A few months back, the White House announced the creation of Startup America, a public-private partnership to accelerate entrepreurialism in the U.S., chaired by AOL cofounder Steve Case. Now Case's old business partner, former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin, is helping start a health-specific variation on Startup America, called Startup Health.
Startup Health will focus on new companies in the health and wellness space. The goal is to provide entrepreneurs with the information and support they need to go from idea to sustainable business. The organization is being created by OrganizedWisdom, a health information site that Levin has invested in.
"A lot of the talent that is coming out of schools and being put to work today is going into gaming or social commerce," OrganizedWisdom CEO Steven Krein tells Fast Company. Startup Health wants to change that. "It's about getting the developers and investors to start putting their talent and money into this space in ways that will help us live healthier lives."
Krein says the advances in personal technology combined with the amount of health-related data now available means that it's possible to create apps and tools that help people stay healthy—products like FitBit, that help you track how much exercise you're getting, or Fooducate, a smartphone app that tells you how healthy various foods are.
But the larger ecosystem that exists to support gaming companies or social apps—the ecosystem where entrepreneurs can find guidance and capital—simply doesn't exist in the health and wellness space. "There's clearly a huge opportunity here," Krein says. "We want to organize this movement."
Today's announcement is taking place at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Data Initiative Forum, whose goal is to encourage more private organizations to build tools and applications using the vast amounts of health data the government is now making available.
The fact that Levin's initiative is starting so closely on the heels of Case's is no accident. The two know each other well, of course, from the disastrous 2000 AOL-Time Warner merger. In the decade since Levin left the company, he has developed a deep interest in wellness issues, in part through observing the work of his wife, who founded a holistic mental health institute in Santa Barbara.
When Startup America was announced, Levin reached out to Case, Krein says. "We had often talked about what was missing in this space to attract more entrepreneurs," he says.
Startup Health is not part of Startup America, but the two organizations will collaborate.
Among its first projects, Startup Health will host a series of roundtables to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and organizations to help hammer out a roadmap showing how startups can turn their ideas into sustainable businesses. The organization is also launching "The Startup Health Pledge" to collect names of corporations, health professionals, and government organizations willing to help build the health and wellness entrepreneurial ecosystem.
[Image: Flickr user SuperFantastic]