Last month, Brandon Glenn’s post challenging the incubator model fueled a fire of debate about programs like Blueprint Health, Rock Health, Healthbox and Startup Health. It even drew a rebuttal from Rock Health mentor Geoff Clapp. To get another perspective, MedCity News asked a few entrepreneurs who have been through the process to reflect on their experiences. This is part two of a two-part post. To see our interview with David LaBorde and Elliott Holland from SwiftPayMD, click here.
When Ryan Panchadsaram and Jimmy Do left Microsoft in 2010, they had an idea and a basic mobile technology platform, but knew they were missing something. By the time they graduated from Rock Health’s accelerator program in November 2011, they had a new market and a refined mobile platform called Pipette that they thought could help hospitals monitor and educate patients while they recovered at home. Four months later, Pipette was acquired by MIT Media Lab spinout Ginger.io.
In what stage was your company when you applied and were accepted to Rock Health?
RP: We left Microsoft in 2010, and put out an idea using big data surveys and forms. T-Mobile and Walmart.com were using it, but it just didn’t have that spark for us. Then, we saw two doctors using the technology; one was an oncologist using a survey to see how patients were feeling after chemotherapy. They were using our technology to solve a problem we didn’t even know existed. Then when I heard about Rock Health, we literally pivoted what we were doing.
There are lots of benefits of joining an accelerator or incubator, but what do you think was most beneficial to you?
RP: You walk in with this idea and it instantly gets validated because you’re in this place where it’s Rock Health and it’s a supportive environment and they have a reputation that opens certain doors. You could be part of the sexiest company in Silicon Valley but certain doors still don’t open.
What was the day-to-day life like?
RP: It was like you are part of one large company working on 10 different things. There were companies ahead of us that helped us realize, hey, we should put that on our road map for two months from now, both fundraising and engineering-wise. It was really nice because none of the teams were competitive and no one was hiding anything.
Do you feel like your program was long enough to give you the value you expected to get?
RP: Rock Health is five months long, whereas others tend to be three months. In technology, you can test your models out that quickly. And all startups move fast, but healthcare moves cautiously, so I think the five months is reflective of that. But time is just as important as the partners you make there.
You were acquired pretty early — did you connect with Ginger.io through Rock Health?
RP: We found each other back in January or February. We were pretty aggressive during fundraising, and one of the investors asked if Ginger.io was competitive to Pipette. I was familiar with them and wanted to know too, so I reached out. When I talked with them, it looked like what I thought Pipette could be when you went two years into the future. A 30-minute meeting turned into two four-hour meetings and then we flew to Boston, and the conversation went from there.
Are there any companies you think would not be a good fit for an accelerator?
RP: I don’t think the stage of the company restricts you. WeSprout and Pipette came in with just ideas. Skimble came in with products in the app store and released a new one while they were in the program. But whatever you’re doing should be disruptive and rely on technology.
Do you know of anyone who had any negative experiences, either at Rock Health or other accelerators?
RP: Every company was able to take their idea to the next level. There were a set that learned that perhaps their product didn’t fit, but that’s important too. You’re able to learn what your market is and if there’s a space for you in the market.
What’s next for you? Do you think you will do it all again?
RP: Right now, we’re still continuing the vision of Pipette at Ginger. It was a true marriage, and Jimmy and I are putting our hearts into Ginger.io right now.