Jeff Arnold’s shining moment: Sharecare going public, boosting Atlanta’s well-beingSharecare founder Jeff Arnold in his office at the company's Buckhead headquarters (Photo by Maria Saporta)
By Maria Saporta
A decade after its launch, Atlanta-based Sharecare is enjoying the most significant week in its history.
The company will close on its transaction with Falcon Capital Acquisition Corp. on July 1, and it will become a publicly-traded company on July 2, trading as SHCR on Nasdaq.
Not only that.
Sharecare has been the jersey patch partner of the Atlanta Hawks since the 2017-2018 season. This week, the Atlanta Hawks are in the Eastern Conference Finals playing against the Milwaukee Bucks – giving Sharecare unprecedented visibility on the national stage.
It’s an exhilarating time for founder Jeff Arnold, a serial entrepreneur who is riding a digital healthcare wave with Sharecare – a company dedicated to improving the overall well-being of everyone it touches.
It is not the first time Arnold has had a confluence around professional sports and his business.
In 2000, Arnold, then only 30 years old, was riding high as the founder and CEO of WebMD, when Atlanta was hosting the Super Bowl. Arnold and WebMD hosted a blow-out concert with Elton John at the Fox Theater, and then it had several suites during the Big Game, entertaining legendary-boxer Muhammad Ali in one and cyclist Lance Armstrong in another. Both were featured in WebMD’s Super Bowl’s ads, showing how people could take greater ownership over their health – Ali with his Parkinson’s and Armstrong with his cancer.
“I’ve learned a few things over the years since WebMD,” Arnold said in a recent interview in his Buckhead corporate headquarters. “There was so much experience that I didn’t have yet. I feel better equipped– understanding governance and the capital markets better. For example, we’re profitable.”
(In between WebMD and Sharecare, Arnold owned HowStuffWorks, which was acquired Discovery Communications).
Today, Sharecare is valued at $3.9 billion, and it is projected to have more than $400 million in sales this year. It has 2,400 employees globally, including offices in Brazil, its largest operation outside the United States, as well as Berlin and France.
It has had 17 acquisitions since its inception, and its ability to invest in other companies will increase after it goes public.
“Our margins are 50 plus percent,” Arnold said. “We built a $400 million business on 50-plus percent margins by investing heavily in innovation. But we’re doing it and remaining profitable, which is a big deal.”
Bur for Arnold, 51, Sharecare is much more than a business opportunity. He almost sounds like a medical missionary when he talks about how Sharecare can transform lives – especially in his home state of Georgia and Atlanta, where he resides.
“Atlanta has a lot of advantages,” said Arnold mentioning Delta Air Lines, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a good business climate with a talented and dedicated workforce.
Plus, metro Atlanta has a plethora health-related innovation companies and global health nonprofit organizations.
“Atlanta has the opportunity to be the global public health capital of the world,” Arnold said. He remembered the first time he went to San Francisco, and he saw a billboard next to Candlestick Park that had multiple, seemingly random corporate logos.
“When the sign flipped, it asked what do all these companies have in common?” Arnold recalled. The sign flipped again with the answer – the San Francisco Symphony. “They were all sponsors of the symphony. That sign always stuck with me.”
And he would love that sentiment to be replicated in Atlanta.
“Take, Delta and UPS and Home Depot, and Georgia Pacific Southern Co., AFLAC and Coca Cola and Chick-fil-A, Emory, Wellstar, Piedmont and the list goes on and on. What they all have in common is making Georgia the healthiest place to live, work and play.”
Sharecare is doing its part by developing numerous alliances with Georgia-based entities, such as the State of Georgia and its 650,000 employees (including 200,000 teachers), Delta Air Lines with its 70,000 work force, Wellstar, Peach State Health Plan, and of course its relationship with the Atlanta Hawks. Also, Koch Industries, owner of Atlanta-based Georgia Pacific, recently made a significant investment in Sharecare.
Case-in point, when Georgians were seeking appointments to get the anti-COVID vaccines, Sharecare was there, with minimal fanfare.
“We built myvaccine.ga.gov, and it was our technology that scheduled all the mass vaccination sites,” Arnold said. “We had to schedule at least a million Georgians.”
Through Sharecare, Arnold is striving to create a uniform digital platform for healthcare.
“You don’t have 10 apps to manage your money,” Arnold said. “Why would you have 10 apps to manage your health?”
Arnold said Sharecare has built a big business, and it’s now starting to build its brand – hoping the concept will sweep the public’s imagination as Uber did for ridesharing.
“How do we use technology to bring the doctor, the insurance company and the employer to the palm of the person’s hand? How do we become the unifier using technology?” Arnold asks rhetorically. That all centers on data to help people measure their own well-being. The company has developed a “real age index,” that lets people see whether they are healthier than their actual age based on their weight, exercise-level, sleep habits, whether they smoke and other indicators. That gives people an opportunity to change their behavior and improve their health so they can live longer.
“It’s all about lowering risk,” said Arnold, who measures his daily steps that includes his daily walk around Chastain Park, often inviting a fellow walker that serves as a business meeting.
But Arnold takes it a step further to aggregate the data.
“When I’m sharing my data with Sharecare to get insights for my health, I’m also getting my data to generate insights for our health,” Arnold said. “Your environment is as important to your health as your genetics, or your lifestyle. Where you live, work and play matters to your health as much as what you eat or do.”
During the interview, Arnold shared his ideas like a fountain. He talked about his other ventures, which includes his acquisition of the Exxon/Mobil Travel Guide and rebranding it the Forbes Travel Guide – known for giving stars to hotel properties. With COVID, Sharecare also developed a way for hotel properties to become Sharecare-certified. For Arnold, that’s marrying healthcare with hospitality.
More importantly, Arnold wants to create a billboard similar to the one he saw for the San Francisco Symphony with local logos and brands.
“Our billboard will be to improve the well-being of Georgia,” Arnold said. “That’s how we get recognized for being the global public health capital of the world.”
Meanwhile, Arnold is enjoying Hawks-Sharecare fever (the jersey was blessed by Pope Francis earlier this year).
“Every time I see the Sharecare logo over the hearts of Hawks players and fans, I feel a deep sense of pride that Sharecare has become part of the literal and figurative fabric of not only this team but also the Atlanta community,” Arnold said.
“As the jersey patch sponsor for the Hawks, this season has been nothing short of amazing – and with Sharecare going public this week, the uptick in brand awareness couldn’t have come at a better moment.”