We caught up with Anne Wellington the Managing Director of the Cedars Sinai Accelerator to discuss how entrepreneurs can find their way in the healthcare maze. Hope you enjoy.
Bill Russell: 00:08 Welcome to this week in health it influence where we discuss the influence of technology on health with the people who are making it happen. My name is Bill Russell, recovering healthcare CIO and creator of this week and health it a set of podcasts and videos dedicated to developing the next generation of health it leaders. This podcast is sponsored by health lyrics. Professional athletes have coaches for every aspect of their life to improve performance. Yet many CIOs and health executives choose to go it alone. Technology has taken center stage for healthcare. Get a coach in your corner. Visit HealthLyrics com to schedule your free consultation. Two new services on the website I Want to make you aware of this week. Health insights is for individuals looking to propel your health it career forward two emails a week designed to give you insights that set you apart. This week Health staff meeting is for teams really for managers looking to introduce your teams to new thinking from industry leaders to get the conversation started on the right foot. If either of those two are of interest to you, hit the website and hit subscribe. We caught up with Ann Wellington, the managing director at the Cedar Sinai Excelerator at the health 2.0 conference to talk about how entrepreneurs find the front door to the health system that their solution would solve the problem To. Have a listen. Hope you enjoy another session from health 2.0 and I’m with Ann Wellington with Cedar Sinai.
Bill Russell: 01:27 How you doing?
Anne Wellington: 01:27 Good. How are you doing?
Bill Russell: 01:28 Just got off the panel and I ran up and got you. Of course I didn’t get you fast enough because they had to do the TV interview first.
Anne Wellington: 01:34 It, I feel very in demand to do a TV interview, a podcast interview. I, this is what it’s like to be famous. The pinnacle, you know, really the height.
Bill Russell: 01:44 Uh, if you look at the guests that have been on this show, they are the upper echelon of, uh, of the industry. So, uh, uh, your role at Cedars is.
Anne Wellington: 01:54 I am the managing director of the Cedar Sinai accelerator. The accelerator. Yes.
Bill Russell: 01:59 Well, let’s start there. Because part of the, part of the panel discussion was on the accelerator. So every health system has their own way of doing things. You guys chose to go with the accelerator. Why? Why did the Cedars choose to go the accelerator route as opposed to the incubator or PC?
Anne Wellington: 02:16 You know, I think when we looked at the stage of companies that we wanted to engage with and sort of where there were gaps in how we could connect with them, we have a long history of sort of innovation internally at the very earliest stages focused on research. We’ve done work with larger and established companies to help them on new and innovative ideas, but there was a little bit of a gap of there’s early stage companies, they’re ready to bring their products to market. They might have a customer or two we’d like to work with them, but we know that they need additional support to really create a product that we can use at Cedars and that can be successful at scale. And so really when we were thinking about where are we companies, the accelerator program was the model that made the most sense of taking some ideas that aren’t brand new. They’ve got some structure behind them, a product in the market, but really could benefit from spending a few months deeply embedded at a health system to iterate rapidly and improve on what they’re creating
Bill Russell: 03:19 in Southern California in fact. So it is kind of a nice place. Although it is pretty, it’s pretty grueling process isn’t it? I mean it’s three, it’s three, it’s an accelerator so it accelerates things three months,
Anne Wellington: 03:31 three months, three fairly intensive months. Um, I think the, the program itself, we’re connecting people with a lot of mentors. Uh, we bring in both mentors from Cedar Sinai, external mentors. They’re all giving feedback on these companies. They’re trying to absorb that feedback, iterate on it, incorporate it. And at the same time, kind of by definition, they’re all running their own companies. So there’s a lot of balls to keep in the air that all of these founders are juggling. But we think that they all sort of emerge from the other side amazed at what they’ve accomplished in three months. Right.
Bill Russell: 04:06 Because you have such a keen sense of work life balance. You do take them out to the beach at some point. And you let them see the ocean.
Anne Wellington: 04:12 I mean, I wouldn’t say we take them there. I’d say they’d like make a break for it. But yes, especially when we have companies from Minnesota or Michigan, they do find themselves at the beach.
Bill Russell: 04:22 Well you guys have had some success stories. So we were talking to the CEO of a GYANT. Yeah, GYANT.
