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Innovation firm HS. has selected the first cohort of startups to join its accelerator programme, which aims to use technology to address some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges.
The company has selected 13 businesses from over 1,100 applications and will provide them with growth and investment advice, along with access to a network of press and industry contacts, patient groups and clinicians. The cohort will also gain access to partners like the Department of International Trade to help them scale internationally.
HS. co-founder Alex Young said the overseas healthcare markets will be important for the startups’ business success.
“From my background, the majority of revenue for my companies has come from abroad actually, just because the markets in the US and in China are much bigger than they are in the UK,” he said. “If you think about healthcare, there are going to be multiple startups trying to do the same thing in different markets.”
“We passionately believe that if these startups are going to spend their time, effort and investors’ money on creating something amazing, we want that to be global from day one, so they are not limited in where they can scale when they reach the stage of raising seeds and series A funding rounds.”
David Fogel, co-founder of investment company ADV, said the accelerator aims to broaden the startups’ horizons, because “one of the most pivotal things is understanding, especially for us as venture capitalists, that the UK is a big market, but it’s usually not big enough”.
Technology innovation buzz
HS. co-founder, James Somauroo said the healthcare problems these startups could go on to address in future is one of the most exciting parts of being involved with the accelerator programme.
“What’s most exciting for us is individuals that are doing research at the frontier of the border between the known and the unknown,” he said.
“In our first cohort, we have PHDs in machine learning, robotics, computer vision and more, as well as co-founders who are domain experts in healthcare – collectively, they’re the right type of talent to build technologies that will fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered.”
Companies in cohort
- Biogeneration Technologies – Uses biomaterials to heal damaged parts of the body.
- QDoctor – Platform enables GP appointments to be conducted via video calls.
- i-rehab – Provides robotic limbs for amputees.
- Sermaurei – Uses natural language processing so clinicians can make notes by voice.
- XenBot – Provides a chatbot service that helps consumers achieve their career and life goals.
- RiselQ – An artificial intelligence bot designed to help dementia sufferers.
- Healthchain – Ablockchain service provider that connects healthcare researchers with patient data.
- Feebris – Uses machine learning to read and present health data from devices, such as wearables, to patients.
- Vesalian – Offers in-depth insight into the medical risk for patients.
- FitXR – Uses AR and VR devices to motivate people to exercise.
- Orbiject – Information platform that offers guidance on how to administer injected medication.
- MRI.AI – Company relies on algorithms to judge MRI scans.
- Respond – Uses computer vision to identify early dementia symptoms.
He said a big challenge for these entrepreneurs is to pinpoint a healthcare issue and create a product to address it. “What problem does it solve? Whose problem is that and how is that person going to pay for it? People really struggle to identify succinctly what problem it is they solve,” he said.
These startups are not only using technologies to improve the NHS but also help those in the insurance industry, private healthcare and the developing world, said Somauroo.
“It’s about creating an accelerator that can affect the healthcare of the population positively and that’s across all those different angles.”
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However, Ashish Patel, investment manager at investors Mercia Technologies, warned the startups and entrepreneurs that it could take many years for their work to translate into economic success.
“You should be really patient with your long-term macro gain and incredibly impatient on a microscale,” he said. “You need to understand that if you’re going to regenerate medicine, if you’re going to revolutionise using chatbots, this is not something that is going to happen in a short period of time.”
“Tech is not a ‘get rich quick’ game, particularly in healthcare. Our own internal data would suggest it takes between seven and 12 years for companies to peak in terms of their customer access.”
One of the chosen startups, Orbiject, provides users with information about injection medication such as when and where they last used it.
The company’s founder, Ahmed Wobi, said one of the most appealing aspects of the accelerator is the fact there is no time limit on how long participants will be supported for.
“Essentially, you’re in the partnership for life and have lifelong support, because they’re not only investing in your startup but also you as founders, because they recognise you have something they want to try and help grow,” he said.
“They have great contacts, great resources, great knowledge and experience, and it’s a very unique environment for startups to have this unlimited membership.”
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer is also hosting its own accelerator programme to try and address the challenges clinicians and patients face in healthcare. The firm is currently looking for startups to work with over a 12-month period and to earn a share of £50,000 as part of its Healthcare Hub: London scheme.