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Personal Update: Valenus Course Correction

We are entering the third week of 2022. I have reflected on my personal progress as well as the progress of Valenus. I came to the conclusion that a course correction and reorientation is necessary. Let’s dive into where I want to go, the reasons, and how this reorientation will look like.

Why I Started Valenus

About 1.5 years ago, I actively initiated Valenus Group. I set myself the goal to start an ambitious Buy & Build strategy to create a new kind of health company. As I reflected on the progress, I realized it is time to iterate and rethink the strategy.

In a few days, my grandmother will turn 91 years old. She is incredibly fit for her age. Nevertheless, she is plagued with some form of back pain, neck pain or shoulder pain on and off for several years.

For many years now, she has been trying to find a trustworthy person who actually listens to her. Someone who does not go out of his way to help her.

What really riled me is that over 10 years, I saw her going from one person to another. From one physical therapist to the next, then to an orthopedist, then to a sports clinic. While she is passably satisfied with one therapist, she’s not at all with the other. Orthopedists offer her nothing but injections. They advise numerous surgeries at the abysmal local hospital (probably while earning some illegal cashback). Until now, no one has really helped her. No wonder that she has completely lost her trust in doctors, therapists, and orthopedists.

This should NOT be this way!

She has been and still is my main inspiration to pursue a venture in health care. To create exactly this ethical, empathetic contact person with transparent and high quality treatment concepts.

However, this is not just the case for my grandmother, but for billions of people worldwide. In November, I spoke with a banker who confirmed my hypothesis. With should problems, he unsuccessfully strolled from one therapist to the next.

What is lacking is not only an empathetic contact person but especially completely transparent, standardized, peer-reviewed and quality-driven treatment concepts.

Over the last decade, we already saw a shift from inpatient to outpatient. This shift is still taking place. In Germany, this trend will disrupt the entire industry of rehabilitation. But this shift towards outpatient facilities is not the final stage. We will see a large chunk move towards an ‘at home’ prophylaxis and treatment concepts.

With this in mind, technology will take over more and more what previously doctors did. But what stays is the need for an empathetic contact person.

This ‘health contact person’ is precisely what I would like to create with Valenus. This way I want to help billions of people worldwide to live pain-free, symptom-free and long and healthy lives.

Around one and a half years ago I saw an opportunity to transform existing rehab facilities, therapy practices and health studios into what I envisioned as a “Valenus Health Center”. Today, it is time to re-evaluate to attack my vision successfully.

Re-Evaluation

Outpatient rehabilitation market

In the last year, we looked at several dozen target companies in the outpatient rehabilitation market. We submitted several offers, went into due diligence with one company, and talked to many more.

Looking back, I think it is not worth joining bidding wars with larger private equity funds, whose main interest lies in consolidating a market as soon as possible, willing to pay prices in the region of >7 to 8 times EBIT plus real estate.

Considering the heavy bureaucratic regulation which restrict growth, these purchase prices are too high a price to pay as to serve as the basis for my vision. My interest is to maintain control in the Valenus Group in the long term, together with my partners and employees.

Health studios will go out of business

At the beginning of 2021, I saw health clubs as interesting targets. However, due to political decisions, I assess this situation entirely different today. The lockdowns and subsequent 2G regulation (entrance only vaccinated or recovered) have already severely hurt health studios. The 2G+ regulation (only vaccinated, recovered plus an additional rapid antigen test) for health studios, which has been in effect for two weeks, suggests the worst. Health studios are absolutely loss-making at the current time and most will go out of business.

Mandatory Vaccinations

I strongly oppose mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in the healthcare sector, as well as a mandatory vaccination for the public. It is not only my strong ethical and liberal conviction why I consider compulsory vaccination to be absolutely wrong, also the facts speak completely against a mandate.

I will not – in any case – lead a healthcare company (which is composed of health and care) which mandates and enforces vaccines mandates on employees. It is an antagonism which – at least for me – morally does not work together with building a health conscious company. I’d have to lie to myself and live a false life, which I don’t accept.

But not only morally also economically, I question mandatory vaccinations. The mandatory vaccination of healthcare providers, which includes both therapy practices and outpatient rehabilitation centers, introduced in Germany in December 2021 will lead to major staffing shortages as long as the vaccination requirement remains in place. This is a foreseeable risk for Valenus Group, and one to which I respond immediately.

Depending on the facility, I anticipate that at least 10% to as much as 30% of staff will drop out or resign by the cut-off date of March 15, 2022. In the market there is already an enormous shortage of skilled workers, if now from mid-March on average around 20% of the staff fall away, this will inevitably lead to chaos on the health care market. Even if the vaccination requirement is reversed after 2-3 months, some staff members will never return to their occupation (as one can currently observe in the U.S.).

As a drop in sales and losses have to be expected, businesses in healthcare have to be valued much more conservatively. Even then, without an interest-only period, mandatory vaccines will at least temporarily jeopardize the repayment of loans.

The acquisition of individual therapy practices this year will inevitably lead to operational problems, which are avoidable obstacles in my vision for Valenus.

Reorientation

To achieve the vision I have for Valenus and to avoid operational risks as well as an ethical dilemma, I decided to reorient the focus of Valenus Group with immediate effect.

I want Valenus to help every person on earth to live naturally as healthy and as long as possible. This includes completely transparent, standardized, peer-reviewed and quality-driven treatment and therapy concepts to help those who lost their health regain it as fast as possible.

To achieve this, I want Valenus to focus to exclusively on highly scalable content, software, as well as franchising and licensing companies in the sphere of prophylaxis and rehabilitation. These companies have indefinitely more possibilities of positively affecting the health and lives of more than one billion people.

As of today, I will focus on acquisitions as well as in-house development of:

  1. World-class content on prophylaxis and health,
  2. World-class health software and health technology,
  3. World-class health licensing and franchising models,
  4. World-class treatment and therapy concepts.

By focussing on technology and content, we will become the partner instead of competitor of other therapists and doctors. Furthermore, we can build a brand which does not stop at a remote branch but reaches the everyday life of each person on earth.

This makes me even more excited – which shows me this is the right choice and the right direction to go.

Closing Remarks

Over the past one and a half years, I met many incredible, open-minded people who through conversations or active participation helped me and Valenus Group move forward.

I hereby sincerely thank you for all the conversations, your commitment, and your support in the past year, this has meant a lot to me!

I wish everyone who is reading this much joy, satisfaction, and health for the new year.

Sincerely,

Marius Schober

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