Martin, what exactly is HealthXL?
HealthXL connects digital health entrepreneurs and growth-stage companies with some of the largest corporations in healthcare to create effective business partnerships. Our corporate partners include: IBM, GSK, Novartis, Cleveland Clinic, Silicon Valley Bank, Janssen Healthcare Innovation, Bupa, ICON PLC, Linde Health, Partners HealthCare, and ResMed.
Sounds cool! How can digital health entrepreneurs engage with HealthXL?
Applications are open until the 15th of July for our upcoming program, starting with our September 17-19, 2014 event in San Francisco. We are asking innovators to submit a 60-second video, explaining their project and how it aligns with the objectives that we set out with our partners. Top applicants will be invited to our program day to meet our partners in San Francisco on the 17th of September 2014. For more information, applicants can go to our application page here.
So Martin, what is your background?
I’ve been working in the tech industry for 20 years. In my previous role, I was a partner with IBM venture capital, I helped set up their operations in Europe. I spent seven years working with entrepreneurs. Prior to that, I was working within public sector sales for healthcare and life-sciences. I recently left IBM to start HealthXL because I saw a great opportunity in the healthcare industry to provide a service that is unique through Digital Health. And it’s true, you can only spend so long working with entrepreneurs before you want to become one.
What is HealthXL trying to achieve?
HealthXL is a program that brings together the biggest healthcare players with the fastest growing companies in the area of digital health to create active business partnerships. We do this through a series of events that we run around the world. As I mentioned, we have partnered with eleven of the top companies in healthcare to help them to find innovative projects that they can work with, finding the best ways to use technology to improve healthcare.
Is HealthXL an accelerator?
No, we are post-acceleration. We don’t have a specific educational program, rather we bring innovators who have real projects and real teams together with some of the largest companies in the world. Accelerators typically come in at an earlier stage than that—when you have an idea and are trying to build a product. HealthXL works with you when you already have a product and a business model, and provides the platform to work with big corporations to scale businesses quickly and effectively.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific word or name for what we do, because we’re so different. We actually work with a lot of accelerators, who help us to identify companies that are getting to the next stage of their growth. We help make growth happen quicker by connecting these growth-stage companies with our partners, which allows them access to the networks and expertise of the biggest brands in healthcare.
So you work with accelerators?
Yes, accelerators are like a channel for us to find interesting companies. We get to the middle ground between start-ups, accelerators, and large corporations, where these companies are really growing fast. We help these companies figure out who they really need to work with within these large organizations and help them to achieve specific scaling targets. We ask the entrepreneurs to suggest projects that can leverage our partners in new ways. Our partners have defined objectives that they want to work towards; we call them Moonshots. We, then, invite entrepreneurs and innovators to help us get there.
What is unique about the HealthXL program?
There is no charge for our program and we take no equity in the companies that we work with. Our program is completely sponsored by our partners.
As I said earlier, innovators who work with us get to work with some of the biggest organizations in the world. We help them figure out who are the right people for them to approach within these corporations. This is important. Corporations can be incredibly complex, if you are an entrepreneur knocking on IBM’s door, for example, it’s really hard to know who to talk to.
My experience within IBM has thought me how to work with these powerful and influential people. I spent a lot of time working with entrepreneurs in IBM and helping them figure out how to engage with IBM. I’ve learned that it’s important to be very honest with people and not to waste their time, because time is probably the most valuable asset as an entrepreneur.
For the companies who hit the sweet spot, it’s transformational. We help established companies bring new solutions to market quickly and help these entrepreneurs grow their business development with our strategic partners. It’s in the partners’ interest to help these companies because they could be customers, channelers, or acquirers.
We know that if you match the power of a big company with the energy of a small company, it can be really effective.
Why do your partners want to work with these innovators?
It’s really hard to innovate within a large company. So we inject a lot of fresh blood and ideas by connecting them with innovators. The corporations bring their brands, their networks, and their distribution channels to these projects, which are hugely valuable assets to growth-stage companies.
The benefit of this program with HealthXL is that it is in a safe environment, in a selective way. Last year, there were a couple of hundred companies in the U.S. alone who got funded with 2 million dollars or more within digital health, so it can be difficult to find the right companies to work with.
Corporations can spend a lot of time spinning their wheels, wasting time. We cut out this waste and bring together the right partners with the right innovators, fulfilling the best interest for both parties.
Do these big corporations take equity in these innovative projects?
No, they don’t take equity in the companies that we connect them with. Quite frankly, they are not interested in that. They are interested in bringing new solutions to the market.
We say to people, only share what you want to share. It’s really important to maintain control of your project. This is a network of peers. Entrepreneurs entering our program, as CEO’s of early stage companies are treated as a peer within that network.
Innovators and entrepreneurs will know the direction that they want their company to go and they will drive the value that they see in their company and how they will utilize the resources of our partners.
What do your strategic partners get out of this?
They get to find and get to work with interesting opportunities. Digital health is a merging of technology and medicine so there is no one dominant player at the moment. There are a bunch of companies who are trying to figure out their new role in the digital health space. So if you are a pharmaceutical company, you are trying to figure out what role digital plays in this much described “after the pill” strategy.
It’s in these corporations’ interests to figure out how to work together in digital health and to learn how to work with new innovators in the industry. And that typically will result in new products and services. Things that they can provide working with these large healthcare companies.