Health IT

This ex-finance/retail exec has found a good fit funding tech for a better patient experience

What happens when you’ve got a degree in economics, a deep interest in wellness and a resume that includes EA Games, Gap Inc. and KFC Corp. as previous employers? If you’re Sharon Knight, you know how to build and grow new healthcare companies. In 2009, Knight found herself working for the first time in the […]

What happens when you’ve got a degree in economics, a deep interest in wellness and a resume that includes EA Games, Gap Inc. and KFC Corp. as previous employers? If you’re Sharon Knight, you know how to build and grow new healthcare companies.

In 2009, Knight found herself working for the first time in the healthcare industry, at One Medical Group, a membership-based practice of tech-savvy physicians that had been founded two years prior. As president, she helped grow and scale the business, which today has a presence in five cities. During a three-year stint in that role, she found that her previous experience with market site selection, operational efficiency and revenue growth models in the retail and gaming industries were directly transferrable to the increasingly consumer-focused healthcare industry.

So in 2012, she stepped out of that role to start Avik Ventures to invest in startups, advise entrepreneurs and connect them with other investors and resources. She founded the business with the proceeds from her first angel investment in Kiva Systems, which Amazon acquired for $775 million.

Already she’s made a few investments in healthcare companies and plans to make a few more this year. They’ll likely be in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 and will be companies working to improve patient access, experience and engagement with healthcare, she said in an interview with MedCity News.

That might mean they’re working with innovative healthcare delivery models that improve a patient’s experience, like a company she’s already backed called ella health, which is redesigning the process of getting a mammogram. Or they might be companies with products or services that make healthcare providers more efficient, like startups Ringadoc and CaptureProof, both of which she’s also invested in.

But what gets Knight especially excited is technology that lies at the intersection of consumer tracking devices and electronic medical records, with the potential of to bridge the gap between patients and providers. That means, for example, using software and analytics to determine what “healthy” means for individual patients, and at what point a physician needs to intervene.

“What’s exciting to me is how patients and providers will share this information and use it effectively to develop care plans that not only manage health conditions but keep people healthy,” she said. “In the future, I believe the phrase ‘health plan’ will take on a new meaning.” While there are still some significant barriers to adoption for self-monitoring technologies, Knight thinks incentives provided by employers and health plans will fuel growth in the quantified self movement.

When it comes to evaluating an investment, Knight’s criteria start with an innovative, scalable solution to a well-defined problem. She also emphasizes the importance of a transparent and collaborative CEO supported by an experienced team and advisers. Startups must also have plans to put the product into the hands of customers early, using their feedback and iterating.

While she gives priority attention to healthcare services, health IT and women-led startups, she’s also interested in technologies focused on prevention and management of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and solutions that allow seniors to remain independent longer.

And while she’s keeping an eye out for the next big thing in healthcare, she’s also on the looking for the next big opportunity for her career. Knight said she’s looking for an opportunity to become CEO or president and COO at an early-stage healthcare delivery or health IT company.