On the podcast: Possibilities and limitations of digital contact tracing

Matt: COVID has done a great job of elevating some of these, kind of, consistent challenges for every company. And I think the legal side opened up a lot of questions around risk, company risk, company liability. Make sure that you’ve thought through the implications of contact tracing.

Lee: Alex and Matt just outlined some fairly significant challenges around using contact tracing in the workplace. Kaia, what additional considerations might we be missing?

Kaia: You know, the question is who is going to be able to mandate this? I think some companies may say “If you want to work for us, you need to use this contact tracing application. You’re not permitted to enter the office without using it.” But then the question is, do employees have the right to give the same mandates? And is there a potential for the government to tell employers you can’t require your employees use a contact tracing platform? I don’t know if employers can’t require all the employees to use the contact tracing technology, then I don’t see being fully functional because you might be missing a large proportion of the data.

Lee: So there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty around accuracy, legality and privacy that companies are still trying to figure out. And if that’s the case for something like a workplace which is very localized, what does that mean for the greater community? Well, our next guest weighs in.

Josh Mendelson: My name’s Josh Mendelson. I’m a partner at Hangar. Hangar is a firm where we specifically build in and invest in companies focused on the public sector market. We work with government policymakers, regulators [and] key constituencies to understand their greatest needs and look for ways to use technology to answer those needs.

Lee: And that is a unique investment strategy and an approach to executing. How did you just, more practically, come into forming Hangar in that way and in finding that focus?

Josh: This is a huge marketplace. Government is this broadly defined public sector market is one of the last markets, I would argue, that hasn’t really been touched by 21st century technology. When you look across the arc of my career—my time in government, my time working at Google in Silicon Valley, making the change that so many do—and I still have trouble admitting of going from being an entrepreneur to being a VC. But it was really hard to be an observer for so much of it, to know what I knew about government and how it worked and not want to apply a bunch of the skills that I’d like to think I accumulated in tech world and bring them over to the marketplace. We understand how government, again, broadly defined, works, and we ought to use that.

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