First ever Techstars/Cedars-Sinai Healthcare Accelerator alumni offer advice to startups

John Siegel
June 23rd marks the end of the first ever Techstars Healthcare Accelerator. The program, which we previewed in April, saw Techstars partner with Cedars Sinai, bringing in 11 of the hottest healthtech companies. Here's what the soon-to-be graduates had to say about their time in the program.
 
Kyle Hill, CEO
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
We were optimistic entering the Techstars program after seeing the results of their past accelerators, and we're incredibly excited to get an inside look at the inner workings of a world-leading health system like Cedars-Sinai. We expected to have enormous access to healthcare physicians, administrators, entrepreneurs and more. Techstars definitely delivered on this promise.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Focus on building "moats" for your company (a term used by Warren Buffet). This means differentiating your product in a way that makes it very difficult for competitors to reproduce. For us, our "moat" is integrating directly with a hospital as an extension of their healthcare continuum. Home care, by itself is not a new service, but we've reimagined it from the ground up and added a critical technology component, and that makes it fresh and innovative. 
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We will continue to work with Cedars on various initiatives aimed at reducing healthcare costs while also improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. We will also publish a case study to prove the actuarial value and ROI on home care and leverage this to partner with other innovative health systems around the country.
 
 
Maggie Galloway, CEO
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
We had high expectations for the Techstars program after talking with several Techstars alumni. We knew that Techstars had an incredibly strong mentor and investor network and provided valuable startup guidance. Even with these high expectations, we were blown away by our Techstars experience. Techstars has helped us make more progress in three months than we could have made in years. The clinical expertise and resources we have had access to at Cedars-Sinai are unattainable by start-ups outside of this program.  
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Seize every opportunity that comes your way, you never know what doors it will open.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We are moving into manufacturing with our first device this summer. Our clinical study with Cedars-Sinai will start this fall. We are focused on channel partner development and are moving full speed ahead on R&D of our second device.
 
 
Wout Brusselaers, Founder and CEO
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
To validate our assumptions about the healthcare industry, work closely with actual decision makers and product users, and to close a deal with a reference institution like Cedars. All that, and to test the limits of sleep deprivation.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Marry rich.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
Growth. Use the momentum from the accelerator program to keep executing rapidly, and sign up more clients.
 
Guillaume de Zwirek, Co-founder & CEO
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
We wanted to find a product-market fit and identify a path to rapid scale.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Hire some interns because it's going to be really hard to take advantage of everything this program has to offer.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We're doubling the size of the team and opening up offices in St. Louis and San Francisco to support our pipeline. Our next big milestone is $1M in ARR [Accounting Rate of Return], and we hope to get there by end of year!
 
 
Josh Sackman, President
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
Although we didn’t know that much about the Techstars/Cedars-Sinai program, we had high expectations. We expected to develop a commercial agreement with Cedars-Sinai, begin commercial sales with surgery centers and get introductions to other hospital systems. Despite our high expectations, Techstars and Cedars-Sinai blew them away! This has been a phenomenal program.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Look for that unique competitive differentiator that will truly accelerate your company. In our case, having Cedars Sinai as a strategic partner is opening up a ton of doors.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
Expansion and execution. Now that we are about to complete the program, it’s critical that we maintain the high level of performance that Techstars demanded of us each and every day.
 
 
Vish Banthia, Founder, CEO, Chief Medical Officer
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
Implement a hospital pilot and increase network opportunities to access payers, employers and other hospital institutions, which represent different pipelines of customers for us. 
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Take every opportunity that presents itself — and just keep going. Never take 'no' for an answer, especially if you really believe in what you are doing. Believe that what you are doing makes a positive impact.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We want to expand our provider, partner, and customer base, and also add more services that we can offer in a systematic, methodical fashion. To do this, we will need to expand our team to accelerate all these processes.
 
 
Annie Luchsinger, Co-Founder
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
Coming into the Techstars program, we knew the industry partnership with Cedars-Sinai was going to have a compounding impact on our company. On the Techstars side, the network is stacked with industry experts that span all business aspects. You get personal attention and direct access to resources and mentorship in ways that you would never get on your own. The staff from the top down are engaged and excited to help grow your company, and therefore, you receive practical insights that create impactful results. 
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Having a well-rounded, agile team will make all the difference in getting the most out of the program. Culture and trust were a big piece of why we were able to move as quickly as we did. Bottom line: get the right people in place and put in the work, and it will be worth it in the long run.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
Our team is growing rapidly to keep on pace with demand. We'll be in three states by the end of the year, and we're on pace to solidify three more influential partnerships to continue growth.
 
 
Michael Maylahn, Co-Founder
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
We anticipated it to be a combination of helpful business strategy and help in fine-tuning our product through working with Cedars-Sinai clinicians. We have been extremely impressed with the amount of support we've received from Cedars and the Techstars network! It has exceeded our expectations.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Every young company must really understand the 'why' in what the company is doing. Use conversations and observations of potential customers to really learn their needs, and how the company's proposed solution meets the observed needs. 
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We are transitioning into sales efforts and working to develop strong relationships with early customers.
 
 
Javier Ortin, Co-Founder 
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
Our goal for the program was primarily to work closely with clinicians from Cedars-Sinai on expanding the functionality of our care coordination solution. At the same time, we wanted to learn from the program and its mentors how we could scale the business. The program has exceeded our expectations and has been a great experience.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Be prepared for a very intensive program that will push you to work very hard in multiple areas of your business. The knowledge you will get from this program, as the popular MIT saying goes, is like drinking from a fire hose.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
Pilot our new product in a clinical setting.
 
 
Miles Beckett, CEO & Co-founder
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
We expected to meet incredible technology and healthcare mentors, tap into the Techstars and Cedars-Sinai network and pilot our product at one of Cedars-Sinai's institutions. 
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Focus on your product, your KPIs and revenue.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We've just announced a big partnership with Cedars-Sinai, we're in conversations with several other large health systems, and we're looking to expand and grow our network of healthcare providers. 
 
 
Alexandra Skey, Co-Founder
 
What were your expectations for the Techstars program?
 
Our goal was to work with world class entrepreneurs and leaders in healthcare to help us build a solution for people with chronic pain. It's been an incredible experience.
 
What advice would you give to a startup in your place six months ago?
 
Great question! Don't underestimate the amount of work, learning and growth you'll go through. Startups are intense, and being in an accelerator like Techstars magnifies the experience. It's amazing how much we've learned in the last three months, and we know that's only a taste of what's to come.
 
What's next for your startup?
 
We're growing fast, and our next stage is to start offering our solution to patients outside Cedars-Sinai. We're really excited about this milestone, because it will give more people who are suffering from chronic pain the opportunity to find relief through mindfulness programs.
 

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images courtesy of Facebook and featured companies.

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