Pulse@MassChallenge Startups Score More Deals in Program’s 2nd Year

MassChallenge’s experiment in digital health is picking up steam.

Pulse@MassChallenge, the healthtech accelerator launched by Boston-based nonprofit organization MassChallenge in 2016, wrapped up its second annual session Tuesday night. The event, held in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center during the 2018 BIO International Convention, showcased the approximately 30 startups that participated in Pulse’s latest program, which ran from mid-January through the end of May. Six of the companies went home Tuesday with a total of $230,000 in cash prizes. (More on the winners below.)

Pulse has an interesting model that is different from the typical short-term startup accelerator program. Like MassChallenge’s other programs around the world, selected startups don’t give up any equity, and they gain access to office space, mentors, and other resources during the program. Unlike most of MassChallenge’s programs, the digital health startups also get matched with industry partners—including hospitals, life sciences companies, insurers, and tech companies—and collaborate with them on specific projects. The idea is to foster business deals for the startups and give the industry partners access to emerging technologies and talent.

The model seems to be working. Pulse program director Nick Dougherty told Xconomy that the startups collectively secured more than $20 million in venture capital and booked more than $6 million in revenue during the second session, versus $18.8 million in venture funding raised and about $4.5 million in revenue generated by the startups during Pulse’s inaugural session last year. He said this year’s startups also received more than 100 “challenge offers,” referring to the collaborative projects pitched by the industry partners. That’s up from 80 challenge offers during last year’s program, Dougherty said in an e-mail message.

“Our second-year results indicate that our program is not only as strong as last year, but stronger,” Dougherty wrote in the e-mail.

That bodes well for MassChallenge’s newest program, MassChallenge FinTech, which will employ a similar model matching fintech startups with banks, insurers, and other industry partners.

Another thing that stood out to me during Tuesday’s event was Pulse’s emphasis on diversity, particularly when it comes to gender. This year, 59 percent of the startups have at least one female co-founder, and Pulse launched a program earlier this year to support women in the digital health industry. Also, by my count, the event was evenly split between men and women speakers, and most of the featured speakers were women.

Here are the prize winners:

Leuko, which is developing a non-invasive device for screening severe neutropenia, won $100,000 (see picture above). (Leuko caught my eye two years ago after it participated in MIT’s Delta V accelerator.)

InsightRX, a maker of machine learning-enabled clinical decision support software, won $60,000.

Fitly, which is developing a plate equipped with technologies to help users track food intake, won $40,000.

Medumo won $10,000 in an award voted on by the startups in the program. It reportedly raised $2 million in venture funding in January.

—Event attendees voted to award Multisensor Diagnostics $10,000.

Folia Health won $10,000 in an award designated for a company with at least one female founder. Folia was selected by an independent panel of women executives, Pulse said.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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