Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson

Executive Founder, Way to Wellville

Keynote, Louisville Innovation Summit 2016

Esther Dyson(@edyson on twitter) is executive founder of the Way to Wellville (@WaytoWellville), an ten-year, evidence-generating project devoted to defining and testing models for cultivating community health (not health care) that will return profits to investors and health to the participants and their communities. W2W is working with the five Wellville communities to accelerate their own efforts to produce health. The communities are: Clatsop County, OR; Lake County, CA; Muskegon County, MI; COMING SOON; and Spartanburg, SC. Dyson is the W2W advocate for Muskegon, and is actively involved in overall policy and fundraising for the project.

Aside from that full-time role, Dyson spends her extra time investing in and nurturing start-ups, with a recent focus on health and aerospace. On the health side, she is an investor in 23andMe (also a director), Applied Proteomics, Clover Health, Cur, Eligible API, GeriJoy, Health Loop, HealthTap, i2Dx, Impact Health, Keas (also an advisor), Medesk, Medivo, mEquilibrium, Omada Health, Organized Wisdom, PatientsLikeMe, PatientsKnowBest (UK), Proofpilot, Resilient, Sleepio (UK), Startup Health, Tocagen, Valkee (Finland), Voxiva (also a director) and Zipongo.

From October 2008 to March of 2009, she lived in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, training as a backup cosmonaut. She spent her time there learning space plumbing and space medicine.

Way to Wellville plans to operate for 10 years, measuring its progress year by year and at the end, using both specific program-based metrics and the overall goals set by the 100 Million Healthier Lives Initiative. Its mission is not just to help five small (<200,000 people ) communities get healthy, but to develop and refine business models for doing so at scale and to inspire other communities and perhaps government entities to copy its approach of long-term investment. Its motto is “Don’t rent your health. Invest in it!”

The basic idea is to favor implementation over innovation: to apply approaches known to work, at scale in small communities where scale is relatively easy to achieve in terms both of resources and political buy-in. Each community sets its own priorities and goals around issues such as obesity/diabetes, mental health, dental health, smoking, substance abuse, high care utilization and overall human capacity and health disparities; W2W assists in finding partners and funders and in managing accountability.