Why this long-time Googler jumped to Oscar, the billion-dollar startup shaking up healthcare

Alan WarrenAlan WarrenNew Oscar CTO Alan Warren

Oscar, a $1.75 billion startup that’s trying to shake up the health insurance industry, just poached long-time Googler Alan Warren as its CTO.

Warren had worked at Google for nearly twelve years, most recently as a VP of engineering in its New York City office, responsible for products like Docs and Drive, as well as its “Classroom” education efforts.

He tells Business Insider that he tried to attack the broken healthcare system while inside Google by leading engineering for the “Health” product the company rolled out in 2008 to help regular people organise their medical records online. But, ultimately, Google didn’t have enough leverage with insurance providers and that service shuttered within three years.

Oscar, which aims to make health insurance easier and cheaper with simple-to-understand plans and perks like free phone calls to doctors and exercise-based rebates, appealed to Warren because it couples his passion for fixing the industry with what he describes as a “top-notch” team of engineers working on really hard technical problems. At Google, he helped grow the NYC team from 50 to 3,000 engineers, and he’s excited to start small again with a relatively compact team of 400 people.

Big competition

Oscar launched in 2013 to compete with established health insurance companies like Aetna and UnitedHealth, but is so far only available for people in parts of New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas. In September, the startup raised $32.5 million from Google Capital at a reported $1.75 billion valuation, on top of the $300 million it had already racked up from investors like Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, and Goldman Sachs. Fortune reported in January that Oscar is working on another round which could value it at $3 billion.

Warren says that the Google Capital and Google Ventures folks had nothing to do with connecting him to Oscar, but that their endorsement did make the startup seem like an even better bet.

“Oscar’s going at healthcare in a way that can make a huge difference,” he says.

One challenge he’s excited to tackle is helping Oscar improve its tools for matching people with the right doctors.

“They’re focused on this end-to-end picture,” he says. “If I’ve messed my knee up and I need to find a surgeon, they give me the ability to look across a network and look at ratings and availability and costs up front, that just provides a transparency that’s huge for users.”

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