By Emily Goligoski (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)
Women 2.0 talks with Halle Tecco, founder of health startup seed accelerator Rock Health. The non-profit program selected from 350 applicant ideas for its first class, giving 11 startups sizable grants, mentorship, curriculum, and operational support.
Women 2.0: You’ve just set up shop in San Francisco with 11 very active in-house startups. Why health?
Halle Tecco: Working at Apple’s App Store and covering health and medical apps confirmed for me that the medical space could use some of the creativity found in other technology segments. I sat next to the woman covering games and realized how motivated the developers were by the chance to build products they love. I wanted to see those same talented developers working on ideas to improve health.
When I went back to graduate school, I started working to understand why the health tech ecosystem is different from other fields. We learned that hospitals wanted access to technology and tech leaders but didn’t have the infrastructure to vet the ideas and founders coming at them. We learned that investors were optimistic about the space. And we found that entrepreneurs new to health wanted access to both hospitals and investors. We decided to start Rock Health to bring these groups together.
The 11 local startups and 20 member startups (which get access to Rock Health resources, but don’t work full-time from the office) have access to the hospital partners for product feedback, trials and evaluations. The hospitals, including Mayo, love it because they get to work with a vetted and high-caliber group of startups. Our VC partners that are more tech focused, like Accel, see health as a vertical for technology to disrupt. And our life-science focused VC partners like Aberdare, see it as a way to expand their portfolio into IT. And in the process I’ve created the best job for myself as managing director.
Women 2.0: Healthcare isn’t often seen as the most inviting. What excites you about it, and how did you convey that to get startups and prospective partners interested?
Halle Tecco: Healthcare can feel stuffy and formal, and we wanted to present ourselves in the Valley with a voice that’s more inspirational (hence taglines like “Do something useful”). Health has a longer feedback loop — especially if a founder needs to test for efficacy — which makes it different from getting instant feedback from friends about a game you’re building.
But this is a quickly moving space and we offer a learning and investment opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to get involved in healthcare. It’s exciting to see the collaboration between top healthcare systems and Silicon Valley technologists, who want to be in the thick of solving problems—that’s the next wave of innovation.
Interested health tech startups can apply for placement in the next Rock Health class this October.