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Medstartr is (re)Starting Collaborative Innovation for Startup Biotechs in NYC

May 19, 2023 - by Jennifer Ringler, MS

I recently met Alex Fair, Managing Partner at Medstartr Ventures, through our mutual connections and interests on LinkedIn. Alex helps startup biotech, med tech, and other life sciences companies fund their innovative products and ideas and helps bring great minds together in community spaces. I help life sciences companies find their voice and amplify their stories through public relations, marketing, and corporate communications so that their stories can reach investors, healthcare professionals, payers, and patients. So, connecting with Alex seemed like a no-brainer.

In our first Zoom conversation, Alex explained to me the unique model of Medstartr, which is so much more than venture funding. The company “develops innovation communities, runs events, creates conferences, runs innovation crowd challenges, and manages the leading healthcare innovation crowdfunding platform,” To help me get a better idea of what all this really means, he invited me to Medstartr’s “Healthcare Reboot 2027” even in NYC – their first in-person mind meld in the post-COVID world.

I arrived early and watched as the space – the 14th floor of a building on 6th and 28th – filled up with people. Patient advocates, startup founders, innovators, physicians, scientists, investors – a representative population of all the stakeholders in healthcare under one roof, all excited for a night of learning, networking, and camaraderie.

After some snacks and handshakes, the night kicked off with a keynote talk from Manny Fombu MD, MBA, a cardiologist, digital health expert and enthusiast, and author of The Future of Healthcare: Humans and Machines Partnering for Better Outcomes. Dr. Fombu talked about his grandmother, who grew up in Cameroon, Africa, and his first-hand experience in witnessing the crucial differences that environment, geography, and social determinants of health can have on health outcomes. “You see the wealthy and impoverished divide in every major city, some more than others,” he said. “Look closely at that divide. Which side of the line has the higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and mortality? Now, which side of the line has the liquor stores? Which side has the top-quality hospitals? Environment matters.”

After the keynote speech, it was time for the pitch contest. Three healthcare startups were given five minutes to present, and five minutes to answer audience questions. Attendees were given judging forms, where we were able to rate each presentation on a scale of 1-10 for factors like scalability, innovativeness, feasibility, clinical benefit, and so on. The form also included boxes to check to indicate whether and how you’d be interested in engaging with the presenters – with options including partnering, investing, mentoring, or connecting to learn more. The pitch contest served as the entry point for the MedStartr accelerator and portfolio, to help determine which innovations MedStartr will help fund and accelerate.

Presenters included:

  • Michael Nathans, CEO and co-founder of WhisperSom, a preventative health medical device and informatics company that’s developing a digital-based diagnostic and therapeutic device for sleep apnea that requires no face mask.
  • Robert DeLeonardis, Managing Partner at Pheme Technologies, developers of a HIPAA-compliant digital communication solution that connects healthcare professionals and their teams, alleviating the inefficient and cumbersome use of fax and phones in this digital age of healthcare.
  • Dave Mihalovic, Chief Experience Officer at ForeSite 360, developers of a home-based genomics test kit and analysis service that lets families create a complete genomic profile using babies’ DNA, which can offer parents insights into which genetically linked and treatable diseases their baby may have now or could develop in the future, how their baby may respond to common medications, and more.

During the presentations, attendees were also given “Healthcare Reboot 2027” Bingo cards in addition to their judging forms. We were encouraged to listen for and mark off key Bingo words throughout the evening’s presentations, including AI, lower cost, ChatGPT, patients first, value-based care, transparency, data fragmentation, and more. The winner won a “limited edition” Healthcare Reboot T-shirt, printed for a planned event that ended up being canceled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, the night concluded with a lively panel discussion on the future of healthcare moderated by Grace Cordovano, co-founder of Unblock Health. The discussion ranged from digital health to wearables to value-based care to the importance of advocacy and empathy. Panelists and judges throughout the evening included Ron Razmi, MD, author, fund manager, AI expert and founder/CEO at Kinders; Matthew Zachary, CEO of Offscrip Health; Gail Zhatz, VBC expert, patient activist, and founder of WiseCare Health; George Mathew, MD, MBA, CMO at Dedalus; Gaurav Mehta, investor at Pinta Capital Partners; and Avisha NessAiver, scientist, health tech expert, and creator of DistilledScience.

In addition to being in awe of the brilliant minds and groundbreaking innovations gathered for this event, I’m truly excited to see what Alex and Medstartr have in store for the event space on 6th and 28th and for the biotech community in NYC. His hope is that this recent event will be the first of many, and that startups, innovators, investors, advocates, and other healthcare stakeholders will want to spend time there regularly, to work and collaborate, think, dream, and build in a space made for people with complementary skills and passions.

“We didn’t appreciate how good we all had it before COVID, being able to come together so easily,” he says. “Now we’ve got to build it again.”

To the future of healthcare innovation. 

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