Anne Wellington: 04:31 yeah, it was great. I was just catching up with Pascal from GYANT and he was sharing how they’re rolling out at the Cleveland clinic. They’re working with Mayo, they’re working with a lot of these great health systems and they were part of our third class. Um, we just wrapped up our fifth class. We’ve had 47 companies now sort of complete the program. And of those 83% are either still active or have been acquired. So we’ve seen a pretty good track record of those companies continuing to grow and gain more customers.
Bill Russell: 05:02 I love that. Well, we got right where they’re setting up for dinner, so we get all the additional noise. We thought it was going to be quiet and it’s turned out actually it might be because I’m using in my new recorder here. So, um, the other thing I thought was interesting about the conversation with GYANT, I’m sorry, the gentleman’s name was Pascal Pascal was, you know, he was heading in a direction, completely different direction. And then after the coaching over those three months you said, and, and the coaching that you guys gave him, they, uh, they pivoted the company. Now he said it hasn’t been an easy pivot, but it has been a, uh, successful. Yes.
Anne Wellington: 05:41 One thing we see for a lot of the companies coming in, and that would be an example, he said, Oh, we were thinking of going direct to consumer, but we, uh, after hearing a lot of this feedback we decided to sell to health systems. It is interesting as we bring companies in them sort of truly who their customer is. So at the highest level, are they selling to health systems? Are, is their customer actually the payer? Is it actually the patient? And then once they’ve answered that question within any of those groups, if you’re selling into a health system, who is the actual person who is signing the check for that? It’s probably one of the most opaque processes for early stage companies to figure out who’s the decision maker. And so we can give them sort of a behind the scenes glimpse of here’s how we make these decisions. Here’s all of the different people who might weigh in. And here’s the actually the person who’s, whose budget this is coming out of.
Bill Russell: 06:35 It was interesting because on your panel that was, um, one of the questions was how do we engage? How do we know what problems you’re trying to solve? And, uh, I, to be honest, I think it was one of the weakest set of answers across the board because it was sort of like a, it was indicative of what’s going on in healthcare. There’s so many problems. Uh, Aaron Martin was up there and he said, you know, we’ve identified the a hundred problems and he wasn’t talking about like a hundred little problems. He was saying these are a hundred problems that are going to move the needle. Yeah. I mean, so these are serious problems. Um, and then when, you know, how do we engage with you? He’s like, well, we’re gonna eventually we’re going to publish our problems once we publish our problems. If you have a solution to that, let us know. But then everybody had a little different answer. It is kind of a trick for these startups to figure out how to, how to get in.
Anne Wellington: 07:23 Yeah. I, and I, I think my answer to the person who asked that was probably maybe a little harsh, but also reality. As I said, I don’t think any of us are going to give you the answer that you want to hear of, Oh, here’s the place that you go and find out who all the list of health systems, who wants to buy your solution. Um, the, the recommendation I was able to give is a lot of organizations have sort of that front door that they’ve created for Cedars, for early stage companies, at least it’s the accelerator. You heard from other people who were at innovation studios and labs and incubators like that. Those can be a good front door for health systems that don’t have sort of that front door structure. It can be tough to figure out the right way in. Um, and I think is a reason that the sales cycles are often really, really long at the beginning.
Bill Russell: 08:11 But what they’re going to do, invariably what they’re going to do is find whatever person they can get to. A lot of times they sell directly to the physicians, clinicians. Uh, that happens. I mean, that’s the CIO. It happened to me all the time. Not that it was bad. I mean, it’s good to, it’s good to know that they’re looking for, I mean, typically they come to me with a solution and say, this is what we want to buy. I’m like, okay, I didn’t know you had a problem. Let’s talk about the problem first. It’s like, no, but we found a solution. Um, but that’s what they will do. They will sort of find the nooks and crannies of the organization and get in there. Um, is your organization, have you been doing this enough that they’ve like now redirect people back through the funnel
Anne Wellington: 08:51 we’re getting there? Yeah, I would say we’re definitely hearing more, more from people who get this understanding that it’s really hard to do sort of the grassroots thing of I get one physician and then I get two and soon I have them all. Even the physicians have learned that’s a frustrating way to try to get a product implemented if they really want it to be something that is adopted more widely. Sending it over to the accelerator program is a much quicker way to get it at an enterprise level and not try and do this, Oh well we’ll just sort of go one clinic at a time. That’s, that’s almost impossible to do in an enterprise system.
