Blueprint Health & Data Design Diabetes

Last week, there were two events focused on health and technology. I attended the demo day for the new healthcare start-up incubator Blueprint Health. Additionally, last Friday was the day that the semi-finalists for the Data Design Diabetes contest were announced. It’s exciting that there is so much activity in this sector. It’s also interesting how differently these two organizations are approaching the challenges in the US healthcare system.

An impressive turnout at the Blueprint Health demo day in New York.

Blueprint Health’s demo day was their first ever. They are a Charter Member of the Global Accelerator Network, which was was started by TechStars.Their inaugural class of 9 companies were chosen at the beginning of the year, received $20k in funding, were given 90 days to build out their applications and received guidance from industry mentors. In return, Blueprint gets a 6% equity stake in the company.

It was obvious from the start that Blueprint is focused on companies that are not only addressing challenges in healthcare, but are also viable, scalable businesses. The pitches were all well-prepared, with interesting services and very clear paths to profitability. Some of the companies were attempting to improve health outcomes for patients, but several were not. Instead they looked to streamline business practices for doctors, improve efficiencies for hospitals and provide enhanced sales channels for pharmaceuticals. Also interesting to note was that several of the entrepreneurs were medical school students or graduates.

Most companies had already begun signing partnership deals and acquiring users. Many had already gathered half of their investment round goals (commonly ranging from $350k – $750k). I am sure that most if not all of these companies will do very well financially.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Data Design Diabetes innovation challenge. This contest is sponsored by Sanofi-Aventis. It rewards $20k each to 5 semi-finalists and gives them a month to build a demo. Two finalists are then chosen, with the winner receiving $100k.

This was the second year of the contest. Last year, the proposed projects all needed to integrate an open data set from the US government. This year’s contest had a different focus. It began with a so-called “Crowdsourcing” to gather public feedback that would guide the contest. Visitors to the site were asked to pick from pre-selected choices on what they wanted most from developers. I find it a bit odd to call it crowdsourcing since the choices were all pre-generated. True crowdsourcing would allow patients to simply speak freely.

The DDD contest moves fast. Proposals were due on Friday March 23 and the winners were announced the following Friday. This is not a lot of time for the judges to go through the proposals.

Unlike Blueprint, this contest focuses less on the viability of innovative ideas to translate into a scalable business. Nonetheless, last year’s winner Ginger.io has received funding and continues to do very interesting work. It is was developed by folks from the MIT Media Lab and is a pioneer in the behavioral analytics space.

The information on this year’s semi-finalists is quite limited, so it is difficult to say much about their ideas and approaches. Hopefully more of that will become evident in mid-May when they too have a demo day.

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