Health Tech Austin – Ask the Venture Capitalist

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From left to right: Kerry Rupp, Krishna Srinivasan and Julia Cheek

Julia Cheek, founder & CEO of Everlywell took the reigns as moderator of Health Tech Austin’s fifth panel event at the downtown Capital Factory on Thursday, Sept. 8 with two exceptional venture capitalists providing their insight into what it takes for a start-up to gain funding and the business models most funders seek.

Three local start-ups presented their business models in a five-minute pitch – Abe Matamoros, founder & CEO of Ellie Grid; Reginia Vatterott, co-founder & COO of Ellie Grid; Adrianna Cantu, co-founder & CEO of Revealix and Ivor Clarke, founder & VP of strategy of SubjectWell.

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Ellie Grid kicked off the event by presenting their smart pillbox, which helps users organize their medications in just seconds, send reminders when it’s time to take the medication and track adherence data in real time so that timely interventions can be made. With baby boomers being their target market, Ellie Grid’s approach is to go directly to consumers who are open to new products rather than marketing directly to hospitals.

“In the health tech space any solution that is going to work has to meet the needs of the consumer, the healthcare providers and the healthcare channels primarily being insurance,” offered Kerry Rupp. “This particular space of pillboxes is very crowded – differentiate yourself – not just on features of your product, but look at whether you are attacking the key ‘cost a lot of money problems’ that are plaguing this space and attacking the most important issues for the doctor, the patient and the healthcare system. Look at what you are offering from an ecosystem perspective.”

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Adrianna Cantu from Revealix discussed her company’s skin surveillance software system that allows for healthcare providers to detect the earliest phases of skin and wound complications. This is currently a $40-billion-dollar problem where prevention is not happening. Rather than waiting for the problem to appear, Revealix provides very practical cost-effective ways to get ahead of any sign of complication. Doctors and nurses are already doing skin assessments with their naked eyes, Revealix augments care by providing real time monitoring with data analytics.

“When thinking about health tech as an investment, something we always think about are the regulatory hurdles,” said Rupp. “Is this something that has to be regulated by the FDA and what’s your process for doing that? One of the factors VC’s think about is whether they are going to be in the business of funding products that need regulatory approval and clinical trials versus not. This is where many investors draw a black line, and that’s something that is really important to look for when searching for the right investor.”

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Ivor Clarke from SubjectWell presented his company’s solution for patient recruitment for risk-free clinical trials by focusing on the patient experience. When large companies like Pfizer can’t find enough patients for their clinical trials, they are losing millions of dollars per study per day. SubjectWell engages the 96 percent of the population that have never participated in a trial by educating them on the benefits of clinical trials and finding ones they are most likely to enroll.

“When looking at marketing, how relevant is your technique? Do you have a better model of reaching people and what is that range?” questioned Krishna Srinivasan. “When working on messaging, start with who cares and why would they pick us.”

“Understanding who your audience is will help you develop your pitch. There is absolutely not one pitch. Your pitch for a VC is very different than the one you’ll say to a customer or healthcare provider. It’s really important in understanding which messages about your company you are trying to get across,” provided Rupp.

Srinivasan stated that the amount of healthcare needs in Austin is significantly greater than what was expected and hypothesized years ago so as a result there is a lot of activity and opportunity in the healthcare space for entrepreneurs. It’s a great time for healthcare and IT to meet.

Health Tech Austin’s next event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 5 and will feature a panel of experts showcasing winning strategies for taking your product and innovation to market.

To learn more about Health Tech Austin or to become a volunteer or partner, please visit: www.healthtechaustin.com.