You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, but we doubt you’ve heard of Dentacoin, MedTokens, or Curecoin.
These are healthcare specific cryptocurrencies born from Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs. In this article, we’ll briefly recap the trend of ICOs (aka token offerings) and provide you with a summary financial analysis of how this trend has played out among 138 healthcare ICOs. The results to-date are enlightening, but disappointing. We believe there’s still potential for some projects to be successful.
What’s an ICO? Here’s a quick take from Wikipedia and we’ll point you to an Appendix that will guide you to additional resources:
An ICO is a type of funding using cryptocurrencies…In an ICO, a quantity of cryptocurrency is sold in the form of “tokens” (“coins”) to speculators or investors, in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies. The tokens sold are promoted as future functional units of currency if or when the ICO’s funding goal is met and the project launches.
Autonomous Research found that ICOs raised over $7 billion in 2017 and are slated to raise $12 billion in 2018, with some mega projects raising billions of dollars each.
The best way to get your startup noticed is to have your product validated by experts in the industry. As a young startup connecting with that community of experts can be quite difficult. Participating in a developer challenge can not only lead to funding and credibility but provides a valuable testing ground for products.
What is a developer challenge? These virtual competitions build on the concept of their in-person cousin the code-a-thon/hack-a-thon, prompting teams to develop technologies to address some of healthcare’s most complex issues. Over 3 – 6 months teams work on design concepts and prototypes for a variety of challenges sponsored by all types of organizations from charitable foundations to for-profit companies. Final submissions are judged by a panel of industry experts and winners are awarded cash prizes.
Health 2.0 has run over 75 challenges in the past 4 years and awarded over $6M in funding to burgeoning digital health companies. But its not only money that draws teams to these competitions, participants gain validation of their product, publicity and market access.Reflecting on the past few years, we want to share the successes of these challenges.
Startups announce new technologies to solve healthcare problems every week, but how much of these new technologies hit the public market and reach widespread adoption? Even more, how much technology gets adopted by key institutions that work directly with patients and deliver care? 6 out of 10 physicians reported that they did not use digital health technology for clinical purposes, including communication with patients and other providers and only 27% of physicians actively encourage their patients to use digital health applications, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Top Health Industry Issues 2014 report. While many health systems are beginning to explore different avenues for innovation, some even creating internal departments to address innovation, many are still slow to adopt. As many as 36% of healthcare service organizations report that their organization has no mobile technology or innovation strategy.
Digital health startups, compared to traditional technology startups, have the additional burden of breaking into an established health care system before their solution can really gain traction. Whether it’s a hospital network, health plan provider or direct consumers, all of these groups want to see a product or service that has been validated. With so much activity in the digital health space, potential customers, especially large health systems, want to mitigate risk by purchasing a solution that has shown evidence of the benefits they claim to deliver.
Last year was a banner year for digital health, as the market saw significant growth in funding, bigger deals and new investors entering the space. So what’s in store for 2013? According to a survey of nearly 140 digital health entrepreneurs and over 50 health care information technology venture investors, conducted by my venture capital firm InterWest Partners, we are in for another exciting ride this year. In the survey, we asked which sectors will see the most love from investors in 2013; which companies (if any) will see a $1 billion valuation; where they are having trouble recruiting; and which digital health entrepreneur would win “Survivor: HCIT Island” The answers? Well, it all depends who you ask.
As a tech VC recently told me, refuting the latest flimsy rumor of a huge tech-dominated fund contemplating significant new investment in life science, “Wow, you healthcare guys are really desperate for some good news!”
It’s true; not only are LPs looking ever more critically at VC as an asset class – especially since the publication of the Kauffman report – but the life science sector, in particular, has been devastated, and health VCs have been hurting. (Added Sept 27: See this fascinating, just-posted Xconomy profile of Avalon’s Kevin Kinsella and discussion of the current sorry state of healthcare VC.)
The sex appeal of tech investing is that a relatively small initial investment can blossom very quickly to yield huge returns; the catch, of course, is that this happens very rarely, and much like at a casino, and the tremendous attention lavished upon these winners can almost make you forget how infrequently they occur.