts or playing with his dog. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.