Bill Russell: 09:27 So you guys have salvation ventures, which is really um, VC more than private equity. And then, uh, do you have something for like seed kind of companies or are you, you’re more looking for a and B. They’ve been doing it a little bit. They’ve been doing it for awhile.
Anne Wellington: 09:43 Most of the companies that come into the accelerator would be at a seed, maybe series a, but typically right around that same time, really early, we’re looking pretty early. I the, you can mold them, you can drop the class. We just wrapped up. Um, the range was, we had a really wide range of companies stages in this class. The very earliest we were the first money in. So, um, they’d created essentially an MVP, bootstrapped that and we started working with them. So that was the very earliest at the latest. We have a couple companies that were established actually in the UK, have successful significant, uh, footprints in the UK and use the program to sort of do a foray into the United States. And they were at it post series a sort of a status.
Bill Russell: 10:33 Will you guys publish your problems to, to anyone who’s coming into the accelerator. You know, it was an interesting concept. I can’t imagine too many, it’s a bold move. It’s a courageous move actually.
Anne Wellington: 10:45 I think for me the challenge of sort of publishing a list of problems and saying companies who are solving these should apply is what we have seen is yes, there’s, there’s the sort of known problems, but then there’s those unknown unknowns of, Oh, I didn’t even think there could be a better way to do this or a more efficient way to do this. Or even if I had thought it, I didn’t put it on my list until a company comes and says, look, I can save you this much time. I can save you this much money. We, we’ve figured out the solution. And so I wouldn’t want to constrain what we’re looking at to our predefined list when there’s so much good stuff happening out there we might not know about.
Bill Russell: 11:27 Yeah. There’s opportunities. It was also interesting talking about the challenges that people were looking at and it was inefficiency, waste and quote unquote stupid stuff that goes on within healthcare. Um, and uh, you know, that doesn’t necessarily speak to technology to be honest with you. Yeah. It speaks to, uh, significant and hard projects. So do you ever have companies come in and you look at them and you’re like, you know, what, three months is not nearly enough time for you to engage.
Anne Wellington: 12:01 Yeah. Um, I mean honestly for many of them, the three months that many of the companies we work with, three months is just step one of figuring out, okay, is this something we want to continue to engage with longterm? Uh, because there are very, very few problems in healthcare that you can start and finish in three months. So yeah, it’s more along the lines of, you know, we have the accelerator to say, okay, this is some intensive time for on both sides. Us to confirm, yes, this is the problem we both want to solve. We want to work on this together. We’re the right customer. You’re the right company. Let’s go from here.
Bill Russell: 12:41 I have a Start up. Who says essentially, Hey, we’re going to bring your, uh, your clinical data with your PBX data, with your, I mean, I hear that kind of stuff and I go, Oh my gosh, what, what could you possibly do with them in three months? By the time they get done talking to it, talking to marketing and talking to whatever your done. I mean three months over.
Anne Wellington: 13:00 I mean we do, we do try to, um, accelerate some of those conversations so we don’t operate on the same timeline as it takes a month to get the first conversation in six weeks to get the second one. Um, but I think that when we can connect them with mentors who can say, okay, even theoretically we still have to figure out if this, if all these plugs actually work together. Um, if we can at least sort of confirm that in theory we want to keep working on this, then we’ll figure out a way to continue to engage with them past three months.
Bill Russell: 13:31 What’s your favorite part of the job?
Anne Wellington: 13:34 Oh, you know, it’s gonna sound really cheesy, but I genuinely, I tell my team like, this isn’t, unless you can be genuinely happy for other people’s success, this isn’t a great role to be in. I’m someone who I can be genuinely happy when other people succeed. And so getting to work with these companies that do go on to have some exciting successes and get to hear about all of these companies that say, I signed this customer, we’re working with this group, we’ve seen this outcome. I find it great. It’s so fun to feel like you’re impact is being multiplied across all these companies.
Bill Russell: 14:09 How many apply?
Anne Wellington: 14:11 We get about 400 applications per class. Are you the person who has to say no? I, in most cases I am. Yes. It’s, it’s, that’s the worst part of the job is you, we get to say yes to 10 companies and no to 390 so it’s a lot of nos to hand out. Yes, sure.
Bill Russell: 14:27 That is a, that’s hard. And some of them don’t take it well.
Anne Wellington: 14:31 Most people are pretty gracious about it. Yeah.
Bill Russell: 14:33 Well plus you’ve had people not make it one year and then come back and be a part of it. Oh yeah.
