OrganizedWisdom CEO explains the launch of Startup Health (transcript)

This is the transcript of my recent podcast interview with OrganizedWisom CEO Steve Krein.

David E. Williams:            This is David Williams, co-founder of MedPharma Partners and author of the Health Business Blog.  I’m speaking today with Steve Krein, CEO of OrganizedWisdom.  Steve, I understand that you have some news to announce about Startup Health.

Steve Krein:            Yes.  First of all, thank you so much for having me.  We are down at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Data Initiative Forum in Washington, DC where, in a few minutes, we’re going to be announcing the launch of an initiative called Startup Health. It’s an initiative focused around inspiring, educating and providing resources to entrepreneurs who want to build health and wellness companies.

We’re doing this at a time when the barriers that used to exist to innovate around health and wellness –teams of researchers and scientists and capital and time that was needed to really make meaningful change– all those barriers have come down. With new technologies like mobile apps, someone can download an iPhone or iPad app software development kit for $99.

The focus of this conference is the treasure trove of amazing government data and public data that they’ve made available for free to entrepreneurs to innovate on.

We’re doing this at a time when entrepreneurs have never had so much opportunity, yet there is still no road map for the entrepreneur to go from point A to point B to point C to point D and, over a long period time, get access to the mentorship, guidance, resources, tools, technologies, talent pools and capital. So since there’s no road map, we, as entrepreneurs in the health and wellness space recognize a huge need to connect all the dots.

So I’m incredibly excited that one of our investors and board members, Gerald Levin, who is a former CEO and chairman of TimeWarner, is chairing this initiative. We could not be more excited about the opportunities that exist for entrepreneurs today, but even more importantly, what we can do to help them turn their ideas into long-term sustainable businesses and make meaningful change in the world.

Williams:            Who are the founders of this initiative?

Krein:            This initiative is being launched by OrganizedWisdom.  The team at OrganizedWisdom has been working to codify and identify all the things we’ve done over the last several years of building our health and wellness company and turn it into a program that can teach other entrepreneurs to do that.  So OrganizedWisdom is not only going to help mentor the entrepreneurs and show them what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong and what they might want to do differently, but also get access to our technology, whether it’s to build an app or to test an app or test an idea. We’ll give access to our technology, to an API that we’re going to be releasing later this year.

Gerald Levin, whom I mentioned, is going to chair it, but there are others who are launch partners with us.  I’ll talk about the first two that I think are most relevant to today’s announcement. We’re the newest member of the Startup America initiative, which is the White House’s initiative that was announced earlier this year that Steve Case, the former CEO and Chairman of AOL, is chairing. Scott Case, one of the co-founders of Priceline is the CEO.

We’re going to be announcing today upcoming roundtables called Startup Health Roundtables.  The first one is going to be hosted by Startup America and we’re going to do it in partnership with them in New York City.

The second roundtable is with our second partner that we’re announcing, the Department of Health and Human Services who we think has done an extraordinary job.  Todd Park and his team have unleashed so much amazing data.  We’re going to have our second roundtable with HHS and that’s going to be the focus of the first two.

Then the third announcement that we’ll be making is that we’ll be doing one in San Francisco where we’re going to have Thomas Goetz at the Health 2.0 conference doing an organized roundtable around Startup Health.

Those are some of the upcoming things that talk about who’s behind Startup Health.  I think there’s some incredible work being done by the accelerators like Rock Health and the soon to be launched Blue Print Health that we want to help make more visible and promote as unbelievable resources for the community.

As I mentioned, Health 2.0 is also a part of one of the many companies and organizations that’s pledging.  Already today, hundreds have pledged their support to this health and wellness start up ecosystem, which we think has been never truly organized in a way that made it obvious who the investors in this space are, who the entrepreneurs are, who the organizations are and who the businesses are.

So this Startup Health pledge is the second part of our announcement today and it’s something that we feel is going to help us connect the dots and let people identify themselves as passionate about the space.

Williams:            No doubt there’s some degree of skepticism about the role of big federal agencies encouraging entrepreneurship and yet you’re speaking quite positively about the HHS initiative.  Why is that?

Krein:            If you were down here, you would see that there are 50 companies that have tapped into one or many of the data sets that the government has made available.

I think Todd and his team and everybody here at HHS in cooperation with the US CTO, Aneesh Chopra, elevated the game around this space and participated in a way that says we’re helping to make available to entrepreneurs the data that they can innovate on.  There’s such energy in this room down here, filled with several hundred people, 50 companies presenting their apps and their version of innovation related to how the data could help their business.

OrganizedWisdom separately has launched two applications down here that support our mobile health toolbox.  One is called “How Healthy is Your Community?”  OrganizedWisdom’s team ran a code-a-thon a couple of weeks ago, divided up the tech team into two groups and said, taking two different data sets, what can we do to innovate on our product?  This “How Healthy is Your Community” app is giving doctors the tools or the data from the government that they can share openly with their patients in a very easy way.

The second app that we did that won (and we featured both of them here) is taking data from the National Institutes of Health. We said why shouldn’t a patient of a doctor be able to sign up for alerts from NIH?  In the old world, you’d say well, NIH is never going to build that and we said in this world, they don’t have to, we can build it.  So they made the data free, we innovated on it and now a second tool for patients and their doctors has come down.

I’m just incredibly optimistic about the Obama Administration kicking off what I think will continue for many years, which is a different type of government that’s participating by just making things available for entrepreneurs to do something with.

The atmosphere here is very different than any kind of skepticism that you could have because they did exactly what they said they were going to do.  I watched Todd a year ago say he was going to unleash this data and they did.  It’s called and any entrepreneur can go to that site and see all the data that’s available for them to use in their products.

Williams:            Last question before I let you get back to the meeting.  How will we know if this program Startup Health is successful?

Krein:            We’re looking at this and it comes down to the innovation that we believe is going to become evident in the coming years.  It’s now going to take place with new businesses that are started.  I say “businesses,” not apps, but businesses that are started as a result of access to mobile software development kits and the data.

So we’ll look at how many entrepreneur companies can we help through this program, how many investors can we help get introduced to incredibly gifted entrepreneurs who have a passion, who want to be connected with entrepreneurs with a passion for health and wellness.

How many organizations have we been able to connect?  Whether it’s HHS or Startup America or other initiatives that might have been never tapped into before in the previous generation of business development and also corporations who are incredibly excited about finally being able to tap into entrepreneurial innovation in their products or platforms or businesses.

One of the things that we’re doing down here at the HHS Health Data Initiative event is asking any investor or entrepreneur or organization or business to go to and take the pledge.  The pledge is very simple.  It just let’s you raise your hand and say you are committed to the health and wellness start up ecosystem.  There’s a little drop box that lets you say what you’re interested in and whether you’re an investor or whether you’re an entrepreneur or whether you’re a business or organization or even a journalist for that matter, which I think is incredibly important to raising the awareness here.  I think the more people that take the pledge that are committed to this space, the more we can shine the spotlight on the incredible work that’s being done and inspire others to come in and get into the space and bring their talents here.

Williams:            Sounds great.  Well Steve, I wish you great success with this.  We’ve been speaking about Startup Health, a new initiative that’s being announced today by OrganizedWisdom down in Washington, DC.  I look forward to following up and seeing how it goes.

June 28, 2011

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