Michelle Snyder Brings a Creative Spirit to Marketing and Investing
Michelle Snyder is McKesson Ventures’ newest partner, having joined the firm in late 2020. But Snyder is a digital health veteran and she’s seen innovation in the industry from every angle, from marketing to mentoring to investing. In a recent StartUp Health Fireside Chat, Snyder took a look back at her career to date and showed how throughout her working life, she’s been willing to roll up her sleeves and develop creative solutions to challenges.
Epocrates was a startup whose primary product was drug information on the Palm Pilot—the state-of-the-art device at the time. The startup launched in 1999 and “I think we got 300 doctors on the first day. It was crazy.” Snyder says the drug look-up product became popular because, first of all, it solved a real problem—doctors needed drug dosing and interaction information, and they couldn’t drag an 80-pound drug guide around with them—and secondly, the company focused its marketing on residents and younger doctors, which successfully got older doctors interested in the product. The company originally monetized through connections with pharma, but it eventually developed one of the first successful “freemium” models.
One of the reasons Epocrates was so successful was that it empowered physicians to evangelize the product rather than relying on advertising or cold calls. The company also established an exclusive group called the Epocrates Advocates, for physicians who had been practicing for a while and had some cachet. In other words, the Epocrates Advocates were among the first digital “influencers.” By the time Snyder left Epocrates, there were about 3,000 doctors in the Epocrates Advocates program.
Snyder found her way into investment through a short investment strategy consulting project at investment firm InterWest Partners. She soon evolved from her consultant role into an executive-in-residence position. “You spend half your time looking for investments and the other half helping out portfolio companies,” she said. “That was a great balance for me because once you’ve been an operator, it’s in your blood. That’s where I ended up getting more excited thinking about technologies that treat the patient as a consumer and technologies that start moving towards personalization.”
After her tenure at InterWest, Snyder moved to Welltok, a consumer health platform where “it was really relevant whether you were a health plan, whether you were a large self-insured employer, whether you were a provider health system.” At Welltok, she was marketing to employers and health plans rather than selling to providers, and doing so with a modest budget.
Now that Snyder has been at multiple startups and gained experience in investment strategy and executive dynamics, she has a good idea of the mindset she is looking for in a startup team. “Being in healthcare for so long, I’m one of those old fogies that’s like, ‘Healthare’s really complex. You need to have people that really understand healthcare,’ But I do think you need some other team members that come from outside of healthcare,” she said. “They kind of bring a different perspective and some different thinking … People on the team have to have some real knowledge and experience in healthcare, but you also need other people—whether it be with amazing marketing experience, or technology experience—that are complimenting that. People who are adaptable and flexible.”
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