Shooting for the moon

Despite the phenomenal pace of medical advances seen in recent decades, there remain many massive challenges that the healthcare industry still needs to solve.

One of the companies taking ‘moonshots’ at these challenges is StartUp Health, which is investing in digital health start-ups to tackle 10 key areas. Among them are access to care, cancer, women’s health, longevity, mental health, brain health, nutrition and children’s health.

Offering part of the solution to any of these challenges would be a massive breakthrough for any start-up, but StartUp Health is building a network of companies that are working to achieve all of them – as co-founder and president Unity Stoakes explained.

“We have a 25-year plan to reach these 10 health moonshots.”

StartUp Health calls itself a movement, but it is functioning more like an investment firm, albeit one that offers much more than cash injections.

Founded in 2011, StartUp Health has assembled the world’s largest portfolio of digital health companies, one that encompasses some 250 firms from 19 countries.

“We think this army of entrepreneurs can help the wellbeing of everyone on the planet,” Stoakes said, adding that the key to success lies in acting as a networking platform for the founders of digital health companies.

“We consider our team members to be co-founders. We have 450 team members – a co-founder club supporting each other.”

Stoakes added: “It’s a lonely journey to build a start-up. There is nothing better than having other co-founders there to talk to. We have all these passionate entrepreneurs who can share ideas and offer support to each other as they work towards re-imagining the future of healthcare.”

While assembling – and growing – its portfolio of companies, StartUp Health focuses on
supporting ‘batteries-included’ entrepreneurs, or Health Transformers,who have lots of energy and don’t allow others to drain it. It also wants to help build companies that can focus on the long-term, just as StartUp Health itself does. “We think in terms of years and decades,” Stoakes said.

Just like many other early-stage investors, StartUp Health is helping digital health company founders to raise money, gain customers and increase traction. Twelve of its companies have been acquired by larger firms – including Intel, WebMD, Under Armour and Zimmer Biomet, and StartUp Health’s companies have raised over $980m of funding since 2012.

The company – which Stoakes co-founded with Steven Krein – is chaired by former Time Warner CEO, Jerry Levin, and its strategic partners and investors also include the likes of Novartis, Ping An Insurance Group, GuideWell, GE Ventures and Kaiser Permanente Ventures, to name but a few.

With a team like this, and a 450-strong founders’ network, they can do nothing but shoot for the moon.

About the author

Tarmo Virki is the co-founder of European start-up magazine CoFounder.

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