business, Current Events, Random, Technology

My Thoughts On A Potential CVS+ Aetna Deal

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Some context….We’ve seen high levels of consolidation in the healthcare industry over the last 4- 5 years….a lot having to do with ACA and inter-industry competition. Yesterday, Amazon won regulatory approval to wholesale pharmaceuticals in 12 states. While it does seem Amazon will enter the pharma sales business, the larger elephant in the room, which I think CVS Health acknowledges with this move, is pharmaceutical benefits management (PBM). PBM has been a major driver of profits and growth for CVS and a key differentiator from the Walmarts of the world. Adding aetna will re-inforce their PBM business by giving them a larger network to play with and helps with diversification to weather an Amazon entrance into the pharmaceutical space. Amazon will start by selling pharmaceutical products but will eventually use Amazon Prime as a PBM which will ultimately drive down the cost of prescriptions for Amazon prime members while they take a cut of course. Interesting time to be a consumer.

#MentalNote, business, communication

Opportunity In Crisis: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Tesla and Alphabet

Hurricane Irma devastated Puerto and created a humanitarian disaster rarely seen in the United States. While the federal government’s response hasn’t been the best (based on infrastructure challenges, over stretched FEMA, leadership, etc), we’ve seen the private sector companies like Tesla and Alphabet step up to be partners in crisis response. While these projects are small in comparison to the larger needs, they are a step in the right direction and serve as models to how companies can work with customers in challenging times.

  1.  While crisis sucks for those who are involved, it’s a great opportunity for companies that have solutions ready to help. Natural disasters are an extreme example, but consumers, businesses, and governments all undergo crisis of varying magnitudes and need the help right away.
  2. Crisis often means the breakdown of barriers to entry for new participants. After destructive hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the normal distribution networks for electricity, internet, and water were destroyed. Not only was there a sense of urgency to get those services operating as quick as possible, the downtime provided an opportunity for distributed solutions like Alphabet’s stratospheric balloons nicknamed project loon, or Tesla’s powerpacks powering a rural hospital to jump in as a solution. As a founder, be on the lookout for key areas where an incumbent’s strength becomes an inherent weakness.
  3.  Understand the long term value when you successfully deliver a solution in a crisis situation. Compensation is important but the larger priority is proof of concept and a customer that’s fully invested in the success of your deployment. Crisis situations can be used as a transformational case study and will speak more within an industry than a clever advertising/ marketing campaign. Some short-sighted companies will look at a crisis situation as an opportunity to increase the cost of services or products. I believe the value derived from assisting customers in a crisis situation with a long term view in mind trumps the short term gain from exploiting crisis to drive revenue.

 

 

#MentalNote, Leadership, Self-Revelation

I’m My Sister’s Keeper

***Before reading, read Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People***

I agree with Damon’s assessment but solutions are a key part missing in his essay. Maybe because he wanted to focus on identifying a problem some would argue doesn’t even exist. Maybe he was waiting for me to write a solutions article. (If that’s the case Damon, lets make this collab official shall we?)  Damon’s write up begged the question; What can black men do to be better for black women so I went on and made a list of things black men can do to help create a more supportive and nurturing environment for black women. It’s by no means exhaustive and I welcome more ideas.  Also, full disclosure, I have room for improvement as well. I can stand to drink a tall glass of my own Kool-aid.

We need to have the difficult conversations with other black men and women. There are a lot of black men who have traumatic experiences from their mothers or maybe those who’ve they’ve dated. We need to realize that condemning a whole group of people for those traumatic experiences is irrational and promotes an unhealthy environment between black men and women.

Black men need to also have conversations with the uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, who perpetuate misogynistic ideals and behaviors. This means being that voice of reason when your friend is cat calling a woman walking down the street, or having a conversation with a younger brother about the proper way to treat women. We have to be the first line of defense to call out behavior that is unhealthy and detrimental to black women.

Be extra critical about language- Lupe Fiasco gets at the core of the hypocrisy of language in hip hop in his song Hurt Me Soul:

“I used to hate hip-hop, yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite, I stated, though I only recited half
Omitting the word “bitch”, cursing – I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, till a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learned it from a song I heard and sort of liked….

As black men, we need to be aware of the way we socialize negative language toward black women. Bitches, thots, hoes, etc. Some may say, its just a word, what power does it have? Doesn’t that question sound familiar? And often times, hip hop is the primary mode for misogynistic, discriminatory, and down right disrespectful language. I’m not going to blame hip hop, the medium itself is like a mirror. We see and hear what’s going on around us.

