Former Athenahealth, RelayHealth Leaders Form Startup Maria Health, with Venrock Headlining Investor Group

11/19/08

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“We do think that there is room for consumers to have help (with) the burden of managing health care complications…I would certainly say that we see an opportunity to make health care simpler for consumers.”

Amar calls Athenahealth—which provides Web-based software as a service to help medical clinics manage billing, collections and patient health records—a “very important inspiration” to Maria. In fact, Amar was an architect for Athenahealth and one of three developers of athenaNet, the Web application that supports the services the firm provides.

Whatever Maria is doing, along with the cache of its founders, was compelling enough to attract investments from venture firm Venrock and, yes, Athenahealth. Amar says the firm is keeping the particulars of its finances to itself, but he says that there are backers other than Athena and Venrock. It’s also noteworthy that Bryan Roberts, a managing general partner at Venrock, led the firm’s early investments in both Maria Health and Athenahealth, where he serves on the board of directors. Amar told me that Jonathan Bush, Jr., co-founder and CEO of Athenahealth, does not have a role at Maria. (It’s a bit out of context to mention, but I’d feel remiss not to note that Bush and outgoing President George W. Bush are cousins).

John Hallock, a spokesman for Athenahealth, says that the company invested about $250,000 in Maria but notes that it was the first investment it has made in another firm. “It’s a strategic investment,” Hallock says. “If we do invest in another company, we want to make sure that those companies have a real impact on the…delivery of health care.”

Maria Health is named after CEO Colella’s mother, who Amar says faced the challenge of managing her health care and medical bills before she died a few years ago.

Sadly, that sounds all too familiar.

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  • Steven Wardell

    There have been lots of little glimpses of Maria Health in the press but this is the first good overview I have seen.

    I have heard that Maria Health parallels AthenaHealth in that Maria Health will provide tools to patients / consumers to help them make full use of their benefits, to track their care and payments, and to get reimbursed easily (a lot like what AthenaHealth does for physician practices).

    It makes sense to solve the many problems patients face with their benefits and payments one time excellently and capture it in a rules system for use by everyone else who is a member of the network (which is what AthenaNet does).

    How will they make money on patients / consumers though? Ads? Freemium? A small piece of the transaction? A small piece of the incremental benefit they create for users?