DC to VC: Health 2.0 Companies Pitch!

Health Innovation Week continues in San Francisco, but, this past Thursday, Health 2.0 zipped down to the Microsoft campus in Mountain View for “DC to VC” – a fabulously organized event by Rebecca Lynn & Ching Wu of Morgenthaler Ventures and MC’ed by our very own Matthew Holt. Despite the prominent names of the organizers, the stars of this show were really the eleven HIT startups from across the US selected from a list more than 125 companies who had pitched for a spot on the stage.

Up first were six companies in the Seed stage category. Each was under two years old and has raised less than $500K so far. They were followed by slightly older, slightly more experienced startups in the Series A category. These companies were under three years old and have received less than $1.5 million in funding.

Company CEOs, founders and investors presented to a full auditorium of about 300 VCs, entrepreneurs and other startup execs. Many HIT hopefuls in the audience got a glimpse of the steps they’ll need to take when they’re ready to launch and promote their own products within the coming months or year. And they were wide-eyed and astute for good reason. In her opening keynote, Rebecca Lynn of Morgenthaler Ventures pointed out that investment in HIT is increasing up 27% in terms of dollars and 58% in terms of deals.

A panel of five sat on stage and rated the presentations on a scale of one to five (no one got a one) and gave feedback. But, like American Idol, panelists’ votes didn’t count. In true Silicon Valley fashion, audience members whipped out their smart phones and iPads at the end of each category to cast their votes. Winners were chosen by both in-house voters and by those watching via live stream.

The first presentation of the afternoon came from Careticker, which scores points for tackling a major quantifiable problem in the hospital system. The company helps patients plan in advance for procedures so that they don’t unnecessarily end up back in the hospital. An important issues as avoidable re-admission costs the US $25 billion each year.Shifting the focus to personal wellness, Maria Ly presented Skimble with such high energy, she was doing back flips — literally. Skimble is a mobile phone and iPad app that gets people up and on their feet by telling them what fitness activities to do, as Ly demonstrated.

Next up was Viewics, which was presented with less energy but involves a concept that’s still something to get excited about – Big Data. Founder and CEO Dhiren Bhatia, explained how Viewics applies analytics and business intelligence software to departments such as the laboratory, radiology and pharmacy, which are key drivers of cost and clinical decision making in the hospital.

But it was EyeNetra that took home the prize in the seed category. The company employs impressive iPhone technology to deliver affordable eye diagnoses. The company holds a lot of promise to be able to deliver eye care to many of the 2.4 billion around the world need glasses but don’t have them. An iPhone clip-on piece, when used in conjunction with the Netra app quickly measures a person’s eyes and allows them to get a prescription for glasses and a diagnosis for cataracts.

One thing was common in all of the presentations — loads of passion. Many company founders are new to the healthcare space and were inspired to enter by something that happened to them or someone they know. Joanne Rohde, CEO of Axial Exchange came to the field from her former role of COO at Red Hat. While she was working there she became so sick that she had to leave work. She sought numerous doctors looking for a diagnosis, and each time, it felt like she was starting over. Her aim to improve the continuum of care led her to found Axial, an open source health care software provider that creates clinical summaries for patients that move into and out of hospitals.

Later in the show, James Currier, an investor and board member of Jiff, revealed a lot about the company’s product that’s been embargoed until now. Jiff is a HIPAA-compliant iPad platform for patient communication and education. Currier played a demo showing how a doctor can use an instructional video to visually explain a patient’s health condition to them. Those videos can then be emailed to the patient. Currier promised that the JiffPad, with its slick format, is “simple, intuitive, delightful — unlike anything else in health care.” The application received the highest ratings of the night. The timing might be right for Jiff, which offers support for doctors trying to better communicate with patients. JiffPad could be an important tool for doctors will want to use the program as the Affordable Care Act pushes healthcare toward outcome-based medicine. However, the panel pointed out that Jiff might be a little too early in the market as many doctors still struggle to be more participatory and don’t have the time to sit down with patients to go over something even as simple as an instructional video.

The last performance of the night came from energetic and vociferous Matthew Browning of YourNurseIsOn.com, who said the site would put the “rock and roll rhythm into the sleepy slow dance we call health care.” The company allows consumers to instantly contact health care providers when they’re needed by two-way phone, text and email. YourNurseIsOn also got high marks across the board. Panelist Rebecca Lynn got excited about this one, commenting, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this hasn’t been done yet.”

At the end of the night, Jiff took home the trophy for this category. Though cash wasn’t handed out at this showcase, entrepreneurs didn’t walk away empty-handed. Business cards were exchanged and names were named that are sure to come up in the future.

Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, closed the night with an inspirational keynote for all of the entrepreneurs in the room.

“Erode the system,” Howard told them.

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