Anne Wellington: 14:39 We’ve had, we’ve had companies apply three or four times before they get accepted.
Bill Russell: 14:44 Wow. And you know, I this the entrepreneur, I mean I see people, a lot of people walking around in the conference with a cofounder founder and a, you know, when I was growing up and even even recently, I mean just a couple of years ago, I would’ve looked at that and thought that is so cool. And now I’ve talked to enough of them and I realize that’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. I mean they are working night and day. They are accounting cash flow. They are um, marketing. They are a chief technology officer there. I mean it’s, it’s hard unless you get that big infusion of cash right out of the shoe. You’re doing a lot of your work.
Anne Wellington: 15:25 I think one of the amazing things that I don’t think we realized when the accelerator program was created but has become one of the biggest benefits to the companies we work with and the founders we work with is they get to be part of this very specific little community of not only health care entrepreneurs but healthcare entrepreneurs that are trying to sell into health systems. And it’s incredibly hard. It’s very daunting to say, I’m going to start this company, it’s gonna have at its best, it’s going to have a nine to 12 months sales cycle. But realistically for startups you’re looking at 12 to 15 or more to get those early customers on. And so having that community of other people who are going through the ringer at the same time you are and saying, look, here’s 47 CEOs who know the challenge of this and know how hard it is is really a unique community to be part of. And you know, it can really help. A lot of them are part of other entrepreneurial communities, but there’s a big difference between having a consumer facing app that you can launch it and have 100,000 downloads within a few months versus a healthcare startup that within the first few months of launching you might feel like you haven’t really made any progress.
Bill Russell: 16:43 And do you, do you ever like refer some of them over to a different incubator?
Anne Wellington: 16:47 Sure. Yeah, definitely. I think there’s, there’s so many good programs out there and everyone is targeting something slightly different than other programs. I know down in Houston there’s one I, there’s a, so TMC has TMCx and they engage with a lot of companies. They have sort of large classes that they’re able to bring them onto the TMC campus and expose them to a lot of different health systems. Yeah, pretty similar. I think we, um, because we’re sort of affiliated, not even affiliated, we’re part of Cedar Sinai single organization. We’re very deeply embedded there. Um, the TMC groups, they have, uh, affiliations with all of the, uh, hospitals there and are able to make more connections. Um, maybe not at the same level of sort of mentorship that we give. Um, what other programs do, a Techstars has just announced or just kicked off their newest program with United healthcare.
Anne Wellington: 17:49 And so I mentioned earlier, oftentimes companies aren’t actually sure who they’re selling to. And so when we get companies in that really should be selling to a payer, we’ll say, you know, United healthcare and Techstars are working together. That might be a good fit provider. Do we know what United well, I think their program might be a better fit than a, than our program. For those companies and, and uh, Oh and med tech innovator, um, down South of us a little bit. Especially they’re much more device focused than we are. And we have about a quarter of the companies that have come through our program have been devices but they can provide a lot of additional sort of focus on the more biotech device type realm than we can.
Bill Russell: 18:33 Are you mostly clinical, clinical quality or is there some experience? I, there was a, I mean there was the uh, Amazon Alexa voice thing. So there is some experienced stuff sprinkled in there. But how much of it is clinical mostly?
Anne Wellington: 18:47 You know, actually I would say um, maybe about a third to half of it is heavily clinical. Depends a little bit on the class, but we do a lot of the healthcare it either patient experience, backend systems. We really will look at anything that a health system might need a purchaser for and, and that includes the truly clinical stuff, but also a lot more administrative software as well.
Bill Russell: 19:14 Great. Thank you for your time. Thank you. Safe travels. Thank you.
Bill Russell: 19:20 It was great to catch up with Anne and I always look forward to seeing what the new class from the Cedar Sinai accelerator is going to bring to market. It’s always an exciting time. Please come back every Friday for more great interviews with influencers, and don’t forget every Tuesday we take a look at the news, which is impacting health. It a keep your feedback coming [email protected] it’s all really helpful, good, bad, or indifferent and helps us to make a better show for you. This show is a production of this week in health it for more great content and you can check out our website at this week health.com or the YouTube channel this week health.com and go to the top right click on a YouTube is the quickest way to get there. Thanks for listening. That’s all for now.
We caught up with Anne Wellington the Managing Director of the Cedars Sinai Accelerator to discuss how entrepreneurs can find their way in the healthcare maze. Hope you enjoy.