Where We Are Investing Now: The Happiness Stack

Photo by  Whitney Wright  on  Unsplash

Photo by Whitney Wright on Unsplash

Each year, our team reviews everything we do. We examine the world from top to bottom to determine the overarching themes of change in the year ahead, across economics, science, technology and human behavior. Based on all we learn from this analysis, we refocus our funds where we feel the opportunity for our investors is greatest.

Increasingly, the overall focus of our investment has turned toward the emerging science of health and happiness. It’s hard to imagine a bigger worldwide opportunity. Science and behavior change are flowing together to alter one of the core experiences of life. We can’t imagine anywhere more fascinating or powerful to direct our energies.

Our view is that health and happiness exist in a continuum. Greater health unlocks the potential for happiness; absence of health closes off paths toward happiness. Conversely, a happier human has greater potential to be a healthier human. No greater example of this exists than the biome, which shows a clear connection between biology and mood in both directions. Our focus is on emerging science and technology at any point on this continuum.

Beyond this truth, we believe value can be found at any point of development. Toward that end, we will organize our investment around the concept of the Happiness Stack. This has a bit of TCP/IP about it, as well as a bit of Maslow. Happiness science and tech grows from deep roots, developed along broadly applicable pathways until it can emerge in an ultimate, impactful way in the market.

Here is our view of the Happiness Stack:

Happiness Stack2.png

Deep science creates a potentiality. That potentiality is realized through applied science. In many cases, data is essential for the applied science or is created as a result of that application. Individual applied science capabilities are then integrated to form effective market solutions (e.g., AI tied to sensors tied to biological or neurological signals; VR tied to brain waves tied to AI). These integrated solutions tie to existing, or drive the creation of, new distribution systems to reach customers. The endpoints of those distribution systems are existing or new forms of customer connection. The initial customer connection is enhanced and extended via online and real-world community. This produces a density of data and interaction that makes precise personalization of product and experience possible. Thus, the flow is from deep science breakthroughs toward fully personalized products, all with the impact of delivering some aspect of the health/happiness continuum to an individual human.

While this presents as a stack, we can think of it more like a wheel. Deep science opens new potentialities, some of which bloom into solutions, combinations and products that address real human needs and change individual behavior. Those human changes open new opportunities for transformation that science can then respond to, setting the cycle off again.

So, in each of our focus areas, each year, we will survey this stack and determine where we think the greatest activity and opportunity lies. On the face of it, the biggest jump in value will come when the top levels of the stack are energized. But we may realize the best return by getting involved in the right areas at the bottom of the stack, and then capturing their rise in value as they ascend the layers.

The key is to always be thinking about how deep science gets applied, how applied science gets productized, how individual products blend into solutions, how solutions get to market to find and hold customers, and how solutions generate market incentives to innovate new science.

By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart