Investor, advisor, operator, podcaster, blogger, speaker, Board member, mentor, mother, wife, volunteer. Take inventory of the many hats of Lisa Suennen, aka the Venture Valkyrie, and you understand why I see her as the Renaissance Woman of Healthcare. Ron Popeil couldn’t incorporate this many features into a contraption – yes, she slices and dices healthcare and technology, places bets on the best of them, and she deploys a whole lot more tools in her Mary Poppins-rich toolbox.
Two months ago, Lisa announced she was leaving GE Ventures, where she was Senior Managing Director, to do something new. This week, she announced that she was putting on her “big boots,” under the umbrella of Manatt Health.
First, let’s talk about those many hats that Lisa wears. Lisa comes by her technology savvy through DNA, I believe: her father developed and held many patents and was a serial entrepreneur. Lisa was born not far from the homes of inventors Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, in Princeton, NJ. The family moved to California where Dad launched his invention of the first real-time ultrasound machine and expanded his technology research and innovation work. So the apple didn’t fall too far from the paternal tree.
While she’s best-known for being a very visible woman in health-technology investing and building venture funds, Lisa is social media savvy well beyond the profiles of those in her tech-investing peer group. Lisa started the Venture Valkyrie blog in 2010. The Tech-Tonics podcast, co-hosted with David Shaywitz, was an early entrant into that medium, launching in 2015 (today, podcasts in healthcare are multiplying like rabbits). You would get smarter by mining the archive of TechTonics: so many hours of insightful (and funny!) conversations from which to learn. These co-hosts are pictured here, donning their jerseys of personal sports passion.
Lisa is a mentor, both out-and-proudly and quietly, too. Long understanding and experiencing life as a woman in tech in Silicon Valley, well before media covered stories and #MeToo emerged, Lisa co-founded CSweetener. The organization matches women healthcare leaders to mentors, a supportive clearinghouse to help grow and empower women in tech. CSweetener also curates a Speakers Bureau to help alleviate the ongoing challenge of “manels” (men on panels) at technology meetings.
Lisa’s also a frequent public speaker, in both the U.S. and globally. In the past few months, she’s traveled to Australia and Ireland, for example, to spread her knowledge about digital health and technology to healthcare providers, investors, and innovators. A few weeks ago, I met with the Dublin-based team of HealthXL, where Lisa sits on the Board. The group waxed lyrically about Lisa’s involvement and important voice and energy supporting their important efforts to bolster innovation in health, globally.
I spent time with Lisa on the phone this week, she from her home base of Silicon Valley and me at mine on the east coast. In full transparency, I was aware that Lisa had the option of selecting from a broad range of opportunities for this next professional step. I asked her, among this rich trove of possible futures, “Why Manatt?”
She synthesized the many reasons into one over-arching response: joining Manatt would afford her, she said, “the opportunity to combine the familiar with the new, and do it in a setting that provides many degrees of freedom.”
Manatt has offices around the U.S., and so gives Lisa the geographic bandwidth to explore and inform healthcare from coast-to-coast. Manatt has operations in Albany (NY), Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County (CA), Palo Alto, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. And now, Mill Valley, CA.
A recent article in the American Lawyer discussed Manatt’s evolving business model and portfolio of services, moving from a law firm to an integrated health advisory organization. Lisa will be part of this ongoing evolution of Manatt as a professional services firm across many industries from healthcare to financial services, music and media — with a venture fund in the mix, as well, an important aspect of Lisa’s job description in the firm.
In my own work forecasting healthcare, I do 1:3:5 year snapshots, with the 5 years more of a scenario planning exercise than a straight line projection given tech, social, political and wild card uncertainties across our health/care ecosystem.
For the many year’s I’ve known Lisa, one of my personal asks has been to help inform my own advisory work — especially, in forecasting the future of healthcare. Lisa’s eyes see business plans for health/care innovations that are often pre-minimum viable product stage. So I asked Lisa, given that I’ll be writing the 2019 Health Populi Trendcast in a matter of weeks. What does she see achieving serious growth on the health care and technology front over the next 3 to 5 years? Four key areas are in her radar:
- Voice as user interface, as a tool to free doctors from computer screens, provide older people access to things they don’t have, and enable simple queries for parents. “Voice is a big democratizer,” Lisa believes. “Alexa et. al. can speak in multiple languages.”
- IoT (Internet of Things), Lisa foresees, will feature sensors in “everything:” medical devices, products, medications, among them. We’ll also see more and more connected health data in the IoT ecosystem for different applications.
- AI will have more health-evidence supporting its adoption, perhaps, she expects, the first AI-developed FDA approved drug, Lisa expects.
- Another key development to watch: the massive vertical integration going on among the various stakeholders in healthcare across providers, payors, tech, medtech and pharma. (THINK: CVS + Aetna, Apple aligning with LabCorp and Quest, and Walmart potentially purchasing a health plan).
Finally, we discussed the next phase of her career — what’s most exciting?
“Reconnecting with my love of growing and building things,” Lisa confessed. “I haven’t been doing that for a while. While I’ve been helping other organizations build and grow from the sidelines. I can now enjoy being back to owning something. It’s energizing!”
For more on the Renaissance of the Renaissance Woman in health care, you can read Lisa’s personal announcement on her must-read Venture Valkyrie blog. Here’s also a terrific profile in STAT on Lisa, titled, “The gatekeeper: If you want to make it big in health care, it’ll help to get past Lisa Suennen first.”
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Kudos to Mannatt for recognizing that Lisa Suennen wears many hats in and beyond healthcare. She’s forged a role with the firm that incorporates and leverages so many of her skills, interests, and experiences. The company demonstrates a lot of savvy and prescience for doing so. And, if any one person can help make healthcare better, it’s the great Venture Valkyrie.
Yes, she’s my friend. But she’s a brilliant colleague and valued healthcare-whisperer, which is how I got to learn about and value, first-hand, her many professional gifts.
I am all health/care, all the time in my work and in daily living. ‘Tis the season of forecasts and wishes in my world. My forecast and wish for Lisa and the Manatt family: Be well, Prosper, and Keep Building Health. I believe you will.