You might know Steve Case as the billionaire entrepreneur who co-founded AOL. What you may not know is that Steve is also passionate about health, an interest with a strong personal connection as his brother Daniel lost his life to brain cancer at age 44 back in 2002.
Steve is also a member of the Giving Pledge and an investor in one of my favorite fast casual restaurants, sweetgreen. After reading his op-ed, "The Future of Food Is Food," I thought Steve was a "mindbodygreen kinda guy." Anna Williams and I sat down to talk with Steve about everything from the future of food to what makes people successful.
On the future of food:
Food is a $5 trillion industry globally. And for the last 10 or 20 years, it’s been dominated mostly by big companies focused on near-term profitability, using ingredients that aren’t necessarily healthy. But health care starts at the end of the fork: what you consume impacts how you live and how long you live.
My focus is on trying to back the innovators that have interesting products answering this problem. I’m particularly excited by what’s happened in fast casual — it's really eating away at fast food. Consumers are now provided with better food options. Sweetgreen is certainly a part of that, leading the way in terms of healthier options, building up a lifestyle brand and more of a seasonal kitchen concept.
So in the next decade, I believe the fast casual segment will continue to take market share from fast food.
On technology's impact on health:
Technology certainly is part of the path forward. The two big megatrends within fast casual are a focus on healthier options and a focus on convenience for consumers, which is enabled by technology.
That’s particularly true with smartphones, where a greater number of people are now ordering on their phones. Their meal has already been custom-made for them by the time they walk into sweetgreen or similar places.
Technology's also helping people to be more aware, thanks to some of the wearable devices that millions of people are now using. Having a little reminder that you’ve been sitting for too long, or haven’t walked your goal steps that day ... those are important.
So I think there are a variety of things are kicking in here that will drive this revolution in health and wellness.
On what it takes to be successful:
I think there are many paths to becoming successful and having an impact on the world. It’s a mix of being curious, and positioning yourself to bump into people and ideas, and having flexibility in terms of how you think.
But coupled with that is the idea of taking a long-term view — recognizing it’s a marathon not a sprint — and figuring out what the right balance is for each person.
For me, it starts with trying to eat well; I eat sweetgreen almost every day for lunch. And I have an Apple Watch and walk five miles a day, and try my best to sleep a reasonable amount of time.
Of course, everyone has to make their own decisions. But I’ve found that the successful people — the ones who've had an impact over decades — have some balance in their lives, so they’re able to stay in the journey over the long run.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Revolution