July 12, 2021 - 9:45 am

HealthSpark Accelerator Graduates First Cohort of Digital and Telehealth Startups

By 20Fathoms

Located in rural Northern Michigan, Traverse City is known for beautiful beaches, cherry orchards, and its small-town charm. It is now also home to the HealthSpark Accelerator, a  program that offers world-class resources to early-stage digital and telehealth startups who are building bold solutions for some of rural healthcare’s biggest challenges.

The HealthSpark Accelerator is a program of 20Fathoms, a Traverse City tech incubator and co-working space that  serves the region’s entrepreneurs and tech development professionals. On June 30, the 10 companies in the first cohort presented their final pitches to a panel of VIP judges and successfully completed the intensive, 12-week program. During the accelerator, these founders networked with industry and investment experts, raised funds, expanded their businesses, made friends, won pitch competitions, and applied their learnings to help scale their businesses.

Connecting the dots between business and healthcare 

Digital health startups operate in a highly complex environment where they solve complicated problems, develop emerging technologies, scale businesses, and work with a web of stakeholders. The time it takes to navigate this maze can be prohibitively long, leaving founders without the runway needed to launch successfully. 

The purpose of the HealthSpark Accelerator is to provide a platform for founders to perform discovery, gain industry knowledge, and ultimately grow much more quickly. Program participants received nearly 200 hours of instruction, mentorship, and networking. The slate of speakers included more than 70 senior healthcare leaders, serial entrepreneurs, and investors who graciously shared their time and expertise. Notably, keynote presentations were provided by leaders from Google, Anthem, Verizon, Cleveland Clinic, Texas A&M, American Telemedicine Association, Munson Healthcare, Boomerang Catapult, and HealthBridge.

Regular pitch practice sessions throughout the program helped participants apply their learnings in presentations to future investors and strategic partners. Bre Loughlin is the Founder and CEO of Nurse Disrupted, a company providing cost-effective telehealth video kiosks for clinics with few resources. She credits the pitch practice exercises in helping her win her first major pitch competition: the information technology category at the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

“This program is incredible. It has been transformational for us and prepared us for our first round of fundraising.” 

– Bre Loughlin, Founder and CEO, Nurse Disrupted

One-on-one mentorship helps companies hone in

Every startup has unique needs and that was no exception for those participating in the accelerator. To personalize the experience and help team members apply the course instruction, each company was assigned a mentor with deep experience scaling businesses.

Mentors met regularly with the founders and their team members, helping them hone their business model, perfect their pitches, and expand their networks. Mentors helped them take the next steps forward.  

One startup that experienced growth during the accelerator was Rad AI. They work with health systems and radiology groups to improve radiology report accuracy and incidental findings follow-up, save radiologists time, and reduce provider burnout. Over the 12 weeks, they successfully closed another $4 million in funding and significantly advanced development of their second product, Rad AI Continuity. Josh Duncan, VP of Sales and Customer Success with Rad AI, said the meetings with their HealthSpark mentor had a strongly positive impact.

“Our mentor, Dr. Shrawan Patel, has been incredible. He helped us build on the many lessons shared during the HealthSpark Accelerator, and helped refine Rad AI’s value proposition and messaging for our key health system partners.”

– Josh Duncan, VP of Sales and Customer Success, Rad AI

Investing in Michigan

A recent Crunchbase article named Michigan as the fastest-growing state in the country for venture capital investment. Founders across the country are setting their sites on Michigan, including HealthSpark Accelerator participant Farzad Ehsani, the Founder and CEO of Innsightful. His company provides diagnostics and therapeutics to people with mental health disorders through wearable, conversational AI and digital phenotyping. Through the accelerator, Farzad learned about the benefits of the state’s startup scene and decided to open a location in Michigan for his growing company. Midwestern values also buoyed the accelerator cohort and participants appreciated the friendly community aspect.

“I really liked the culture within the cohort. We’re sharing insights, building camaraderie, and becoming friends.”

– Farzad Ehsani, Founder and CEO, Innsightful

Revolutionizing Healthcare

The companies that participated in the 2021 cohort of the HealthSpark Accelerator are on the frontlines of innovation in healthcare. These founders are taking on some of the biggest challenges in rural healthcare today including chronic disease management, access to care, remote patient monitoring, patient follow-up and compliance, care management, mental health, and provider burnout. Their work will have a positive impact on patients, providers and caregivers — improving and saving lives.   

“The digital health technology we will be using in the future of rural healthcare delivery will have its start with the cutting-edge technology startup companies of today.”

– Ed Ness, President and CEO, Munson Healthcare in Traverse City, a HealthSpark Accelerator sponsor