Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but the healthcare industry spends more money helping patients after they get sick, instead of keeping them healthy.
To fill this gap, Heartbeat Health, founded by Dr. Jeff Wessler, has raised more than $30 million, developing a digital data layer that uses telemedicine, remote diagnostics and digital heart health programs to give patients and clinicians a more proactive way to stay healthy.
On our last episode of TechCrunch Live, we spoke with Wessler and Kindred Ventures’ Kanyi Maqubela to learn how its first fundraising deal came together and how Heartbeat’s pitch deck helped convince Kindred to invest.
Insight versus experience
“We look for founders who have a combination of domain insight and domain experience,” said Maqubela. “A lot of people who are very experienced in a domain are not totally insightful about it. They know all the reasons why you can never do something in that area. It takes a beginner’s mind, almost a little naivety, to have real insight in some areas.”
Though it’s often seen as an advantage to have experience in the industry you’re trying to solve for, or sell to, that experience must be paired with the insight to see a solution.
Maqubela said Wessler’s optimism about addressing cardiovascular health in a new way, paired with his deep understanding of the existing landscape, was attractive: “What I liked about Jeff was that he was from that world, but he was not of that world,” said Maqubela.
He added that Kindred is more than willing to invest in founders before they have a product or even a prototype, but that there is certain criteria involved. Alongside domain insight, Kindred also looks for personality that people want to partner with. As part of the firm’s investment due diligence in Wessler, Kindred helped recruit technical co-founding partners.
“The theory was that if one of them was ready to quit their ‘insert great job X’ to go work with this cardiologist, that’s actually a really important input that he is CEO material as well as a clinician,” said Maqubela.
As we dove into the pitch deck, Wessler and Maqubela both highlighted an early slide (pictured below).
We often hear that heart disease is the number-one killer, but the extra context around the problem of heart disease itself was critical in telling the Heartbeat Health story. The slide described cardiovascular disease as a bigger threat than all cancers combined, but is 80% preventable.
“It’s the biggest health issue facing America and has humongous impact,” said Maqubela. “Everyone I’ve spoken to since day one of Heartbeat Health, either in a pitch capacity or a recruitment capacity or from our team, has experience with heart disease, with friends or family or loved ones in one way or another. It’s a problem that gripped you.”