December 27, 2022
Rick LeMoine: Well, hello again everyone. I’m Rick Lemoine and it is my extreme pleasure today to welcome Eric Langshur to the microphone at Day Zero. Eric is co-founder and partner managing partner of Abundant Ventures based in Chicago, and he is my first bestselling New York Times author that I’ve ever, I. Or probably ever met. So Eric great to have you here. Welcome.
Eric Langshur: Thank you, Rick. It’s great to be with.
Rick LeMoine: What we usually do is give you a couple of minutes to go over your background, where you went to school, where you’re from, and then how you got to your current place in. And I know this is a incredibly interesting story, so, take it away.
Eric Langshur: Well, you’re kind to say, so I’m not so sure. Well, I’m Canadian. Grew up in Montreal and went to. [00:01:00] College in Eastern Canada. and, but I actually, I didn’t go right after high school. I took a year off. Today we call it a gap year. Back then we called it not going to university
Rick LeMoine: right.
Eric Langshur: And along that way I realized that getting, getting an education would be path of lesser resistance. And it’s turned out to be true. I got my first job out of college with a aerospace company, Bratton Whitney, and not because I had ever wanted to be in the airplane business, but because they were hiring and, got very lucky cuz I had an amazing first boss who gave me a lot of responsibility and taught me to, work hard and show initiative. I’ve been doing that basically ever since, and I spent 13 years with their parent company, United Technologies. In the last couple of jobs with them, I ran their fuel cell division and Hamilton Standard propeller business. I went to. join a another [00:02:00] Canadian company, Bombardier Aerospace, a after that. And that was a wonderful experience for two years. And then in 2000, after having gotten, by the way, along the way, we moved to the us, moved to New York, and I went to to B School and then started. My first company in 2000 in the healthcare business, but really born out of a personal experience and have been a healthcare entrepreneur ever since, and started, more than a dozen companies and sold a bunch. And have been really loving working within this very important industry.
Rick LeMoine: I think about our only kind of connection right, so far would be that about a quarter of my med school class also went to U n b. So it’s it’s a small world.
Eric Langshur: That is a small world. That’s a small school. Yeah. Right.
Rick LeMoine: Yep. So now tell us [00:03:00] a little bit about Abundant Ventures and how that got started and what your kind of core piece of business there and how it’s going.
Eric Langshur: Well, we are I’d say that the first thing to know about us is we’re not organized as a traditional venture fund, which is to say we invest off our balance sheet. We’re about 10 years old and we play at the intersection of all things healthcare and digital. We are very comfortable being the first money in because we think of ourselves as operators, as opposed to just pure investors. So in the 10 years we’ve started 16 companies, we’ve sold 13. And we, it’s all clicked along very well in terms of our business returns because we’re really focused on, the, the really the question of abundance. So we wake up every day and think about, how are we gonna contribute to creating the world in which we wanna live? We’re re anchored in this, [00:04:00] what we think is a noble idea of being able to do good and do well. And that the way to a. A bigger slice of the pie is to grow the entire pie. And so we share in a disproportionate amount with with our entrepreneurs and our founders and our teams and Dan. And it’s really, it’s we’re headquartered in Chicago and it’s a really wonderful enterprise.
Rick LeMoine: Might some of our audience recognize any of the names of the companies that you’ve Fostered along the way.
Eric Langshur: well, one of our first companies was avia, which we started because we recognized early on that, many health systems, on the provider side, we’re really working. To working to improve their operations, and execute what amounts to be, very similar strategic plans. So, the, one of the core insights we had was, well, we can bring scale to this work for them and be a [00:05:00] purpose-built extender to develop, expertise on these, these digital transformations, on these strategies in these. That they need help with. And so Avia has been doing that, ever since, and it’s a fantastic member owned enterprise and having real impact. We’re in a boardroom now, every week and doing, board education and awareness about, what these strategies are and how they can have impact and what the key metrics wanna be at the C-suite level. And then we’re also, deeply embedded in helping at the front line with really executing the.
Rick LeMoine: Fantastic. It’s a tough time to be in, to be a provider in healthcare today. What are your observations on. Where it’s been, where it is now, and where it’s going.
