Sooah Cho joins SignalFire as Partner for Health and Life Sciences Tech
Published on Sep 05, 2023
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” asked Mary Oliver in her famous poem, “The Summer Day.” Facing life and death moments of loved ones has led me to reflect on this question deeply over the past decade. Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to invest in saving lives. It’s time for us to transform all aspects of the health and life sciences value chain by reimagining how biopharma companies develop, providers deliver, and payers pay for healthcare.
That’s why I’m thrilled to join SignalFire as a Partner to fund and support the most audacious founders building in health and life sciences tech.
Healthcare is not for the faint of heart. Those who work in the industry are often driven by an unstoppable passion that stems from a very personal story. That’s certainly the case for me. I supported loved ones navigating difficult end-of-life decisions and complex finances for years before losing them to suicide, cancer, and dementia. Long after the loud applause for medical workers faded during the pandemic, I personally witnessed the moral injury suffered by my husband, a doctor and expert in health system innovation, who has been navigating a system that makes it incredibly challenging to do what he loves the most—simply caring for his patients. It’s no surprise that the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has been raising alarm on the unprecedented labor crisis in the industry, with 1 in 5 healthcare workers quitting their job since the start of the pandemic and an additional 31% who’ve considered leaving.
My journey of exploring ways to reimagine healthcare began more than a decade ago when I started working with healthcare and biopharma executives at Michael Porter’s boutique strategy consulting firm. He was a pioneer of value-based care as a framework for transforming the healthcare system. As that became the industry’s northstar, I knew we’d need new payment models, clinical and operational workflows, and data infrastructure technologies to make value-based care a reality.
This led me to pursue a joint-degree MBA at Harvard Business School and MPP at Harvard Kennedy School, where I worked with startup founders at the HBS Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and built my digital health investment thesis as a Rock Venture Partner with Bain Capital. After exploring AI and machine learning, open source business models, and the latest policy regulations, I decided to try building HealthTech products myself. I worked with an awesome team to launch nationwide prescription delivery and virtual care products at CVS Health, one of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S. that affects the lives of 110M+ people and generates $322.5B in revenue.
As the dust settled from CVS Health’s Aetna acquisition, I knew it was time to move on from the Fortune 6 corporate giant and into the startup world with Devoted Health. This was in 2018, when Devoted was still pre-revenue, long before it emerged as a $12B+ decacorn transforming senior care. I still remember the sense of purpose when we welcomed the first member to our Medicare Advantage plan and celebrated processing our very first claim on the platform.
Investing at the earliest stages with SignalFire’s AI Lab
I’ve approached my work as an investor with a similar lens inspired by my own startup job search, seeking the leading indicators rather than the results of success. At Underscore VC, this approach enabled me to partner with B2B tech founders in FinTech, HealthTech, and e-commerce, including leading life sciences tech products used across the drug development cycle from R&D to commercial stages before exponential growth.
Many investors demand to see “traction” before they even take a meeting with a founder, let alone write a check, but like my decision to invest my own time and career in a pre-revenue startup like Devoted, I’d be delighted to invite you to SignalFire’s AI Lab and invest in your journey at the earliest stages. Henry David Thoreau famously said: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”
I love when founders share their “castles in the air” with me. There may be no demo or traction yet, but simply a uniquely talented founding team with a differentiated go-to-market strategy or proprietary technology tackling a massive opportunity. My goal is to dream alongside founders and help “lay the foundations” to bring their castles to life. It’s a joy to sit down together to dogfood MVP products, recruit early team members and customers to take the same leap of faith with us, and design experiments to navigate the winding path to product-market fit. So, no matter how early you are in your discovery, building, and scaling journey, I’d love the opportunity to get to know you, hear your story, and partner with you as you get started.
SignalFire: An exceptional team and Portfolio Success as a Service
As a product builder, GTM strategist, and policy nerd, I can roll up my sleeves alongside founders, but I humbly admit that I won’t be able to address all their needs. That’s why I’m thrilled to join forces with my dream team at SignalFire. I’ll be working with YY to build our health and life sciences tech practice alongside legendary investors (Chris Farmer, Wayne Hu), leading healthtech luminaries (Tom Peterson, Frank Williams), and world-class tech talent from Google, Oracle, Stripe, Netflix, and TechCrunch (Ilya Kirnos, Chris Scoggins, Jim Stoneham, Tawni Cranz, Josh Constine).
As an AI-native venture capital firm, SignalFire is powered by an AI data platform called Beacon that tracks half a trillion data points to guide our investment team’s work and extend talent and customer intelligence for portfolio founders. It is the only VC fund with a tech platform to help me discover category-creating founders, while also scratching my itch as a former product leader—I can sit side-by-side with engineers to build again. I ultimately view founders as my customers, and the SignalFire team shares this philosophy of obsessing over founder success. That’s earned SignalFire an NPS of 85 amongst founders,** which is unheard of in the world of traditional VCs.
Reimagining drug development, precision medicine, and disease modeling for health and longevity
The future of healthcare is no longer about simply replacing the fax machines and pagers that are widely used in the industry today (though I will be overjoyed when I no longer have to be disturbed by my husband’s pager at home.) It’s applying real-time data about you so providers, payers, and pharma companies can not only treat and prevent diseases, but also combat aging and increase longevity with hyper-personalized medicine.'
We’ve spent the past decade adopting electronic health records (EHR) to digitize healthcare data under the HITECH Act and now we’re at the verge of unlocking health data interoperability through TEFCA. The healthcare sector, which is $4.3 trillion in the U.S. and $12 trillion globally, is ripe for innovation. With significant advancements in AI and ML, open source technologies, and unprecedented access to digital data assets (e.g., biomarkers, genomic profiles, EHR data, claims data, nutrition data, social determinants of health, climate factors such as air quality, water quality, and natural disaster risks), we’re finally ready to usher in a new era of AI-enabled health and longevity for all.
Join our next BioMD community event on building and scaling healthtech startups by signing up here!
I believe this future will only be possible by bringing together the best talent from multiple disciplines. If you’re a founder, operator, “doctorpreneur,” R&D scientist, longevity researcher, climate scientist, or AI and ML engineer, I invite you to build this future together with our BioMD community by signing up here and connecting with me on Linkedin and Twitter. I can’t wait to work with you to build transformational health and life sciences tech products!
*SignalFire may engage Affiliate Advisors, Retained Advisors, and other consultants as listed above to provide their expertise on a formal or ad hoc basis. They are not employed by SignalFire and do not provide investment advisory services to clients on behalf of SignalFire. For more information on their specific roles, please contact us. Portfolio Company Endorsements: Certain portfolio company founders or Affiliate Advisors listed above may or may not be current investors in a SF fund in which they receive a fee reduction. Such fee reductions were not provided in exchange for or an incentive for their feedback, nor contingent upon the individual’s approval for SignalFire’s continued use. Please refer to our website for additional disclosures.
**Net Promoter Score is an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand. A score between 70–100 is excellent. Data as of March 2022, based on internally conducted surveys of 34 SignalFire founders.
*Portfolio company founders listed above have not received any compensation for this feedback and did not invest in a SignalFire fund. Please refer to our disclosures page for additional disclosures.
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