Qualtrx, a Minnesota tech startup aiming to move sales between hospitals and vendors online through a social network-type software platform, thinks it’s finally found the right match in a business accelerator.
In January, one of the company’s co-founders, Rashaun Sourles, will head to New York for three months with a software development partner from Minneapolis-based Refactr and set up shop temporarily at Blueprint Health, an accelerator for early stage healthcare startups that’s part of the Techstars Network.
The company’s other co-founder, Michael Winikoff, will stay back in Minnesota to manage the beta test of Qualtrx’s software at Minnesota’s Hennepin County Medical Center.
Qualtrx launched the beta version of its system in October, and Sourles said the hospital is already saving thousands of dollars using the system, although official data won’t be compiled until the pilot run is over in February. Healthcare providers take to the Qualtrx site to post their needs, which can be anything from an individual product to an organizational goal, and medical sales representatives respond to their requests.
A former account manager with Johnson & Johnson, Sourles said Qualtrx already has close to 50 vendors signed on in the beta version thanks to a vendor list provided by HCMC. Additionally, this pilot run has also been crucial in helping the company refine its business model, which will get even more work in New York.
The original model had vendors buying access to the Qualtrx network, but Sourles said the beta run has already helped identify that as a barrier to adoption. Instead, Qualtrx now gives pharmaceutical companies free access and is switching its focus to getting more hospitals on board. Where the hospitals are, the vendors will follow, Sourles said.
With the help of Blueprint, Qualtrx will be shopping around its product to the handful of teaching hospitals in New York to see whether the model is scalable. Blueprint will provide Qualtrx $20,000 in seed funding plus office space, mentorship and legal and financial consulting for 12 weeks in exchange for a 6 percent equity stake in the startup.
This won’t be Qualtrx’s first experience with accelerators. In June, the company was accepted to Project Skyway, which has branded itself as Minnesota’s first tech accelerator. But in August, it made a surprising move by pulling out of the accelerator for reasons Sourles wouldn’t and still won’t discuss.
What he will discuss, however, is why he’s trying again with Blueprint. “We’re looking for people as partners who want to get into the trenches and not tell us how to solve the problem but actually working on solving the problem with us,” he said. “With Blueprint, mentorship is their focal point, and that’s what a company like ours needs.”
Given his experience, Sourles is also more than willing to dispense advice to startups considering incubators or accelerators. His top piece of advice? Apply to every accelerator out there. It’s not that you want to get accepted to every one, he said, but that the application process in itself is very instructive.
“Ideally in the course of applying, your business will improve and you’ll start to get feedback,” he said. “But don’t get into the business of applying and ignoring your business.”
When he returns from Blueprint, it will be time for Qualtrx to start raising money. Sourles said the company will be looking for $750,000 to $1 million and will hire four or five staff members. It will also continue an effort to rebrand itself as Needl.
“We’re seeking funding because we believe in this business model,” he said, “and we’ll be looking for investors who also believe in social media business models.”