Written by: James Ritchie
You don’t have to look far to find a health IT accelerator. At least, not as far as you used to.
Programs to give healthcare entrepreneurs a boost are appearing throughout the country, providing opportunities for innovators who don’t live in a major tech hub — and don’t want to move to one.
Here are a few accelerator programs to know about, with special attention to those away from the coasts:
- The Iron Yard is based in Spartanburg, S.C., and seeks companies involved in areas such as wellness apps and enterprise software. It provides $20,000 in seed capital and three months of mentoring and workshops in areas such as fundraising, user interface development and lean startup methodology.
- Healthbox is operating programs in Chicago, Nashville and Jacksonville, Fla., in addition to Boston and London. (OK, technically, Jacksonville is on the East Coast, but still.) It’s a four-month program that provides startups with $50,000 in seed capital along with office space, mentoring and training. Healthbox asks for 7 percent in equity. According to the accelerator’s website: “Competitive applicants will address a specific and pressing challenge in the healthcare industry. For example, solutions of interest may improve patient engagement, provider effectiveness or preventative health and wellness.”
- DreamIt Health started in Philadelphia and has expanded to Austin and Baltimore. The Baltimore version, which will last four months, is selecting as many as 10 firms from around the world and offering as much as $50,000 in stipend money and professional services. Applicants should be “working to use IT to solve significant industry problems faced by key healthcare stakeholders including providers, payers, public health, biopharma, device makers, employers and patients themselves.”
- The Sprint Accelerator, powered by Techstars, is a program launching in Kansas City with a focus on mobile health technology. The three-month intensive mentorship program will begin in March, with startups receiving as much as $120,000, including $20,000 in seed funding and an optional $100,000 convertible debt note.
- Health Wildcatters is a new accelerator in Dallas that invests as much as $35,000 in each firm. It’s open to a broader range of startups than some of the other programs, stating on its website: “Many healthcare IT, SaaS, digital health and mobile health companies are a fit, but we also encourage medical device, diagnostic and even pharma companies to apply.” Wildcatters takes an 8 percent equity stake. The site explains that in Texas parlance, wildcatters are “independent oil entrepreneurs willing to take chances with regard to where they drill” and that their success comes from “low operating costs and the ability to mobilize quickly.”
- XLerateHealth runs a 10-week program in Louisville, Ky. Selected teams get a $20,000 stipend and donated professional services worth an estimated $50,000. The goal is to “help early stage healthcare companies build out their commercialization strategy, which includes their intersection with Payers, Providers (hospitals, ACOs, nursing homes, home health and group practices), and customers (employers and/or consumers).” XLerateHealth receives a 6 percent equity stake.
- Innov8 for Health operates several programs in Cincinnati. This month it’s holding a Health Startup Showcase in which firms present their solutions to entrepreneurs, potential customers and investors and compete for $5,000 in cash and in-kind services. Last year it helped to launch seven companies in a 12-month accelerator program providing each firm with $20,000 in seed funding.
There are, of course, plenty of other programs. Paul Sonnier has compiled a more comprehensive list at Story of Digital Health.
With the rise of open platforms and the growing number of support networks, health IT entrepreneurship has become a viable career option for many.
And, now more than ever, it’s possible to innovate close to home.