LeWeb: Fred Wilson on the wearable problem and the healthcare opportunity

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Fred Wilson has breakfast with Loïc Le Meur at LeWeb

After meditation and a photography discussion, LeWeb proper kicks off with breakfast with a VC: Fred Wilson

It’s not obvious at the time what the right investments. They’ve made investments in identity, mesh networks, healthcare and bitcoin this year – which is what they planned to do.

If Über went public in the next year, they could be valued by the markets at $40bn, so their valuation isn’t crazy. it’s 20 times valuation – and Fred thinks that it’s attainable by the best companies at the moment of flat. It’s not sustainable, but it can happen – and revenues will rise, bringing it back to more sensible ratios. Remember Über was conceived during the snowstorm of LeWeb a few years ago.

When regulation and disruption clash

Über combines ruthless execution with a swagger and an arrogance that he’s never seen before. These two things ar linked – but as they mature, they need to figure out how to become a more mature company, too, without the negative side-effects of their existing culture. Early on, they took the approach that they’d beg for forgiveness, not ask permission – but that’s what you have to do to be an entrepreneur and enter a market. But after a while it stops working. They need to start figuring out how to work with regulators.

Europe is a tough place. Angela Merkel is wrong on net neutrality, and if I could have a meeting with her, I’ll tell her why. Über is not going to kill yellow cabs in New York – but they will have to change to survive. Phone-based taxi ordering will become standard, and regulated and unregulated cars will exist alongside each other. Yellow Cabs will have to work with someone like Hailo.

We’re not in a bubble – we’re not going to see a dot.com or property-style crash.

Wearables are your personal mesh, connected via Bluetooth to your smartphone, and each other. They’re collecting and providing data for you. That’s the way Benedict Evans describes it, and that’s a very exciting vision to me.

There’s not necessarily going to be a single “smartwatch” that will win, but a range of devices that we’ll use. For example, it might be better if the car asked you questions, rather than you giving it directions. Oh, and driverless cars are coming quicker than anyone expected. We could have one in five years, if people wanted them. The barrier is human attitude, not technology. If we start interacting and telling a car what to do, and we see it execute it perfectly, we’ll get more comfortable with driverless cars.

The huge healthcare opportunity

Fred makes a point

People are taking care of their own wellness in a way that they never have before. They’re texting with their doctors, and renewing prescriptions over the phone. They’re instrumenting themselves with monitoring devices. If I could only invest in one thing, i’d invest in healthcare. There’s so much money in it – and people want to get well.

Look at companies that are connecting patients and doctors directly, that cut out middlemen like Über does. Identity and control of your data is vital though. They’re investing in OneName for that reason. Governments could be a huge facilitator of a decentralised identity system – but the problem is that they want to replace Facebook and Google, to support wrestling power from them.

The sharing economy and crowdfunding are now mainstream. Bitcoin has fallen out of favour. However, it’s growing and developing under the radar, and its underlying technology – the blockchain – can be used for other things, like identity. The fact that it’s less talked about is great – it makes it cheaper to invest in.

Predictions for 2015

  • We will start to see crowdfunding and sharing IPOs
  • We’re going to see people stub their toes in wearables
  • The watch won’t be the same kind of hit as the iPod or iPad
  • Look of an ecosystem of mesh devices, not just “wearables”
Fred Wilsoninvestmentleweb14start-upsventure capital

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.