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Executive Q & A

Carmel resident David Wasilewski has launched WhatNext, a website that uses matching algorithms to make it easier for cancer patients to connect with others in similar circumstances. The site went live in September with the support and endorsement of the American Cancer Society, and it now has 1,000 users. Wasilewski, 39, started the site after spending eight years as chief operating officer of the Spanx line of body shapers. Before that, he did health care consulting. He is planning a marketing push in early 2012 that he hopes will boost the number of WhatNext users to 100,000. If he can achieve that kind of growth, he thinks he can have a compelling business proposition for health care organizations looking to share their name and expertise with patients in need.

IBJ: In 2007, you were taking six months off after leaving Spanx, and you and a friend were helping friends and family research their health conditions—cancer, Alzheimer’s, eating disorders. Describe that experience and why it led you to launch WhatNext.

A: We were going to the Web for information. And we both said it was inspiring, how much information was out there. But then we were both frustrated, because the data was completely unstructured. And you didn’t know the people’s backgrounds. The only way we were able to find that information was through arduous searching through thousands of pages on the Web. And even then you only got a partial story.

IBJ: Why did you decide to focus on cancer, as opposed to other kinds of diseases?

A: When I started off, I started with lots of diseases. But I found that I could recruit 500 people to the site, but with all those diseases, it was so diluted. I could have 50 people with cancer and nobody with prostate cancer. So we had to build these taxonomies [of all the variations of each disease, as well as the different paths of treatment patients choose]. We’re working on plans now to expand into other disease states in 2012, but I don’t know what they’ll be yet.
 
IBJ: How can WhatNext make money?

A: Health care brands today are spending billions of dollars on what I call sales-based marketing. Things that people have learned to tune out. I believe the future in health care is turning from a sales-based marketing to a service-based marketing. For example, if a patient here in Carmel was on WhatNext saying they're suffering from depression, someone from St. Vincent could come on and say, “I’m sorry you’re not doing well. By the way, most insurance plans cover treatment [for depression]. And we provide services that might help you. If you have any questions, here’s my contact information.” Here’s the opportunity for the health system to engage in the conversation and give them the opportunity to serve [patients]. And if they help them on the little things, [the patients] are sure going to turn to them on the big things. [For a fee], we would monitor the site and alert them to the opportunity to engage.
 

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

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