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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Founding Story

This post features Jake Winebaum, Founder & CEO of Brighter.com, sharing Brighter's story. Follow him on Twitter: @jakewinebaum

I was having dinner with my in-laws and, as they typically do, the conversation turned to health and money within fifteen minutes.  My father-in-law, Sol, had just come back from the dentist and was told he needed $7,000 worth of dental work.

I said, “Doesn’t your insurance cover that?”

He said, “No, I don’t have dental insurance.  Medicare doesn’t cover dental and dental insurance is way too expensive.”

I then asked, “Well, did you ask the dentist for a better price?

And he said, “Who negotiates with their dentist?   A price is price.”

I said, “Did you look online to see if it was at least a fair price.”

Annoyed with the conversation, he said, “Why don’t you look.  You’re the Internet guy.”

And so I did.

So I searched on the Internet and grew frustrated.  First, I could find little or no pricing information on dental procedures. Second, I found that Sol was not alone in not having dental insurance.  All seniors were in the same boat and further, I found that 50% of Americans lacked dental insurance and were purchasing their care, like Sol, without the benefit of any price transparency or negotiating leverage. .  Retirees, students, small business employees, unemployed and increasingly employees of big companies that were forced to cut back on benefits due to escalating general health care costs.  I also found it very hard to get any reputational information on dentists.  The best I could find was phone numbers and addresses and some generic information on office hours.

I dug a little deeper and found that Americans spend close to $50 billion a year out-of-pocket on their dental care and they do so with no idea of what dental procedures should cost them until they are sitting in the dentists chair.

As an entrepreneur, I saw a big opportunity in providing the kind of price and reputational transparency that now exists in many other consumer markets such as automotive and travel.  Why shouldn’t a prospective patient be able to know who the best dentists were in their area and what the lowest prices were available.  From this the idea for Brighter was born.

A service that could leverage the buying power of this large and growing group of uninsured patients to negotiate affordable prices and an online and mobile service that completely changed the way people purchased and accessed their dental care.