Oftentimes it is the people closest to problems who best understand the solutions.That's why state-backed seed and early-stage funder Ben Franklin Technology Partners has brought on pros with direct experience in the healthcare field to lead its new Healthcare Investment Group (HIG). HIG Managing Director Jennifer Hartt, Ben Franklin's former director of investments for life sciences who also counts experience in lab research and clinical settings, leads the group's four-person team. Hartt said its work is an opportunity to address community health needs through the support of entrepreneurs with impactful, scalable health concepts, with equity in mind. "We’ve had a lot of experience over the years working with entrepreneurs, but we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that our ultimate client is the patient," she told Technical.ly. "We know from seeing people come to us with ideas on what could work in healthcare or as a digital solution. People come to us with a solution that is plugged in or an unmet medical need." Ben Franklin has long funded healthcare companies, including recent investments in SOLUtion Medical, Strados Labs and Avisi Technologies. Broadly, the new group will invest in people with ideas about what the future of healthcare looks like and how tech can fit into it. "It may not always be an entrepreneur. It could be someone dealing with disabilities in the school system," she said. "We want to make sure we’re supporting innovators to see where tech is working and where it’s not." The investment group's team benefits from scientific and medical experience that extends beyond the boardroom. [pullquote text="We want these tools to be attainable and scalable to all people." cite='Kevon Gray, VC analyst' align='right'] Investment Director Sri Sriadibhatla has a Ph.D. in nanotech drug delivery as well as worked as a tech scout with FMC and said he's interested in finding easier ways for people to access medical technology. Meanwhile, venture capital analyst Roze McDevitt worked in bioengineering before joining HIP and has experience consulting on tech projects. Her new role allows her to integrate her interests. In her work before, she saw that "companies got stuck in the product development cycle and lost sight of innovation," McDevitt said. "What’s really refreshing is having that ability to support companies that really drive innovation in the area." And when the pandemic began 18 months ago, HIP venture capital analyst Kevon Gray was a senior respiratory therapist intubating patients in NYC hospitals. His firsthand experience in assessing tools has shaped his passion for finding tech solutions in the healthcare space. "Working hands on in the medical field and seeing the devices, platforms and how they worked and how they’re being implemented, I could tell [the system] is flawed to an extent and there is always room for improvement," he said. "It helps me bring me new ideas to this team that will allow entrepreneurs to create devices that are scalable. That is one of my main reasons that I am excited about being with this team. We want these tools to be attainable and scalable to all people." As the group manages its own budget independent of other Ben Franklin initiatives for the first time, Hartt sees a great amount of possibility for innovation — from anyone trying to improve healthcare, traditional entrepreneur or not. "Anybody sitting wherever they are can come talk to us if they’re thinking about innovation and making healthcare better," she said.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-