Cambia Health launches Seattle startup effort

An effort backed by Cambia Health Solutions to lure more startups opened today in Seattle with the intent of bringing together not just entrepreneurial talent in the healthcare space, but also well-established entities like health systems and major employers to jointly identify challenges and potential solutions. The Cambia Grove, announced last fall, opened in a 9,000 square-foot space, hoping […]

An effort backed by Cambia Health Solutions to lure more startups opened today in Seattle with the intent of bringing together not just entrepreneurial talent in the healthcare space, but also well-established entities like health systems and major employers to jointly identify challenges and potential solutions.

The Cambia Grove, announced last fall, opened in a 9,000 square-foot space, hoping to establish a hub of innovation for the Pacific Northwest. To do so, Cambia has enlisted a host of regional partners that it says will help separate it from other accelerator models that simply invest in startups.

Such partners include regional health system EvergreenHealth Partners, UW Medicine, Qliance and Regence BlueShield, of which Cambia Health is the parent company. Collectively, the entities will devise pilots through the Grove as part of an effort to drive health costs down, improve outcomes and consumer experience.

“It’s about putting these institutions in one place and voicing their needs and letting entrepreneurs try to solve the problems,” Nicole Bell, director of businesses development for Cambia told MedCity News. “What we’re doing here is not asking for your time to listen to some bright idea, we’re asking what you need to be solved, and we will bring you a novel solution.

It’s a little different from getting cold calls from younger companies,” she added.

While the Grove is looking to encourage and foster healthcare startups, Cambia says the effort is not like a traditional accelerator or incubator, in large part because it’s looking for long-term investments, not a quick return on capital.

“We’re not viewing it as an incubator or an accelerator,” said Rob Coppedge, senior vice president of strategic investments and corporate development for Cambia.

“There is a huge amount of baggage strategic investors bring to the table when the come,” he added, speaking generally about corporate investors and startups. “We have a history of being slow. We have a history of confusing our corporate development with our investment priorities, such that it sometimes questions entrepreneurs to think, are we going to be a spy at the board table? Are we trying to get them on the cheap? Are we trying to pursue our own corporate interests over thier’s?  The intention is we create a place where startups can go and not just find capital, but also proof of concept with pilots.”

Cambia is footing the cost of the development and potential investment in startups, although the figure has not been disclosed.

Bell, also the Grove’s executive director, said attracting startups is currently in progress, and that Cambia is hoping for a mix of digital health and life science companies across the Northwest.

“I think startups are forming as we speak,” she said.

Coppedge said up to 100 startups were invited to tour the new space.

The Grove will provide a space for long-term investment while linking providers, health plans and large regional employers with young health care companies. The collaborative approach, according to Cambia, includes experts and even competitors from across the industry.

The Grove will be overseen by an advisory board consisting of the following members:
— Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director, of the UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
— Dr. Bob Crittenden, senior health policy advisor to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee
— Vikram Jandhyala, vice-provost for innovation at UW
— Maura Little, director of economic development for the life science and global health sector, Washington Dept. of Commerce
— Chris Rivera, President & CEO, Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association (WBBA)
— Rick Rubin, CEO, OneHealthPort
— Dorothy Teeter, Director, Washington State Health Care Authority

Bell pointed to a recent a four-year, $65 million grant that the state of Washington received to boost innovation in healthcare as the sort of potential coordination and resources that will likely be available because of the collaborative nature.
All aspects of healthcare will be on the table for tackling, Bell said, noting that UW Medicine has expressed a desire to improve areas such as a palliative care and the intergration of mental health and medical health, along with better solutions for chronic illnesses.

“This is really one effort that is part of a region that need to view this as all-in,” Bell said. “This is not Cambia doing something for Cambia. It’s our view of doing something to kick-start change and growing something here.”