Healthcare Technology Offers Opportunities if You Can Cure Pain Points


NEW YORK—Opportunities abound in healthcare technology, but many challenges prevail. It takes its sweet time to scale. It takes some pivoting to reach product-market fit.  It’s better narrowed down to a particular category than spread out. And perhaps the most challenging of all, it’s tightly regulated that every time a healthcare specialist or entrepreneur opens his mouth, you hear HIPAA compliance all the time. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires protection and confidential handling of personal information, among others.

At Workville last October 11, Jason Malki’s Alley Boost meetup assembled a great panel of startups in the health space to talk about health technology.  The guest speakers were Ram Swaminathan, founder and CEO of Buddi Health, a startup innovating on a disruptive deep learning platform focused on the US healthcare revenue cycle space;  physician Atul Kumar, mentor and angel investor  for healthcare IT startups; physician Philip Christian, DreamIt Ventures managing director for health; and Samir Malik, SVP/general manager of Genoa Telepsychiatry.

Many healthcare technology startups are looking for automated and interoperable healthcare information solutions to improve medical care, lower costs, increase efficiency, reduce error and improve patient satisfaction while also optimizing reimbursement for ambulatory and inpatient healthcare providers.

Other than the tight regulations in this vertical, the panel thinks many health tech startups have not pinned down this one thing: the pain point they are addressing.

On core pointers when launching a startup

Christian: Ask yourself how big the problem is; every good idea does not turn into a business

Malik: (Startups rely) bias-to-action (thinking). Listen to the market, interact with the market, talk to them. Healthcare moves in cycles that Snapchats don’t. It takes a lot of time.

Kumar: Think of what status quo (is doing). What is existing paradigm? Think of the workflow. Starting point (for learning) has to be with providers

Swaminathan: (Be aware it is) compliance-heavy. Do your market research. Who’s going to pay—payer, provider or patient? Study why other startups fail. Look at sales cycles.

Why healthcare industry is slow to change?

Christian:  A physician will ask himself, why he is risking himself and the patient (for a new health technology). Onboarding is real headache

Malik: Decision-making is not as liquid

Kumar: Healthcare is highly regulated but (people know) it’s where opportunities are.

Swaminathan: Policy changes may take 10 years. Liability for a provider is so high. Liability and regulation stifle innovation. You have to win over lots of people, so many decision makers. It probably takes 2 years to get into an agreement, not 8 months.

What are the best ways of cutting sales cycle?

Christian: You have to understand your customer in and out.

Malik: (Develop) personal relationships, spending time with (potential clients), do cold calls, send them articles, listen to their (concerns) as we did for more than 8 months (at one point)

Swamanithan: Pivot a problem before you sell. Keep pivoting until your startup/service becomes a good product-market it. Linkedin works; reach out to physicians there.

How can startups stand out?

Christian: There are lots of copycats, 8 to 15 companies (may have the same platforms). They don’t have bad ideas, they’re just redundant. Make sure your (personal) story connects to your startup. Be realistic where the market is now.

Malik: Turn things into actionable data. Incorporate machine learning

Kumar: Differentiation is so critical. Success lies in metrics. Look into case studies—before and after.

What are exciting emerging trends?

Christian: Technologies that can manage costs

Swamanithan:  Locking up data sets, how algorithms can crack the code, how to better assess risks. Reach out to Google and Microsoft (for partnerships)

Growing produce at home, managing diabetes everywhere

NEW YORK–Last December 1, Hardware Meetup featured talks from the founders of Grove, OneDrop and Boxee at the Microsoft offices.

Gabe Blanchet, CEO of Grove, showed how food lovers can grow food at home while–get this–fish swims below it. Yes, even it will fit in a cramped New York apartment  .

Imagine an aquarium but with plants growing on top of it. But why fish? The fish process the food they are fed and produce ammonia-rich waste. Beneficial microbes convert the ammonia to nitrates (organic plant fertilizer), simultaneously supplying the plants with nutrients and the fish with clean water. No need for cleaning your tank.

Blanchet recounts how in its early adopter program, he and his team had 50 prototypes before they developed its current iteration,which was made from the startup’s own manufacturing facility, quite an ambitious project and the work shows. Grove even helps you from start to finish the way you it provides you the seeds, fish to add to your tank, and measure the health of your system. You can grow leafy greens, herbs and fruiting crops.

