Delighting Retirees: an Interview with Kevin Nazemi, Co-Founder, Renew

Kevin Nazemi Headshot.JPG

The Pulse had a chance to catch-up with Kevin Nazemi despite his busy schedule of gearing up Renew, an online platform committed to improving the entire retirement experience for the baby boomer generation. Prior to starting Renew, Kevin co-founded Oscar Health Insurance.

Throughout our interview, it was evident that for Kevin, everything starts with delighting the consumer rather than conforming to the healthcare system’s status quo. However, Kevin also emphasizes the importance of understanding and navigating our healthcare system, especially the nuances of the regulatory environment. The perfect blend of human capital needed for the healthcare industry is people with industry experience and people with a new, fresh vantage point of “why not.” Read our entire interview below to discover what Renew is doing to engage with retirees and what Kevin thinks both large healthcare entities and healthcare entrepreneurs need to succeed in being consumer-focused!

Pulse: You have started two consumer-facing, consumer-empowering companies – Oscar Health Insurance and Renew. What drove you to start those two companies?

KN: In both cases, we simply believed that consumers deserve better. We saw that bringing together technology, data and design has the potential to transform the consumer experience in a category that really matters.


Pulse: What does a healthcare company need to do in order to succeed in being a consumer-focused company? What are the necessary elements of success?

KN: Healthcare is so complex. One approach that someone can take in healthcare is to look at the system in increments and take steps towards the consumer. I like to start with thinking about the consumer – as simple as it sounds – then finding and plugging in components of the healthcare system and the regulatory environment into that consumer experience. If you try to increment from the healthcare system to the consumer, it takes a lot of time, it’s frustrating, and you can frankly, at times, lose hope. The complexity of the regulatory environment makes it so difficult to do a lot of things. But if you start without the constraints and then connect your thinking with the constraints, you set yourself up for a lot more imagination. The chance of success also increases.


Pulse: The approach you just mentioned would be great for an innovative start-up.  What about for existing healthcare organizations, such as large insurers or health systems, who play such a vital role in our healthcare experience?  What do they need to do to achieve a high-level of consumer satisfaction and consumer empowerment?

KN: One thing to consider is the balance of hiring people with a lot of experience and hiring people with fresh, new thinking - bringing in, potentially, people from other industries that have succeeded in meeting the needs of the consumer. Healthcare is so personal for everyone - everyone has a personal story of where the healthcare consumer has had needs that could have been met better. The most powerful thing that these entities can do is to bring in that kind of new thinking and approach.

You already see it happening in several places – Providence Health System (Providence Health & Services), based in the Pacific Northwest and California, has hired a few former Amazon executives. UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), which is closer to Wharton, also hired former Amazon executives and others to bring in a new way of thinking. These people’s starting point is not “that’s too hard” or “it’s been done before or “it’s the way it should be done.” Rather, they start with a vantage point of “why not.” The more people you can bring into an organization with the “why not” way of thinking and imaginative thinking, the better it is.


Pulse: Turning our focus to your current company, Renew, which is focused on new retirees. How does your team plan on engaging with this population on a technology platform, especially given that they might not be as tech-savvy as millennials?

KN: The reason we started Renew is that we had to help retiree parents with their retirement challenges. What we found was that when you work at a company, you typically have a benefits department that helps you deal with your healthcare, finances, and etc. However, when you retire, you are essentially thrown off a cliff and you have to weigh things on your own. This is particularly tough because this is when you need the benefits department the most and when things get the most confusing.

We at Renew are cognizant of the fact that on one hand, the current retirees likely have used technology when at work and even when it came to their benefits and engagements with the healthcare system. But at the same time, they are not as pervasively connected as millennials might be. The way we bring these two things together is by having a high-tech, high-touch approach. We use technology for Renew to exist in the background, enabling a contextualized experience. Thus, we don’t take the view that if our phone rings, it’s a failure of technology. We think that technology can personalize the experience. When retirees call Renew to help them, we can have a lot more of context of who we are talking to not only from a customer service perspective but also from the perspective of how to apply Renew’s available resources to them. 


Pulse: Currently, Renew is starting with the benefits piece, especially around helping its customers find the right Medicare plan. What are Renew’s long-term goals, in terms of creating a comprehensive and enjoyable retirement experience for your customers?

KN: Ultimately, our hope is that we become the place where everyone turns to when they are about to retire to figure out their retirement benefits, insurance, and finances, especially when they are about to enter phases of asset decumulation instead of asset accumulation. And we would love to help them figure out what to do with their time, which is what retirement is all about.

Our hope is to make the experience something that feels good and right – something that makes our customers feel respected and not old. As you are aware, demographics of retirees are changing dramatically –  life expectancy is going up on average and technology proficiency is going up. Over 10,000 people a day are turning 65 – this is a dream segment to have the opportunity to delight.


Pulse: What do you think are the roles of employers and government, who are the payers of retirees’ healthcare, in encouraging this trend of consumerization in healthcare?    

KN: The overall trends make it such that if the consumer doesn’t make a key role, things for the long-term will not look good because the costs are increasing, but the ability of companies and government to cover those costs is not increasing at the same rate. If the consumer is not empowered in this equation, then it’s really tough to make things work.

It is the responsibility of the private sector and our government to put a usability layer on top of the healthcare system because that currently does not exist. Just as there is Google Maps for navigating the roads of a city, there needs to be a usability layer for the consumer for navigating the healthcare system. Today, our healthcare system is where we were with maps 15 – 20 years ago. If you wanted to go on a trip, you had to go to the local AAA office and pick up a map for that city. We would laugh at that today because we can pick among Google Maps, Waze, and an assortment of other solutions that would provide that usability layer while navigating.


Pulse: Many of my classmates at Wharton are passionate about changing healthcare and building companies that are consumer-focused. What advice would you have for our aspiring healthcare entrepreneurs?

KN: First, go for it! Healthcare definitely needs people to shake things up. Second, complement your ambition, desire and fresh thinking with experienced people who are part of the healthcare system to help you and cover your blind spots. In particular, those experienced people can help you with navigating the relationships that you need because our healthcare system is relationship-based. Also, you would need help in navigating the regulatory environment because it’s complex and nuanced. 



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