Yesterday afternoon I had an opportunity to serve as a mentor for ten startup companies that are currently participating in an incubation program in Kansas City known as the Sprint Accelerator powered by TechStars. Companies were selected from entries that came from across the country. Small teams from each company will spend three months in Kansas City where they will be able to incubate their ideas and further develop their technologies and solutions under the watchful eye of business mentors from the entrepreneurial community, corporate executives, health experts and venture capitalists.
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Over the course of the afternoon, I met with each company in a series of rapid fire, twenty minute interviews. One after another, each company would give their pitch or demo their mobile health solution and I would have an opportunity to make suggestions on how to improve the technology, monetize the solution, explore possible partnerships, or improve and expand their services. In many ways the experience reminded me of the popular ABC television series, Shark Tank. Although I wasn’t there to provide funding, there were times when I felt I was playing the part of “Mr. Wonderful”, Mark Cuban, or one of the other regulars on Shark Tank. If I had been there to invest, some companies stood out more than others. I particularly liked a mobile app company focused on personal safety called Lifeline Response. I also enjoyed learning about the good work of Sick Weather, a company that develops map-based “forecasts” of community illness symptom levels based on algorithms of keyword feeds from Twitter and Facebook. It was also a pleasure speaking with a young physician who is working on a collaboration tool, Yosko, to improve patient information handoffs between shifts for resident physicians who work in teaching hospitals.
There were plenty of other great ideas too. Some companies already have fully developed mobile apps, services and paying customers while others are in the earlier stages of development. There was even a company focused not on human health, but on the health and fitness of dogs, FitBark. Several companies are developing solutions to improve employee wellness and fitness or help caregivers better manage patient populations with a chronic disease.
At the end of three months, mentors and investors will have an opportunity to measure the progress and maturation of these young companies. Winners will emerge, but in many ways every company will be a winner through the knowledge, contacts, and support they are getting by participating in the Sprint Accelerator powered by TechStars.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft