Ten startups from six countries have just arrived at our office in Nijmegen to start this year’s Digital Health program. Twenty-five talented men and women will spend most of the next six months in the Health Valley, working on their products that are aimed at improving all aspects of healthcare. From the new generation of walkers to early diagnoses of eye diseases, the teams come in different stages of business maturity and reflect some of the most important trends in health innovation.
“We've seen a move towards patient empowerment,” said Akshat Kshetrapal, Rockstart Digital Health program director. “Patients get greater control on how they manage and live with their diseases. This includes chronic conditions, conditions related to old age, and rehabilitation. If we can have movies on demand on Netflix, why can we not find a physical therapist just as easily? That’s one of the themes covered by this year’s startups.”
Another important element is that most of the teams coming to the accelerator are combining hardware and software in one way or another, as only one of those often won’t cut it in the healthcare industry. Having expertise in both, however, allows the teams to get into a unique position and offer significantly more value to the customers, be it patients, doctors, or clinicians.
“Startups that work with hardware can get a lot from the program by plugging into a feedback loop with patients, doctors, and researchers much earlier than their competitors,” Kshetrapal said. “We're there to create distinct competitive advantages for these companies, so they can execute better on their ideas.”
Building up an ecosystem within the three industries and societal themes of health, food, and energy is core to Rockstart’s long-term strategy. The respective programs are focused on providing access to the market, capital, community, and expertise, which startups require to make it through the growth stage and start scaling up. Over time, the accelerator has established a network of investors, mentors, and corporate partners from the three industries to make sure the teams receive the most relevant support possible.
From the investment perspective, this year’s batch is deliberately constructed in a way that most of the chosen startups are connected to each other in different ways and can benefit from each other’s products and expertise.
“We wanted to be able to give our investors and partners access to interesting sectors as a whole,” Kshetrapal said. “Instead of betting on a company, they can come to us and invest across the spectrum of, for example, elderly care. This makes it a very distinct asset class for an investor.”
In addition to that, this year’s Digital Health program has gathered startups and scale-ups in different stages. To put it simply, the program can be logically divided into three tracks: the fundamental track, where startups focus on product-market fit and early validation; the strategy and operations track; and the scale-up track that helps the later-stage teams grow sustainably without killing the company overnight. The startups will go through these stages and move between them over the course of the program.
During the program, the startups will engage with a highly active network of healthcare professionals and partner organizations to help validate and scale their business. Among the partners of the Digital Health accelerator are some of the most important ecosystem players in the region, such as Radboud University Medical Center, Briskr, IKONE, In4Care, and many others.
The startups joining the Digital Health programs will receive €20,000 in cash in exchange for 8 percent equity. In addition to that, all Rockstart startups get access to more than 50 perks and deals worth some €600,000.
The program team this year is about as international as the startup batch itself and is led by program director Akshat Kshetrapal and ecosystem director Casper Smeets. Together with over 80 mentors and partners they will guide and support the teams through their entrepreneurial journey.
“We’re proud of adding Akshat Kshetrapal to the program team this year,” said Rockstart CEO Rune Theill. “With a dual directorship between Casper Smeets and Akshat Kshetrapal, Rockstart has set out to build the number one program in Digital Health, and is focused on providing startups with the right access.”
The ten startups participating in the Digital Health 2018 program come from six different countries with ideas that span from virtual reality-enabled rehabilitation to artificial intelligence-based diagnoses.
Cedexis Medical Eyewear (The Netherlands) is developing and implementing high-end video glasses and pairing them with customer-specific content platforms and intuitive media players. Last year, the startup had achieved a revenue in six digits, while the number of orders exceeded production capacity.
Deepdee (Belarus) is working on machine diagnostics of eye diseases by processing photos of the eye fundus with AI/ML algorithms. Started some six months ago, Deepdee has access to a large database of retina scan images, which they aim to annotate quickly. This data provides the team with a significant advantage in coming up with machine learning algorithms for diagnosis.
Easy Way to Health (United States) creates solutions that continuously monitor key health indicators. Its first product addresses overweightness and obesity through a high-traffic smart scale that measures weight trends rather than numbers. The startup already has more than 1,500 users and has undergone three trials in the US. In Brazil, the startup’s first clients are one of the largest health clubs in Sao Paulo, and the largest workplace wellness program.
ENTy (Romania) has come up with a medical device used for tracking the balance of the inner ear and for monitoring neurodegenerative diseases. The startup won Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition in 2016 and raised $50,000 in the US.
InMotionVR (The Netherlands) is working on making healthcare fun and effective with virtual reality-based technology. Its platform, Corpus VR, can quantify treatments and give better insights to the therapist with real-time monitoring, as well as deliver effective training programs. The product is already used by 22 practices, 70 therapists and more than 1,400 patients, while two universities have included it in their curriculum.
InstantCare (Spain) is a monitoring system for continence pads in care homes, hospitals, and for use at home. The startup has recently signed an agreement with an Irish company to integrate with their sensors in non-disposable diapers in Ireland and the UK. In addition to that, it’s currently negotiating the introduction of their product into the regional healthcare system of Valencia.
RehabGlove (Georgia) has developed gloves for post-stroke hand rehabilitation. By merging physical and psychological therapies in virtual reality, the startup vastly increases the quality of rehabilitation and makes it entertaining. RehabGlove was named the best innovation by Microsoft at Seedstars CEE & Central Asia summit in December 2017 and won the "Georgia's most promising startup" award.
Stethotelephone (Italy) has built an add-on device for any acoustic stethoscope able to improve the internal body sound and finally send it to IoT devices, allowing easy telemedicine and better first diagnosis. In 2017 Stethotelephone collaborated with Telecom Italia in the creation of a Domotic Platform for assisted living, and has integrated Stethotelephone as a device for remote monitoring. The team expects to have the final version of the product ready and certified by summer 2018.
Thermodata (United States) offers a precise temperature-monitoring subscription service to life science and food quality customers, enabling them to track temperature and ensure the viability and quality of their perishable products and the reliability of their equipment. The startup’s revenues have been growing steadily in the six digit range since Thermodata was founded in 2016.
Umotion (The Netherlands) has built a medtech walker to help patients with Parkinson’s continue to walk independently for longer. Since 2017, Umotion’s walker is eligible for reimbursement by the insurers in the Netherlands. This development led to almost doubling the production volume over the past year, which coincided with the startup successfully moving the production in-house.