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How a digital healthcare entrepreneur got her foot in the door at Penn

on April 01, 2014

Divya Dhar's No. 1 piece of advice for healthcare entrepreneurs: get a pilot. "Almost anywhere in healthcare, [potential customers] expect effectiveness metrics before they'll pay you for it," said Dhar, co-founder and CEO of Seratis, a mobile application that fosters care coordination for healthcare providers. But how can early-stage entrepreneurs negotiate this chicken-and-egg situation in a risk-averse industry?

Seratis turned to the DreamIt Ventures accelerator, which helped the company secure a relationship with Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. "It really helped elevate us from the crowd of healthcare digital startups," Dhar said. The relationship is especially beneficial for the startup, she said, because Penn's investment in the company incentives the healthcare system to help the company succeed.

Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Dhar:

Timing is everything -- While it's important to find the right accelerator for your startup, Dhar said, joining an accelerator at the right time is key. Too early, she said, and your company isn't yet sure of its needs. Too late, and you already have pilots lined up. Seratis had already developed an early alpha product by the time it joined DreamIt, Dhar said. That was enough to get the company in front of the hospital, she said, which then expressed interest in purchasing the product after further development.

It takes a village -- At large-scale hospital systems, Dhar said, no one person inspires big change. Healthcare startups need champions at every level -- from executives to the security team to the nursing staff -- to make a difference, she said. "It was much easier to navigate the system," Dhar said, "and understand the need at a deeper level."

Consider values in a co-founder -- When Dhar was in the market for a co-founder, she had a few important requirements in mind: someone who wanted to build a real company, who would stick around when times were tough, and who believed in the problem Seratis set out to solve. "I knew I wanted someone whose values matched mine," she said. "I wanted to be with someone who loved people and wanted to make a difference in the world." But even if you share the same values most of the time, Dhar said, you should have open communication with your co-founder during disagreements. "You should be in a position where you can challenge each other," she said.

Photo by thetaxhaven

Category:  Creation  Execution  Tags:  Entrepreneur, Company Profiles, Smart Scheduling, guest

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