Health Tech Hatch Widens Crowdfunding Choices for Health Startups

10/17/12Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

Dentistry student Alec Whitters had a new iPad and an iPhone, but the only “apps’’ available to help him study for his dental board exams were pricey stacks of paper flashcards, or hefty 500-page books costing more than $300.

Seeing a need to fill, Whitters, 25, took a break from dental school to develop mobile, interactive software for students preparing to take dental boards and other health sciences certification tests. His timing was good. Two crowdfunding ventures were just starting up to help healthcare entrepreneurs like Whitters to reach the specialized communities that might pitch in funds to help a good idea get off the ground.

Whitters’ project is one of the first crowdfunding campaigns featured on Health Tech Hatch, based in Larkspur, CA, which celebrated its public launch on Oct. 8. The new crowdfunding site’s East coast competitor, Medstartr of New York, debuted in July.

Both Health Tech Hatch and Medstartr are online forums where innovators can showcase their projects and appeal to the public and members of their social media networks for funds. This can add up to significant seed money, if enough members of the “crowd’’ respond. The method was pioneered by major crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where some innovators have raised millions of dollars.

But Patricia Salber, CEO of Health Tech Hatch, says health care entrepreneurs need their own crowdfunding platform, tailored to help them communicate about science-based products and services.

“We speak their language,’’ says Salber, an entrepreneurial MD and veteran health care executive.

Her company aims to foster the development of products that transform health care, such as channels where patients can communicate with their doctors, or devices that track people’s health habits and reward them for improvements. It also sees a potential client base among social entrepreneurs interested in global health and underserved communities. Health Tech Hatch held its launch event at the recent Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, and co-hosted an after-party with its friendly rival, Medstartr.

Salber says she spotted the niche for a specialized health sciences crowdfunding site after talking to entrepreneurs in the field. Quite a few said they had been rejected by Kickstarter, a selective site that focuses heavily on design, film, theater, and other arts. Salber also found that health care innovators were less savvy about social media and other communications skills than the typical media arts campaigner on Kickstarter.

“I can tell you, that is not a skill set that most technical people and physicians have,’’ Salber says.

Health Tech Hatch can help crowdfunding campaigners learn to summarize the details of science that fascinate them so much about their projects, Salber says.

“Most people don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of how that hormone works,’’ she says. “What people want to know is: What is it going to do for me?’’

The audience for her clients will also be different than the typical visitors to a general crowdfunding site, where people can go look for the newest indie film or album, Salber says. Health care entrepreneurs need to connect with motivated patients, caregivers, doctors, students, and hospitals searching for tangible ways to improve health care training and delivery.

But Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin is not ready to cede the class of health care innovators to specialized crowdfunding sites like Health Tech Hatch.

“That’s like saying you need a specialized eBay,’’ Rubin says. “We absolutely welcome these health care entrepreneurs, and they have plenty of experience doing great on Indiegogo.’’

Indiegogo, based in San Francisco, started operations in 2008 and now hosts more than 6,000 campaigns a month. Rubin says the site’s established, open platform and global reach gives health sciences innovators the best access to potential funders.

One Indiegogo project, iCancer, has raised more than $68,000 so far to fund clinical trials on an anti-cancer virus it bills as a potential treatment for the disease that killed Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Salber, however, says her business is tailored for busy science innovators looking for more assistance with crowdfunding.

Like other crowdfunding sites, Health Tech Hatch plans to earn revenues from fees subtracted from the total amount each project raises. But Salber also sees the potential to augment the fees by … Next Page »

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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  • http://twitter.com/icrowd iCrowd

    Another crowdfunding option available to healthcare businesses is iCrowd. iCrowd is a web-based Investment Crowdfunding site designed to connect small businesses with investors. An overarching goal of iCrowd is to provide an environment that helps entrepreneurs succeed by providing money, advice and networking