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If they had sold a startup to Google for $81 million, plenty of entrepreneurs would be happy to kick back, play the role of investor, or start another company in the space they know best — in this case, ad tech.
But about a year ago, Invite Media founders Zach Weinberg and Nat Turner left Google (s GOOG) to tackle one of the toughest industries around – healthcare. This week, at an event announcing the finalists in a New York City-backed program to pair up startups and city organizations for pilot programs, Weinberg gave a little update on where their company, Flatiron Health, stands.
“After five years of advertising, you kind of get sick doing advertising. And so we decided, well, what’s the next natural step? And that’s to go and try and cure cancer.”
Backed by $8 million, including from Google Ventures, Flatiron Health provides big data analytics services for oncology. About 4 percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials and, thanks to the pharma companies supporting them, the quality of that data is top-notch, Weinberg said. But the goal of Flatiron is to improve the data quality of the other 96 percent.
“We want to make the 96 percent look like one big clinical trial,” he said.
Much of the data in cancer care, as with health data generally, is unstructured and exists in different systems, with different standards. Flatiron helps cancer centers, private practices and other facilities by structuring, standardizing and aggregating data and then crunching away to enable physicians and administrators better understand operational, clinical and financial analytics related to cancer care.
The company said it already works with more than 10 cancer centers in the country, including universities and research centers. As part of the Pilot Health Tech NYC program, Flatiron and Continuum Health Partners, one of the biggest cancer care centers in the city, will receive up to $100,000 for a new pilot program.
Weinberg and Turner (who also angel invest in healthcare) are new to the field but they’re not so unlike other entrepreneurs who were drawn to healthcare from other industries after personal health events or the experiences of friends and family. Turner has said that part of his motivation for starting the company was a young cousin’s Leukemia diagnosis.
Similarly, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin recently said that part of the motivation for launching his new fertility app Glow came from learning about his friends’ struggles with conceiving. The founders of CarePlanners, Simplee and Pokitdok were all newcomers to healthcare but launched their companies after personal experiences.