The Fall of Babylon: Lessons from a Failed Telehealth Startup and the Inefficiency of Airplane Boarding

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Sep 23, 2023

3 min read


The Fall of Babylon: Lessons from a Failed Telehealth Startup and the Inefficiency of Airplane Boarding

In the fast-paced world of startups, success and failure often go hand in hand. One such case is Babylon Health, a London telehealth startup that was once valued at nearly $2 billion. With backing from prominent figures like the founders of DeepMind and deep-pocketed health insurance companies, Babylon seemed poised for greatness. However, the company's journey took a dramatic turn, leading to its ultimate downfall and bankruptcy.

Babylon's troubles began when a clinician in the U.K. started raising concerns about the company's practices related to patient safety and corporate governance. These alarms went largely unnoticed until 2021, when it was revealed that a U.K. medical regulator had also been sharing and agreeing with these concerns. This revelation cast a shadow of doubt on Babylon's credibility and raised questions about its ability to operate ethically.

To make matters worse, Babylon's expansion into the U.S. market through a $4 billion+ SPAC plan in 2021 only served to distance the company from its core issues. While it may have seemed like a strategic move to investors, it ultimately failed to address the underlying problems that had plagued Babylon from the beginning. This serves as a cautionary tale for startups looking to expand without first resolving internal conflicts and addressing potential risks.

The fall of Babylon highlights the importance of maintaining transparency and ensuring compliance with industry regulations. Startups should prioritize building trust with their stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulators. By establishing a strong foundation of ethical practices and corporate governance, companies can avoid the pitfalls that ultimately led to Babylon's demise.

In a completely different arena, the world of airplane boarding has long been plagued by inefficiencies. The standard method of boarding, which involves boarding passengers from the back of the plane to the front in groups, has been proven to be the slowest and least satisfactory for customers. Despite the availability of data and multiple studies on the subject, airlines have been slow to adopt more efficient boarding methods.

Research conducted by the TV show Mythbusters in 2012 revealed that Southwest's boarding method was the fastest out of the four methods tested. This method involved allowing all window seat passengers to board first, followed by middle seat passengers, and finally, aisle seat passengers (outside-in). Another physicist, Jason Steffen, developed a boarding system using computer models that further improved upon the outside-in method. Steffen's method involved creating a choreographed sequence for window seat passengers to eliminate any waiting time in the aisle.

These findings challenge the traditional boarding process and offer airlines an opportunity to enhance customer satisfaction and streamline operations. By adopting more efficient boarding methods, airlines can reduce boarding times and improve the overall travel experience for passengers. This is especially crucial as air travel continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conclusion, the fall of Babylon serves as a cautionary tale for startups, highlighting the importance of addressing internal issues and maintaining ethical practices. By prioritizing transparency and compliance, companies can build trust and avoid the same fate as Babylon. Similarly, the inefficiency of airplane boarding methods demonstrates the need for innovation and the adoption of more efficient processes. Airlines should embrace data-driven approaches to enhance customer satisfaction and optimize their operations.

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