Secret Research Techniques
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Hello! A short, non-healthcare related issue today that I thought might be interesting.
Over the years I’ve found some research “hacks” to be helpful that I thought I would share with you all. I won’t share all of them, cause that would put me out of a job :)
Advanced Google Searches
Two types of google searches are very helpful to me.
Adding “filetype:pdf”, “filetype:xls”, and “filetype:ppt”. This will limit searches to those kinds of filetypes, and that tends to bring up company presentations, brochures, analyses, etc. Definitely useful to find presentations given at conferences, where there’s a lot more case studies to look at.
Adding “blogspot”, “medium”, and “substack” or “site:medium” to to specific domains. The long-tail of blogs have much more interesting analyses than SEO optimized news articles and content marketing. By limiting the URL to these domains you’ll find way more interesting analyses IMO.
People put a lot of stuff on their LinkedIn, especially when they’re looking for a job. We used to get all that advice we about resumes - “quantify whenever possible”, “list specific projects”, etc. Turns out that’s also a great assist when it comes to researching companies. You learn a lot from all the people love “spearheading” projects to certain metrics.
You might need a Linkedin premium account to use this research technique to the fullest. FWIW, most employers are likely looking at employees that suddenly get really active updating Linkedin to identify turnover risk.
Public Filings + Research Reports
Now that there are a significant number of public healthcare and digital health companies, public filings have become a treasure trove of data. Specifically filings like S-1s, 10-Qs, and investor presentations from public companies. These filings give an idea of what the north star metric is for companies in that industry generally, but also what metrics are NOT being displayed (which is actually more important). Take a look at Teladoc’s 10-Qs over the years and see how they talk about member growth, utilization, etc.
If you’re able, I highly recommend trying to get your hands on equity research papers as well, especially when diving into a completely new space. One benefit of healthcare being consolidated is you really need to only understand how one or two of the major players work to get a sense of how that part of the industry operates generally.
Banks and consulting firms also write really good primers generally that are well-researched. For example, this report from Credit Suisse on CROs helped me learn a ton and this report from Deloitte did a good job highlighting the obstacles building towards value-based care as a concept.
One amazing ripple effect of Stripe (I think?) is that companies now put out clean and understandable API documentation that almost acts as marketing material in itself.
By perusing what actions the APIs allow for, you can understand who the users are, what’s being tracked, and very clear distinctions between the different product lines.
These are highly underrated as sources. I usually don’t take these comments as fact - but it can help direct where I might dive in deeper.
Redditors are generally amicable within the smaller subreddits and willing to help others out/have real discussions, which you can learn a lot from. Once you find particularly useful subreddits you can also search only within them.
Comments sections of newsletters are surprisingly useful - New York Times in particular has a very good division between editor and readers picks which are always an interesting read on an article relevant to the topic you’re researching.
Twitter though is still the best source of takes, but you’ll have to pay attention the source it’s coming from. Learning to use advanced search functionality within Twitter will seriously level you up.
Glassdoor is tabloids for companies. I almost always never take these reviews too seriously, but sometimes they can point out some of the operational challenges a company faces or some interesting places to go do further research. This is especially true if you look across a basket of competitive companies and they also mention similar operational issues across the different companies.
The last one is looking through company patents and trademarks to understand how a company is thinking about their future strategy.
The patents give some good insight into high level operational flows of how a problem might be tackled theoretically, and many have sketches/mockups of what the product might even look like. Definitely useful information to have.
Knowing these tools and sources of data is a really small part of doing research - the tough part is knowing what questions to even ask in the first place. I struggle stringing all these seemingly disparate rabbit holes and separate sources of information together - but if you know generally where to point your search you can use some of these techniques to find deeper sources of information than news articles.
If you have other tips and tricks, let me know!
Nikhil aka. “A Research Hack”