Support black women in social and political struggles. There’s a whole bunch of political/social challenges that are outright destroying black women. For example, according to the Justice Department, slightly more than 40% of sex trafficking victims are Black, far outpacing White (25.6%), Hispanic (23.9%), Asian (4.3%) and Other (5.8%) victims and women are more than twice (68 percent) as likely as men (32 percent) to be trafficked for sex. (Human Trafficking By the Numbers 2017) Sex trafficking is disproportionately affecting black women and we’ve got to show up and ride for them in their struggles like they show up and ride for us. There’s so much to support; income inequality, healthcare laws, access to stem education, etc. Show up.

We need to deal with toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity leads to a false narrative of what it actually means to be a man. A false narrative leads to a bunch of men seeking the wrong characteristics to validate their masculinity. Some chase patriarchal, self destructive and misogynistic ideals they believe are at the core of masculinity and it ends up demeaning and screwing over black women.  As black men, we need to re-evaluate what it means to be a man and make sure we approach masculinity from a healthy and pragmatic perspective.

Start a dialogue. It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but Facebook and Twitter are good places to have conversations around supporting black women. Yea, sometimes it can get out of control with the comments and trolls but it is a good place to continue the conversation.

Offline is another really important venue. Sit down and talk to black women about the challenges they face and identify ways you can leverage your position to support them.

business, Leadership, Technology

Why We Should Listen To JP Morgan’s CEO About Bitcoin

Jamie Dimon had a lot to say about Bitcoin the other day.

We should heed his warning. Just like they should have listened to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft in 2007. “The Iphone is too expensive,” he said. “It wouldn’t appeal to the business professional. Apple is the incumbent and they are going to have to play by our rules.” It’s almost 10 years to the day and Apple just released the Iphone X, a 1K+ phone.

 

 

Here… Lets go way back on  to 1946……“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months.  People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox. Sorry, I couldn’t find a video for this one.

I can go on and on. If you want, here are some other random predictions here. Seems like a lot of people were just flat out wrong on Apple.

Executives, especially those who are incumbents and gatekeepers in their industry,  are rarely capable of seeing disruption. Actually, the best way to foreshadow a key challenge to basic industry assumptions is to look at the industry leaders and watch them make comments like Jamie Dimon did above. While some may argue, he’s talking about bitcoin and has much respect for the technology behind it ( JP Morgan is investing a ton of money into blockchain companies), I believe his comments on bitcoin are less about the coins and more about control. A decentralized reality for a control focused financial industry is scary. It reminds me of the Blockbuster snub on Netflix. To say there would be a day when people didn’t need physical copies due to the mass adoption of the high speed internet would have been a tough pill to swallow.

The people who face the biggest threat from disruption seem to call it wrong. Sometimes its just theater. I’m sure shareholders don’t want to hear there’s a technology/platform that could fundamentally change how their industry works. There’s definitely a confidence game going on with many executives, but I believe there’s a way to be confident and realistic.

We should listen to Jamie Dimon. His comments are a prelude to a major shake up in the financial industry.

 

Africa, startups, Technology, venture capital

Africa Startup Ecosystems Ranks: Where does Nigeria Fall on the list?

Sometimes a conversation becomes a little more. I shared this a founder who was asking me my thoughts on where Nigeria’s startup ecosystems ranks in Africa. While I didn’t have key metrics, I did mention where I would go to look and how I would evaluate. If I had to make a real essay out of it, (which I’m seriously thinking about doing), I’d probably take a more in depth look at where Nigeria’s startup ecosystems needs to course correct to be a global competitor for talent, ideas, and capital.

So a couple of things… In the life cycle of an ecosystem, Nigeria’s startup ecosystem unfortunately is still in its nascent days. There’s leakages of opportunities for investors and startups due to resource and capital constraints. I do know that we’re heading toward the globalization part of the ecosystem life-cycle. We are seeing a more foreign money, ideas, and resources flow into the Nigerian ecosystem. Comparatively, SA had all of these first and has exits under its belt so I’d still put SA up top. Nigeria still falls in the second tier of startup ecosystems in Africa for the following reason; lack of research and development $ from government, low ease of doing business scores, quality of human capital, access to seed funding (or lack thereof), etc. I will say though, Nigeria has made significant strides in “community” through the cabals, co-working spaces and other community focused pillars that re being built.  This can be accelerated by an increase in the quality of education, R&D investment, and improving the ease of doing business metrics to make it easier for startups to find talent, operate,  and to make money.

product

5 Ways To Make Your Product Development Process More Inclusive

In the early part of 2017, I had the opportunity to teach aspiring product managers at General Assembly. While we were on the user personas part of the curriculum, I got an interesting question from one of my students;

”It’s theoretical, but there’s something disquieting about creating these personas based on distilling, and how it could really leave a company never creating consumer products that are designed for a broader swath of person than white, single woman with disposable income. Is there a philosophy on how to best make sure that more people are represented?”

