Leveraging customer insights to win Kellogg’s Real Estate Venture Competition

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To prepare for the Kellogg Real Estate Venture Competition (KRECVC), our team, Envoy Physicians, knew that we needed to fully understand the challenges faced by our target tenants: primary care providers. Based on interviews with physicians, we learned that today’s primary care providers are under an extraordinary amount of pressure to squeeze more patients into their daily schedules. Consequently, nearly 50 percent of primary care doctors suffer from burnout, according to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Several complications can result from physician burnout, including chronic exhaustion, depression and anxiety, and many primary care doctors have sought some form of treatment for these issues.

Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a new model of primary care that provides a solution to physician burnout. In this model, patients pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to a primary care physician; in turn, the physician does not bill insurance. This allows doctors to greatly reduce the number of patients they see and provide much better care to patients by focusing on preventative, rather than reactive, medicine.

Physicians who transition to the DPC model rarely lament their decision. “I’d rather scrub toilets than go back to work in a hospital setting,” said one practitioner during our market research interviews. Direct Primary Care is also viewed favorably by patients; the model earns superior customer satisfaction scores and reduces healthcare costs by 20 percent.

Although the DPC model may seem like a perfect solution, it has its downfalls. DPC practices are expensive and time-consuming to start. In addition, setting up such a practice requires non-clinical skills and business acumen that physicians often lack.

In an attempt to solve these problems, we created Envoy Physicians, a company that uses shared space and resources to help doctors launch, grow and run a successful direct primary care model.

With the support of several professors from Kellogg’s Real Estate Program and the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, we were able to flesh out our entrepreneurial real estate venture and present it at this year’s Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition. The competition afforded us the unique opportunity to compete against MBA students from around the world for $100,000 in cash and prizes – and an opportunity to pitch our ideas to real estate luminaries such as Neil Bluhm (Co-Founder and Managing Principal of Walton Street Capital), Maury Tognarelli (CEO of Heitman) and Jeff Johnson ’83 (CEO of Dividend Capital Diversified Property Fund).

To prepare for the competition, we met weekly with Professors Craig Furfine, Efraim Benmelech, Bill Bennett and Denise Akason, who helped us refine our pitch and presentation. They also encouraged us to tap into the Kellogg network to identify potential lenders who could finance our proposed location.

In the final days leading up to the competition, we rehearsed in front of fellow members of Kellogg’s Real Estate Club. A testament to Kellogg’s culture of collaboration, we knew we would be competing against many of the same people who were providing us constructive feedback.

On the day of the competition, we made our first-round pitch at 10 a.m. While we knew our pitch was well received, we didn’t find out that we had made the finals until we were called up to present in front of the entire auditorium.

The final judges were more critical of some of our approaches, particularly around the idea of owning or leasing the real estate, but overall, they gave us very positive feedback and even referred to Envoy as the “WeWork for doctors”. In the end, thanks to months of preparation and hard work, our team took home first place.

As we prepare to graduate, the KRECVC has proven to be a unique and unforgettable experience. Winning the competition is an extraordinary recognition of our team’s hard work, for which we are thankful to the entire Kellogg community who supported us. More than ever, we are excited about the future of Envoy Physicians and its ability to reinvent primary care.

Want to learn more about Envoy Physicians? Feel free to contact frank@envoyphysicians.com.


Frank Cohen is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. He spent his first two years after college consulting at Simon-Kucher & Partners and then worked in finance and operations at Next Street, a social impact consulting firm focused on economic development in urban centers throughout the U.S. Immediately prior to Kellogg, Frank worked at the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, an organization funded by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, that seeks to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. He interned this past year at Tishman Speyer. Frank graduated from Harvard in 2010.

Shane Corcoran is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to Kellogg, Shane spent five years as a practicing physician in his native country of Ireland, specializing in oncology. A graduate of the National University of Ireland Galway, Shane has also studied at Harvard Medical School and completed a sub-internship at Mt. Sinai Hospital, NY. Shane is passionate about bringing a physician-focused approach to improving the healthcare system and sees direct primary care as the best model to do so. He spent the summer interning at BCG in New York.

Patrick Aylward is a student in Kellogg’s Part-Time Program, while also working at Sterling Bay in its Construction & Development group. His work at Sterling Bay focuses on entitlements, design and execution of adaptive reuse and ground-up commercial office and retail developments, some of which recently earned Redevelopment of the Year and Developer of the Year awards. Patrick also founded and owns Onward Coworking, a shared office space business in Chicago. Prior to these endeavors, he worked as a project manager with a general contractor after receiving his B.S. in Civil Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kendra Zehentbauer is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. She attended Georgetown University for undergrad, and prior to Kellogg, she spent three years in public sector consulting in Washington, D.C. At Kellogg, she has been actively involved in the Healthcare Club. She spent her summer at Pfizer working in Oncology Commercial Development and she will join BCG Chicago after graduating in June.

Tom Smithburg is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to Kellogg, he worked for four years as an investment professional at Shore Capital Partners, a microcap healthcare private equity firm based in Chicago. As a member of the Shore team, Tom successfully scaled the firm’s physical therapy and urgent care platforms by implementing repeatable business development strategies and processes. After graduating from Kellogg, Tom will be the Vice President of Strategic Operations at ATI Physical Therapy.

Edward Yu is a student in Kellogg’s three-year JD-MBA Program. He spent his first two years after college at the Royal Bank of Scotland as an investment banking analyst in their M&A group. Afterwards, he was an associate on the investment team at CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate private equity firm. This past summer, he interned at the John Buck Company, a Chicago-based real estate developer, in its investment group.

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