First up in my coverage is Julia Polk, the EC’s own chief program officer, who sat down to discuss the challenges health care startups face and the benefits of mentorship. She also shared exciting updates on our newly launched mentorship program.
Clark Buckner: What are the general challenges and problems that startups especially in the health care space are facing, and what advice would you provide have for helping with mentors?
Julia Polk: Launching a venture is the same, regardless of what the company is, but health care companies particularly face a lot of other challenges that a technology company might not face. For example, regulatory requirements. If you're a medical device and you have to go through five 10K approval or if you're a life science company trying to develop a drug or a diagnostic, you have to understand a lot about reimbursement in health care and that's one of the bigger challenges if you are selling into a health system. So there are lots of great health care executives here that will have a lot to say about that, but I think mentors can really help you navigate the path to success when you have to go through these hurdles of regulatory and compliance.
CB: Do you have any advice or best practices when it comes to working with mentors especially in the health care space?
JP: I think it's really important to understand what the underlying relevant experiences are in a mentor and we are actually relaunching the mentor program at the EC. We are really focused on bringing operators to the table because those are the people that have walked in the same shoes. We're going to be able to allow our companies to drill down to the relevant experiences to the level of what they did in their role in a health care company. You get a lot of what's called “mentor whiplash,” where you have five people with the same background, telling you five different things and you're trying to figure out who's right. I actually would argue that a lot of early-stage companies don't seek mentorship as much as they should, and they think they know what to do. It will save them a ton of time if they will seek guidance and be good listeners. The best entrepreneurs and the best leaders in these companies are those who are willing to hear a lot of points of view. Then we go through it and figure out what’s the right answer for them and for their company, because it is their company.
CB: With the health care impact that middle Tennessee has made what makes Health:Further so special?
JP: Well it’s day one, it's not the end, it’s the beginning and we are health care mecca and as Haley Hovious mentioned last night $39 billion worth of economic impact on health care is from Nashville. So to be able to operate the finest accelerator program for health care companies in Nashville, at this moment, is really compelling. People all over the world people know this is where health care happen so it's a great time for Nashville is a great time for Jumpstart Foundry to launch its focus on health care.
You can reach out to Julia on Twitter @4jpolk
The following day once the dust settled I got the chance to sit down with The EC’s CEO Stuart McWhorter, who helped recap Health:Further’s first year based on his experiences. You can check out the highlights below or listen to the full interview.
Clark Buckner: How was your experience at Health:Further?
Stuart McWhorter: I was really excited about yesterday because we saw the names of companies you could see the logos and brands along the wall along with their displays interacting with the crowd. It was great to see all the energy and the crowd of people networking in the rooms and outside the rooms. There just seemed to be so much activity and dialogue about what was going on and not just with the companies that were presenting, but also just in general. Entrepreneurship is alive and well in this city for sure, and obviously being in health care makes that even more exciting, but it was really clear yesterday that the ecosystem is thriving and there's a lot of interesting things going on. I think Marcus and his staff did a fantastic job managing that amount of people. After thinking early that we weren't sure about was going to happen with the attendance but getting some of the strategic partners on board early like Parallon made a big difference especially being the first year. I think it is a great success I sat through and listened to all the pictures yesterday. All the companies there do a three minute pitch and they were all on point. There was even one company there that I think had some of their slides mess up or something and I think they could have easily gotten thrown off but they still recovered well. I was really pleased with the overall sessions.
CB: What did you think of the 3 minute format for the presentation?
SM: Those are real challenges because you only have so much time in the day for everything. I have moderated a panel and we only had 20 minutes so you have to be very thoughtful about your time with whatever it is. And they're trying to get the next crowd on stage to do the next session of judges, panel discussion or a speaker. For these companies you only get three minutes, so I view that as an introduction. It's teasing the crowd a little bit about what you are doing. They all ended with the ask, what their needs are, and prompting you to seek them out and have a discussion after their pitches are done. What I witnessed sitting in the back of the room was a lot of dialogue with the companies’ individuals coming out having conversations and exchanging cards. You know there's obviously a variety of ways that they can engage in that conversation. I understand that you met with most of those companies CEO’s and founders and hopefully that will be another source for investors to listen to your interviews with them, I think it's great.
CB: Any final thoughts on the conference or what you’re excited about right now?
SM: Just looking forward to next year and I know that me and Vic have already talked less than 24 hours, after this has ended, and he's already talking about 2016. We’re beginning the discussions with partners in the community for the next one. I'm excited not only for Nashville I’m excited for the Entrepreneurship Center. Obviously, we partner with Jumpstart with the companies and as they are working on their businesses and their plans and working through the cohorts. We certainly enjoy the partnership with Jumpstart and certainly look forward to next years cohort.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter: @Mcwhorters