VC Bill Gurley says investing in health care is 'extremely dangerous,' but he's doing it anyway

  • Venture capitalist Bill Gurley recently made two new health-care investments.
  • Gurley calls it a dangerous market because it defies the forces of supply and demand that govern other marketplaces.
Bill Gurley, general partner at Benchmark Capital.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bill Gurley, general partner at Benchmark Capital.

Venture capitalist Bill Gurley says he recently made two health-care investments even though he says the sector is filled with perils.

"I've been spending a lot of time looking at health care, and it's extremely dangerous. It's extremely dangerous because the laws of most marketplaces doesn't exist," the Benchmark general partner told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Friday. "There's not a simple gravity. There's forces in five different directions. The people that are consuming aren't paying, it's crazy."

Gurley took to Twitter earlier this year to announce an investment in Solv, a mobile appointment-booking health app inspired by the real estate industry. (The second investment remained undisclosed in the interview.)

Americans spend nearly 1 in 5 dollars on health care, the Brookings Institution estimates. But the American health market can be more complex than simple supply and demand.

Despite the safety net of health insurance, many consumers don't have a financial cushion to protect against health emergencies, Brookings says, amid a complicated cocktail of insurance plans and doctor recommendations that can be hard to parse.

The perils of investing in disruptive health-care start-ups were illustrated by Theranos, a blood-testing start-up that was accused of overstating the capability of its technology. Nonetheless, technology companies are pouring more resources into health care and wellness products.

The Apple Watch has been discussed as a tool for health insurance administration and Alphabet's Verily is undertaking an exhaustive health-care study. Gurley said he's betting on the power of mobile to help upend the industry.

"I'd like to believe if you look at the marketplaces that have been built — like in Uber or Zillow — and you look at this smartphone that you're carrying with you all the time ... there are solutions that can be had," Gurley said. "I'm optimistic that there's something there."