3-Minute Interview: Ron Conway

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist has embarked on his latest — and most personal — investment. After hearing that his friend had a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disease, Conway began working with UC San Francisco doctors to create a YouTube page that offers advice to people who have the disease. The site, www.youtube.com/UCSFMemoryandAging, launches Monday.

What was your friendship with Mike Homer like? I met Mike through my investment company over 20 years ago, when he was at Apple computers. I kept in touch with him while he moved on to Netscape, and throughout the years we’ve grown to become best friends.

Before Mike’s illness, what did you know about neurodegenerative diseases? Almost nothing. I knew a little because I’m the vice chairman of the board at UCSF. I had listened to presentations, but they were at arm’s length because it was informational only. I never had any direct contact with it.

What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? It’s mainly dementia, but its catastrophic, and there are no survivors. The progression is very quick, so it’s crucial for the families and caregivers to get educated quickly and effectively.

How did the idea come about to pair YouTube with doctors from UCSF? The idea behind the Web site was to provide education about diseases like CJD in a more relatable way, by combining visual and audio elements. The idea is to help patients’ families with instructional and educational videos about the disease, so they can be more aware of the medical procedures happening. It’s not necessarily about providing awareness, it’s about providing resources to cope with the disease.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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