Meet Mike McSherry, co-founder of Swype and Providence's newest Entrepreneur in Residence

Earlier this year, Mike McSherry joined the Providence Ventures team as an Entrepreneur in Residence. In the first of a two-blog series, he’ll share his background and what it means to be a Providence Ventures Entrepreneur in Residence.

Tell me about your background.

Mike McSherry: I’ve been in technology for 20 years. I started at Microsoft here in Seattle and had the fortune to move to Australia with them in the late 90’s. I left Microsoft while working in Australia and co-founded a company which grew to be the biggest web development company in Australia and New Zealand. We sold that company and I co-founded Boost Mobile. We ended up launching Boost Mobile in the United States as a joint venture with Nextel and now does about $4-5 billion a year in revenue.

I followed that up with another wireless mobile startup that raised several hundred million dollars before going bankrupt. So that was big, big disappointment but a great learning experience. And then I co-founded Swype, which is an innovative touch screen keyboard that’s been installed on over a billion Android devices to date.

I had been involved with PacMed as a board member for several years and when I was casting about what to do next following the sale of Swype, several folks suggested talking to Aaron Martin. It wasn’t until then that I began thinking about technology startups in health care. And so that’s where I am today.

 So what you’re saying is that you haven’t been up to much.
MM: [Laughs] You know, I think I’ve just been lucky in timing. I got started with internet and mobile in the early days and now I’m looking to see if the health care IT revolution is in its early days, too.

Explain what you’ll be doing at Providence Ventures and what it means to be an entrepreneur in residence.  
MM: In venture capital, there is this role that’s been created with almost all the large VCs called an ‘entrepreneur in residence.’ Typically, it’s a proven successful entrepreneur who may have worked with that company in the past. The company has that person around to think through new ideas and help incubate some existing ones. Providence brought me and my team in to think through several ideas. They’ve been feeding me some of the problems that they’ve identified, but we also have a charter that says that we can think about anything in the world of health care that would potentially need solving. That could be anything: insurance, physician services, consumer services, medical equipment, and mobile internet technologies being embedded within the health care environment.

Without giving away any secrets, can you talk about some of the areas that you are identifying?
We gravitate towards consumer involvement of health care. I don’t have a PhD in biochemistry, I can’t create a new drug. I don’t know a specific specialty practice area in-depth enough to provide some solution. More broadly, we’ve been thinking about the consumer intersection with health care and something that has the potential to build up a consumer brand that would be focused in the wellness category. There are lots of opportunities here and health systems have to be more reactive in response. With increasing capitation, the move toward value-based care, more insurance risk sharing, hospital systems will need to focus on wellness and prevention versus the more traditional acute care, reactive response positioning thus far.

Check back soon for part two of Mike's interview.