The product development process can sometimes become a silo and miss out on opportunities for other groups of users, potential features, and revenue. Based on my experience, here are 5 ways to ensure you’re building products and practices that help capture larger groups than the standard user persona allows.

  1. Focus on what needs to be done rather than who is doing it. The jobs to be done theory is the process a consumer goes through whenever they evolve themselves through searching for, buying, and using a product. It begins when the customer becomes aware of the possibility to evolve. It continues as along as the desired progress is sought. It ends when the consumer realizes new capabilities and behaves differently, or abandons the idea of evolving. (Learn more here) The jobs to be done framework moves beyond who the user is and focuses more on the future state of the user. While demographics and other user information is important, product teams should focus on collecting the appropriate information to build that bridge from current state to future state.
  2. Have a methodology you can look back to and evaluate. Companies should keep a metric/ or a process reserved for how effective they are at capturing fringe segments, feature requests, and/or products use cases. While it may initially seem like an extra chore for an already busy product team, it helps ensure that the team is accountable to dissenting features, products, and ideas. For example, a client I worked with back in the day had a 10% rule… The 10% rule stated 10% of their feature idea had to be fringe use cases. It helped the dev, product and marketing team think about particular types of users who may not be in the initial user segment.
  3. Employ for Diversity. Inclusive product teams (of experience, culture, background, gender, race, etc) is one the most important things you can do to insure you’re bringing inclusive products to market. The internal team asks the first set of questions, plans the go to market approach, and prioritizes which features get developed.
  4. Build diversity into the product feedback process. I’ve worked with a lot of companies who’ve outsourced ui/ux feedback to third party companies in the hopes of lightening the internal load. Feedback, especially early in the product development process, is best managed by your internal team. It also gives the product team a chance to focus on bringing a diverse group of users to the table for feedback.
  5. Don’t be afraid of the niche. Companies, especially in the early days, are afraid of building a niche product/feature. Building a niche product and getting market leadership is sometimes more important than getting mass market acceptance (also depends on company and industry). Sometimes being laser focused on a specific type of customer builds the bridge you need to the mass market and/or other niches.
Politics

Thank You 45

Dear 45,

Hope all is well. I know you’ve had a pretty rough couple of  months with the new job and all. I’d thought I’d brighten it up by sending a note of thanks . As you’ve quickly realized, the presidency is a thankless job so I thought I’d share 3 things I’m thankful you’ve knowing or unknowingly done.

You’ve shown all the leaders of tomorrow anything is truly possible under the right circumstances.  

I’ve always thought there’s a guide/ steps to becoming a leader. Leadership requires trials and tribulations, you have to have self awareness, earn the loyalty of your followers, be a consensus builder, etc….. We can throw the last 30 years of leadership cannon down the drain. Seems like there’s a little bit more to leadership than I thought. I guess I missed something.

You single- handily forced America to have the conversations we’ve been running from since our founding.

I don’t know how you did it or if you did this on purpose but kudos. We are having all types of conversations now. What is the role of the executive branch and what are the real checks on power? What is the role of the 4th estate (journalism) and what will it look like going forward? How are we going to reconcile our past in a way that is inclusive of experiences and true to reality? Do we really need the electoral college? Do protests really work? Yes, there’s definitely a separation of church and state but is there a separation of morality and state? What kind of country do we want to be? Was Kanye right?*  How do we walk toward the future without leaving others behind? There’s probably a ton more but you’ve got people talking and some of those conversations are translating to significant action.

You’ve shown us how to accelerate Globalism. 

 A mono-polar word works when there are institutions that give the rest of the world confidence in leadership. With your presidency, you’ve accelerated the need for other nations to take on leadership on the global stage and accelerated the start multi-polar political reality we’ll have to navigate for years to come.**

Thanks again for your work so far. Can’t wait to see what other things you have in stored.

Best,

Chika Umeadi

*Kanye said “Racism still alive, they just be concealing it.” Actually…. #Charlottesville

**Most will argue we were already in a transition to a multi-polar reality globally. I’d agree when looking at economic and military might. However, with Trumps presidency, we’ve fragmented our power in the political space by bringing Russia to prominence and creating uncertainty in US leadership.