Mile High Roundup: New Tech Gets Healthy, CU Contest Kicks Off

1/10/14Follow @MichaelXBD

Welcome to the Mile High Roundup, a look at some of the interesting things that have happened this week in the tech scene in Boulder, Denver, and around Colorado.

In this edition, healthcare startups take over New Tech, Colorado’s own space shuttle gets some European friends, and the University of Colorado Boulder’s New Venture Challenge kicks things off with two heavy hitters.

New Tech Boulder recap: With the start of the New Year, a lot of people try to be more healthy. That seemed to be true of the Boulder New Tech Meetup this week.

Two companies developing apps and products for the healthcare industry pitched, and the organization itself is looking to add more health-related startups, organizer Robert Reich said.

RxREVU and Kindara, the featured companies, are ambitious. RxREVU’s ultimate goal is to “organize the world’s pharmaceutical data,” according to CEO Carm Huntress. For now, it will focus on helping patients find the cheapest ways to obtain medication for their conditions. That can mean finding generic or lower-cost substitutes, or learning about which pills can be split.

Huntress said RxREVU culls its information from medical journals, FDA studies, and price databases, and it could add details about which meds work best for patients based on their gender, ethnicity, or even genomics, if the personalized medicine revolution comes to pass.

The goal is to empower patients with information they can then take to doctors, and together they’ll work out an improved treatment plan, Huntress said. That often means cutting costs.

“Just by lowering costs, you typically improve outcomes,” Huntress said. The reason is that high costs deter many patients from following treatment.

Lowering costs would help the industry, too. Huntress cited an estimate from Express-Scripts, the large mail-order pharmacy, saying that $148 billion of the $300 billion spent annually on prescription medicines is “overspend.”

The company is in its infancy—it just debuted on Angel List—but the business model will likely involve partnering with third parties like insurance companies, he said.

Kindara’s goal, as CEO and co-founder Will Sachs put it, is “to help women get pregnant.” It has developed an app that can help women track fertility cycles, and it is working on a smart thermometer that can connect to a mobile device. The idea is the thermometer will provide more accurate temperature readings, which correlate to fertility.

Kindara plans to make money by selling devices like the thermometer and possibly a high-tech breast pump. The target price for the thermometer is $99. The startup also is on Angel List.

Inviting two health startups wasn’t a coincidence, nor was the quick pitch from two other people looking to start a health IT meetup. Reich said one of New Tech’s goals for the new year is to begin incorporating more startups from different parts of the tech world into the meetup.

Dream Chaser’s partners: Sierra Nevada Corp. has big dreams for its Dream Chaser space shuttle, and now it has found two important international partners.

The European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center have agreed to work with Sierra Nevada Corp. to add systems developed in Europe to the spacecraft and to expand the missions for which the Dream Chaser could be used, according to a release from SNC.

Currently, the Dream Chaser is envisioned as a privately developed and operated replacement for NASA’s retired space ships. The vehicle is being designed and built in Colorado, and NASA is testing prototypes at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“With the start of these new relationships with ESA and [German Aerospace Center] we are able to continue to expand the Dream Chaser Space System globally,” said Mark Sirangelo, the SNC vice president in charge of the Dream Chaser program.

The deal could offer several benefits. For the Europeans, it could allow them to advance their space technologies, flight opportunities, and space interests in low-Earth orbit, a release said. For Sierra Nevada, it adds expertise from new countries and creates potential commercial partners.

The latter could be very important. Sierra Nevada is competing with two other companies to win the NASA contract to resupply the International Space Station. A European partnership could be a revenue stream.

NVC’s entrepreneurs extraordinaire: The annual University of Colorado New Venture Challenge, which is a business plan competition for CU students, faculty and staff, is about to kick off in earnest, and the organizers are doing it big.

Ping Identity CEO and co-founder Andre Durand and MobileDay CEO Howard Diamond will be the keynote speakers at the event’s kickoff on Jan. 23. They’ll discuss the five issues startups should think about during their early stage and take questions from the audience about building businesses.

Ping Identity is a leading network security company and one of the most successful startups to come from Denver. In the past decade, it has grown to be one of the venture-backed firms considered most likely to have an IPO.

MobileDay is at the other end of the spectrum. The firm, which makes an app that help users log into conference calls and helps enterprises find the cheapest way to conduct calls, is only a few years old. Diamond, however, is a veteran CEO and serial entrepreneur.

The New Venture Challenge draws dozens of teams and culminates in a final competition on April 22.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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