The sincerest form of flattery

The sincerest form of flattery

Oscar Wilde once said; “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Although we don’t believe he was speaking about the wacky world of diabetes he could have been. Yes, once again we are in the midst of another cycle of good money chasing bad ideas. See this happens a lot in our world, someone comes up with something new and innovative. They gain traction in the market, begin to make some money and next thing you know everyone, and their mother wants in.

The insulin pump market is an excellent example of this. Back in the day MiniMed and Disetronic developed the market and the next thing you know Smiths Medical, Animas and slew of other insulin pump startups come along to jump on the gravy train. Not to mention the countless other companies who had nothing more than a good idea, a fancy PowerPoint and of course millions of dollars from investors who didn’t bother to perform any due diligence.

We are now seeing this same phenomenon play out with CGM. Dexcom (NASDAQ: DXCM), Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) and Abbott (NYSE: ABT) have developed this market and now good money is chasing bad ideas. Making matters worse is some very “smart” and very rich companies have also jumped in giving legitimacy to some very bad technologies that will never work no matter how much money is thrown at them.

Just today comes news that FitBit has invested $6 million in CGM startup Sano, who according to their web site;

“Sano is a simple way to continuously monitor your glucose levels. Completely painless. Totally affordable.
Our patented biometric sensor is contained in a comfortable and low-profile patch.”

Per an article posted on the CNBC web site:

“Fitbit CEO James Park confirmed the Sano deal this week to CNBC. The investment is part of a larger financing round that Sano expects to close in coming months.

“This fits into our strategy of looking beyond the device and thinking more about (health) solutions,” said Park. “I think the complete solution comes in the form of having some monitoring solution that is coupled with a display, and a wearable that can give you the interventions at the right moment,” he said.”

Of course, we reached out to our friends in the CGM community to see what they think of Sano and let’s just say they aren’t overly impressed. Now just to be clear these are not just current companies in the business already but independent consultants who have no vested interest in any CGM effort. Let’s be honest this may be a big business but it’s a small community.

Now are we surprised that FitBit has jumped in, not at all. Do we believe even if we are wrong about Sano and the technology can be made to work that it will make a damn bit of difference, nope. We hate like hell to keep repeating ourselves, but this is not about getting data, this is all about how to transform data into action.

Let’s look for the moment at the statement made by Mr. Park, just what intervention will FitBit provide? Let’s say for example this way cool whiz bang toy sees a patients’ levels increasing, what next? Well without knowing anything else about the patient there is no action step, or as we keep saying without more information this data set is useless. As a standalone device without any intervention by the patient the data is just that data.

Of course, FitBit like everyone else will have a way cool app which is supposed to help the patient transform raw data into something useful. Ok let’s say the patient is diligent, which most aren’t, and they enter all this additional information into the way cool app. Or let’s say this app communicates with all the other way cool whiz bang devices the patient uses, what then? What then is this way cool whiz bang toy becomes a commodity and the surest way to ruin any market is to see it commoditize.

And will someone please explain to us why a patient would trust a FitBit system over a Dexcom system. Now yes FitBit could partner with one of the many way cool whiz bang companies and have them provide coaching, but as we have noted before this just further commoditizes the product as everyone else will have the same damn thing.

The biggest mistake everyone is making here, besides throwing millions into technologies that don’t work, is they all concentrate on providing the patient with the HOW TO, none of them have thought about providing the WANT TO. Data combined with algorithms and coaching can provide the path to take but it cannot and will not guarantee the patient follows the path.

We could care less how the data is gathered, how its displayed and what other devices are brought into the loop. None of this matters if the patient does not ACT on the information provided. But this won’t stop a company like FitBit or Apple from throwing money at the toy and toy makers. As we keep saying any idiot can build a toy, but the problem isn’t having enough toys, the problem is getting patients to play with them.