MedCrunch: We loved attending the DHF13 event; it was really informative and refreshing. We particularly enjoyed the coziness and familiarity created between the audience and the speakers that gave way to really excellent conversations. Could you please give us some general thoughts about the event and also tell us what the highlights were for you?
Vishal Gulati: I’m glad you enjoyed it. That was the main objective of the event: to make it informative as well as enjoyable. We got a lot of positive feedback. The attendees as well as the speakers had very similar feedback to what you had: they found it to be cozy. It was not too small and not too large. What I was most happy about was that we were able to deliver some really high quality content. We were able to deliver something that generated insight in the minds of the people in attendance. It was not about sharing a forest of data or anything like that. It was the astute observations and insights of industry leaders on how Digital Health is going to change the way we view healthcare. For me that was the highlight.
MedCrunch: The speakers and the audience were consisted of really progressive minds and forward thinking individuals. Can you tell me more about what you learned from the ongoing conversations at the event and what you might apply to actual future Digital Healthcare investments?
Vishal Gulati: I think the key learning that I gained by talking to the audience is that now the pieces of Digital Health have really come together. I heard that investors are growing in number. It’s no longer just one or two investors who are talking about Digital Health. We saw some very high quality companies, which were fundable companies in their own rights. They would get funded even if there were no such thing as a Digital Health industry because they serve patients’ needs and generate value to investors. We also heard from the health care providers, who seem to be the most resistant element of the system. Even though change is very hard on the healthcare system, they are now actively looking for interesting companies and ideas. On that basis, I’m now getting a sense that the system is coming to a point where it is cohesive and complete.
MedCrunch: Could you tell me more about the actual trends that you saw emerging or re-emerging at the event?
Vishal Gulati: For me, one of the interesting trends was that there is kind of recognition of Digital Health as in investible class. What we are seeing is that a small part of the traditional health care investors who have invested in biotech and devices have moved over to doing Digital Health. Furthermore, a lot of entities who have never invested in healthcare before have recently started to invest; an expected trend that leads to think that there will be more money in the sector. Investors like DSJ, for example, who are traditionally not healthcare investors, are now actively seeking to invest in Digital Health. On the other hand, those who have traditionally been hardcore investors in molecular science, now have members of their team who are actively looking into Digital Health.
MedCrunch: Did you identify anything that could be relevant or applicable to physicians?
Vishal Gulati: We only were able to host a limited number of attendees and did unfortunately not have a large critical mass of practicing physicians. We had a lot of physicians like myself who no longer practice. I suppose your question is about physicians who are active on a day-to-day basis in providing healthcare. From that perspective, I don’t think we had a critical mass of them. However, those who did speak were the ones who might be seen as ahead in the curve: relatively young physicians who are building digital tools to improve access to healthcare. It’s very good to see that physicians are seeing the value in the healthcare system. This is very important because it will be quite hard for an industry to break into a very complex system without having gained interest from the physicians.
MedCrunch: Absolutely. So, what do you think can be done to get more of this “buy-in” and who should really be leading this change?
Vishal Gulati: After the event, we had several approaches from different organizations and individuals. These include people who wanted to organize events to get more physicians on board. Others approached us that wanted to engage health care providers and get them included in the conversation in order to see how we can build things that physicians actually want. So, rather than building tools and then forcing them down the throats of physicians, saying “please use it because we think it’s a great idea”, would not be the best way to go.
MedCrunch: From the start-ups that were presenting, a lot of the members did have backgrounds in medicine, right?
Vishal Gulati: Yes. This was very helpful. What I found in my research is that companies that are either founded by physicians or are able to engage with forward-thinking physicians early in the process are more likely to succeed. This was visible. We looked at companies that were succeeding in some way or another, and in all those cases we found that there was a physician that served either as a founder or involved early in the process.
MedCrunch: All the presenting start-ups and particularly the Hot Five were really impressive. Can you elaborate a bit on the panel’s decision to choose AliveCor?
Vishal Gulati: I think it’s very hard for me to get an insight into how those choices were made. Different judges scored different companies in different categories. What I can tell from my own personal standpoint is that I thought that the launchability of a product is essential and helps companies to be picked out in competitions like this. AliveCor had a product that was ready for the public. People could see it and that makes a huge difference when you have to make quick judgments as far as the risk that is involved. It suddenly gives a sense of maturity to the business. Endotronix has a great product that probably has a much bigger impact on the healthcare system, but their product has not launched yet.
MedCrunch: What would your advice be to start-ups based on the performance of the top five? What do you think makes a start-up deal ready?
Vishal Gulati: I think it’s worth mentioning that the five start-ups that you saw presenting at the Hot Five were coached by our mentors during the pre-presentation process. We are not an accelerator but we do believe that companies can gain a lot from talking to people who have experience in the industry. We were able to help them bring out their value and proposition more clearly to the audience. One of our goals is to add value at every step for the company and some of the companies found it very valuable; it was the highlight of the whole event for them. They were able to talk to the VC’s the day before the actual event and understand the value that they could bring out during the presentation.
MedCrunch: Are you aware of any new projects or connections that have emerged from the event?
Vishal Gulati: What I do know is that a number of meetings have happened between the presenting companies and investors. There have been a number of interactions. I have not heard whether someone has actually signed a check yet, but I am hopeful that this will happen soon.
MedCrunch: Well, it’s early days.
Vishal Gulati: Yes, yes I know.
MedCrunch: I also wanted to ask you what your plans are for the next event. Could give us a teaser? Also, as this was the first DHF you ran, is there anything that you would do differently?
Vishal Gulati: One of the things that we would do differently is to start preparing for it much sooner. This time, the event was set up in relatively short time span. We got very lucky to be able to get really, really good speakers and attendees. I also think that next time we can do better. What we are planning to do now is that the team organizing the event will start next month in order to have plenty of time to track the right people and generate the level of fairness that is required for such an event.
MedCrunch: In our last interview, we mentioned the destruction that is happening in healthcare. You told us that a gradual revolution is taking place. Where do you think we are in this revolution right now and which groups of people would you say are the ones that should try to capitalize this further?
Vishal Gulati: I think all of the members of the ecosystem have to play a role. This is a complex industry. It will require support from the telecom industry, the healthcare industry, physicians, investors, and entrepreneurs. I think that the signs of this destruction moving forward are quite strong. The Affordable Care Act in the United States has capitalized a huge amount of innovation because there is a significant change in the business model of how health care is provided in the US -largest health care market in the world that is now no longer under threat for legal processes. This has led a lot of investors to get involved in the industry. Similarly, in the UK, we are going through a lot of destruction in how health care is provided and there is therefore a greater interest. I am an Evangelist; I always see the positive side everywhere I look.