As of last December 1, Grove has already surpassed its targeted $100,000-Kickstarter crowdfunding goal with over $300,000.

Jeff Dachis of OneDrop Today came from the world of digital advertising, the hugely popular Razorfish but switched to designing a USB-like diabetic management device that come in eye-candy colors.    

Dachis said 30 million Americans suffer diabetes and 5 million of them die every year. He hopes to empower 500M people with diabetes with the merging of both software (allowing diabetics to record experiences in restaurants to share with other diabetics) and hardware (giving them an device that makes it easy for them to live their life with the disease).

The default posting feature in its app is public because it wants to foster community-building and allow everyone to share personal behavior-based insights. Dachis is trying to switch mindsets and make managing the disease less intimidating for diabetics. Even the app allows for a personal stream of likes and stickers.

Idan Cohen, cofounder of Boxee before smart TVs were all the rage, talked about how his company got acquired by Samsung. He’s one of the few hardware startup veterans in New York.

Korea’s Samsung reportedly agreed to pay about $30 million for his company. Boxee developed an interface which allows users to record and store content in the Cloud, providing easier access to Internet video content than other applications.

Could he have kept going with Boxee for 7 years that he was running it?  He paused and thought it over before saying yes. It’s hard to give up your baby, after all.

“You have to deal with hardware, retail, distribution and a lot of other things,” he said.

What preoccupies him these days is close to what Grove is doing–growing produce.

Pager is Tinder for doctors

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–“It’s Tinder for doctors,” says Toby Hervey about his on-demand house-call doctors app. He was one of the presenters that included Ulula, Kiddo App and Domain Skate last October 20 at the NY Tech Breakfast at Microsoft.

In most demonstrations in tech meetups, you’ll see the presenter themselves trying on the product while the audience watch how his app or site works.

What was different in Hervey’s presentation was how he had another miked-up person interact with the app as if he’s the user and he’s experiencing the app on the spot. That’s what Pager did in its presentation–and it helped the app make its point clearly. It’s an app that can get you a house-call doctor.

Currently only offered in New York’s boroughs and some areas in San Francisco, Pager is currently an out-of-pocket service but there is reportedly a reimbursement option. It is highly recommended that you clarify later with Pager if there are changes in its policy.  Also, note if prescription orders are delivered within an hour as advertised.

“The cost structure is transparent. It’s $200 now but it’s not that expensive. It will cost you $135 when you go to a doctor now. Costs pile up (when you see a doctor),” he said.

Doctors, most of them general practitioners, are recruited and asked to be listed in the app.

Kiddo App presented next. It’s a family calendar app designed to make it simple to manage everyday family life.  

“We don’t plan to monetize data,” said Tzvia Bader in response to question about privacy for their children. She came up with the app to address a market size of $140 million for parents. It’s available on Android and iOS.

Presenting last, Howard Greenstein showed DomainSkate, an intellectual property and brand security protection for business.

He addressed the current security threats online and how rampant identity theft is, pointing out one instance where a site mimicked Bloomberg and stole $275 million worth of information. With DomainSkate, he said you can “manage and mitigate your problem with malware.”   

Although in the list, Ulula was not able to present.

The event was sponsored by DLA Piper (NYC),  DonQuiSoft, Fairfax County EDA, FiverrGrassi & Co., KISSPatent, Nexus Staff, Rainbow Broadband and SimilarWeb.

New York Tech Meetup launches deep dive event series featuring Addicaid and Pager

NEW YORK–Last October 14, the New York Tech Meetup brought back two of its most popular demos – Addicaid and Pager — to mark the launch of its new “Demo Deep Dive” event series in lower Manhattan.

Sam Frons, founder and CEO of Addicaid, presented first followed by Toby Hervey, general manager of Pager, both platforms with an app that allows people to reach out for help. Addicaid is an addiction recovery platform, while Pager is on-demand service for people seeking house calls from doctors.

Frons started her talk by talking about the 2 million documented cases of substance abuse in the United States. With Addicaid, she is addressing how most people can recover from what could be the most effective methods–individual coaching, action-oriented goals, personal incentives and self-help groups.

With Addicaid, she is looking forward to ensuring long-term patient engagement, providing effective and affordable care. Through technology, she collects metrics –active and passive data – and other variables that come into play like sentiment analysis and behavior, among other things Her app has been downloaded 20,000 times. Addicaid now has curated news.

