Healthbox, Busy in Boston, Expands and Diversifies Amid Seed-Stage Flood
It has been a busy morning for Nina Nashif.
The CEO and founder of Chicago-based Healthbox is in town for the accelerator program’s second “innovation day” in Boston. Nine health IT startups will present their pitches this afternoon to a crowd of healthcare industry executives, entrepreneurs, and investors at the Revere Hotel near Boston Common.
You could be excused for not knowing who these startups are or what they represent. After all, dozens of healthcare accelerators have popped up in the past year or so, and with all the startups nibbling at the edges of truly gigantic problems in healthcare, it’s a super noisy sector.
That’s why I wanted to get to the top and see what Nashif (pictured) is seeing. Her training is in health administration and she’s a longtime business executive, having led international services and growth strategy at a Texas hospital, co-founded a wholesale business in New York, and served as vice president of Sg2, a healthcare analytics firm in London.
That was all before joining Sandbox Industries, a business incubator and venture capital firm in Chicago, and spinning out Healthbox as a separate entity.
Healthbox got started in Chicago in 2011-12, and in the past year it has expanded its three-month accelerator programs to Boston and London. Next up, interestingly, will be new programs in Jacksonville, FL, and Nashville, TN. And Nashif plans another session in Boston for early next year.
The biggest lesson learned so far, she says, is that “healthcare entrepreneurs need access to the industry, but just giving them access isn’t enough. We really need to help them refine their business model in the context of the industry.”
That means solving real problems, not going after perceived needs or operating at the fringe. “How do you make sure you’re building for the right stakeholder and you have a business model that will scale?” Nashif says.
One answer to that is pretty interesting and not obvious—especially for an accelerator. Healthbox is looking to diversify in terms of the stage of companies it accepts, Nashif says. I took this to mean admitting more established, later-stage companies as well as seed-stage startups—and it sounds like this is happening already.
As Nashif explains, Healthbox (and other programs) got started in part because of a seed-stage funding gap for young companies. … Next Page »