Eric Langshur: Well, I think I’d start by saying that it’s really. It’s really important work and it’s difficult work. So I think [00:06:00] today, being, being a clinician is not easy with the, the forces acting, acting ’em, as and being a modern day health system, organizing this delivery machinery may be one of the most, complicated. Things there is to do. The degree and complexity of the force is acting on our, on our delivery system is just, it’s enormous. So, you know where it’s been, it’s where it is today, has evolved to, a low margin from a low margin. On average, set of set of businesses to a, on average, below margin set of set of businesses and you know where it’s going is the key question because something’s gotta be done differently. And I think it, this is where we see, at Abundant and really within AVI as well, we see great opportunity cuz the same plays. [00:07:00] That worked yesterday, aren’t necessarily gonna carry a suture tomorrow.
Rick LeMoine: So you still have Confidence and hope in the future. The sky is not falling. Where does that optimism come from besides your great experience?
Eric Langshur: I don’t know, Rick, that I would say I’m. Terribly optimistic, but I am I am anchored in a few, what I would just call, personal truths that relate to my participation in this, and it, it starts with really my perspective as a healthcare consumer. My family consumes a lot of healthcare. I have a son who’s had three open heart surgeries and will need a transplant down the road. I have a daughter who has a rare genetic condition that has, a whole series of sort of satellite challenges that she needs to manage. So we as a family, spend a lot of money with the healthcare system every year, and [00:08:00] our experience of it is I’d say it’s generally challenging and it’s a very important. In our, in our lives that we don’t, we don’t consume any good nearly to, to the level of this financially, let alone emotionally. So, that, that informs a perspective, that it’s really important work. It’s really important work. And it’s also consuming about 20% of our gdp. So it’s not just important for, the individual, cause we’re talking about people’s health, and lives being not just saved, but enriched. But now from from a national economic perspective, we’ve got to do better. And cuz we can’t continue. , or maybe we can right? But consuming more and more of our precious resources as a nation, as an economy, spent on this, on this. Good. So, within all of that, we see, we see opportunity because it is important. It’s not going away and it’s pretty messed up. And so, and we’ve got to nudge as. [00:09:00] Consumers of healthcare, but we’ve gotta help the the people that wake up every day to deliver care and help people. So we’re dedicated to that. And I’m optimistic that there are there’s advantage in there for everyone if we do this right.
Rick LeMoine: Yeah I’ve noticed over the years I’ve been around a little bit longer than you actually a whole lot longer. When people have a personal component to their North Star, their their thinking seems to me always to be clearer, more concise, and more on target. And I really appreciate you, going into your own. Struggles with healthcare. We’ve all had them. And they inform us in such a way that if we are clever as you have been not only can we fix that, but we can fix it for other people as well. And in doing that, there’s opportunity. And that’s what the world is all about. I.
Eric Langshur: I’m glad you said that, Rick, cuz you, I couldn’t agree more. And [00:10:00] we have really institutionalized that philosophy, that idea in our work. So, if you think about the the ladder of motivators was certainly, certainly we need to make enough money to put, food on the table and roof over our heads. And then above that, is, extrinsic motivators. that, that’s nice to get an attaboy and a, or a and or a big bonus kind of thing, but above that is this idea of meaning and purpose. And when we can get on purpose and bring alignment to that with our life energy, it’s amazing what people can accomplish.
Rick LeMoine: So that’s what I’d like to explore a little bit with you before sorry. As we go ahead I’m really interested in mind. And how you came to write your book and how successful it was. My copy is on the way after I read a couple of pages last night on Kindle. It’s really incredible. Start Here is the name. Just tell us a little bit about that part [00:11:00] of your a.
