Digital health is populated with under 30-year-old entrepreneurs. Many have no experience in health care, but they bring fresh eyes to an industry that needs innovation. Halle Tecco and Grant Verstandig are emblematic of those entrepreneurs.
When I first profiled twenty-nine year-old Halle Tecco in June 2011, she was getting ready to move into Rock Health’s new digs in SanFrancisco’s Chinatown. Since then, her digital health accelerator–the first for this burgeoning industry, has inspired others such as Healthbox and Blueprint Health, and graduated three classes of start-ups. They include Omada Health, which has adapted a diabetes prevention program online, Beyond Lucid Technologies which manages patient data in an emergency, and drchrono, a free iPad-based electronic health record. Last August, Rock Health increased its funding from $20,000 to $100,000, when Kleiner Perkins joined its roster of investors which include Mohr Davidow and Aberdare Ventures.
Tecco had little experience in health care, but caught a glimpse when she worked with developers of health care apps at Apple for a summer. “You had tech developers without a background in health, and traditional tech investors who didn’t know about health,” she said, and hatched the idea for an accelerator that would bridge the gap while completing her MBA at Harvard.
On a personal note: as someone who helped found a digital health start-up a decade earlier (while a reporter at Forbes), I found most frustrating the dearth of seed stage VCs who understood health IT, and the lack of a network of people in the industry who could facilitate introductions and offer good advice. What was pervasive was a suspicion toward innovation that would disturb the status-quo. Tecco’s idea was just what health IT entrepreneurs needed. With the HITECH Act and ObamaCare reconfiguring the health care landscape, her timing was right.