Program Designed To Help Startup Companies Pitch Healthcare Innovations

Baptist Health President and CEO Troy Wells, Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub Executive Director Warwick Sabin and Governor Asa Hutchinson at Friday's announcement of the health care accelerator program.
Credit KATV, Channel 7 News

A joint effort by Baptist Health and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub has been formed to accelerate the development of up to 10 health care-related startup companies.

The two entities say HubX-LifeSciences Presented by Baptist Health is Arkansas’ first business accelerator that will be privately funded and targeted toward a specific industry. HubX-Life Sciences will be accepting applications through Feb. 15 at this website.

As many as 10 startups will be invited to participate in a 13-week program from April to June 2016. National and international participants will be recruited over several months and will receive seed investments ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. Companies will be offered mentorship and assistance as they move their ideas to market. Baptist Health and employees will interact with participants as they develop their companies.

Grejuana Dennis, Baptist Health vice president of patient services and innovation, said the program will end with a “Demo Day” where participants will pitch their ideas to Baptist Health and other potential investors.

Baptist Health is sponsoring the overhead and administration costs as well as investing in the participants. Troy Wells, Baptist Health president and CEO, described the total amount as “six figures.” Jeff Stinson, executive director of the Fund for Arkansas’ Future, which will direct the fund at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, said the effort will have a co-sponsor to also invest in companies after they make their pitches. Its identity will be announced “hopefully next week.”

Wells said Baptist Health hopes to profit from its investments and will accommodate employees who want to take time to participate. Priorities include digital health care platforms, health care services and medical devices. Iron Yard Ventures, a national company that operates a digital health accelerator and has a coding school in Little Rock, will share its expertise.

Stinson said when the Fund for Arkansas’ Future was first developed 11 years, it was the first of its kind in Arkansas, and it was difficult for entrepreneurs to obtain capital. Now there are six active angel investor funds and a much healthier entrepreneurial ecosystem. However, he said that ecosystem had been built “from the ground up by entrepreneurs and investors.”

“Today marks the first time that an organization or an institution anywhere close to the size of Baptist Health has put their resources directly in here to empowering entrepreneurship in our state. … We now will be able to recruit literally world class talent to the state of Arkansas just because Baptist is affiliated in this,” he said. “There will be smart, talented, ambitious young entrepreneurs across the country who want to come to our accelerator just to get access to Baptist Health.”

Warwick Sabin, executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, said HubXs could be developed in other sectors. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the hub coincides with his administration’s own emphasis on technology, coding, health care efficiency and healthy living.

“It could be some innovation that really takes off that makes Arkansas the microhub for health care technology,” he said, adding later, “I’ve got a feeling that this is only going to be the start of news conferences in the future.”