Personal stories were the name of the game at DreamIt Health’s demo day this year.
The health IT-focused wing of the DreamIt Ventures accelerator featured founders like David Lindsay, cofounder of cancer treatment analytics company Oncora Medical, who spoke about his mother’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Sergey Sirotonin, cofounder of diabetes treatment platform dbaza Health, told a story about his Uncle Vanya, who died of complications with diabetes at 65.
Neutun cofounder Eric Dolan said he was inspired to build a smartwatch that tracks seizures because of his mother, who has epilepsy.
And Gray Matter Technologies cofounder Tanner Avery, whose company built a mouthguard that can track sports accidents, said he suffered from concussions as a student athlete himself.
That thread — a personal touch, an appeal to the human — ran through all eight presentations Monday morning at Cozen O’Connor’s office on the 28th floor of One Liberty Place. It was a distinctly different tone than other demo days we’ve seen (i.e., you’re not talking about a sick family member when you’re pitching ecommerce software) in part because the stakes are just inherently higher with health IT. Many times, it’s life or death. But it also felt like, as part of their three-month business training, these startups got the memo that the personal touch helps.
Demo day was just one stop on the DreamIt Health roadshow — the startups were flying to Boston that night and then later, to the West Coast, to meet with investors. It’s a practice that DreamIt Ventures started with its 2015 Philly class and continued with its DreamIt Health Baltimore class.
Two startups — Pallas Medical and a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia spinout called Intelligent Molecular Cancer Analytics — didn’t pitch at demo day.
Here’s a recap of the day, with our notes.
Program director Steve Barsh, who took over for former director Elliot Menschik this summer, ran the show, after a brief welcome from incoming DreamIt CEO, the New York City-based Avi Savar.
- As DreamIt undergoes some major program changes, the accelerator seems to be trying on different identities for size: they’ve traditionally held their demo days at concert venue World Cafe Live, but in the last year have opted for smaller venues. (DreamIt Ventures held a more intimate demo day at First Round Capital’s University City office in the spring.) The Cozen O’Connor event space, which carried a sleeker, higher-security, more corporate feel was packed, with attendees standing in the back and watching in satellite viewing rooms.
Executives at DreamIt’s industry partners — Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine — spoke of their aspirations of turning Philadelphia into a hub of healthcare innovation.
- Made us think that DreamIt Health was a good get for Penn Medicine and IBC. Other big healthcare organizations like Jefferson Health and United Healthcare are trying to get into the innovation game, and DreamIt Health feels like a tailor-made way to do that.
We were most wowed by the devices.
- A mouthguard with an accelerometer and a gyroscope that can track data from sports accidents and act as an early warning system for concussions (Gray Matter Technologies), a graphene patch that can analyze your sweat and tell you when to drink water, among other things (GraphWear Technologies) and a smartwatch to track seizures (Neutun). Shout-out to GraphWear’s energetic cofounder Rajatesh Gudibande who demonstrated the patch, which sticks to the small of your back (where, he said, you sweat the most), by turning around and sticking the patch right on his back and then doing a little jig to simulate exercise.
Who’s staying in Philly?
- dbaza Health, which hails from Pittsburgh, moved to Philadelphia, Barsh said. Half of the startups were already based in Philly, with connections to Penn or the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has a partnership to accelerate spinout startups with DreamIt. As for the others, it’s unclear, though Neutun cofounder Dolan said he would likely move back to Canada, as the Toronto-Waterloo corridor is “a hotbed of wearables.”
Every startup finished their demo with a slew a thank yous.
- To DreamIt staff, to the lawyer that helped them via DreamIt, to their mentors in the DreamIt program. More than what we normally see at demo days. Though shouting out specific people did fall in line with the personal touch that we noted earlier.
Law firms seemed to have a bigger presence than ever this time around.
- That might be more appearance than anything, since Cozen hosted and sponsored the meals at demo day and each startup named the lawyer that helped them during the program. A DreamIt spokeswoman said that the law firms — Cozen, Duane Morris, Pepper Hamilton and Morgan Lewis — all provided pro-bono services this year and last year to DreamIt Health companies.
Philly tech worlds colliding.
- We noted game developers Zenas Bellace and Christian Plummer on the team of Diagnostic Driving, a CHOP spinout that’s building software to improve the driving safety of fleet drivers. Read more about Diagnostic Driving in the Daily News.