Qualcomm Life chief tasked with growing wireless health care market
By PADMA NAGAPPAN, The Daily Transcript
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Valencia followed in her footsteps, launching his own real estate matching service soon after he finished college.
“It failed miserably. It was the mid-‘80s, the market started booming and sellers were receiving multiple bids, so no one needed a service that matched buyers with sellers,” Valencia said. “It was bad timing.”
So he got a job as a commercial broker and did very well for a few years, before the Gulf War happened and the market collapsed.
“I went from being on top of the world in my 20s and making a lot of money to having my net worth wiped out,” he said.
The experience taught him the industry was cyclical, so he instead launched a consulting company as an efficiency expert who helped clients save money during the recession.
The telecom industry deregulation then happened and opened up new avenues for Valencia, who advised clients on how to choose phone services and how to cut their phone bills in half.
“So I went from being jack of all trades to this area as my expertise,” he said.
If clients saved money, he got paid, but if not he got nothing.
The first year he made only $9,000, but in establishing the business he racked up credit card debts of more than $200,000.
This eventually evolved into ProfitLine, a business he built up from scratch which became a $35 million company and made it to the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies when he left six years ago.
ProfitLine functioned as an outsourced department in charge of wireless telecom services, negotiating carrier rates, managing services and devices and taking care of clients’ bills. Clients included Ernst & Young, The GAP, Inc.(NYSE: GPS) Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) and even the U.S. Postal Service.
“We created a new industry – telecom lifecycle management,” Valencia said.
He took a sabbatical for a couple years before Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) invited him to become a contract employee, focusing on its services business.
He was then asked to oversee Lifecomm, Qualcomm’s mobile health joint venture with Hughes Telematics andAmerican Medical Alert Corp. (Nadaq: AMAC)
“It was really more a financial investment and there wasn’t much for me to do, so I reported back to them and they asked me to focus on Qualcomm Life,” he said. “I told them I had no health care background and they said that’s ok, they have an ecosystem in place but need a business head to gain traction commercially.”
The ecosystem included experienced wireless health care executives like Don Jones, vice president of wireless health at Qualcomm, as well as the founder of the Wireless Life Sciences Association (WLSA) and co-founder of the West Wireless Health Institute.
In December last year, Qualcomm formally launched Qualcomm Life, a $100 million investment fund and a new gateway platform to improve the connectivity of mobile medical devices in patients’ homes.
Valencia is its vice president and general manager, tasked with growing the wireless health care market.
Its first release is the 2net platform, which connects wireless devices sent home with patients, with the hospital or caregiver’s systems.
It consists of a hub with a router that can be plugged into the patients’ home. There are multiple radios within the router that can connect multiple wireless devices. The hub is compatible across the board with almost all mobile devices.
“So instead of sending a patient home with a sensor for which they would need a Wi-Fi connection that may need to be set up, we give them the 2net hub with the device,” Valencia said.
There are no patient costs associated with the 2net platform and hub, since Qualcomm Life contracts with the makers of the wireless sensors and other mobile health care devices, such as those that track vital signs.
It provides the technology and the pairing, since there’s no easy way to connect a device with out an integrator, which is Qualcomm’s forte.
“This is also my background, where the crossover happens – managing multiple devices and integrating them,” Valencia said.
Device makers pay Qualcomm Life a subscription fee to get connected and set up the transmission.
“Our back end platform is extremely secure and exceeds HIPAA standards. Qualcomm is the biggest machine to machine integrator in the world,” he said.
Valencia said his division has a sizeable, growing group of employees working on a number of different wireless health measures, but declined to elaborate.
Helping track patients post-discharge is a growing market, with increased importance given the changes in health care laws through which insurers can penalize hospitals if patients return.
The company will launch the platform in Europe later this year. It also has a tie-up with Apollo Hospitals in India, to help the provider find an affordable way to track patients.
The $100 million fund set up has invested in companies like Cambridge Temperature Concepts, which helps couples determine when to conceive with a device worn by the woman under the arm, and Telcare, which enables parents to track whether a child with Type 1 diabetes is testing their blood glucose levels while at school.
Valencia said his company would look to invest in companies that reduce costs while increasing access to health care.
Rob McCray, president and CEO of the WLSA, said 2net will fill a critical gap in wireless health – affordability, reliability and easy connectivity.
“We called this concept a ‘smart pipe’ about 10 years ago. The health care sector needs such platforms that effectively reduce the investment risk for the development and deployment of services,” McCray said.
While there are other alternatives, McCray said Qualcomm’s 2net has a more comprehensive plan and its pedigree in reliable, secure and massively scalable communications technology gives it leverage.
“We want multiple devices to be able to connect, so we can enable disease management services you can’t even imagine today,” Valencia said.
-Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance writer.
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