DreamIt Health, a new health startup incubator that paired entrepreneurs around Philadelphia with experts from Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine to help commercialize new ideas, is now venturing down I-95 to expand into the city of Baltimore. We spoke with Elliot Menschik, MD, PhD, who manages DreamIt Health, about the goals of the new venture and the opportunities it plans to offer to Baltimore’s medtech entrepreneurs.
Medgadget: What was the impetus behind DreamIt Baltimore?
Elliot Menschik: DreamIt Health Baltimore is born of the recognition that Baltimore and the central Maryland region is home to a ton of talent at the intersection of healthcare and information technology, yet startups in the region are increasingly leaving to get the help they need in other cities that have accelerators such as DreamIt. It’s doubly unfortunate in that the region boast some of the greatest healthcare resources anywhere in the world from Johns Hopkins Medicine to key federal agencies like CMS, FDA and NIH. If anything, the region should be a magnet for promising health IT startups all around the world to come and build enterprises of significant and lasting value. DreamIt Health Baltimore is an initiative aiming to do both… nurture and speed local healthtech startups to market, and attract the best from around the world to Baltimore.
Medgadget: Are there key points you want to get across to prospective start-ups? What type(s) of start-ups are you looking for?
Elliot Menschik: At DreamIt, we have a very broad view of the kinds of companies and solutions that are of interest. The key ingredient is using information technology tackling significant pain points for healthcare stakeholders whether they be providers, payers, public health agencies, biopharma, device makers, clinicians-in-training, or patients themselves. They need to be real problems with sizable market potential.
The emphasis is on IT, but increasingly where IT meets mobile you find the the new generation of medical devices, and we are also keenly interested in startups in that space too like DreamIt Health alum Biomeme.
In addition to the space, what’s most important to us is the team. We’re looking for at least two people per team, ideally with complementary skill sets, ideally with some technical expertise on the founding team, ideally that have worked together before. We also look for people with a track record of having built things before. Maybe not companies, but that have demonstrated a vision, mission and execution whether it is volunteer work, a side project, or previous startup experience.
Medgadget: How will the DreamIt Health experience differ between Philadelphia and Baltimore?
Elliot Menschik: Philadelphia and Baltimore have a lot in common. They’re underdog cities populated by talented people with grit, determination and resilience where otherwise they might be overshadowed by their larger neighboring cities (DC, NYC). They both feature growing and vibrant tech communities and have an envious balance of quality-of-life and cost-of-living. Both DreamIt Health programs and their participants really benefit from being in these environments and tapping into relationships with global brands and organizations in healthcare.
Where the programs will differ is on a more nuanced level. In Baltimore, the teams will have the benefit of a location (Fells Point) that is probably the most exciting and active while immediately next to the explosion of startup activity in Canton and Fed Hill, and in easy striking distance of the Johns Hopkins Medical campus and business school.
The partnership with Hopkins is also even broader than what we had in Philadelphia with Penn. While the relationships with Penn were with the medical center specifically, at Hopkins the teams will have access to resources in medicine, public health (Bloomberg), engineering (Whiting) and the business school (Carey). We’re also anticipating that the proximity to key federal agencies like CMS and FDA will afford other key opportunities to pilot new technologies and better understand how to navigate the regulatory landscape where it’s most relevant.
Medgadget: Why is DreamIt focusing on cities like Philly and Baltimore, which are not known to be the hubs for health tech that NYC and SF are?
Elliot Menschik: It’s an interesting question because for those of us who have worked in healthtech and built successful companies, we actually don’t see NYC or SF as the hubs that they are for other industries. Cities like Boston, Nashville, Minneapolis and Philadelphia are much better known for their density of healthcare companies at all stages of development from molecules to devices to services to IT as well as an investment community comfortable with and active in the medical sphere. And when you dig deeper into where successful health IT startups have come from, it is really all over the map and really few to none from NYC or Silicon Valley.
Medgadget: Can you describe the resources and mentorship opportunities that DreamIt Baltimore will be able to provide entrepreneurs?
Elliot Menschik: As with every DreamIt program, each team will be paired with a coach/mentor who has been there before and done it before with their own startups and with domain expertise relevant and customized to each company. Teams will also have the benefit of hearing from and meeting with dozens of the leading practitioners in the field, executives from major healthcare organizations and early-stage investors. They will be working side by side with and learning from some ferociously talented peers and receive free legal counsel from top tier firms known for their experience and expertise in working with entrepreneurs. Most importantly though will be the unprecedented opportunity to engage with all corners of Johns Hopkins to hone and refine their products, find early champions, pilot implementations and ideally that first referenceable client from the most respected organization and brand in healthcare anywhere in the world.