Eric Langshur: Well, the story really begins in my early forties and I mean, it’s completely cliche, right? I’m a, I really am a walking, talking cliche. There’s a little bit of a midlife meets other in here. At the time I was serving on. Company boards, public and private boards and and not sleeping well. This is what I was doing. I’d wake up every day at, 2:33 AM and my brain would turn on and there’d be no going back to sleep. I had a rocking ambient habit and I realized one day that, there’s probably something that I can do about this. So I started, I thought, well, let me turn to people who have a little bit of knowledge about a life well lived. And so I turned to the, the philosophers of the great thinkers of the ages and started devouring philosophy and including by the way, religious philosophy, which, when does something. enough, it’s much like investing or company [00:12:00] building. One becomes adept at pattern recognition. And so, I started to see these patterns emerge in, in all of this philosophical thought. And then because I’m wired to, to think about the most efficient, I was taking the most efficient path and really a a science driven path from A to b I wanted to see. What could be learned about the science behind these ideas? So I went to the neuroscience community and it was, at the time, it was just an explosion of knowledge and research being done, around, around these big philosophical ideas and was able to, essentially develop distill these ideas into, a set of nine different practices that, that I was able to clinically validate, working really with the world’s best scientists and. Translated that into start here, mastered the lifelong habit of wellbeing. Simon and Schuster bought the book and published it, and it’s just, it continues to be very well received. And it’s fun for me because I’ve made my own life [00:13:00] just the sandbox and the laboratory of. Engaging in, in those practices that have had a meaningful impact on my own happiness and my own wellbeing and energy level and add. So, just one other thing I would say about that, what I came to learn, come to learn by the way, was that that middle of the process and the stomach ache that I would wake up with and live with. I came to to label it as anxiety and I never thought of it that, thought of it that way, but that’s exactly what it was. And so I I feel like it’s been a wonderful journey for me as I, I’ve been able to tame that
Rick LeMoine: Okay. Meditation was part of your.
Eric Langshur: meditation is a big part of it. And what we know now about the science of meditation is it’s it’s pretty amazing, right? And less than 10 minutes is a clinically effective dose. And there’s there’s goodness in it for all of us.
Rick LeMoine: I have been so [00:14:00] impressed by the number of people who meditate, who are. Enormously successful. I mean, it is a marker clearly for something. I don’t know if it’s a cause or an effect yet, but it is, there’s certainly an association there and in my own attempts at meditation. I’m not there. I’m not there yet, but I can see even at 75 that it is a valuable piece to have in the tool drawer to be able to pull out and use probably better like exercise if you do it regularly. But I’m still trying to get there.
Eric Langshur: Well, it’s great to hear and we could, we can spend a whole lot more time on this topic cuz there’s a, there’s so many misconceptions around meditating and what it is, and you’re supposed to empty your mind. And I hear people say all the time that they suck at meditating and it there’s a, that’s, it’s a whole other topic by the way. We’re, this is this is an example of how we vote with our feet. We’re. Passionate [00:15:00] about this topic of wellbeing that we in our portfolio, we’ve got this beautiful company mindful Communications, which, many of your listeners will know as Mindful Magazine and mindful.org. And now we are partnering with the Foundation for a Mindful Society and launching something called the the Relief Project. To bring this knowledge and this content to employers everywhere and so people can have access to, just really the best strategies to improve their lives.
Rick LeMoine: Eric b Before we close, tell me a couple of things. What you look for when you are evaluating a company or an idea for the first time, and what you tell first timers. Maybe not necessarily first timers, but very early. People to the.
Eric Langshur: Yeah. Well, I think we’ve touched on some of the subjects. Rick, start with something that you’ve got passion [00:16:00] for that feels like it’s on purpose for you, because that’s, That just, that makes the work not feel like work necessarily. And as we all know, being an entrepreneur is hard work. And it, and there’s a lot of hard days. We talk about the rollercoaster ride, but what can mute the the extreme lows, which are always inevitable is this notion of, this higher calling that the work. matters. And then, translate that and, work big problems, work a problem that, really matters. Ironically my first company was not a giant problem. Now it all turned out really well for me. And, we if I were to do it over again, I’m not sure I would’ve done it that way. in healthcare in particular, I’d say surround yourself with experts. It’s so complicated and it it requires expert knowledge and the, the adage of, oh, I had, I experienced this this problem as a healthcare consumer, I’m gonna go start a company. That’s a tricky path, right? [00:17:00] Get clear on your business model. and which is code for follow the money, especially in this industry cuz the flow of money isn’t obvious and not in a straight line. And so in the, we need to understand the ins and outs of that. Yeah. Maybe end with, bring, try to bring, joy into every interaction. It’ll, people want to do business with people. Who they like. So, bring a positive spirit to it and it’ll not just, make your own brain, healthier. It’ll, lift up the folks around us.
Rick LeMoine: Wow. Eric thank you. I could go on for a long time with this but you’re just so on target with the way I think people should act, people should be towards one another. It is such a pleasure to be able to do this interview with you. I know how busy you are. I know. This is a a favor. I appreciate it so much and I wish you ever, every [00:18:00] success with your various ventures and appreciate what we’ve had today. Very much.
Eric Langshur: Oh, thank you, Rick. It’s been a great pleasure.