Merck, New York-Presbyterian kick off TigerLabs Innovation Track

By Jonah Comstock

Bert Navarrete, Tigerlabs HealthAs healthcare accelerators and incubators continue to grow and spread, they're also evolving as the unique needs of healthcare startups become apparent. For many incubators, that means a stronger focus on providing ongoing working relationships with established industry partners like payers, providers, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

Healthbox's Nina Nashif stressed the importance of those relationships in a recent interview with MobiHealthNews. And it's the driving force behind StartUp Health's special class in partnership with GE Healthcare. Princeton, New Jersey-based TigerLabs announced its own similar project this morning, when it announced that Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and New York-Presbyterian Hospital would be the initial partners for its new Innovation Track.

"TigerLabs Health still remains committed to looking at all aspects of healthcare IT and healthcare IT innovation opportunities," TigerLabs cofounder Bert Navarrete told MobiHealthNews. "Innovation Track allows us to hypertarget select companies that will be working with our partners on an individual basis."

TigerLabs Health launched in September 2012, with the initial intent of closing applications for its first class in November. Instead, the company opted to keep applications open on a rolling basis, and it will be announcing its first class next week. There are currently five companies in the accelerator, according to Navarrete.

The Innovation Track startups will also receive all the same benefits as startups in the regular TigerLabs Health accelerator. In addition, they'll have regular contact (up to one day a week) with one of the partner companies, both of which will be heavily involved in selecting their partner startup. Merck GHI is looking especially for startups focused on data analytics (in a way that is applicable to the pharmaceutical industry) and New York-Presbyterian is after startups who can help make their internal hospital processes more efficient -- anything from marketing to billing. TigerLabs Health will be accepting Innovation Track applications until July 2.

At the end of the regular TigerLabs Health accelerator, Innovation Track companies will spend an additional month as "entrepreneurs in residence" at their partner company.

"It allows the business development cycle to happen very early on. They have a pretty good knowledge if it's going to work out in terms of a potential pilot or licensing," said Navarrete. "There will be a better informed decision about whether Merck [for instance] will pilot, license or invest in the particular startup company."

Navarrete said the Innovation Track was created in response to requests from the corporate partners, who wanted more access to the startups.

"It really is a way for us to replicate what is good about the corporate VC model," he said. "There often have been some conflicts in the past, and we feel we can be the conduit, by offering the strategic benefit while not overwhelming a startup with a Big Brother mentality or a risk of stealing ideas."