Help for healthcare entrepreneurs coming via StartUp Health

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Brian O'Connell

Running a new healthcare business in this economy is hard work – akin to other Herculean tasks like cleaning the Augean stables in a single day and slaying the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.

Hercules never seemed to get much help, and up until now, healthcare entrepreneurs rarely seemed to get much help, either.

That could be changing with the news of a new project aimed at increasing the number of healthcare entrepreneurs. The project – dubbed StartUp Health – is a “strategic initiative designed to improve access to capital, education and resources for health and wellness entrepreneurs,” as described on the fledgling organization’s Facebook page (the project is so new it doesn’t have an official web site yet, but soon will, at StartUpHealth.com.)

It does, however, have some background on the new launch: Who’s behind it, and more on what StartUp Health aims to do to help healthcare startup owners.

On June 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Institute of Medicine’s Health Data Initiative Forum, announced the proposed rollout of StartUp Health, which “aims to close the Health Gap between entrepreneurs, private investors, corporations, universities, foundations and other stakeholders committed to accelerating meaningful health and wellness innovation.”

The organization will be chaired by former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin, who’s also the current director at Organized Wisdom, a New York City healthcare technology non-profit.

The rollout comes at a time when government at the highest levels is encouraging the private sector to help build and promote healthcare entrepreneurism throughout the country. The White House has already launched the Startup America Partnership, a private sector initiative (ex-AOL chairman Steve Case is at the helm) working in conjunction with the federal government to “celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation,” according to a White House statement.

How will StartUp Health fit into the picture? Levin already has a blueprint of goals and objectives, including:

  • Long-term support, guidance and mentoring
  • Data, technology, tools and other required resources
  • Sector-specific investors and stage-appropriate capital
  • A collaborative community of like-minded people and organizations
  • A talent pool of people dedicated to meaningful innovation in health and wellness

"StartUp Health has a long-term vision of what needs to happen to help foster a vibrant health and wellness system in this country by energizing entrepreneurs," says Levin. "By building a detailed roadmap for health and wellness entrepreneurs, we aim to provide access to everything and everyone they need to significantly increase their chances of creating a sustainable business. Any entrepreneur who dreams of meaningful innovation in health and wellness deserves access to this roadmap and the critical resources that can reduce the barriers to success, and we intend on making sure that happens."

Levin also believes that the healthcare sector can use some fresh, new blood – but that most startups are heading to other industries, instead. “When you look around, all the entrepreneurial talent is going into certain sectors like the retail space,” Levin tells the web site Tech Crunch. “There is not a lot going towards health and wellness.”

“We’re trying to create a vehicle to inspire the creative talent of entrepreneurs and create a community not only to provide guidance and financing but a strategy for long-term company building,” he adds.

Levin hopes to leverage his experience with Organized Wisdom, which collects data from medical professionals and uses it to improve the quality of patient care. The notion of creating a community for healthcare entrepreneurs was a natural offshoot of Organized Wisdom, whose CEO Steve Krein collaborated with Levin on the launch of StartUp Health.

StartUp Health will roll out incrementally, with its initial goal of offering its technology and resources already assembled by Organized Wisdom and Startup America. The group promises to also help healthcare startup owners with another key issue – steering more of them to solid funding sources. A mentorship program is also in the works.

The Levin-led group will also host a series of roundtables designed to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and organizations to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities in developing a roadmap for health and wellness startups.

According to a statement from StartUp Health, the first StartUp Health Roundtable will take place in New York City on July 13th, 2011, and will be moderated by Startup America Partnership CEO Scott Case.

The Roundtable will also be broadcast live over the web and viewers will be able to email and tweet their questions for participants. The second StartUp Health Roundtable, called DC to VC, will be hosted by HHS CTO Todd Park and will focus on creating targeted engagements between senior administration officials and entrepreneurs, investors and students.

Healthcare business owners can find out more about the roundtables at the StartUp Health Facebook page.

Actually, healthcare entrepreneurs may want to make that a priority.

There’s no telling how effective the new initiative will be, but having a high-level platform to meet and share information, and to potentially take advantage of information on new technologies and funding sources, is a big step up from the public/private help that healthcare company founders usually get.

So why not? Just because Hercules didn’t take a helping hand, doesn’t mean you can’t.

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