Healthcare Bootcamp Rocks Chicago

By Guest Blogger Mark Phillips

Cover photo by Nathan Eddy, all others by Erica Chain

Saturday in Chicago was a gorgeous day, the kind of day that would normally find me indulging my passion for all things outdoors.  As beautiful as Saturday was, I found myself staring up at an enormous sign with the bold block numbers 1871 at the entrance to the Chicago Merchandise mart.  Maybe some readers won’t be familiar with 1871, a new space downtown in Chicago with a mission for incubating digital startups and entrepreneurs.  The 12th floor offers shared first come first serve space as well as reserved offices, but the real magic ingredient is the opportunity people from different disciplines have to cross-pollinate, share ideas and maybe most importantly, to create the kind of vibe that passion and energy for building new ventures requires.

So up I went making my way to the 12th floor with a RockHealth Healthcare Bootcamp sign pointing the way to a day of presentations from a wide variety of perspectives. I was impressed that a large number of interested entrepreneurs filled the hall and stayed the day. I was also very pleased to see a great slate of presenters. I’ve been to countless conferences and the presenters that I appreciate most are the ones who don’t just dump information, but also stick around to give one on one advice. The Healthcare Bootcamp presenters didn’t disappoint, they were very approachable.  This willingness to mentor and the enthusiasm for helping someone get started is another magic ingredient that makes these events special.
Simmi Singh, Senior Advisor of Healthcare Innovation at Health & Human Services kicked things off with a keynote and a bit of a historical perspective on healthcare and what she called the stratification of thinking based on when you’ve entered the space. We then heard from a number of government speakers on healthcare and startup incubation in Illinois and Chicago.


Orlando Saez, Deputy Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, & Technology (DCEO) at State of IL really did a nice job of discussing how the state wants to use some non-traditional out of the box types of stimulus for entrepreneurship tied to the real prize at the end of the game, jobs and revenue. He gave a big plug for Illinois Ventures, a seed and early stage investment fund with some state backing.



I especially enjoyed the Venture Capital panel presentation with local players from local funds giving a relaxed, candid and informative presentation on the types of things startups should consider. Ira Weiss, Managing Director at Hyde Park Angels and General Partner at Hyde Park Venture Partners, Kathryn Hyer, Director at Illinois Ventures, Donna Williamson, Managing Director at Ceres Venture Fund, Adam Koopersmith, Partner at New World Ventures were all at the panel presentation moderated by David Schonthal, Partner at Fusion Ventures.  Here are some takeaways from the discussion:
What excites the panel most about healthcare?
Donna – Likes seeing new technology to lower costs of healthcare. Ira – Really appreciates the move toward measurement and outcomes. Kathryn discussed the massive growth of healthcare data collection and liberation creating opportunity. Adam is very focused on consumer and social and how to incubate early stage healthcare investments. Everyone agreed that they are seeing serial entrepreneurs getting into healthcare and the ecosystem is growing. Two other interesting trends are large corporations willing to take more risk and a number of experienced entrepreneurs in healthcare giving back to the community with advice and mentorship.
On the question of what types of investments they’re looking for the answers varied from pre-revenue companies with a good idea to those that already have software built out with revenue or at least alpha/beta customers. There was general agreement that healthcare IT is attractive from an investment cost perspective. Ira talked about solving pain points and regulatory driven change as an attractive motivation for healthcare customers in purchasing decisions being an interesting investment criterion.
The panel also offered tips on pitching to VC’s: Do a little due diligence to know the audience and what they’re investing thesis is. Invest in trends not single points. Invest in a relationship over time, don’t come when you need the money next week. Get advisors with credibility to provide warm intro. Ask investors what is best way to get in touch?
And perhaps my favorite question by Scott Vold, CEO and Co-Founder at Fibroblast a scheduling startupAre VC’s investing in the the jockey or the horse? The answers were pretty focused on early stage investments where the team of one or two people is very important. Adam even observed that it’s pretty much all jockey at the early stage, you don’t even have a horse.
On the question of trends the panel talked about the shortage of primary care physicians, the explosion of data for consumers including sensor data, consumers being driven to take more ownership of healthcare along with the use of online media, people over 65 requiring two times the care and the wellness and self-care/quantified self movement.


John Smolen, Technology Strategy and Planning Director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital gave a very nice presentation on macro drivers in healthcare, the healthcare economics of the healthcare organization and how purchasing in healthcare organizations works.


Lyle Berkowitz, MD, Medical Director of IT & Innovation, Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group gave a great perspective on the environment primary care docs are practicing in and how important clinical feedback and user centered design is in getting the workflow right for overloaded docs. He also shared his experience as a co-founder of a “Dr. Happiness” company, Healthfinch which is all about physician workflow and productivity.  He also drilled home that incentives in many cases are not well matched and how important it is to build solutions that complement or augment the way providers are incented.


Amy Schwartz, Healthcare Lead at IDEO did a great presentation on really getting out of the building and observing customers in a human centered way.  Her presentation was filled with stories of real people with real experiences and solutions that make life easier/better/quicker/more reliable in the real world.


All in all I am extremely encouraged to see this growing innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare in Chicago.  I believe healthcare needs radical change and in many cases this disruptive change will come from new players with new ideas and new perspectives that have the hair on fire passion to see things brought to life.  Isn’t that just what the digital startup community can bring?   Kudos to @Rock_Health@1871Chicago, and @ChiHealthTech for pulling this opportunity together!

Originally posted here on Healthcare Agitator

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