DENVER, Colo. – Eric Byington, managing director of 10.10.10, was seated at a table with several public health experts, participating in a working session at this year’s Colorado Health Symposium, when the conversation turned to transportation. He listened as the experts debated how to improve the transportation of low-income patients, with some proposing that caregivers be trained to use existing shuttle services, and others suggesting that hospitals buy more vans and hire more drivers.
“That’s when I brought up Uber,” Byington said during a recent interview with CyberMed News. “In five minutes, I can get a car to take me wherever I want to go. But we can’t do the same thing for patients. Why not?”
When the public health experts pointed out that current regulations prevented hospitals from using Uber to transport their patients, Byington hinted that Uber might be open to partnering with anyone interested in building a regulation-compliant patient transportation system. After one of the experts, who worked at a small non-profit, noted that hiring a developer to build such a system would exceed her organization’s budget, Byington proposed a novel solution.
“What if I could bring you together with an entrepreneur who knows how to work with Uber’s software?” he asked. “And what if you could combine your understanding of the healthcare system with that entrepreneur’s knowledge to create a service that could transport patients and provide a return on investment?”
The Venture Generator
For two years now, 10.10.10 has been bringing together entrepreneurs and healthcare experts to identify opportunities to develop market-based solutions to some of the healthcare industry’s toughest problems. To date, the organization’s annual 10-day-long healthcare programs have led to the creation of a number of health-tech startups, including BurstIQ, Airstream Health, and Concert Health.
“The individuals we accept into 10.10.10 are all serial entrepreneurs,” Byington explained. “They’re people who have raised a significant amount of capital, have built and retained a strong team, and have experienced a successful exit.”
Designed to leverage the ability of serial entrepreneurs to develop and commercialize new products and services, 10.10.10 Health begins with a public event. At the event, healthcare experts – known as “problem advocates” in the program – pitch to serial entrepreneurs – who are referred to as “prospective CEOs” – and attempt to convince them to tackle a particular “wicked problem,” such as Alzheimer’s or childhood obesity.
“Then we bring in the validators,” Byington said. “These are healthcare experts and practitioners who have agreed to serve as sounding boards for the entrepreneurs, telling them, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea, but it might not work for this or that reason.”
To help the prospective CEOs sift through the information provided by the problem advocates and the validators, 10.10.10 matches them with “ninjas.”
“A ninja is the startup team member that anyone would want to have,” Byington explained. “We’ve had ninjas who were legal experts, financial experts, and marketing experts. Their role is to provide support in everything from researching the problem to developing a market-based solution.”
While the prospective CEOs explore 10.10.10 Health’s wicked problems, over a hundred volunteers work behind the scenes to ensure the program runs smoothly. Arranged into working groups, these volunteers do everything from compiling reports on new technologies to greeting attendees at 10.10.10 Health’s public events.
A Global Network
While 10.10.10 Health’s stated purpose is to inspire the development of health-tech startups, Byington believes its most important contribution to health innovation is the community it produces. This community spans the worlds of healthcare and entrepreneurship, uniting the expertise of the former with the sensibility of the latter. According to Byington, the bigger this community is, the better.
“When I think about where we’ll be as an organization five years from now,” he said, “I imagine a world map dotted with radiating hubs of volunteers and entrepreneurs, which together form a network that extends from Boston to Johannesburg to Shanghai.”
To enable the establishment of programs in these cities, 10.10.10 is currently working on streamlining its venture generation process. To allow these hubs to communicate, the organization is planning to develop a SaaS-based platform, which will permit the volunteers and entrepreneurs within its network to share information about wicked problems and their solutions.
“As the research, data, ideas, and ventures generated by this network are aggregated, the entrepreneurs will be able to create better, more targeted startups, which will in turn drive more engagement from our network,” explained Byington. “And as our network expands, more partnerships will develop between healthcare experts and entrepreneurs, enabling more powerful, more efficient companies to form faster than ever before.”