DENVER, Colo. – Three months have passed since Startup Health, a New York-based health innovation network, arrived in Denver to launch its second regional office, Startup Health Colorado. Taking place in a packed conference hall, featuring panels led by healthcare experts and business leaders, and attended by hundreds of clinicians, entrepreneurs, and investors, the launch was a pivotal moment for Colorado’s health innovation ecosystem.
“The individuals and organizations in this ecosystem are what made Denver such a perfect regional office for us,” Steve Krein, CEO of Startup Health, explained during a recent interview. “We plan on working closely with all of the members of the ecosystem in the coming months and years.”
A regional cluster of startups, technology companies, and major healthcare organizations, Colorado’s health innovation ecosystem has, in only a few short years, turned the state into a nationally recognized health-tech powerhouse. In contrast to other regions, health innovators in Colorado currently enjoy the support of a robust network of venture generators, incubators, and accelerators, including 10.10.10 Health, Innosphere, and Boomtown Health.
Since 2012, Prime Health has regularly convened the ecosystem’s clinicians, executives, investors, and academics at its monthly meet-ups, quarterly summits, and annual challenges. During that time, thought leaders like Dr. Arlen Meyers, Tom Higley, Jeffrey Nathanson, and Mike Biselli have each done their part to encourage the ecosystem’s growth.
Thanks to the efforts of these individuals and organizations, more than 135 health-tech companies have been identified in Colorado. In the last few years alone, these companies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Their participation in the ecosystem has also enabled them to forge partnerships with major healthcare organizations like Aetna, Centura Health, and Kaiser Permanente.
But for many of the members of Colorado’s thriving health-tech community, the launch of Startup Health Colorado has raised a troubling question. How will a global network of innovators like Startup Health engage with a regional health innovation ecosystem like Colorado’s?
“We’re trying to accelerate the pace of innovation in healthcare,” Krein said of his organization. “In doing so, we’re trying to accomplish what would normally take a hundred years in only 25 years. We simply believe that connecting everyone is the best way to do that.”
And connecting everyone they are. According to its website, Startup Health’s global network currently stands at more than 30,000 members. Major investors like Esther Dyson, Brad Feld, and Steve Case back it, and large organizations like GE, Allianz, and Google have partnered with it.
The network’s growing investment portfolio currently contains almost 200 health-tech startups from around the world. Startup Health supports these companies by providing them with mentorship and access to partners, and has long-term plans to fund them with at least a billion dollars.
“The global transformation of health won’t be brought about by any one entrepreneur, organization, region, or country,” continued Krein. “It’s going to require a global army of entrepreneurs and innovators working together to accomplish it.”
According to Krein, regional offices like the one Startup Health has established in Denver will play an important role in this global army. A three-year partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado, CU Anschutz, and UCHealth, Startup Health Colorado will work with 30 health-tech startups to commercialize their innovations. The companies chosen to participate in this program will also become members of Startup Health’s global network, which should enable them to expand with greater ease into markets outside of the state.
“I want to bring the opportunity to innovate in Colorado to entrepreneurs all around the world,” explained Krein. “At the same time, I want an entrepreneur in Colorado to have the chance to commercialize their innovation elsewhere.”
But the startups and organizations involved in Startup Health Colorado represent only a segment of the state’s health-tech sector, and in an ecosystem known for its willingness to collaborate, innovators are eager to learn how Startup Health will engage with the broader community. “We plan to be complementary to the ecosystem,” Krein said, before briefly describing Startup Health’s plans to build a Colorado-based team, and then begin hosting events and engaging in outreach.
“While we will be announcing other regional offices in 2017, our focus right now is to build a firm foundation in Colorado,” Krein explained. “These regional offices will very much be modeled on our office here, because we believe that what we’re doing in Colorado can serve as a model for regions everywhere.”