Doctors launch new Dallas-based health accelerator

By Jonah Comstock
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Hubert Zajicek Portrait 2011 smallOne of the findings of a recent California Health Care Foundation whitepaper about health-specific accelerators was the importance of involving healthcare experts such as doctors in the organization.

Dr. Hubert Zajicek took that to heart in starting his new health tech accelerator, Health Wildcatters, in Dallas, Texas. Zajicek is a physician who specialized in nephrology, or kidney research. After a number of years of working with med-tech accelerator NTEC (North Texas Enterprise Center), Zajicek is teaming up with Dallas-based general tech accelerator Tech Wildcatters and investor partners Green Park & Golf Ventures, who he says are the most prolific digital health investors in the region, to start the new accelerator.

Zajicek says the focus of Health Wildcatters will be to acquaint health entrepreneurs with the realities of the healthcare space.

"You can have a really cool tech idea, but unless you know how you can sell this, you know you're safe on HIPAA, you have a clear regulatory pathway and you have a way of selling your gadget to hospitals and providers, you can have a rude awakening," he told MobiHealthNews, noting that tech entrepreneurs are used to a quicker sales cycle than is manageable in healthcare.

Health Wildcatters has opened applications and will take in 15 companies, to be chosen by mid-July. Companies in the accelerator will receive up to $35,000 in seed funding in exchange for 8 percent equity and the program will last 12 weeks. A strong focus of the program will be on mentorship. The accelerator has raised $1 million from 30 investors, most of whom Zajicek describes as mentor-investors.

"The poster child of the mentor-investors is a healthcare startup investor who has 'been there, done that', built a startup, executed, and now has war stories to tell," he said. "We have a lot of those. We have a lot of entrepreneurial physicians who have started companies and have made angel investments."

Mike Bartlett, founder of vision test app makers Vital Art and Science is one mentor-investor. Another is Michael Gorton, founder of Teladoc, which offers phone and online video consults with physicians. All are local to Dallas or the surrounding area, which Zajicek says has a wealth of mobile health movers and shakers and not much of a network to bring them all together.

"The healthcare IT startup scene in Dallas is not as well-known, but it's actually quite robust," he said. "That includes all the physicians that are starting clinics, centers, participating in hospitals. Dallas is not just a random needle on the map, it is a fast growing city in a prosperous state that has a lot of influx right now, but it's got an extremely competitive healthcare ecosystem. There's seven hospital groups that are basically expanding in a city that's expanding rapidly."

Not only are Zajicek and partner Dr. Clay Heighten physicians themselves, but many of their mentor-investors are as well. The increased involvement of doctors in the health tech startup scene is something of a trend. Blueprint Health is also physician-founded, and Rock Health has recently begun seeking more physicians on the investment side through its Rock Health Angel Group.

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