Kevin Krauth: Confessions of a Millennial with Big Dreams

My name is Kevin, and I’m a millennial. Based on the stereotypes alone, that means I’m entitled, impatient, impetuous, and addicted to Snapchat. And if I’m being honest with myself, I mostly agree (except for the Snapchat part).

I’d like to think that my millennial, call it, “impertinence,” isn’t my fault. I’ve grown up in a time of unprecedented technological progress, witnessing the rise of the Internet, the proliferation of the personal computer, and the advent and subsequent takeover of the smartphone. Whether it’s communication, transportation, or information, there isn’t an industry that hasn’t been in some way transformed by technology. Things keep getting easier, faster, better. Innovation now occurs at such velocity that by the time someone identifies a problem, it seems there are already a hundred startups dedicated to solving it.

That’s why when I was walking away from a doctor’s appointment a few months ago, I was particularly perplexed by a dilemma that seemed at once anachronistic and yet surprisingly persistent. I had just completed a routine checkup at a clinic near my apartment in San Francisco. Before the frosted glass doors swung closed on the “metro-chic” lobby of One Medical–another startup–I found myself doing what any good millenial would do when confronted with a problem: I pulled out my phone and started searching for a solution.

“How much am I spending on healthcare?” I wondered.

My question was straightforward. The answer, less so.

At the time, I carried a high-deductible plan with an HSA partially funded by my employer. I also had a supplemental VSP for my contact lenses and regular eye exams. There may also have had a separate dental plan which was discussed during my company’s open enrollment presentation, but I can’t be sure as I was likely reading TechCrunch on my iPhone at the time.

To find out how much I was spending on healthcare, I would have to check a pay stub to see how much I was withholding. I could then add that number to the aggregate of all my claims from my primary care insurance, cross-referencing my VSP and my dental plans to avoid leaving anything out. And if I wanted to be especially diligent, I would also have to look at my personal credit and debit card statements to see what other healthcare costs I had incurred but didn’t charge to my HSA.

Four failed login attempts on three different websites later, and I had had enough. All I wanted to know was how much I was personally spending on healthcare. And if I–by all accounts a well-informed, tech savvy, enterprising individual–had this problem, then how many others were experiencing something similar and just shrugging it off? And how then did that lack of knowledge impact people’s healthcare spending behavior? Or worse, how did it affect their health overall?

I decided to dig a little deeper. And thus began the story of Orderly Health.

In the ensuing months I drank more coffee than a dutch barista, scuttling across town to meet with “startup-minded” people–and in San Francisco, that means nearly everyone–to find a sympathetic compatriot willing to take up arms for the cause. I reached out to friends, neighbors, co-workers, ultimately resorting to trolling the blogosphere for people interested in healthcare who might be willing to join me in my odyssey. At one point, I managed to cobble together a loose confederation of six people sincerely committing to work on solving this problem. For various reasons, that group dissolved, and I was considering giving up.

That’s when I met James.

Like me, James is an impatient self-starter who would rather work on fixing something than wait for someone else to fix it. He was in his last month at Medical School at the University of Cincinnati when we first got connected through his brother. A handful of Google hangouts, two hours at a hipster bar in Hayes Valley, and about 100 exchanged e-mails later, we decided to team up.

Before quitting my job to work on Orderly full time, I was a product manager at Electronic Arts making a tidy salary overseeing the development of software that–of all things–helped internal teams use data to better understand their consumers. As my initial question about the cost of healthcare morphed into an obsession, it became clear that I could no longer focus on my “day job.”

James planned to defer his residency indefinitely, such was his passion to make a lasting impact in the healthcare industry. He was equally vexed by the lack of consumer transparency in consumer healthcare, and his initial spark of curiosity was billowed into a full-blown flame by his experience trying to offer advice to patients during his final year of rotation in medical school. While he had the medical training and familiarity with the industry to understand the problem, he needed someone who understood the technical and business processes that might lead to a solution. We both immediately saw in the other a gap in our own skills fulfilled, and each of us basically dared the other into making the next move.

James and I are now full-time “entrepreneurs,” which is really just a fancy way of saying we’re foolish, unemployed, and broke, with one notable exception: We’re working hard at being foolish, unemployed, and broke, and we have a vision to work toward. We want to develop Orderly into the “mint” of healthcare, aggregating data from a number of different sources, packaging it in a clean and digestible format, and offering up insights about ways users can save money, get better care, and overall live better.

We’re very early on in the creation of an enterprise, but what we lack in experience, we more than compensate for the energy we bring. We’re running on a diet of ambition, optimism, naivete, and the ever looming specter of failure. If we’re successful, we can take pride in knowing that we are making a difference in the world, however small it may be. And in the end if we fail, well then at least we’ll know we tried.

And maybe that helps explain why we millennial are the way we are. We’re entitled, impatient, and impetuous because we know we have the ability to change the way things are, and we’re willing to work for that change.

As for the addiction to Snapchat, I have no explanation.

Kevin Krauth is a co-founder of Orderly Health.

2 thoughts on “Kevin Krauth: Confessions of a Millennial with Big Dreams

  1. Being born in the early 60’s, I learned a few things that I now take for granted as you may take your millennial technical knowledge for granted. I have a basic suggestion from the information you mentioned in your blog. Please don’t take offense; I am from an era that believes in simplicity, as in KISS=Keep It Simple Stupid.” When you start to think something is getting too complex or overwhelming, step back and ask yourself how can this be done easier with fewer steps. Easier to understand is always better.

    Do yourself a favor (or challenge) for 30 days for your home life. Turn the smart bits of your phone off and only use it as a phone. No Wi-Fi, no texting, no IM, no Snapchat. Then get some Velcro. Stick one half of it to the wall in you home then the other to your phone, then attach 15-foot string to both pieces of the Velcro. Unplug your computer. Set you cable, dish network to the local channels only. I use to live in French Camp, 80 miles east of San Francisco. On good TV days we got eight channels. If the president was on, there was no TV.

    Now challenge your millennial friends or colleagues to do the same. You will find that you will become a better problem solver.

    Oh yeah, get some large yellow college-ruled note pads and No.2 pencils. They will be helpful, too.

    I tune myself out every six months for at least two weeks.

  2. This is an interesting story, and I admit that I am too old to understand millennials. Nonetheless, I do have a question: When did “technology”–and perhaps more specifically “tech”–come to mean software, and more specifically an app? Tech used to mean making physical things. Of course, we do still need the phone to run the app, and the Internet of things needs things to interface to. Someone is designing that stuff, but we don’t hear much about it. RadioShack went out of business in part because too few people learned to engage with things–other than their phones. And parents found peace in their children being glued to a screen, giving the parents more time to be glued to their screens. How do we get back to stuff?

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