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Babylon Health Gets $2 Billion Valuation With New Funding That Will Help It Expand In U.S.

Babylon Health, a U.K.-based startup whose fast growth has been shadowed by concerns about the efficacy of its telemedicine apps, has raised $550 million in Series C funding, elevating the company to unicorn status. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which invest on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, led the round that valued the company at $2 billion with a total of $635 million raised.

The new capital will enable the company to expand into more markets including the U.S. and Asia, Babylon said, and it will also bolster its artificial intelligence capabilities on the platform, which serves 4.3 million users worldwide. An unnamed U.S health insurer and a fund of global reinsurer Munich Re also invested. Vostok New Ventures, which already holds a 10% stake in Babylon, previously said it would participate in the new round, as did Sweden’s Kinnevik.

With an aim of cutting healthcare costs and broadening access, Babylon secured deals with Britain’s National Health Service with its apps to replace local doctor visits with video consultations and a chatbot that doled out advice on whether to see a doctor. It released a new artificially intelligent chatbot that promised to give diagnostic advice on common ailments, without human interaction. Its progress, however, was stuttered by doubts about the services’ abilities. Interviews with current and former Babylon staff and outside doctors revealed broad concerns that the company has rushed to deploy software that had not been carefully vetted, then exaggerated its effectiveness, Forbes revealed in December. The company disputed those claims, saying its software goes through many clinical tests.  The company also came under fire for failure to follow up with patients receiving mental health treatment. At the time, Babylon blamed problems with the NHS referral system.

Any blunders don’t seem to have slowed the company’s momentum.

Led by CEO and Founder Ali Parsa, an Iranian-born former banker, Babylon has also secured contracts with Prudential and Samsung. It says it now delivers 4,000 clinical consultation a day, and one patient interaction every 10 seconds.

“We have a long way to go and a lot still to deliver,” Parsa said in a statement. “While the burden of healthcare is global, the solutions have to be localized to meet the specific needs and culture of each country.”

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I serve as assistant editor for Forbes Innovation, covering cybersecurity and venture capital. I have covered politics at POLITICO, entertainment for Time Out New York, but my most fascinating beat has been covering the intersection of technology, finance, and entrepreneurship. I’m also an alumna of CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and the University of Washington. Email tips to mmelton@forbes.com

Source: Babylon Health Gets $2 Billion Valuation With New Funding That Will Help It Expand In U.S.

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It’s Not About Ideas. Do What Amazon, Netflix, Uber And AirBnb Did, Head For A Blue Ocean

In this July 1, 2014 photo, Dollar Shave Club CEO and co-founder Michael Dubin poses for photos at the company's headquarters in Venice, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

If you want to become an entrepreneur but don’t know where to start, relax. It’s not about ideas, it’s about understanding and researching current industries that have not innovated their products or services and have a large customer market. If you think about what Netflix, Amazon, Uber and AirBnb did, you can clearly see, they created nothing new in terms of products. So, what did they do? They changed the “game” in an industry that was not being innovative and was ripe for disruption. In other words, they headed for a “blue ocean” made famous by management thought leaders W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in their perennial bestseller, Blue Ocean Strategy.

Blue Ocean Strategy is an approach that challenges everything that you thought you knew about the requirements for entrepreneurial success. Blue Ocean Strategy can be summarized in a nutshell: the best way to beat the competition is to make the competition irrelevant. Imagine that the marketplace is comprised of two sorts of oceans: red oceans and blue oceans.

To discover an elusive blue ocean, Kim and Mauborgne recommend that businesses consider what they call the Four Actions Framework to reconstruct buyer value elements in crafting a new innovation wave. The framework poses four key questions:

  • Raise: What factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  • Reduce: What factors were a result of competing against other industries and can be reduced?
  • Eliminate: Which factors that the industry has long competed on should be eliminated?
  • Create: Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

If you think about it, lets review what these market leaders did with Blue Ocean Strategy in mind. Amazon did not build bookstores but built an enterprise infrastructure to have access to one million book titles and competed well with Borders and Barnes & Noble. Netflix did not use stores in their business model to compete with Blockbuster; instead they focused on customer service. Uber did not even try to buy cars and compete with the independent taxi companies, they created a mobile app. AirBnb does not own homes or hotels, instead they redefined the travel experience by uniting existing property owners onto a common easy-to-use platform.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, third from left, takes a photograph as he attends the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, as his company makes its initial public offering, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, third from left, takes a photograph as he attends the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, as his company makes its initial public offering, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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Existing marketplaces with lots of competitors live in crowded, shark-ridden red oceans. Red oceans are characterized by multiple firms offering similar products competing mostly on price. Think Target versus Wal-Mart, Sony versus Samsung.  Meanwhile, blue oceans are characterized by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth.

In recent years, Dollar Shave Club took on Gillette by offering subscription-based access to razors at a better cost and service. As a potential entrepreneur, just examine large industries or product lines and see if customers are happy with their current choices. Wherever you find customers are not ecstatic, dig deeper. A few years back, Chobani did the same thing to yogurt by offering Greek yogurt, more protein and less sugar. None of these examples showcase a completely new, never heard of before product. But all these companies either innovated the current product in the marketplace or they offered a simple innovation or twist to the business model for their company. In almost every case, the customer is happier with the new company or product. That means they were dissatisfied before these companies came along.

If you want to get a jumpstart on surfacing an opportunity, pay attention to something new you see (craft beer, organic pet food, cloud storage, etc.) and do some research.  Or go to places where you can observe people: malls, airports, universities and just walk around. See what people are doing and not doing. Don’t look for anything in particular, just observe. Another option is to walk through Target or Wal-Mart and slowly walk up and down the aisles. Look for current products that seem over priced or they don’t exactly make the customer ecstatic. Then research how big that industry category actually is. If it’s billions, keep going. Run a few of your best “opportunities” through the Blue Ocean Strategy framework of raise, reduce, eliminate and create.

The founders of Skullcandy did something similar by walking through Target to spot their earphone opportunity. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to solve a problem in a big marketplace. To spot a problem, go looking. Once you find some problems, use Blue Ocean Strategy to innovate a solution and perhaps you will create a billion dollar company.

You can read more about what Bernhard has to say on his website and follow him here on his Linked In

I am the Director at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, San Diego State University. I oversee all of the center’s undergraduate and graduate experiential programs.

Source: It’s Not About Ideas. Do What Amazon, Netflix, Uber And AirBnb Did, Head For A Blue Ocean.

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