Although these moves have only been recently Jeff Bezos has had his mind on the market for over two decades. Neupert has witnessed the initial idea and development of this idea that has become a reality.
Neubert shadowing Bezos
Neupert was working for Bill Gates at Microsoft where the MSNBC network was launched. John Doerr of venture capital firm Kleiner Parking approached about a new idea to sell medicine and beauty products online, with Bezos attending the recruitment meeting.
They were looking for someone who could take a 10-page business plan and turn it into a real business at a time when everyone was starting companies, Neupert recalled.
Neupert began to shadow Bezos for a short time, privy to his meetings, conversations and conference calls. During this time Neupert learned the difference between Amazon and Microsoft.
I learned quickly from those days that opinions don’t matter, data matters, Neupert commented.
Bezos spoke about comparing two drafts of a design/project, rapid customer feedback and the necessity of experimenting and failing. In 1999 April Bezos and Neupert spoke together on Charlie Rose, with the host asking why someone would want to buy from a Drugstore then a local pharmacy?
They don’t like waiting in line for the pharmacist up behind the glass counter, Neupert expressed, “They don’t like shopping in public for very private things.” Bezos added, “browsing for books is fun but nobody likes to browse the Preparation H aisle.”
However, the drugstore struggled to develop and grow in a difficult business. Neupert left in 2004, five years before Walgreens bought the company for over $400 million and ultimately shut it down.
During this time Amazon took away some key points that would benefit the company as it negotiated a deal with PillPack many years later. The main factor is that established pharmacies will go to great lengths to shut any new business out.
Despite this many, including Neupert, saw a flash of Bezos style of business which some describe as “ruthless” but ultimately the factor that has driven Bezo to success. One example is during the dot -com crash Amazon began to charge for its email marketing access list to Drugstore instead of providing it for free.
He did what was the best thing for Amazon,” Neupert said. “I didn’t like it at the time, but I ultimately respected it.”
Neubert working for Microsoft
Following the departure from Drugstore in 2004 Neupert continued to find ways to improve healthcare. After spending months observing regulators and pharmacy lobbyists, he noted how record-keeping, from large hospitals to small doctors’ offices used a combination of self-grown procedures and paper-based records.
It struck me that a few thousand people die every year because of adverse drug events, and a lot of that was down to a failure of systems engineering and software design, Neupert said.
This observation drove Neupert back to Microsoft to create and roll out a health unit called HealthVault designed for consumers and health providers to aggregate medical information, with one former colleague, Sean Nolan commenting “the mission was ambitious and ahead of its time”.
Corporate vice president Peter Lee commented “It’s remarkable how much energy he injected into the health-care space that really never left, it ranges from synthetic biology to radiology imaging. It was comprehensive. It’s surprising to me how much stuff Peter got started.”
Neubert left Microsoft in 2012, advising numerous health-tech companies, and now eagerly watches Amazon’s battle with the health industry.
Bezos deeply understands pharmacy and all its complexities, Neupert said.
Neupert also commented that a small but effective idea that he learned from Bezos is when writing a document avoid bullet-pointed presentations as complete sentences or paragraphs leave little room for assumptions and interpretations.
One final lesson shared is that took him a long time to learn is to reach out to regulators early on.
Engage the regulators early if you are doing something they haven’t seen before. It will save you grief later.”