Dr. Hubert Zajicek, Co-Founder of Health Wildcatters talks about their mentorship-driven healthcare seed accelerator.
Last month, Health Wildcatters, a Dallas based seed stage healthcare accelerator announced their launch and is accepting applications for its first class of entrepreneurs. The program is the first of its kind in the southwest region of the country modeled after the successful Tech Wildcatters program.
The accelerator hopes to foster a thriving healthcare startup ecosystem in Dallas. 15 startups will be selected receiving $35,000 in seed funding in exchange for 8 percent equity to participate in the 90 day program. The accelerator has already raised $1 million from about 30 investors.
To learn more about Health Wildcatters, we spoke to Dr. Hubert Zajicek, co-founder, partner and executive director of Health Wildcatters. Prior to Health Wildcatters, he was managing director of Medical Technology at the North Texas Enterprise Center (NTEC), a medical technology incubator in Frisco and organizer of MedVentures, the Southwest’s largest medical technology investment conference. He has screened, evaluated and advised hundreds of medical technology startups and currently sits on a variety of industry association and startup company boards.
What is Health Wildcatters and what lead to the inception of Health Wildcatters?
Health Wildcatters is a mentorship-driven seed accelerator. It is a program derived from Tech Wildcatters, which has been accelerating in Dallas since 2010. Just like most seed-accelerators, Health Wildcatters provides an initial seed investment and mentorship for startups in the early stages of funding and development. The 12-week accelerator program runs in the fall starting August 2013 in Dallas.
Health Wildcatters’ focus is early stage healthcare startups that come from a variety of niches. Many healthcare IT, SaaS, digital health and mobile health companies are a fit, but we also encourage medical device, diagnostic and even pharma companies to apply. The main factor will be if Health Wildcatters can add significant value to the startup in the timeframe of 3 months. The healthcare niche brings up a few more twists, but that makes it more interesting. The specific challenges of selling into the healthcare market, dealing with regulatory constraints and the slower pace of adoption is why we are here.
How much money does each startup receive? How much equity is taken?
$35K with 8% equity
When does the first class start and how long does the program last?
Classes start 8/26 – pitch day is 11/14
Dallas is usually not considered a hub for innovative health tech startups. Why do you think Dallas is a great location for a health tech accelerator?
Texas has enjoyed steady growth and influx from other states. Our economy here is booming. Dallas is a rapidly expanding city, ranked in the Top 3 consistently when it comes to population growth: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2012/04/18/americas-fastest-growing-cities/In this list, it is the fastest growing city that is already over 5 Million in population. So add fast growing with very substantial size and you get some very interesting dynamics.
It also houses a fiercely competitive healthcare market with a half dozen hospital systems competing. But there is a ton of other healthcare activity as well with substantial business in insurance and outpatient centers, often owned by entrepreneurial physicians. The Dallas/Fort Worth area has strong technology, IT and telecom industries combined with a lot of wealth and a strong entrepreneurial DNA. Wildcatters’ reflects that in its purest sense.
How will you continue to support selected startups from the program after graduating?
We anticipate forging life-long ties with these portfolio companies. We will help by investing funds from our own angels groups, as well as our own money in some of the startups and helping others find these great startups. We want these companies funded! While we do not house them long-term, we hope that we can provide them assistance in every conceivable way.
What types of fundable startup ideas is Health Wildcatters primarily focused on?
We are open to all healthcare ideas. We anticipate that with a strength in healthcare IT, we will see much activity in that arena, as well as anything digital health/mhealth, but we know we will see some devices and diagnostics as well.
What makes Health Wildcatters unique compared to other similar health accelerators such as Rock Health, Blueprint Health and others?
We are the first in the Southwest and are very strongly supported by physicians. We are mentor driven and place huge emphasis on the mentor/investors. This is one critical way to get our 3 dozen (and growing daily) mentors involved and to keep them involved. At some level geography matters, so you might want to locate in a rapidly expanding healthcare market & metro area to grow with it. This is where a lot of your customer adoption happens, because where there is competition, there is a strong need for differentiation.
We hold the trailblazers in our industry, like Rock Health, Healthbox, Blueprint Health, Tiger Labs, DreamIT Health, StartUp Health, etc. in highest regard and strive to learn from them. This is not about being better than others, but being right for the startups that find us and want to partner with us. There are many different models out there, and some are right for some companies, and others aren’t. We also want to contribute to the best practices, and hope we can add enough of a twist to things to spur innovation in this industry.
Ultimately, we want to see successful startups emerge from Health Wildcatters and other healthcare accelerators that have an impact on healthcare by improving outcomes, reducing suffering and saving lives while creating jobs and making money. This is the ultimate reward for us, as it is for the other healthcare accelerators. A win of any healthcare startup that was helped by an accelerator is a win for all of us as healthcare consumers.
How important is cultivating a healthcare startup ecosystem to the future innovation of healthcare?
Very. Health Wildcatters will support all efforts that work towards providing more resources for healthcare entrepreneurs, whether it is here in Texas or beyond.
Click here to apply for their first class