CEO, Rock Health
Tecco's accelerator is exclusively for digital health startups. As of August, funding for Rock Health's 35 graduated companies totaled just north of $25 million, and accepted businesses will receive a $100,000 investment from the jump.
"We have this tech world with a lot of creativity. The health care industry is archaic and has a strong hierarchy that's hard to break into. We believe it's important to eliminate the silos and bring these two worlds together. By working with people within both industries, it's possible to disrupt without going against anyone. Everyone wants to reduce inefficiencies, but that must begin by understanding where those inefficiencies are.
Last year, we had more than 800 applicants. We get a lot of technical types; we also get people who aren't developers. Some teams have one doctor and one engineer. The head of the wellness practice at Ideo came through our program, and we've also had former VCs. They're not nearly as young as Y Combinator teams, and we've never had a team right out of college. Usually, it's someone with a lot of experience, maybe in medicine or in mobile.
The entrepreneurs produce a wide spectrum of products, ranging from tools for consumers—like a device to plug into your cell phone that can detect ear infections at home—to tools for providers. One entrepreneur came through from DreamWorks, where he created software that allowed animators to remotely collaborate in real time. His brother is a radiologist, so they worked together to build similar software for doctors. It's now an iPad app, Nephosity.
Some startups are going on to sell their product directly to consumers from stores such as Apple, CVS, even Best Buy. But the long-term goal is to be adopted within the larger system—to have insurers subsidize the cost of the products for patients. But even without that, entrepreneurs will continue finding ways to launch. When they have an awareness of big problems—a universal health care crisis, chronic diseases—problem solvers are always inspired."
A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.