Early stage health tech entrepreneurs, it looks like GE is developing a keen interest in you.
On Monday, GE Healthymagination welcomed Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Risa Stack, the latest Silicon Valley venture capitalist to join its ranks. And on Tuesday, the corporate giant’s $6 billion health care initiative announced a program with New York-based Startup Health to support the growth of consumer health startups.
The three-year program, which is modeled after Startup Health’s Academy for “health care transformers,” will target entrepreneurs leading consumer-facing health companies and will provide access to GE and other technology executives, mentorship and opportunities for customer development, partnerships and pilot programs.
“It used to be that capital was king and now, I think, much more is needed,” said Unity Stoakes, co-founder and president of Startup Health. “It’s access to other resources, expertise and organizations that can help entrepreneurs scale and provide real value.”
The program will be open to 10 companies, including startups that have previously applied to Startup Health, as well as those that apply in the next month. Startup Health differs from traditional startup accelerators in that it looks for companies that have had a little bit of traction – in terms of funding or customer acquisition – but are looking to scale to the next level. Selected startups don’t receive capital as they do from accelerators that last a few months, but they still give up 2 to 10 percent equity ownership (to GE Ventures and Startup Health) in exchange for the program’s ongoing support.
The GE-backed program comes a month after Nike’s announcement that it would launch a fitness and health-centric startup accelerator with TechStars and is the latest indication of the growing interest in digital health. A Monday report from San Francisco-based health tech accelerator Rock Health indicated that while investment in the sector was up 45 percent in 2012, the vast majority of investors only backed one digital health company. Programs like these could help bigger corporate investors more closely follow emerging technology and earlier stage startups. This partnership could also signal the beginning of more corporate-backed Startup Health programs organized around various categories within digital health.
“The long-term nature of it, in our mind, shows where this sector is going,” said Stoakes. “When you start to see companies like GE take the long view on innovation… it’s a stake in the ground showing that there’s real commitment behind partnering with the startup community.”