Health tech accelerators – powerhouses of health innovations

Blogikirjoitus  •  2013-06-11 10:33 EEST

Text and photo: Eeva Kiuru, Oulu Wellness Institute

This blogpost concludes our miniseries of funding advise to health tech innovators. In our previous posts we have collected list of all active investors in the category of health, wellness and life science in Finland, Scandinavia, Europe and the US. In this final post we wrap up a collection of interesting accelerator programs within health technology domain.

Who knew 5 years ago what kind of accelerator boom would take place in the startup scene in just a few years time? According to National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) there are now over 1,250 incubators in the United States and about 7,000 business incubators worldwide.

The whole idea of accelerators is to get startup founders exposure to networks with domain expertise and funding in order to get the business faster on the right track. Most of the accelerators are generic with a broad (mobile, web) domain focus.

Life science is a great example of a challenging industry where it makes sense to build industry-specific accelerators to speed up the development. Life science accelerators often have strong connection to medical faculties or medical centers as well as other key stakeholders in the life science industry, such as regulation and reimbursement experts, mentors, investors and networks. Most importantly accelerators have access and connections to early adopting customer prospects.

Accelerator services often include affordable office space, access to laboratory facilities, access to peers, support services, coaching and even seed funding. Other services include for example expert lectures, advisor and faculty office hours, workshops, networking events, and brokered customer meetings.

Many accelerators are non-profits funded by grants from government or they are funded by corporations and vc’s. As a return, accelerators’ funding partners get an early access to pre-screened dealflow, access to bubbling innovations and talent pool. By connecting with the vibrant health startup scene, they also get positive visibility for their corporate brand. Some accelerators take equity in the chosen accelerator startups. In the current accelerator boom it is important for a startup to screen the track records of the accelerator they plan to apply for.

Here is our selection of interesting incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces for a seed-stage health and life science startup founder:

Alchemist Accelerator (Menlo Park, Calif.) is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating technical seed-stage enterprise startups, whose revenue comes from enterprises, not consumers. They select twice a year 10 teams for their 6 month program and $ 28 k funding. Selected startups must locate at the Bay Area but are not required to move in the Alchemist premises. They can locate where they choose in order to create their own company culture. Alchemist is not a pure life science accelerator but an interesting alternative also for a technical health startup with b-to-b focus.

BioCurious (Sunnyvale, Calif.) is a hackerspace for biotech with a mission to make innovations in biology accessible, affordable, and open to everyone. It is a co-working, training and meeting place for citizen scientists, hobbyists, activists, and students. It is a complete working laboratory and technical library for entrepreneurs to cheaply access equipment and materials.

Blueprint Health (New York City, New York) offers twice a year an intensive three-month accelerator program to help healthcare entrepreneurs find customers and capital. The foundation of the program is a community of over 150 healthcare entrepreneurs, investors and industry executives. Accepted startups receive for example $20,000 in cash and an office space at Blueprint Health SoHo office. In exchange for the funding, support and mentorship, Blueprint Health receives a 6% equity stake in the accelerated company. Blueprint Health has a broad healthcare focus but does not include med tech or drug development.

Digital Health New York's (New York City, New York) focus areas are care coordination, analytics, message alerts and patient engagement. Selected startups get access to clinical and technology provider organizations including hospitals, long-term care providers, community health centers, and primary care providers. They also get access to interoperability work group and a network of healthcare leaders, successful entrepreneurs, and investors. Each selected company will receive up to $300,000 of capital (convertible note).

Fogarty Institute for Innovation (Mountain View, Calif.) aims to create an environment where one can cost effectively develop technology that directly benefits patients. It is an educational nonprofit offering three programs for different aspects of medical technology innovation (Innovation/Cultivation, Clinical Research/Validation and Outreach/Education). Located on the campus of El Camino Hospital, the Fogarty Institute for Innovation includes laboratory and engineering space where physicians and engineers collaborate. Since 2007 four hand-picked applicants have received direct, sustained support in the form of facilities, ongoing mentoring by Fogarty Institute leadership and/or technology development costs.

Healthbox (Boston, Chicago, and London) brings together entrepreneurs, strategic partners, industry experts and investors to tackle real healthcare challenges. They look for healthcare technology and technology-enabled service startup founders who address a specific and pressing challenge in the healthcare industry. They are interested in for example, improving patient engagement, provider effectiveness or preventative health and wellness. Entrepreneurs selected to participate in the 16-week program receive $ 50.000 seed money and support designed to address the challenges unique to starting a business in healthcare. In exchange for the program benefits, startups provide Healthbox with 7% equity.

Health XL  (Dublin and London) program begins in February of each year and focuses on startups within digital health technology. The program has over 150 mentors and also works closely with healthcare industry, who sponsors the program. Health XL’s focus is in the following domains: direct medical solutions, personalization, patient compliance, prevention and participatory health solutions, health economics and integrated solutions.

More Disruption Please (MDP) is Athena Health’s innovation and partnership program aimed at entrepreneurs, health care IT companies, investors and thought leaders—anyone who shares their vision of changing the status quo in health care through openness and connectivity of disruptive solutions. With the program, AthenaHealth connects new innovators with their 35.000 health service providers. The company will ask neither for a fee nor equity, only for a discount for its clients. Also, MDP wants to give their partners a "go-to-market in a box" via their cloud-based network and integration into medical providers' workflow.

RockHealth (San Fransisco, Calif.) was the first seed accelerator exclusively targeted for health startups. RockHealth takes in two classes a year. They provide capital ($100K convertible note), office space, mentorship, and operational support to high-potential, early stage, pre-vc entrepreneurs working on ideas in health. They focus on the disruptive edge of healthcare and look for themes like quantified self, EMR interoperability, provider-patient relationship, home health, home aging, big data, modern analytics, enhanced care delivery, cost transparency, clinical trial modernization and smart health sensors and gadgets.  Ideas should be addressing large problems in the healthcare system, with a business model that is sustainable and scalable.


We hope you found this resource useful. New programs and accelerators are born almost on a weekly basis all over the world so this is not trying to be a comprehensive list. Rather it is a quick look at what kind of alternatives there are available for the early stage health startup wanting to speed up their business.


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