Joshua Kushner Has Quietly Amassed 30 Employees And $40 Million To Shake Up Health Care With A Startup, Oscar
You won’t find Joshua Kushner tweeting his whereabouts, tagged in Instagram photos or blogging about tech.
Although the 28-year-old dates a Victoria’s Secret model, the entrepreneur and venture capitalist keeps to himself. He rarely gives interviews and his firm’s website, Thrive Capital, doesn’t even list the companies he’s invested in, despite an impressive portfolio which includes Instagram, NastyGal, Fab and GroupMe.
That may be why Kushner has been able to keep his plans to disrupt the health care industry quiet for nearly two years. But under everyone’s nose he’s poached engineers from Google, plucked co-founders from Tumblr and Microsoft, and raised $40 million.
The company Kushner is launching with Microsoft’s former director of health care, Kevin Nazemi and former head of engineering and operations at Tumblr, Mario Schlosser, is called Oscar. It will be a full-blown insurance company that rivals longstanding entities such as Aetna and UnitedHealth. But Oscar will be transparent, making bills and charges easy for customers to consume via technology.
Oscar is set to launch in January 2014. Kushner’s team was just granted a New York health insurance license this month. Oscar will begin enrolling New Yorkers this fall who are seeking insurance under Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Raising $40 million before launch isn’t always smart. It didn’t work out for Sean Parker, who raised $34 million for a social video company Airtime, or Bill Nguyen who raised $41 million fo! r Color which flopped. But we’re told all $40 million of this fundraise, which comes from Khosla Ventures, Thrive Capital and Founders Fund, is necessary. Reinventing the health care industry isn’t easy, and most of the money Kusher has raised isn’t operational. When you have an insurance company, there are reserve requirements. Much of the $40 million will be stashed away in case of emergency, thanks to industry regulations.
Oscar is Kushner’s third venture. His first, Vostu, was a gaming company that rivaled Zynga in Brazil but has since gone through a series of layoffs. Thrive Capital, the investment firm Kushner started three years ago, has raised more than $150 million to invest in startups.
drag2share: Massive Tumblr Security Flaw Requires Everyone On iPhone, iPad To Change Their Password (YHOO, AAPL)
Tumblr has asked all users of its app on iPhone and iPad to change their password and download an update of the social blogging software in order to cure a security flaw. The news came in a very brief blog post by the company that did not explain the extent of the security breach.
Tumblr did say in a footnote that passwords could be “‘Sniffed’ in transit on certain versions of the app.”
The flaw was reportedly discovered by a reader of The Register, who had been asked to screen apps for his corporate employer. The unnamed employee tested popular apps on the company’s wifi network, and found that password logins were being transmitted in a plain-text, non-encrypted way — and therefore were entirely visible to anyone clever enough who wanted to see them.
All Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wanted to talk about yesterday on her Q2 2013 earnings call was the company’s new product portfolio, Tumblr, and how it hoped to grow its audience.
But all the Wall Street analysts wanted to ask her about was the effect of “programmatic” advertising and RTB, which appear to be the culprit of falling ad prices at Yahoo.
Some called it Yahoo’s “ugly” problem.
Revenues declined 1% to $1.07 billion. She also lowered her year-end revenue guidance slightly. Display revenue (ex-traffic acquisition costs) was $423 million, an 11 percent decrease.
“Programmatic” or “RTB” advertising are ads that are bought and sold in super-fast, automated online auctions. They’re designed to find the best ad inventory at the cheapest available price for buyers — and thus have a tendency to drive down prices for publishers like Yahoo.
In fact, some are pinning the blame for Yahoo’s yet-to-materialize turnaround on RTB.
Two analysts asked Mayer about the effect of RTB on Yahoo’s stagnant ad biz. She said, “We can do better in display and this will be a clear focus for the business,” and later added, “Our display business has felt some negative impact, particularly due to the shifts around programmatic buying. We need to do a much bet! ter job here in order to reverse these trends.”
Analysts appear to regard the RTB trend with horror:
Sameet Sinha of B. Riley & Co. told Bloomberg, “We could have another year of absolutely no growth.”
BGC analyst Colin Gillis told Reuters, “This core business is going to be ugly for quite some time before it gets better.”
In a bid to capture the “make your dreams a reality” zeitgeist of Kickstarter, American Express launched a new venture Monday that gives average people funding for their hobbies. It goes by the Twitter-friendly name: #PassionProject. Hashtag included.
For the next six months, AmEx will give 10 people $2,000 to give their side projects wings.
AmEx VP of public affairs Elizabeth Crosta said that the idea was fueled by the nagging question of how people define success. Crosta noted that after conducting its LifeTwist study, AmEx found that 75% of Americans believe “passion projects and the idea of pursuing one’s passion is necessary to help live that fulfilled life.”
But there was another motivator as well.
“What inspired it is that we love Kickstarter,” Crosta told Business Insider. Almost everyone has a friend who’s done one. “But that mechanism would be quite a challenge for us to do.”
This is not a Kickstarter equivalent. There’s no crowdfunding element or a micro-site.
Rather, #PassionProject will live in already-existing social platforms, namely YouTube and Tumblr.
Thus far, AmEx posted videos from charity:water founder Scott Harrison and “Working Class Foodies” creator Rebecca Lando on its YouTube channel explaining how they gained success from their side projects.
But right below the how-to videos — which will be updated regularly — consumers can send a message explaining what their passion project is and why it’s important. In 120 characters or less. (It isn’t 140 because the #PassionProject tag is put on the end.)
“When you hit submit, it offers three sharing buttons,” Crosta said.
The Tumblr component will launch in a few weeks and will feature bloggers explaining how Ameri! can Expr ess can help consumers pursue their passion projects.
“If your passion is to take kids on an American road trip for the summer, one thing we could offer is Starwood [hotel] points,” Crosta explained.
AmEx worked with Digitas on the YouTube experience. Ogilvy is helming the Tumblr component.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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