An upmarket pitch nights

Last week I attended a health tech event called Pitch Night: HealthTech and MedTech.

It was held at the Goods Shed in Docklands, a refurbished shed that has become the glamorous base for the new Victorian government agency VicLaunch.

The office space was conveniently located next to Southern Cross Station. The street frontage was floor to ceiling glass.

Inside, polished floor boards gave a warm if expensive feel.

Sofas and comfortable chairs were scattered around. The walls were sanded back to exposed brick work. Taut wire rope balustrades lined the edge of a balcony, that looked down over the next level.

Public servants wearing neat ID tags politely welcoming participants and electronically check them in.

Down more wooden steps was a  large ground floor expanse. Over 100 mental chairs were laid out in neat rows. At the front, a podium, microphones, amplifiers and an impressive slideshow screen stood waiting.

Through the glass walls surrounding this area more offices could be seen, filled with modern furniture.

A well dressed, well spoken, female public servant opened the event with magniloquent statements.

Several of the startups who pitched were already well on on the way to becoming million dollar, international companies.

The audience sat isolated on their modern chairs, either whispering to the companion they came with, or staring into their phones.

I came away with mixed feelings.

The first meetup groups I joined in 2013 were a Sydney Health Technology group, Startup HealthTech and  Peak15. They all had raw feel about them.

Space was tiny, sometimes just one small room in a rented office/workspace.

Small startups, Doctors or anyone who had a great idea, simply stood up in front of a crowd and pitched.

Alcohol and pizza was wolfed down. Sponsors floated in and out, from big tech to private health insurers and big pharma. An odd variety of older entrepreneurs, middle aged Doctors and young techies were thrown together and forced to talk to each other.

Physio’s raved about smart walking frames and Intensive care doctors argued about statistics then both reached for pepperoni and beer.

No one listened to (or cared about) government policy. The decor was cheap laminated kitchenettes, plastic cups for wine or soft drink and a limp serviette if you were lucky.

It was boisterous, gritty and engaging.

Is the startup scene becoming too focused on big profits?

These informal startup events have been gradually replaced by corporate conferences. Events are often invitation only.

Admittedly, hospital CEO’s are far more likely to purchase hospital software than physiotherapists. But do health technology conferences with tickets priced at $1,000 or more, really promote health reform?

And why are no patients or carers ever invited to these well-heeled events?

Perhaps they would they interrupt the patter of bureaucratic politics and successful exit strategies, with complaints about the difficulties accessing wheelchair ramps and paying for high out of pocket costs?

It’s important to remember that no bureaucrates or corporates actually deliver babies, wash sick people or make sure folk with chronic conditions keep taking their meds. They just don’t know what problems exist at the hospital bedside or what solutions might make treatment cheaper and safer.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for big government in supporting the startup movement. Any reduction of taxes for small businesses and supporting STEM courses would be welcome.

Corporate sponsorship of startup events has enabled hundreds of small startup events to run talks and service up pizza and beer.

But innovation and wealth creation are not necessary the same thing.

Innovation requires –

  • An ability to see outside the box and look at problems in a detached and unique way
  • The courage to stand up to road blocks and vested interests
  • The bloodymindedness to battle for years against the odds to bring an innovative solution to the market.

Wealth creation requires –

  • An ability to see a future business opportunity hidden within a current industries problems
  • A clear and well thought out business plan
  • Contacts, networks and plain luck.

Congratulation to Startup Victoria

Their volunteer staff work tirelessly to give innovators education, connections and pitch time. There is an event on nearly every week.

The judges on this event were Alison Hardacre founder of HealthKit, Bronwyn Le Grice from ANDHealth, Chris Kommatas, Kate Portz from Prizer HealthHub and Kunal Kalro founder of Eugene Labs.

Here are the companies who pitched.

Please click on the first image to open the slideshow, then press the angle brackets to scroll through.

Elise Sutherland from Stelect, with an imaging solution that allows cardiologists to select the most appropriate size coronary stent for their patients, using an ultrasound imaging balloon catheter.

Damian Png from Hearables, 3D printing using the latest iPhone technology, allowing bespoke earpieces for hearing aids.

Julia from Concentric, a platform that includes multi media to improve the accuracy of patient medical consents.

Greg Satur and Simon Heaysman from Hayylo, cloud-based software that integrates aged and disability services as well as patients family and friends.

And the winners were...

The audience elected winner was Stelect, a cardiac imaging catheter designed to take the guesswork out of stent selection. They have raised $280,000 from equity crowd funding and $733,000 from seed funding.

The company has already won Med Tech’s Got Talent as well as being accepted into The Actuator, Australia’s national MedTech accelerator.

With current method of simply guessing the correct coronary stent being inaccurate an estimated 70% of the time, at at estimated cost of 2.2 billion in the USA market alone, Stelect has the potential to quickly become an multimillion dollar company.

The judges winner was Concentric, a public company based in Cardiff, Great Britain. They have a digital consent platform, designed to make the medical consent process more accurate, secure and patient friendly.

Their Crunchbase profile states they are a global-leader in procedure outcome and complication data.

They have already raised £350,000 in seed funding and are supported by the NHS and other major UK based health organisations.

Let's take a step back

Americans don’t just worship money. They also blow off steam with humour.

The successful TV series Silicon Valley was a great example.

It lampooned eccentric billionaires, nerdy, male, sex starved geeks and the dog eat dog world of corporate deals.

Silicon Valley has no problem laughing at itself. Perhaps the Australian startup scene should consider the same from time to time.

Changing directions

In the face of the changing nature of health tech events, I’m going to focus on health tech products and how they actually solve problems.

I don’t feel that million dollar valuations and wowing over the latest AI or robotics is really going to bring better healthcare.

I’d like to keep the debate about health technology simple and down to earth.

And if we keep an eye on the simple issues then we will find them much easier to solve.

If you run a health startup or a clinic you would like featured in this blog, please get in touch.

© Wikihospitals July 2019.