With his unique combination of startup and hospital administration experience, UNC Health Care Entrepreneur-in-Residence Michael Levy is attempting a feat once seemingly insurmountable.
Thursday night, he launches a three-part Digital Health Innovation Sprint meant to bring UNC surgeons and hospital administrators together with local entrepreneurs and innovators to fill gaps in the healthcare system with technologies, services and products.
It’s the latest in a series of efforts to capitalize on the Triangle’s strengths in technology, life science and healthcare. A medical device incubator called MEDIC is in the process of launching at The Frontier in Research Triangle Park. NC RIoT has many health-oriented members and is all about convergence of industry with tech.
But Levy hopes to offer something special—the chance for entrepreneurs interested in healthcare to learn about the biggest challenges at UNC, to collaborate with the health system to build solutions and to test the resulting products at the hospital in 2017 (a $50,000 opportunity).
“In a nine-month span, you go from ideation all the way to validation prior to having any seed investment and that strengths the position for funding,” Levy says. “And from an investor’s perspective, you have a solution that is de-risked with outcome data from an anchor institution.”
The problems will be pitched to entrepreneurs and health care innovators in typical Startup Weekend format Thursday night at American Underground in Durham. Groups will form around them.
But unlike Startup Weekend, the teams have three weeks to begin work on a solution before a full-day design and mentoring workshop back at the AU on October 29. That will resemble a hackathon, Levy says, with APIs and various software solutions available for use.
Over the next three weeks, there’s more work on the idea and office hours with mentors. Then, on November 17, the teams will pitch to a group of judges for the chance to spend time at Groundwork Labs, pilot their product at UNC and win up to $1500 in cash. That day is most like a typical Demo Day.
A second phase of the sprint begins after that. Up to two teams will take part in Groundwork Labs early 2017 program, focused on accelerating and testing a minimum viable product at UNC. They’ll be introduced to angel networks and venture capital firms as well as non profit foundations with the hope of sharing the results of a successful pilot.
Levy’s goal is to create a road to market for at least one of the companies—to develop a solution that not only solves a problem at UNC but for the broader healthcare system. And, for local investors to put money into it.
He also hopes to create a model for turning problems into solutions that are marketable and fundable and that eventually create companies and new jobs.
“All the ingredients are here in the Triangle to do something special in digital health,” he says. “But there’s a huge gap for early stage companies to take ideas, validate those ideas and build rapid prototypes. We think this is the strategic space to fill.”