Rock Health, A New Incubator for Healthcare IT Startups, Names Its First Class

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Skimble—Healthcare and fitness apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, including two successful titles, WorkoutTrainer and GPS Sports Tracker. Founders: Gabriel Vanrenen (Flurry, Wily Technology, Dartmouth computer science), Maria Ly (Google, Flurry, Cypress, University of Waterloo computer engineering).

WeSprout—An online community designed to help parents find resources for decision making about their children’s healthcare. Founders: M. Jackson Wilkinson (Posterous, LinkedIn, Viget Labs, Bowdoin College music and philosophy), Keith Muth (Corporate Executive Board, Viget Labs,, James Madison University interactive media).

To win admission to Rock Health, companies had to have at least one software developer on board, and be self-funded or angel-backed, with no venture funding in the bank. Non-profits were excluded. “Other than that, we cast a really wide net,” says Tecco. “The way we phrased it was, ‘We are looking for product-centric solutions to healthcare inefficiencies.’ We’re not looking for services, or medical devices, or biotech. We’re looking for products that can be used to improve healthcare and scale and become successful businesses.”

Rock Health’s first term will likely end with a Y Combinator-style “demo day” in November, according to Tecco and Ziegler. Will all 11 companies have proved they have scalable business models by then? Perhaps not—but because Rock Health is a non-profit and doesn’t require an equity stake in its startups the way most other incubators do, the pressure being placed on the entrepreneurs to do so won’t be quite as great.

Tecco says that Rock Health’s real mission isn’t necessarily to launch companies, but to carve out a bigger place for Silicon Valley-style thinking in the healthcare sector. “If we can bring in really smart people and give them a playground in which to experiment about healthcare, learn more, and build strong relationships, then if their ideas don’t work out, I don’t have equity; either way, I’m happy,” she says. “Our end goal is really to hone innovation, expand the dialogue to more diverse thinkers, and get more technical expertise thinking about these problems.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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