Digital Health CT Managing Director Gyan Kapur recently spoke to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about the new Digital Health Accelerator coming to Hartford. The accelerator aims to identify, entice, and retain digital health entrepreneurs; catalyze innovation in healthcare; and provide networks of local students and faculty interested in learning about digital health technologies with opportunities to help create and contribute to company growth.

NAN PRICE: What organizations are involved in the digital health accelerator initiative?

GYAN KAPUR: To provide some context, the accelerator is being sponsored by CTNext and Hartford HealthCare, one of the largest hospital systems in the region. Other sponsors include the University of Connecticut and Trinity College, which have different backgrounds and bring a lot of value. UConn has a master’s program in analytics whereas Trinity is a liberal arts school. Trinity has also generously provided space for accelerator.

The goal with the digital health accelerator is to bring innovative digital health companies to Hartford to work with Hartford HealthCare and other key players in the ecosystem we’re building out—and hopefully convince them to establish a presence in Connecticut.

The entire team may not stay. They may create a small office here. Especially, for example, if it’s a European startup with headquarters in London or Berlin that wants to create a U.S. presence or a Silicon Valley startup that wants an East Coast presence. Over time, we hope these companies continue to stay and to build a digital health ecosystem here in Hartford.

If we do a great job—which will certainly be challenging—we’ll be able to build a mini ecosystem here in Hartford that will compete with the Bay Area, New York, and Boston as a prominent innovation hub.

NAN: Why Hartford?

GYAN: The cost of living is lower, there’s great talent, and you can easily get to two major hubs. So, it’s a good place to set up, especially for an early-stage startup. Hartford can clearly compete with innovation hubs in other cities, as it’s already an insurance hub. Hartford has a major, progressive hospital system. And, with local colleges and universities, Hartford can compete with access to skilled graduating students eager to join the workforce.

NAN: When will the digital health accelerator begin?

GYAN: Our first cohort will run from November 2019 through January 2020. Next year, we’ll probably run the program from July through September.

NAN: How are you preparing for the accelerator?

GYAN: We really want to build out a local mentor presence, specifically with healthcare mentors. We’re also working to connect with local investors, which help convince early-stage companies to stay. One of the primary reasons a startup stays after an accelerator is because they’ve garnered investment from a local entity. Especially in the early stages, it’s very important to be close to your investors. They provide startups with a lot of guidance. So, we’re building a network of local resources and mentors. And it might be that some of these mentors end up being some of the people who work with the startups for longer.

NAN: How can companies become involved in the accelerator?

GYAN: We recently started the application process. With our international Fast Track tour, we’re traveling around the country and the world to visit digital health ecosystems and hopefully encourage some of them to apply.

We’re trying to connect with local entrepreneurship organizations and local accelerators to let them know what we’re doing. We’re just ramping up. It’s been a total avalanche. But it’s fun.

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