Techstars and UnitedHealthcare Accelerator Offer $120,000 to Health Startups

By Bruce Harpham Saturday, January 30, 2021

Dieta Health founders Ben Neigher and Asaf Kraus.

Healthcare startup companies have a new way to kick off their growth. Techstars, a well-known startup accelerator, and UnitedHealth Group (NASDAQ stock ticker: UNH) have partnered to create a startup investment and support program based in Minneapolis.

Funding and Business Advice for Health Startups

Healthcare startup companies get more than a check by joining the program. The program offers a seed funding round of $120,000. Perhaps more valuable than funding, the program also includes access to mentors from established healthcare companies like UnitedHealthcare and Johnson & Johnson (stock ticker: NYSE: JNJ). Furthermore, Techstars experts such as Elizabeth Osborne, Gregg Cochran, and Brett Brohl are available to provide mentoring support to startup companies in the program.

“A key business lesson from 2020 was to raise funding whenever you can to ensure your business is prepared in the event of a downturn or unexpected macroeconomic shift. Several of the promising companies I was tracking closed their doors this past year due to financial difficulties,” Matt Miller, Managing Director of the UnitedHealthcare Accelerator, told Startup Savant.

Dieta Founders Pivot to Sales in 2020

Dieta Health, a healthcare startup using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve digestive health, is one of the startup companies that has participated in the UnitedHealthcare Accelerator. Shifting the focus to sales has been a crucial driver for its growth over the past year.

“My co-founder and I are former technologists in Silicon Valley, so we mistakenly started our entrepreneurial journey by building software before doing sales. More recently, when we sold our first B2B deal to a medical institution, I started with a sales pitch using three different value propositions our product can achieve for the stakeholders. Once they identified which one was valuable enough for them to pay for, we signed a contract, and then we built it!” Asaf Kraus, co-founder of Dieta Health, said during the interview.

Samaritan Helps People Experiencing Homelessness in Seattle

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than half a million people in the US are experiencing homelessness as of January 2019. Samaritan is an app that lets “good Samaritans” provide donations and volunteer support to people in need. The company has already run a pilot project to help forty people experiencing homelessness.

To grow further, Samaritan plans to hire for several roles in 2021. “We're evaluating a possible Sr. Director of Growth in Healthcare to help the company with navigating Medicaid payer/provider partnerships. We're evaluating a possible Digital Storyteller to multiply the amount of social and financial capital we're providing to our current and future unhoused Samaritan members,” Jonathan Kumar, CEO of Samaritan, told Startup Savant.

Why Healthcare Technology Is Booming

Healthcare startup companies haven’t had the same attention as electric cars or AI companies over the past few years. That may be starting to change thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite all of the challenges and heartache COVID-19 has brought, it has also instigated and catalyzed the next chapter of growth for healthcare. Never before have regulations changed so quickly, reimbursement flexed so much, or technology been so welcome in healthcare,” Miller commented.

According to data compiled by Pitchbook, healthcare technology companies attracted about $10 billion from US and European investors in 2020, up from $8.8 billion in 2019. In contrast, venture capital funds raised $69 billion in 2020.

About the Author


Headshot for author Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book "Project Managers At Work" shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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