Health Incubator Boom Driven by Demand, Says Healthbox’s Jenna Rose

Startup incubators have been multiplying so fast there’s talk of a bubble, and there’s no sign of slowdown anytime soon. Jenna Rose says the growth is justified and has come from both entrepreneur and investor demand.

You could say that she’s biased, given that she’s the director of Healthbox, a Chicago-founded health startup accelerator that announced earlier this spring that it’d be expanding to Boston. But it looks like there’s data to support the claim. San Francisco-founded Rock Health, the grant-giving healthcare accelerator that also brought its program to Boston this year, published a report last month showing that by June, investments in digital health startups during 2012 had hit $675 million, a 73 percent jump from the funding raised in the first six months of 2011.

Healthbox held its deadline for applications for its inaugural Boston class late last month, and will kick off its program on August 13. The program offers teams a $50,000 investment in exchange for 7 percent of their equity. It’s an offshoot of Chicago-based Sandbox Industries, a venture capital firm that manages funds on behalf of a few Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans, says Rose.

Sandbox also houses a so-called Startup Foundry arm that incubates entrepreneurs as they are developing and refining new business ideas, and an arm that supports innovation externally. To this end Sandbox is a co-founder of the tech incubator Excelerate Labs, alongside Healthbox. It has enlisted other partners for the Healthbox incubator such as Ascension Health, HLM Ventures, and Walgreens, and will also be launching a Healthbox edition in London later this year.

We’ll have to wait around until the Boston program begins to find out which startups made the cut, but read below highlights from my conversation with Rose to find out more about what Healthbox is looking for, how just collecting data isn’t enough, and why Boston (or anywhere, really) needs another incubator.

Xconomy: What brings Healthbox to Boston?
Jenna Rose: It has an extremely vibrant entrepreneur scene, with supporting institutions that really believe in startups. We’re tapping into those groups and universities and the really well-established investor community. From the healthcare perspective, it is similarly strong, with some of the most world-renowned and leading edge healthcare and provider systems. And there’s an ecosystem of progressive healthcare laws. It’s a great environment to be part of.

X: What types of startups are you looking for?
JR: We really try to cast a wide net for applicants. Our biggest requirement is a company must be poised for growth. Does the entrepreneur have a … Next Page »

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