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22 May 2017

GCV Powerlist 2017: Busy Burr

The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Busy Burr, Humana Health Ventures

Author: James Mawson, Editor-in-chief

Busy Burr, vice-president of enterprise innovation and head of Humana Health Ventures, has responsibility for one of the most important challenges in society – improving health.

It is a role she has leapt at. Bruce Broussard, CEO of US-based Humana, in support of Burr’s nomination for the GCV Powerlist said: “Busy Burr joined Humana at an important time in our company’s history as we focus on delivering on our bold goal of improving our members’ health 20% by 2020.  

“To accelerate our progress toward that goal, it’s critical that we seek out, attract, partner with and invest in the most innovative startups in health care.  

“In a remarkably short time, Busy has built a world-class venture team and made Humana a prominent and respected partner in the health industry. Our members are already reaping the rewards of the investments and collaborations Busy and her team have identified, established and continue to grow.”

Based in California and reporting to chief innovation officer Chris Kay, she was previously a managing director of Citi Ventures and led large-scale innovation efforts as the global head of US-listed bank Citigroup’s DesignWorks before joining Humana in 2015.

At Humana, Burr has founded the company’s Silicon Valley office and built a world-class team and reputation in healthcare venturing and innovation in the space of a year – a remarkably short time.

She and her team have met with hundreds of startups and other leaders in the venture community and she recently closed investments in Omada, Livongo, and Aspire Health.

She said: “I am inspired by and proud of the team we have built...from amazing investor leaders (Saurabh Bhansali was recognized as a GCV Rising Star this year!), to a team of outstanding researchers, product developers, designers and other innovators who are champions and advocates for our startup partners, guiding them through the complexity of working with a large Fortune [75] company. We have worked tirelessly to change internal processes like onboarding in order to move at Silicon Valley speed. We have also created an enterprise wide ‘Discovery Network’ connecting people across Humana who are engaging with startups in order to provide more seamless connectivity for our startup partners.

“While we are proud of our investments and the work we do with our startup partners, my proudest moments this year have come from the time my team has spent with our members.

“We have long-believed that despite being the primary consumers of health care in this country, Medicare members rarely, if ever, have a seat at the table when technologies and services are designed for them. Our intergenerational code-a-thon, which put seniors together with coders and developers enabled us to bring insights back to folks developing for Amazon Echo, as we placed Alexa in the homes of seniors —some cognitive impairment — to learn how the technology can work for them. We also partnered with Omada to bring their Prevent program to Medicare members, learning a great deal about how they adopt virtual solutions.

“It has been those face-to-face moments, talking with our members to learn how to bring the right kind of changes... that’s what keeps me fired up.”

In addition, she established and directs the work of a new products foundry including research, design, development and commercialization functions. This has built on her cutting-edge work before entering healthcare.

Among her accomplishments at Citibank was leadership of the transformational redesign of Citi’s Global Private Bank, an initiative which received innovation awards as Spear’s Private Bank of the Year and Euromoney’s Best Overall Bank.

Burr is the author of From Ideas to Impact, a playbook for driving innovation in a global enterprise and said her innovation bug started early. When she was in the third grade 9aged about eight or nine), she built a time machine out of a refrigerator box. It was a disappointing failure, but it marked the first of her many adventures into disrupting the status quo, she said. Since then, her inspirational leadership and passion for customer experience has resulted in several groundbreaking businesses and products, and she holds patents (some pending) in mass- customization, alternative currency and social payments.

After school she spent seven years in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston executing initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions for some of the best companies in the technology space.

As vice-president of Global Brand Management at Gap, she was responsible for creating global branding consistency across merchandising, print, TV, stores and online for four brands in six countries. As entrepreneur-in-residence at eBay, she led the creation of an innovative social e-commerce platform.

Burr holds an MBA from Stanford and a BA in Economics from Smith College. She was named one of Silicon Valley’s Women of Influence in 2016 and has been honored as Frost & Sullivan’s Innovator of the Year. A sought-after speaker and collaborator, she is also a long-time performing member of the Bay Area improv troupe Subject to Change.

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