Why this healthcare accelerator has the best name

The Philadelphia-based Digital Health Accelerator run by the University City Science Center is winding up it last couple of months. I took the opportunity to check in with Aron Starosta, who set up and managed the program with Chris Laing with the guidance of a nine-member board. As part of our talk, he shared how […]

The Philadelphia-based Digital Health Accelerator run by the University City Science Center is winding up it last couple of months. I took the opportunity to check in with Aron Starosta, who set up and managed the program with Chris Laing with the guidance of a nine-member board. As part of our talk, he shared how he came up with the generic sounding name of the unconventional program.

“That was a joke to prove how meaningless the term ‘digital health’ is,” Starosta said. He pointed to the diversity of the companies it enrolled that spans not just health IT companies like predictive analytics business Pulse Infoframe and telemedicine startup Curbside Care. It also includes life science entrepreneurs. Medical device business UE Lifesciences, which developed breast cancer screening tools also participated in the Science Center’s QED Proof of Concept program.

DHA began formal enrollment on a rolling basis in the first quarter of last year and  has set itself apart from the way people typically think of accelerators. DHA is open-ended (until the money runs out), it didn’t require an equity stake in return for the up to $50,000 it gave accepted companies — drawn partly from Pennsylvania funding. Some participants even provided matching funding from sources outside Pennsylvania. It also limited educational programming to once a week so that companies had plenty of time to travel and focus on building their businesses. It asked companies what they needed in the way of advice and it provided mentors to work with them as they needed.

But it also responds to the changing assumptions about the stage of companies that participate in an accelerator. The motivation behind the Philadelphia-based, Canadian government-backed Canadian Technology Accelerators (Starosta set up and managed the Philadelphia-based health IT accelerator in its first year) was to help more mature Canadian IT businesses get a foothold in a much larger healthcare market that’s warming up to the kinds of technology solutions they could offer. DHA participant Keosys, a 14-year old French diagnostic medical imaging business which may also be the oldest company to participate in an accelerator, underscores that point.

The DHA has, so far, added 40 jobs to the local economy, which is no joke.