7 tips for health startups raising venture capital

By Chris Gullo
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Money TreeRaising venture capital for a startup mHealth company is a difficult but not-impossible task, according to a panel of investors and industry watchers who discussed the subject at this week's mHealth Summit.

The "Raising Capital" panel focused on tips from investors intended for young companies that are seeking funding. The panel, which included Howard Burde (Howard Burde Health Law), Beth Cohen (Blank Rome LLP), Chris Hoffman (Triple Tree), Lenard Marcus (Edison Ventures), and John Shire (Nelson Mullins) stressed the difficulty of finding funding, but that the mHealth space was definitely getting a lot of attention from investors.

Here's a summary of the key considerations offered up by the panel:

1. Consider other sources of funding first. "There are [many options]: strategic investors, friends/family, funding from customers, Cohen said. "Always have your Plan B."

2. A common mistake is for companies requiring capital to expect it within two or three months. A small company should plan to devote nine months to a year to the process. "When I ask how soon a company needs funding and they say 'Oh, we have a lot of time, two or three months', I laugh at them," Shire said.

3. Listen carefully to your investor's business plan. "The first words out of investors are usually, 'What are you going to do with this money?'" Shire said. "If you're not going to follow the plan put forth by your investors, you better have the revenue numbers to prove you're right," Howard said.

4. Make sure you have good advisors that will help you you understand the process." "Know your limitations, don't be arrogant," Cohen said. A company going public is more difficult than ever: "The bar to being a public company today is around $200 to $250 million in revenue."

5. When asked about areas that VC firms are focusing on in the mHealth space, responses included chronic disease management, health and wellness apps, handheld mobile diagnostics, telehealth for the aging population, and telemedicine. "Near term, there's going to be a lot of dollars going into the IT health space," Marcus said. "The great thing about our healthcare system is that we know it needs a great deal of improvement."

6. Get practical about your company's revenue potential before speaking with investors. "When you take someone's money, there's expectations," Howard said. Questions will be asked like: "If you're dealing with an older generation of care providers, can they adapt to the new technology? If there's no reimbursement for what you're offering, what's your revenue source?” A company with under $2 million in revenue will have difficulty getting funding. "If you get revenue, everything else falls into place."

7. Go mobile. "Every tech being used in this space is developed for some sort of mobile application. You need to know what platforms it will be on," Howard said. "It takes a tremendous amount of capital to take a product to the consumer marketplace," said Howard. "You have to decide whether you're going down an iOS path or not," Howard said before noting that Apple's platform has the largest user base but takes a 30 percent cut of app revenue.

Cohen offered some parting advice: "Angel financing is not easy to get. It always takes longer than you think, and a small minority of companies are successful getting it. [But], if you have a great team, and have great technology, you have a very good chance. The most important thing you can do is continue to move your company forward."

"Looking for investment capital should be part of a company's overall strategic plan, not the lynchpin to success or failure," Howard added. "If the difference between success or failure is whether you raise VC, you're going to have a rough time."

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit is brought you by Preventice.