At 3AM in the morning..
“Hi, Jini, this is Obama.”
“Shutup, yeah right, who is this?”
“Haha. I get this all the time. Jini, this is the President of the United States of America.”
“Holy shit—- I’m so sorry Mr. President. How can I help you? (?)”
“Jini, your country needs you… *queue Wonderwoman music* … to fix Healthcare.gov.”
Jini Kim is my new superhero. She came to talk to the KPCB fellows this past week. She was by far my favorite speaker and by far the badass-iest of them all. Her passion for the healthcare space is deeply rooted in her family background. With parent immigrants from Korea who had little to no English capacity, Jini was tasked to be the “third parent” and translator for the family. Jini grew up caring for her autistic brother, having to write her brother’s health forms among other things.
After working as a PM in Google, most notably working on Google Health, she co-founded Nuna Health, a data warehouse for health and medical information.
At Nuna, “every row of data is a life whose story should be told with dignity.” I think that is beautiful; and I think that is a good bite-sized piece of what the company (through Jini) is trying to achieve.
While starting up on Nuna Health, however, she got this mysterious call from the President of the US. She and other men (note: she was the only woman, a problem typical in the tech world, but that’s a blog post for later!) joined forces to fix the Healthcare.gov website. It took them about 8 months, dozens of literally sleepless nights, a bajillion website crashes, but overall millions in sign-ups. After being on the cover of Time magazine, she received more credibility for her work.
But also, after being so burnt out and becoming a little “weird” as she put it, she played hard to get with John Doerr, who begged her to take his investment. She received funding from some of the best VCs in town and is now on track to save the healthcare system once more with Nuna Health.
The most remarkable thing about Jini and her talk was that she was not your typical Silicon Valley speaker. She did not talk about machine learning as if it was a buzz word that every company had to mention otherwise they weren’t cool enough. (Too many SV nuts out there nowadays who throw the word around for the sake of it). She talked about the applications of data and machine learning to help give voices to those “rows of data” or people left ignored, one of which is her own brother. She did not talk about self-driving cars, high-tech robotics, and all the futuristic mumbo jumbo. She talked about the pressing problems in healthcare today and how technology can be meaningful if only it was geared towards the right goals.
Frankly, I am TIRED of all the bigots trapped in this Silicon Valley bubble who have no care for developing worlds or people being left behind by the next phase of technology. There are people, groups, countries even that don’t give a fuck about flying cars or artificial intelligence because they can’t even meet their most basic needs. While all this research into new technologies is fascinating, we’re leaving them behind.
I agree with Jini that Silicon Valley has a responsibility to cater to the usually ignored population, to the developing nations, to the rest of the world that needs these solutions the most. I speak strongly about this because I am a soft voice amongst all the voices and I’m scared that my voice too will fade, just by influence of being here. But I hope to keep my resilience strong and voice loud, just as Jini’s is.