What It Was Like Participating In Springboard's Life Sciences Class

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I applied to Springboard because I wanted to get to know more women who were founders of healthcare startups, who had raised money, and who had already walked down my path. By Neng Bing Doh (Founder & CEO, HealthCrowd)

Springboard is one of those programs where once you’ve experienced it, you want to get the word out to everyone. If you are a woman entrepreneur or an aspiring one, you need to know about Springboard Enterprises. Springboard is a human capital network that has helped over 400 women-led companies raise more than $5 billion in equity financing, including 10 IPOs and legions of high value M&As since January 2000.

As a member of this year’s Springboard Life Sciences class of 11 companies, I got to experience the power of the network first hand. I applied to Springboard because I wanted to get to know more entrepreneurs who were founders and CEOs of healthcare startups, who had raised money, who had already walked down my path, and if they were women, all the better! While Silicon Valley is full of entrepreneurs, with advice everywhere to be found, healthcare IT is still a niche field (albeit fast-growing), and persons of the profile I’ve just described have proven elusive. Springboard however, connected me to dozens of these women.

Unlike an incubator or accelerator, Springboard doesn't offer office space or token investments and does not take equity, but provides all of the same benefits or possibly more. It brings a lifetime network of trusted woman entrepreneurs, advisors, investors and friends.

So, what was the process like? It started off with a Gust application and the most promising candidates were then invited to in-person interviews. I should mention that prior to this year, I had applied the last two years in a row (different business models) and never even got to the interview stage. So, it is very competitive! In less than two weeks after the interviews, which are typically held in three cities across the country, successful companies are notified.

The class meets for the first time for a full day’s bootcamp. My class had 10 other impressive women, each and everyone different, but tied together by their brilliance and stories of persistence. There were first-time entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans alike. Each woman founder was also allowed to bring one teammate along.

The highlights of bootcamp were our video-taped pitches and “Dolphin Tank”, a friendlier version of the popular ABC show “Shark Tank”. Unlike other feedback sessions though, there was a disproportionate emphasis on the innate female traits that sometimes bring us down, like most notably, playing down our own accomplishments, and in some cases, not mentioning them at all! Bootcamp was invaluable.

After bootcamp, we were each assigned a coaching team. Each team is made up of individuals from the Springboard network that are available and most able to help you succeed. Just a month later, we were invited to attend Springboard’s bi-annual caucus in Washington, DC - an opportunity for the newbies to meet with close to a hundred other Springboard alumnae, including those women who until that time, I had only read of and admired from afar! During the trip, we got to meet with the Honorable Rosie Rios - Treasurer of the US (yes, I even got my dollar bill signed!), Fred Hochberg - President of the US Export-Import Bank, and numerous women lobbyists. Denise Brosseau covers our time in DC in more detail here.

In early August, my Springboard peers and I will pitch at an investor forum here in the Silicon Valley as part of our rite of passage. The network however, will continue for a lifetime. Springboard has helped me grow tremendously, and as trivial as it sounds, has helped make this journey perhaps just a tad less lonely.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Neng Bing Doh. About the guest blogger: Neng Bing Doh is the Founder and CEO of HealthCrowd, the first easy and effective way for health insurers to engage their members. Previously, she was VP and General Manager at Exponential. Bing has a unique blend of skills and experience that include hacking, product, marketing and sales. She holds a BS in Computer Science from UW-Madison, and an MBA from Cornell University. HealthCrowd is also a Launch Silicon Valley 2012 company. Follow her on Twitter at @nbdoh.