A Post-Demo Day Look at Three Rock Health Startups-WeSprout, Pipette, and BrainBot

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a medical history section where parents can track details about their children’s height, weight, developmental milestones, immunizations, allergies, and health problems. The startup, which will charge for access to the site, hopes to take business away from Babycenter, Babble, Cafemom, and other parenting sites, which Wilkinson calls “cluttered, generic, not that smart, and ripe for disruption.”

“We use the medical history as a backbone to help you find resources and answers,” Wilkinson explained at Demo Day. “When you ask a question, we look at the history, then find people in the network who are best able to answer your questions. How can I get my newborn to fall asleep? What’s a great daycare place in Berkeley? We know what questions parents like you are asking.”

The WeSprout interface is spare and elegant, taking a cue from popular consumer services such as Mint.com. “One of the inspirations was being able to witness Carol using the [electronic health record] tools she was supposed to be using at UCSF, and saying ‘Who the heck designs this crap?'” Wilkinson told me in August. “Folks like us who have worked on the consumer Web, who concentrate on design and usability, don’t work on that kind of product. That really drove the early conversation.”

In addition to Mint, Wilkinson and Muth looked to popular Q&A sites like Quora and Stack Overflow for inspiration. There’s also some overlap between WeSprout and HealthTap, another medical question-and-answer startup profiled in these pages in April, especially when it comes to the way both services use details from medical records to filter answers. But HealthTap focuses on advice from medical professionals, whereas “we are much more focused on parent-to-parent communication,” Wilkinson says.

Being surrounded at Rock Health by people with backgrounds in the healthcare industry was a big help to the WeSprout team, Wilkinson says. “We rely on Carol for a lot of things, but it’s also great to get gut checks from experienced folks, and to have partners like the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, and see if their eyes light up or if their brows furrow. We’re confident we will be able to develop a product as great as any Y Combinator or 500 Startups company—and they don’t have that healthcare depth, where Keith and I are the weakest.”

Pipette: Post-surgical Monitoring via Text Message

Founded by two former Microsofties, Jimmy Do and Ryan Panchadsaram, Pipette is taking on the problem of post-surgical care. Once patients are discharged from the hospital after surgery, a few pages of complicated instructions are usually the only support they usually get—and if they don’t follow them to the letter, they’re likely to be readmitted for complications, a problem that Panchasadram says costs the U.S. healthcare system $30 billion a year. Do and Panchadsaram have developed a system that lets doctors or nurses nip problems in the bud by coaching post-surgical patients daily via text messages.

Panchasadram says being in Rock Health helped him and Do narrow down the product to something manageable—and marketable. “If you look at the original description for Pipette, we wanted to monitor patients before, during, and after their hospital stay,” he says. “But while other incubators would have been able to help us with engineering or business strategy, being part of Rock Health we have had mentors who are payers or doctors who could say ‘You know what, that is not going to work.’ From conversations with mentors, with Halle, and with the other teams, we learned that the best place to start was recovery [after a hospital stay], because that is when most problems arise, and from that we focused even more after conversations with doctors at UCSF on recovery after surgery.”

Pipette sends post-surgical patients text messages asking them key questions like how much pain they’re experiencing, whether they’re taking their medications, whether they’ve noticed swelling in the affected area, and so on. When the system detects that complications are developing, it alerts doctors to follow up by phone. It also uses game features to nudge patients toward healthy behaviors, such as keeping a leg elevated after knee surgery.

Panchasadram says Pipette plans to charge about $150 for one course of monitoring, and he hopes insurers will be willing to cover that cost. Turning to payers is a risky strategy—and I talked to several investors at Demo Day who said … Next Page »

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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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3 responses to “A Post-Demo Day Look at Three Rock Health Startups-WeSprout, Pipette, and BrainBot”

  1. I also found that the spirit of open collaboration and sharing, between and among new and established innovators, was refreshing

  2. ron dixon says:

    BrainBot and WeSprout both have a very compelling model. Bot’s data bank is obviously their key strength in product development. They can simply lease it to other app developers and make good money. Awesome presentation(and write up).