1,000 Digital Health Startups in the Next 10 Years, Please!


Interview with Unity Stoakes

The 1st of October 2013 marks another memorable date in the US healthcare history of change and revolution. Another memorable date healthcare entrepreneurs will look back in a 10 years time knowing that the changes they see now were just the beginning of a fundamental restructuring of the system. They’ll also know that they took their chances at the right time.

By launching a key provision of the Affordable Care Act whereby statewide insurance exchanges are able to start trading around the US, more entrepreneurs understand that entry barriers are breaking, taking advantage of arising opportunities. It is another step that helps getting healthcare innovation entrepreneurship on everyone’s agenda. We finally see that the sector becomes mainstream. This is great news to one like Unity Stoakes, who founded and runs Startup Health. We wanted to know how somebody views the future and intends to help building 1000 Digital health startup over the next 10 years.

MedCrunch: Hi Unity, you run Startup Health. Tell us how the concept evolved and how you reached so many users and collaborators in such little time.

Unity: StartUp Health started as a simple idea to organize a community of like-minded innovators and stakeholders, who were all committed to transforming healthcare. Our notion was that if we could assemble a passionate community of entrepreneurs, investors, customers, government leaders, foundations and industry stakeholders we could accelerate the reinvention of healthcare and improve people’s health and wellbeing as the main result. StartUp Health has quickly blossomed into a global platform. Our plan is to help support 1,000 digital health and wellness startups in the next 10 years and to create a community and resources that will help the entire ecosystem along the way.

As serial technology entrepreneurs, my co-founder Steven Krein and I always believed that the best way to instigate change and speed up the cycles of innovation in healthcare would be to support the entrepreneurs and startups. We realized that a new model for helping innovation succeed was needed which is why we created StartUp Health.

MedCrunch: Tell us about StartupHealth’s achievements and impact on healthcare. Where do you see your organization going?

Unity: This year we launched StartUp Health Network, an open online platform to connect and organize the global community of stakeholders who are committed to transforming healthcare. There are already over 10,000 members using the platform including thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, government leaders and also the customers and industry partners who can help commercialize innovation.

We are seeing tremendous success with the StartUp Health Academy, our 3-year program to help startups scale by providing them access to customers, investors and experts and the coaching and market intelligence that will help them navigate key challenges and grow.  We currently have over 40 startup health companies and each quarter we are selecting amazing startups to join the Academy.

Combined our companies have raised over $80M.

MedCrunch: Health tech entrepreneurs used to have much trouble to convince investors to recognize their tech startup concepts as fast-growth and profitable investment targets. According to CB Insights, the past four quarters have seen nearly a 50 percent growth year-over-year in digital health exits via acquisitions or IPOs. What’s changing?

Unity: We are tracking similar trends that we share freely via our StartUp Health Insights platform.  We are at the very beginning of what we believe will be an epic decade of progress and re-invention in healthcare as a result of four macro conditions:

  1. A health reform is creating change and disrupting business models
  2. A rapidly aging population and cost problem are creating rapid demand for new solutions
  3. The digital revolution has finally reached healthcare (mobile tablets/smart phones, data, analytics, sensors, cloud, new devices, etc.)
  4. A golden age of entrepreneurship: businesses can start more quickly and with less capital than ever before

“We are starting to see the smartest investors and industry leaders realize these trends and understand that we are in a period of creative destruction in healthcare”

MedCrunch: Many are convinced that healthcare’s biggest under-leveraged resources are patients, including their potential to share information, learn and apply best practices for better health outcome. Where do you see the potential of Peer-to-Peer patient networks and what’s the business model?

Unity: One of the most exciting developments of the past few years is the power that the patient is re-gaining in its own health and care.  I’ve always wondered why it was acceptable to essentially outsource our health to others (government, employers, doctors, etc.).  This paradigm is changing rapidly as a result of transparency, data, networks, technology, sensors and many other things.  I think it is way to early to know how the business models will evolve but it is clear to me that health and wellness will be integrated into and onto and around all aspects of our life from inception through our lives.

“I would talk to 100 customers and ask what they want… And then would create something even better…”

MedCrunch: You and your team have understood how to work and collaborate with startups and all engaging steak-holders in healthcare. What’s your recipe of success?

Unity: Persistence. Passion. Gratitude. And having a strong network to help you navigate the highs and lows through your journey.

MedCrunch: If you would be asked to found a digital health-tech startup business from scratch by tomorrow morning, what would you do?

Unity: I would first talk to 100 customers and ask them what they wanted to buy.  And then I would create something even better than what they asked for, faster than they expected, and for less money than they expected to pay. I would continue to build that business from something small into something great over many, many years.

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Ben Heubl is a Health 2.0 advocate and an expert in the innovation business consulting arena of this industry. His main interest is how to use technology to make an impact for patients and hereby targeting the intersection between entrepreneurship, open innovation, technology and large corporations. Ben co-organized TEDMEDlive Bologna and is TEDMED delegate, is non-for-profit founder of Health 2.0 Copenhagen, Medstartr (EU division) and MyHealthInnovationBlog. Meanwhile he is a mentor at HealthXL, works with ICG and supports KairosSociety and its student's engagements in healthcare innovation. You can follow him on Twitter (@benheubl)