Health Startup Academy (Not Accelerator) StartupHealth 3/19/12


At SXSW a couple of weeks ago, StartupHealth formally announced its program and the 10 "Healthcare Transformers" that make up its inaugural class of startups. We first heard about StartupHealth last summer but had to wait until the formal announcement to learn how it was actually trying to "energize entrepreneurial talent" into healthcare.

StartupHealth took a different approach from the health-specific incubators Rock Health, Healthbox, and Blueprint Health. Whereas the incubators provide seed capital and require 3-5 months of intensive work to build a prototype and presentation for investors, StartupHealth is a three-year program that offers no seed capital. Instead of calling itself an incubator, it is calling itself an Academy, specifically The Academy for Health and Wellness Entrepreneurship. Also, StartupHealth seems to enroll individuals directly and not companies.

If not capital and free workspace, what do you get if you are selected to be a part of StartupHealth? StartupHealth provides ongoing support through access to peers, coaches, mentors, funders, customers, and anything else you need to grow a business in healthcare. The list of mentors and speakers is an impressive one, with representatives from lots of funds, HHS (I think Todd Park’s profile needs to be updated to CTO of the US, not HHS), and the VA. Participants have video conferences monthly, in-person meetings quarterly, and demo days to showcase products to potential investors and customers.

There is no cost to be in StartupHealth, though participants need to fund their own travel to the quarterly in-person meetings. Startups can be located anywhere. Since startups don’t get any capital, they don’t give up any equity.

Even though StartupHealth claims to be stage agnostic, the inaugural class of startups is predominately more later stage than what we’ve seen from the health incubators. It makes sense, considering startups don’t get any capital and StartupHealth is committing to enroll startups for three years. I think some incubator companies haven’t been much more than an idea and online application.

It’s certainly an interesting model and I like the longer timeline a lot more than the 3-5 months for an incubator. I’m curious how much value participants get, seeing as it is all intangible and hard to quantify, especially today. It’s almost like a trade association for health startups to network and gain access to new customers and investors. I’m sure you get a lot more out of the peer connections and mentors than a trade association, but the value is ultimately going to be defined by the ROI for participating, meaning how much revenue does it generate. I think we’ll have to just wait and see.

Initially the press reported that StartupHealth was a partnership between OrganizedWisdom and HHS. I can’t really find anything directly about OrganizedWisdom as a partner on the StartupHealth website today. OrganizedWisdom is a startup that is trying to help physicians create Digital Offices (it sounds a bit like ShareCare and HealthTap.) I’m not really sure what OrganizedWisdom has to do with a startup academy for health, but the leadership of StartupHealth is almost all founders, executives, or investors in OrganizedWisdom. Can anyone shed light on this connection?

In the first class of 10 are:

Sundeep Bhan (medivo). I’ve reported on this company a couple of times — first when it raised $7 million, and then when it acquired WellApps a few weeks ago. Medivo initially was going to improve care by leveraging lab testing data, but with WellApps, I imagine it will extend itself into more of a patient relationship management platform to connect providers and patients using technology outside the care setting. It will probably try to leverage clinical data to optimize care and increase revenue for providers by identifying gaps in care.

Veer Gidwaney (dailyfeats). Another one that I’ve heard of. The company is trying to change behavior — a very lofty goal — through daily feats and accomplishments. It has a payer and a pharmacy partner already. I have no idea how many people use it, but StartupHealth claims it is already profitable.

Samer Hamadeh (zeel). Zeel is like ZocDoc for alternative medicine. Almost all of these services are self-pay, so the company is able to offer transparent pricing at booking and is even doing cool things like bundling services (massages, for example) for discounts. It’s already raised $1.5 million. The "Z" browser icon is eerily similar to ZocDoc’s.

Nadeem Kassam (BASIS). Basis is a trendy-looking watch that tracks your heart rate. It’s like a more advanced, more stylish Fitbit. It takes that data, creates a dashboard, and makes suggestions about behavior. It has badges and games based on Basis data. The company has raised $9 million.

Hesky Kutscher (motherknows). MotherKnows is a specialty PHR for families to store and share medical information about kids. It’s a paid service and you sign a release of information when you register. I think MotherKnows pulls paper charts and enters the data manually to create and update medical records four times per year. It’s a nifty way to avoid integration costs. Once the data is imported to MotherKnows, parents get convenient tools like mobile apps, vaccination records, and emergency medical forms for kids. I like this idea. It’s already raised $1.7 million.

Bill Scott (BrainPaint). BrainPaint makes it possible for different kinds of providers to offer neurofeedback to their patients. From what I can gather, providers pay a subscription and then can administer neurofeedback in the office. BrainPaint captures the data and comes up with therapy recommendations. It’s a very cool way to scale neurofeedback to providers that don’t have the time or inclination to train themselves. The intro video on the provider site is a bit freaky to me, with the deep voice and strange company logo.

Bronwyn Spira (FORCE Therapeutics). Similar to BrainPaint in concept, FORCE is building apps (web and mobile) that physical therapists can use to extend their practice and offer to patients for remote treatment. Once a patient is enrolled and paying for the service, the PT can monitor activity.

David Wong MD, PhD (Direct Dermatology). Another service to extend clinical practice and improve access, Direct Dermatology enables referring physicians to get reports back from dermatologist within 48 hours based on basic clinical data and an image. Founded by two dermatologists, it seems like a worthy competitor to several other services trying to do teladerm. I’m not sure who is paying for the services, but I think revenue can be worked out once its up and running.

Faheem Zaman (Care Dojo). Stealth mode currently.

George Zamanakos, PhD (stealth mode startup). Again, not much info on this one except that it is trying to enable remote access to pregnancy care anywhere in the world.


Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

  • I like the idea of StartUp Health because although I believe in the incubators, it’s not always easy to pack up and move. Depending on what stage your startup is in and whether it was self-funded also makes a difference. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to give up 8% equity for $25-50k. StartUp Health is a good way to get exposure. It makes it easier for investors to find talent. I think it’s a great way to find other startups and make connections in the arena. We just added our company, I’ll be more than happy to keep you posted on the experience. I am looking forward to the day that I can help advise other startups passionate in this industry.

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