UK-US Startup Bootcamp: Expert Advice to Health Entrepreneurs on International Innovation

In the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the U.S. and U.K in 2014 to collaborate around innovation in health care, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) came together with our colleagues at U.K Trade & Investment and National Health Service (NHS) England to host a UK-US Startup Bootcamp. The goal of the bootcamp was to bring together early and mid-stage companies with an interest in international expansion with leaders in venture capital. We kicked things off with a fantastic panel of startup speakers – Ewan Phillips, Deltex Medical; Susan Williams, Amplitude Clinical Outcomes; and Jeff Zucker, MyDirectives – who provided valuable, practical advice. The startups talked about the importance of piloting within NHS England and building a strong evidence base for a product, which helps companies understand where the demand is, learn about the system, and figure out how to structure a product to deliver value for both providers and patients. They also noted the need to engage with clinicians and get their buy-in for a new product – and the importance of showing the value to providers, their track record, and their patience and persistence to succeed – particularly because the procurement process within NHS England can be several years long. Participants noted that this is also excellent advice for succeeding in the U.S. market! Investors representing diverse organizations and perspectives weighed in on what they’re looking for in a potential investment. Unity Stoakes of Startup Health looks for companies solving problems in underserved markets like Afghanistan and India, because if they can succeed in the most challenged areas in the world, they can likely bring their solutions to the rest of the world. Hong Truong of Kaiser Permanente Ventures looks for strategic alignment with a value-based model, positive feedback with pilots, and the possibility of a future ongoing relationship. Mandira Singh of athenahealth advised startups to show near-term, mutually beneficial milestones that they can reach, and noted that athenahealth looks for cloud-based solutions that make providers’ lives easier. Lynne Chou of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers looks for a team that truly understands the shift to value-based care and what it means for their company, and making sure the team’s “DNA” is digital. The investors also encouraged experimentation with business models. Many companies they’ve worked with changed their models, sometimes drastically, throughout the entire process in order to course-correct and achieve their goals. However, when discussing agility, they advised startups to be very clear to their investors about what their fundamental hypothesis is, why they are pivoting or experimenting, and what they’re learning along to way – to avoid projecting an appearance of frantic decision making.

One reason we don’t focus so much on the specific idea is because it can change so much over time…I’m not sure that the healthcare companies of today are the healthcare companies of the future. – Unity Stoakes, Startup Health

Startups should also come to investors with a solid sense of the market opportunity and a long-term strategy of how the team is going to take phase one of the company today to where they are going to be in phase three. Talking about the top trends they’re excited about in the market today, the investors emphasized increased consumer engagement, the “retail-ization” of healthcare services especially in pharmacy settings, and solutions that provide personalized, tailored patient care when and where they need it, empowering patients to play a more active role in their care team. On behalf of HHS and our partners in hosting this event, we want to thank all our incredibly knowledgeable speakers and participants at Sunday’s event, and look forward to more dialogue as we continue our work to support health innovators this year. To keep the conversation going, we worked with our U.K. colleagues to produce three educational videos about the NHS England health system and how startups should think about expanding internationally to the U.K. market. We focused on three main topics: NHS System, Patient Access, and Privacy and Security. NHS System Patient Access Privacy and Security