Fast Company has an interview with Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, who last year left the company that he sold to Amazon in 2017 for $13.7 billion and now is starting a new business:
"Mackey, who will turn 70 on August 15, has reteamed with two 25-year Whole Foods veterans: Walter Robb, who worked his way up to become Mackey’s co-CEO, and Betsy Foster, who left as senior vice president. Love.Life made three acquisitions to get going - a Miami restaurant called Love Life Cafe, which Mackey made the startup’s whole brand; an online coaching company named Mastering Diabetes; and a chronic disease and prevention medicine practice, Plant Based TeleHealth. Love.Life will open its first flagship store in the Los Angeles area next year."
Here's how Mackey describes the Love.Life strategy:
"We have two big strategies with Love.Life. The first one is a virtual format. We have a telehealth business, and we practice medicine now in all 50 states, plus D.C. and 27 or 28 countries around the world. We’re launching three membership programs.
"Right now, with Medicine 2.0, you go to the doctor when you’re sick. With Medicine 3.0, we want people to be members of our community and first establish a baseline. So we get people to do different degrees of testing. I’ve done them all now. I’ve checked out my genetics, had my poop examined, I know what my microbiome is, I wore a continuous glucose monitor. I know my blood sugar. I did a cheek swab that can compare your biological age to your chronological age.
"We’re also announcing that we acquired an online coaching business called Mastering Diabetes. They’ve now launched Mastering Weight Loss, and we are going to launch several other coaching businesses like Mastering Hypertension, and mastering various autoimmune diseases. So Love.Life will have this virtual business that’s half of our strategy.
"The other half of the strategy is opening up physical locations. Our first flagship will be in the L.A. area, El Segundo, and we’ll be taking over an Old Best Buy location. It’ll be big, 45,000 square feet. We’ll have a small healthy food restaurant, a medical center, a gym or health club, a wellness center, yoga, Pilates, various restorative treatments like cryotherapy, cold plunges, infrared saunas. It will have various wellness practices such as acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, and Reiki.
"The physical locations are going to be such cool places. They’re going to be hip, beautiful. I guarantee the celebrities will be talking about it and they’ll be coming in . . . [for] the very best treatments that we can provide. It’ll take us years to build out the physical locations across the United States. El Segundo will be that proof of concept to raise more capital."
- KC's View:
To be honest, I've always been a John Mackey skeptic. Not to diminish what he started at Whole Foods, but a myth has evolved that he sold the company to Amazon while it was at the top of its game, while that is not precisely accurate. At the time, it was more like he had to sell it somebody because the business was in trouble.
I'm not sure about Love.Life. There is part of me that admires the ambition, even while I wonder if he is biting off more than he can chew. That said, innovation often is the result of ambition fueled by audacity. Or maybe it is audacity fueled by ambition. So maybe this will work.
To me, though, there is a line from the interview that is a flashing yellow light:
"I guarantee the celebrities will be talking about it…"
That may mean that people who worship celebrities also will be talking about it, but it doesn't mean that this will be a place that is accessible to the broader population. Maybe a nice niche business for LA, Miami and New York, but can it move the needle on how people think about and approach their own health, which is what Mackey seems to want to do?
I'm not sure.