How might venture investments help accelerate mindfulness and alternative health practices?
In January, members of a newly created club, FitX, at the Ross School of Business had the unique opportunity to explore this question by creating an investment thesis for a leading venture capital group in the wellness industry. The investment collaborative, Bridge Builders Collaborative, invests in companies building mindfulness and mind-training solutions through technology, including Headspace, Happify, Pear Therapeutics, and Insight Timer.
Eager to gain an action-based learning experience at the intersection of health and technology, Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA students Rohan Kalra, MBA `21; Robert Kasper, MBA `20; Sonja Manning, MBA `21; Payal Parikh, MBA `21; Sonal Thawani, MBA `21; and Gus Young, MBA `20, along with Zachary Eddy, a healthcare consultant, analyzed how service marketplaces can set the stage for the rapid acceleration of the wellness movement.
“The best way to learn about an emerging and rapidly changing industry is to dive in by working on real projects with industry experts and leaders. I’m fortunate my peers at Ross share this ethos,” said Sonja Manning, FitX founder and president. “Through networking conversations, I met Charlie Hartwell (operating partner at BBC), who had been exploring the space for a year. After identifying a shared passion in this space, we kicked off this project.”
The six-week-long process was involved and illuminating. From interviews with energy healers and neurologists to wellness entrepreneurs and consumers, the students set off to understand the alternative medicine marketplace. The team then paired the firsthand accounts with in-depth market analysis to drive the ultimate investment thesis. Throughout the process, the students consulted with Zell Lurie Institute Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mike Johnson for mentorship.
“As with many business projects, deciphering a clear signal for investment required us to hear and read all of the relevant facts, from stakeholders and our individual research. The challenging – and most critical – part was distilling that into an actionable and trustworthy recommendation on what a good investment looks like,” said Sonal Thawani, MBA ’21.
The team’s extensive research suggests that the demand for alternative practices and practitioners is growing, yet the two-sided marketplace remains fragmented. Technology, especially if embraced by practitioners, will be the key to value creation. Platforms within this two-sided marketplace must fulfill diverse consumer and practitioner needs. The analysis resulted in six core elements for alternative practitioner marketplaces (see below).
“I enjoyed working with Ross on this project,” said Hartwell. “As a highly skilled, cross-functional team, the due diligence was thorough, thoughtful, and well-presented. The group was willing to dig into this segment and, furthermore, was easy to collaborate with and provided good insights.”
Students interested in getting involved with similar projects can consider joining FitX. FitX is a professional innovation club focused on companies in the mental or physical fitness space that are changing how consumers access and/or track their health or wellness.