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Digital Health Entrepreneurs Showcase Startups at NMSU's First HealthAssembly Conference

Jun 18, 2018

Health technology innovators networked with industry leaders at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine for the first HealthAssembly conference.  It comes as NMSU’s Arrowhead Center wraps up HealthSprint, a five-month accelerator program that aims to support startups in the digital healthtech industry.

Entrepreneur Tiara Grant participated in HealthSprint as one of seven companies competing for a $20,000 investment. Grant said her startup, Care Companion, is a system that uses specialized radar to detect falls in the home. She said she was motivated to found the company after her father fell during a heart attack.

“So, what it does is when a fall occurs, the system understands that the severity of the fall and calculates it based on artificial intelligence basically. It'll send out notification to both caregivers as well as contact emergency services,” Grant said.

In addition to detecting falls, Grant said Care Companion monitors when someone wanders away from the home and tracks respiration and heart rates for changes in activity. Unlike Life Alert, there is nothing to wear and no buttons to press. Grant said Care Companion will help seniors age safely and securely in their own homes.

“We have a lot of single females that are older that are living alone after their husband passed so there's nobody in the home to make sure that ‘Okay, well has mom fallen?’ I mean we don't know because they're by themselves and of course they want to stay by themselves, they want to live independently and they don't want to depend on their children to take care of them,” Grant said. “So, this is this movement to age in place and to ensure that if there is a medical emergency somebody is always there to help them.”

Grant said she’s working to secure funding to develop a prototype. Another entrepreneur, Marsha Battee, is a sexual assault nurse from Washington D.C. She developed SANEsuite, a mobile application for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

Battee said SANEsuite allows survivors who aren’t ready to report their assault to record details and upload evidence to the app until they feel comfortable coming forward.

“In my experience as a sexual assault nurse, I've had many survivors come in to have an exam and say ‘Can I give you these photos? Can I send these photos to you? I want to get these off of my phone. I'm tired of looking at them. This reminds me of a bad experience in my life and I don't want to deal with that,’” Battee said. “It's a way for survivors to get the information out of their head and off of their phones so they won't have to constantly deal with something as a reminder like that every single day. So, this is one of the reasons why we decided to build an application.”

Battee said she’s created the first version of the app and is working to partner with schools and organizations in Las Cruces and Albuquerque.

Among the many hurdles entrepreneurs like Grant and Battee face in establishing a startup is fundraising.  A report from Accenture projected annual funding for digital health companies to hit $7 billion by the end of 2017. Yet Forbes estimated in a 2016 article that 98 percent of those startups fail.

Investor Faz Bashi is the digital health and sciences chair at Life Science Angels, a healthcare investment group in California. Bashi said creating a successful startup isn’t just about acquiring capital.

“It's really more about the human side of it. It's the people. People drive the business forward,” Bashi said. “The people who get involved and do provide small amounts of capital really at the end of the day what they're providing is connections, a network for the entrepreneurs that they can go out and open doors for them.”

Bashi’s advice to entrepreneurs is to make as many connections as they can.

“Build your network. Build your network before you even need it right. So, make sure that you're out there socializing what you're doing, socializing what you're thinking of doing, socializing your need for other cofounders or technology,” Bashi said. “New Mexico has a lot of resources available for IP licensing, for getting software developed, there's so many resources so again build your network."

Di Ye and her startup, Zhennovate, won the $20,000 investment from the New Mexico Gas Company. Ye said Zhennovate is a mobile app that provides personalized micro lessons to increase productivity and manage stress. She said every startup deserved to win.

Entrepreneur Di Ye, right, poses with a $20,000 investment from the New Mexico Gas Company. Ye won the award for her startup, Zhennovate, as part of HealthSprint, a five-month accelerator program that supports startups in the digital health tech industry.
Credit NMSU Arrowhead Center

“We have a very diverse cohort of startups and regardless of people’s age, where we come from, the kind of work we do, there’s just so much fire and commitment under each team and we really support each other,” Ye said.

Grant said she will work with the New Mexico Small Business Administration and a laboratory to develop and test her prototype.