Cambia Grove Aims to Spur Healthcare Innovation in Seattle

Cambia Health Solutions, which owns a portfolio of insurance and healthcare companies, wants Seattle to become a center of healthcare innovation.

To help, Cambia is building a new 9,000-square-foot meeting and workspace in downtown Seattle, set to open early next year. (A rendering is at right.) The Cambia Grove will be in the 1800 Ninth Avenue building, roughly where downtown Seattle meets South Lake Union. Other tenants include Amazon and Cambia company Regence BlueShield, which is supporting the Grove alongside Qliance, another Cambia company, and UW Medicine.

Cambia wants the Grove to serve as a collaboration space that brings together the many organizations, large and small, that have a stake in the massive healthcare business. Large healthcare providers would discuss their problems with entrepreneurs, launching pilot projects that could lead to new companies in areas such as technology-enabled healthcare services, big data analytics, and new consumer-focused healthcare markets that can reduce costs.

That said, the Grove is not a startup incubator or accelerator. Those models have proved difficult to implement in healthcare, says Rob Coppedge, Cambia’s senior vice president of strategic investments.

Coppedge

Coppedge

“We think this region itself needs to become an accelerator of these kinds of companies, and the critical ingredient that’s missing is … the cooperation between the various stakeholders that are resident here,” Coppedge says.

The company hopes the Grove will encourage healthcare entrepreneurs to think of Seattle as a good place to start a business. In the last 10 years, Cambia has made lots of acquisitions and investments in healthcare services and technology companies—including Lively and Wildflower Health—but has frequently had to look beyond its home region to find them.

“The business value [of the Grove] for Cambia is that if we raise all the boats in the Puget Sound market around healthcare, maybe we’ll see more deal flow. It won’t all be ours,” Coppedge says.

The Seattle area has concentrations of expertise in medicine and IT, and large, forward-thinking employers unsatisfied with the status quo. I’ve heard lots of people say lately that these elements position Seattle to be a leader in the new healthcare economy, particularly as the state’s biotech and biomedical industries search for ways forward as anchor company Amgen departs.

It remains to be seen whether a collaboration space is really all that’s needed to bring those pieces together.

Gov. Jay Inslee is lending at least his rhetorical support, saying in a press release he looks forward to working with the Grove, which is being announced at the state’s biggest life sciences event, where Inslee is scheduled to speak Friday.

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  • Bob Crimmins

    Seattle has long been a hot bed for software-enabled health care services startups and Cambia setting up shop here is a great add to that story. Also, hope this means we’ll see of more of Rob Coppedge around town!