In a few months, it will launch nearby meeting notifications, daily goal reminders, SOS alerts and even coaches, with option to choose one-on-one coaching, as well as tailored treatment plans. “We are lowering the barrier to entry and reducing stigma,” she said.

Hervey presented Pager, a mobile app and service providing high-quality healthcare on demand through doctor house calls. It’s a mobile, location-based service in the sense that you can be customers at your office or in your home with no time to see a doctor during the day.

Hervey said the growing friction in assessing care and overuse of emergency rooms prompted the company to start Pager, which is striving for a seamless patient experience. It looks forward to reducing costs for payers in the long run, partly also because of its partnership with a drug company. Yes, it looks forward to having prescriptions delivered to patients.

“No other setting or service brings Pager’s level of convenience to the care experience,” he claimed. It also has a rating system. In November, it aims to launch its chat feature.

Most of the doctors are family physicians and serve the New York area.

It’s interesting how house calls, which accounted for 40 percent of the medical practice back in the 1930s, is back because of technology.

No holds barred with top VC investor Nikhil Kalghatgi

Nikhil Kal
Nikhil Kalghatgi

By Dennis Clemente

The best VC events are not posted on social media, says VC investor Nikhil Kalghatgi

NEW YORK–The venue was just perfect. Dark, dingy, almost claustrophobic.  The topic: Getting venture capital.

With eyes squinting, we walked down a dark basement at Grove Street. Below was a tiny, cavernous bar. For atmosphere, the host meetup group, Phat Startup, certainly got the mood right for Nikhil Kalghatgi, the speaker of the night, the VC of Vast Ventures whose portfolio companies include ZocDoc, OpenX, Quigo, Fab, Sweetgreen and many more.

He told us the rules of VCs as if they came from the Fight Club playbook.

“Have you played poker? “Kalghatgi begins conspiratorially. “The game starts before the first cards are dealt.” It turns out where you sit matters, most of all. “If you really don’t know where to sit, you have lost already.”

Investors’ impression of whether you are the winner or not happens pretty quick:
“You have to have the appearance of momentum.”

What is he trying to say?

“Think of being the entrepreneur as the new person entering a poker room. Some tables will be easy, some will be hard. But either you’ll win and take an entire small table of investors’ money or walk away empty handed having to seek another table,” he said.

In his talk, the charming Kalghatgi proceeded to take us into the VC mindset:

Three things you need to make sure you know when talking to a VC: Your team, your market, your traction.

• Team is “squishiest” of them all
• If your market is less than a billion, don’t ask for investment, that’s not VC business
• Traction can be misleading. The only traction that matters for me is revenue numbers

On how to get to VCs
VC 101: Intros through friends of investors, especially CEOs of portfolio companies.

Scheduling meetings with VCs
Create momentum in your fundraising. Don’t take meetings sequentially, book all of them as close together as possible. As for number of meetings, he agreed what an audience suggested: 100 meetings in 30 days

On sharing decks
If they ask for a deck, send them the deck, but use watermarks or tracking systems.

How to best manage VCs:
The best thing to do is under-sell but over-deliver.
Remember, it’s your show.
If you bend (to their demands) all the time, that’s how they’re going to treat you

He said the best people to approach for investments are rich people.
“The ultra wealthy are far more accessible than we think. Find their sweet spot. I helped their kids.” Investor sherpas are your best friend…unless they are doing it for money.

On finding rich people:
You’ve got to be where they are. Host coffee talks at Four Seasons; that will cost you 6 bucks.

On tech meetups to go to in order meet the right investors:
The best events are not posted on social media. It’s in private events.

  • What VCs to avoid?
    If your investor takes lot of your time and they have no control, stop spending time with them.
    Avoid those focused on deal terms, focus on those that are aligned with your principles and values.

What are his biases?
I have a bias for companies who can raise money easily. I have a bias toward younger entrepreneurs, and those living in cities where “business serendipity” exists

On struggling startups, he’s more circumspect
If there’s no progress, he says he digs into the problems the team faced and if reasons for failing were warranted, tells them to “re-evaluate.”

On your educational background, as asked by host James Lopez
No one really cares what school you went to, unless it’s their school.

For more info on The Phat Startup organized by Anthony Frasier and Lopez, visit