Bayer plans launch of US accelerator focused on self care markets

By Jonah Comstock
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After running its G4A (Grants4Apps) program in Berlin for five years, Bayer is launching a new accelerator program in the United States, the company announced at Health 2.0’s Fall Conference in Santa Clara, California yesterday.

While the plans for the new venture, dubbed G4A Generator, are still being developed, Barton Warner, VP of strategy and portfolio management at Bayer, did share some insights into the focus area and the genesis of the idea. Warner said Bayer has lately been focused on the area of self care, an area where a growth in interest has not produced a corresponding growth in the market for traditional pharmaceutical offerings.

“Consumers are more and more interested in drug-free solutions,” he said. “This could be through medical devices, this could be through natural solutions. The second thing is people are looking for solutions well beyond medicine. They’re looking for alternative therapies. We’re seeing this whole area of digital really starting to take hold and grow. So the growth is happening, it’s just not happening in the spaces where Bayer traditionally operates.”

Bayer is hoping to leverage the innovation model that’s been working in Berlin to spur innovation in this self care sector. Specifically, the company is looking at the areas of nutrition, pain management, skin protection, and holistic ecosystem plays. Warner also identified four key traits of the kinds of solutions the company is seeking.

“The first one is customization. We’ve heard a lot about personalized medicine in the more medical arena. We see the same opportunity in the self care space. People want to know what’s right for their own bodies, so that’s a big area of opportunity,” he said. “The second one is convenience, people who are just overwhelmed right now so they want solutions that are as seamless as possible in their daily lives. The third area is support. As people start doing something, they like to be reminded by the community that these are the right things for them to do. Lastly, it’s not just about treatment, it’s about prevention as well.”

Warner and Eugene Borukhovich, Bayer’s global head of digital health innovation, said that they were intentionally announcing G4A Generator before all the details were ironed out so that the startup community could be involved in shaping the program. For instance, the company is still working on securing a physical space for the accelerator, which will likely be near Bayer’s US headquarters in New Jersey.

“The initial part will be a virtual program. We’re looking at some physical spaces,” Borukhovich said.

But Warner noted that the physical space likely won’t be onsite at Bayer’s headquarters.

“We don’t want to bring it into the mothership of the company because that’s how it gets slowed down,” he said. “We want to do things differently and have this independent environment where the ideas can grow.”

Bayer plans to take the rest of the year to connect with prospective startup participants and gather feedback about the program. (Interested parties can sign up for more information at g4agenerator.com). In January, they’ll start to communicate with those companies and winnow the list down.

“Then we’ll all get together,” Warner said. “We want to get people face to face in a short period of time, so the experts at Bayer can help them refine their ideas and figure out what would it take to scale this and get it to market quickly, and is there a win-win between what Bayer can offer and what the startups feel like they have within their own enterprise.”