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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. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

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