CLEVELAND, Ohio: One company envisions a wristband to track blood sugar for diabetes patients. Another thinks it has the technology to more accurately pick the right prescription dosages for individuals. Shorter wait times for doctor visits and medical tests is the goal of another firm.
Twenty-seven startups from across the globe came on Thursday (Friday in Manila) looking for help to turn their ideas into reality as Silicon Valley-based business incubator Plug and Play launched a satellite program in Cleveland.
About 10 winners from 21 health-related companies will be chosen within days to receive mentoring help in Cleveland over the next few months before presenting their fine-tuned plans to potential investors in June.
Then the whole process will start over again, repeating every six months for at least three years under a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and local non-profit JumpStart Inc.
Plug and Play founder Saeed Amidi, who lists early ties to PayPal, Lending Tree and DropBox among his organization’s successes, envisions big things for Cleveland. He said Cleveland is ready to embrace 20 or more new startups a year as part of the program.
“If we do that, I promise you this building will be humming and it will be too small,” he said of Cuyahoga County’s downtown Global Center for Health Innovation. “We will have to build another one.”
The companies do not have to commit to keeping a presence in Cleveland, but the winners will work here for several weeks – possibly establishing long-term ties for some.
Landing on Plug and Play’s map is considered a coup for the region’s large health-care sector.
Cleveland is the only US Plug and Play satellite outside California or New York. And Cleveland joins a select list including Amsterdam, Munich, Paris, New York, Abu Dhabi, and Tokyo with new programs this year.
Plug and Play’s only programs focusing on health are in Silicon Valley and Munich.
Some of the startups are still in the development stage. Others are up-and-running, and were in Cleveland looking for help to expand or to promote their businesses.
CancerAid, developer of an app for cancer patients, last year won a $500,000 investment after appearing on the TV show Shark Tank and is being used by thousands of patients. TalkSpace, an online therapy online business, already has built a network of 2,000 licensed therapists.
Six startups that presented Thursday were in the financial technology field. They will not be part of the competition, rather they were there to showcase their ideas.
Selecting 10 startsups
An announcement is expected by Monday (Tuesday in Manila) for which 10 health startups will be invited to return in April to begin a three-month stay at the Global Center for Health Innovation.
Eleven health startups had their turn during a morning session, each allotted about five minutes to tell their story and answer a few questions. One idea even non-medical people could relate to involved developing sensors to detect when a child is about to wet the bed, rather than after the fact.
Ten more health startups offered their ideas in the afternoon. One concept involved the use of virtual reality headsets for physical therapy or to relay medical information to doctor offices remotely.
The day wrapped up with presentations from six startups in the financial and technology sectors, including one idea to build web robots to complete repetitive tasks now done by humans.
As wonderful as today is, this is just the beginning,” said Pete O’Neill, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve done a lot of work to get here.”
“JumpStart and the Cleveland Clinic are here in the front of the room. We want more partners. We need more partners. We want diversity and perspective on what is going to drive health care innovation,” he added.
Even big companies need ideas from outside their walls, said Ray Leach, chief executive officer of JumpStart, and he would like to extend the program beyond the health fields.
“When you look at the average corporation in Ohio, they are lagging,” Leach said. “There are many large companies that could benefit from disruptive innovation.”