Iron Yard closes its health accelerator to run coding school, build network for healthcare entrepreneurs

By Aditi Pai

Marty BauerSpartanburg, South Carolina-based Iron Yard has closed down its digital health accelerator, which the company first launched in May 2013, according to GoUpstate. Since launching the digital health accelerator, three classes have graduated from the program, the third was announced in May 2015. Two other general tech classes also graduated from Iron Yard.

“The original goal for the digital health program was to run for three years, and this is the natural progression of that plan,” Iron Yard Managing Director Marty Bauer told MobiHealthNews. “We will be announcing several of our new projects in the coming weeks.”

Two of those projects include a coding school called Iron Yard Academy with locations across the US and a life sciences accelerator.

Iron Yard has partnered with HubX, a life science organization in Arkansas, to build a life sciences accelerator, called HubX-LifeScience, which will launch in April. The accelerator will  focus on helping connect entrepreneurs with large healthcare organizations. Two healthcare organizations already involved in the accelerator are Baptist Health and Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"One of the lessons we have learned after investing in more than 50 startups is how critically important a great network and partner support is to early stage companies looking to bring their product to market," Iron Yard explained in a blog post. "In healthcare this need for access to customers, users and other partners is particularly important. Ask any healthcare startup founder and they will agree that the sales cycle for healthcare companies can be painfully long. Large organizations with decision matrices can leave startups in limbo for too long. At the same time many corporations are searching for ways to innovate faster and adapt to rapidly changing markets - while working closer with quality startups."

When Iron Yard first launched its digital health accelerator, the company’s founder Peter Barth told MobiHealthNews that the accelerator was looking for startups who are solving a particular problem in the healthcare space and who want to build a long-lasting company, not startups that are just looking to be acquired. He added that startups would work with mentors from companies including pharmaceutical company J.M. Smith, Mayo Clinic, Abbott Labs, and Zebra Technologies. Some 28 startups went through the digital health accelerator.

One of the startups to graduate from Iron Yard, ChartSpan, has raised just under $3 million for a a personal health record (PHR) tool. The offering can import records in various electronic formats and convert paper records into structured data using machine learning and optical character recognition.

A couple of other digital health accelerators have shifted their model in the last few years.

In July 2015, Sprint announced that its accelerator will no longer focus specifically on digital health technologies, and instead will accept startups that are focusing on any mobile technology. The Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, which first launched in September 2013, will now simply be referred to as the Sprint Accelerator. It will continue to be powered by TechStars and stay based in Kansas City.

In September 2013 Rock Health transitioned away from being an accelerator to focus on being a seed venture fund.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia-based accelerator Dreamit Health announced that in its next class, it will offer the startups the option to keep their equity if they do not accept cash from the program.

In 2014, another accelerator, Techstars, which has launched a few healthcare-focused programs, announced the option for startups to lower or eliminate the amount of equity they gave to the accelerator program. Some of the healthcare programs Techstars has launched include a Mayo Clinic post-accelerator program and a program with Nike.