The first weekend in June marked a milestone in health care for Philadelphians with the first Startup Weekend dedicated solely to improving health care systems. Billed as a $2.7 trillion industry, healthcare caught the attention of an entrepreneurial community centered in a life sciences hub.
The weekend winner was Quick See MD, a web tool aiming to direct people to nearby clinics and other medical facilities other than often over-burdened emergency rooms.
Startup Weekend, the launch-a-business-in-a-weekend event first conceived in 2007 by Andrew Hyde in Boulder, Colo. and most recently held locally during Philly Tech Week, focuses mostly on mobile applications, websites and other simple life online businesses. But like the popular TED conference and lightning talk event Ignite, Startup Weekend just may be taking a more narrow focus, highlighted by this weekend’s Startup Weekend Health.
Held at Callowhill incubator Venturef0rth and organized by its co-founder and life sciences startup veteran Elliot Menschik, healthcare proved a good, niche spin for an event that is still ultimately a place to build connections.
“I think there’s a lot of great ideas in Philadelphia and having an environment where people can get together is important, people have great ideas but don’t know how to make them come to life,” said Gloria Bell, the O3 World social media strategist who served as a coach at the event and is part of the leadership team for Philly Startup Leaders.
This weekend brought out 84 participants, 37 of whom went on to present a 60-second pitch each to the audience. Participants spent another hour networking and loosely forming teams, narrowing down the official list of pitches and teams to 19.
Saturday allowed all participants to flesh out as much of their business model as possible and put together more well- formed presentations rather than just 60-second pitches. Stress levels ran high as teams scrambled to get as much done as possible in such a short time frame.
“We’re doing something very serious, we’re building companies, we’re potentially building your future. But if you’re not having fun you need to go home,” Bell told participants.
Sunday always serves as time to wrap up last minute ideas, business plans and logos. Final presentations were made by the remaining teams and awards handed out after much deliberation by five judges.
Weekend winner Quick See MD was built by a team led by Lon Hecht, a sales director for Tennessee-based health IT firm MedSolutions. The application is designed to save patients money in emergency situations by allowing users to find nearby clinics and other alternatives to busy emergency rooms.
Watch Quick See MD team lead Hecht pitch the idea below, courtesy of MedCityNews.
“After 54 hours of solid work, it was the most incredible adrenaline rush. I couldn’t have put together a better team,” Hecht said.
By bringing together technology developers, graphic designers, social media pros and spectators alike in one frenzied weekend of brainstorming and idea generation, Startup Weekend spurs change not only in the world of technology, but in this case also in the world of health care.
“This is the first stand alone Startup Weekend Health on the globe,” facilitator Tom Nagle said.
Common themes of the nearly 20 projects centered on healthcare’s lack of convenience and language and economic barriers.
“I think the real impetus for this, at least from my perspective, is our everyday lives are getting more and more convenient through the use of technology â€“ whether it’s mobile apps, whether it’s web-based applications â€“ all that goes out the window as soon as we enter the walls of a health care institution,” said Menschik, the Venturef0rth co-founder and event organizer.
Menschik, who went through medical school himself, said he hopes the outcome of the event will be successful companies. Although more often than not viable businesses don’t come straight out of Startup Weekends, there are the few ideas that find themselves a reality as quickly as 18 months after the event.
“Hopefully whether companies are born out of this or not, it’s a fantastic learning experience for everybody involved,” Menschik said.