We Are Bullish on Oscar and Its Audacity to Transform Healthcare

Mar 3, 2021

The past year underscored the vital role healthcare plays in our lives: we relied on doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and countless others to keep us and our loved ones safe during a devastating pandemic. For many, the experience was also a sharp reminder of how confusing, impersonal, and expensive our healthcare system can be.

From the start, Oscar’s mission has been to build a better alternative. Mario, Josh, and Kevin aimed to address the challenges of the US healthcare system by using new technologies and approaches to care - delivering excellent, affordable treatment with the personalized attention of a family doctor. In today’s IPO, Oscar took an important step towards realizing its vision for a generation of Americans. I am proud of the team’s extraordinary progress and honored to have played a small role in their journey over the last seven years.

Looking back, it’s easy to forget how few people believed in the company early on. Many investors were skeptical that a health insurance startup could be built by technology entrepreneurs. But the tenacity, vision, and passion I perceived in Josh and Mario convinced me that Oscar had the makings of a transformative company.

I have known Josh for over a decade as another builder who excels as both an investor and entrepreneur. When he first brought me into Oscar as a small angel investor, the task facing the company sounded daunting. After meeting Mario in 2013, however, I became confident that the team could tackle it. Mario immediately impressed me with his knowledge of healthcare, his zeal to fix the industry, his integrity, and his leadership. As we took a hard look at the problem Oscar was solving, I also saw how much this part of the industry needed to be disrupted. So, in 2014, we wrote the largest check in our young firm’s history and invested $55 million into Oscar. In the following years, we committed further capital, nearly tripling the size of our investment.

Great founders perceive a gap between how the world works today and how it should work - and then harness top talent and innovations to close that gap. Mario and Josh understood that health insurance was patients’ entrypoint to the $4 trillion healthcare industry but was profoundly broken. Instead of helping sick people navigate the healthcare system or improving treatment, health insurance companies were designed to process claims. Rickety, outdated technology infrastructure has prevented them from addressing these problems. Most lumbering incumbents weren’t built to innovate. Many can’t even analyze the data to distinguish less expensive, higher-quality doctors from more expensive, lower-quality ones - let alone use this information to better coordinate care. It’s no surprise that the average net promoter score for health insurers is an abysmal 12. [1]

Most incumbents treated the status quo as a necessary evil, focusing their energy on influencing policy to preserve profits rather than finding ways to create value for customers. But Oscar was determined to solve the problems competitors considered too hard.

By putting patients first, Oscar created a platform that offered a superior customer experience. By building a modern technology stack, Oscar could use insights from user engagement to encourage customers to pursue cost-effective treatment options. In 2014, Oscar became the first health insurer to make telemedicine free, waiving co-pays for patients when they opted for digital appointments. New virtual primary care offerings are driving further savings by enhancing chronic disease management and routing patients to the highest value providers. Oscar’s flexible platform also allows it to partner with less tech-enabled health insurers, helping them launch products faster and more seamlessly.

Beyond its ambitious approach to health insurance, a key reason we bet on Oscar was our deep conviction in its CEO, and the team he formed around him. Building Oscar required getting so much right at once - even as incumbents did whatever they could to slow the company down. Without Mario’s unique persistence and grit, Oscar would not have won this battle. As we saw Mario’s hard work pay off and his ambitions to innovate healthcare grow, we doubled-down on Oscar as long-term investors.

With exciting plans for expansion and a relentless commitment to making the healthcare system work better for everyone, the most amazing milestones in Oscar’s story are yet to come. We are excited to continue our partnership with Josh, Mario, and the Oscar team as they embark on their next chapter.

[1] Across all customers, by contrast, Oscar’s average net promoter score is over 30. For customers who use an Oscar physician, it’s 75.

**Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of Joe Lonsdale and are not the views of Eight Partners VC, LLC ("8VC") or its respective affiliates. The post is not directed to any investors or potential investors, and does not constitute an offer to sell — or a solicitation of an offer to buy — any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

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