Enriching Princeton’s Tech Ecosystem, Tigerlabs to Host Healthcare IT Accelerator

Photo: Bert Navarrete, Tigerlabs cofounder, at the summer accelerator's demo day.
  Photo Credit: Esther Surden

Bert Navarrete, Tigerlabs cofounder, at the summer accelerator’s demo day.
  | Esther Surden

NJTechWeekly.com, along with the rest of N.J., learned on Sept. 19, 2012, that Tigerlabs, which recently held a summer accelerator for students, will be hosting a three-month winter accelerator program focused on healthcare IT.

According to Bert Navarrete, Tigerlabs cofounder, that means anyone with a good healthcare IT idea — from a mobile health app to disease management to software as a service — will be considered for the accelerator.

The application process is open, and applications will be considered until Nov. 15, 2012. The accelerator is expected to start in February 2013.

It’s no secret that the healthcare IT market is percolating in N.J. and the Garden State has a rich heritage of pharmaceutical and life sciences innovation. Several events we covered this past year focused on this market opportunity, including a mHealthcon conference at Rutgers, an NJTC gathering that discussed innovation in this field and a Startupalooza event featuring some great new healthcare IT companies.

Focusing on healthcare IT could be one way to keep entrepreneurs from fleeing N.J. for greener investment pastures in Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley. “I think these entrepreneurs may have a stronger proclivity for staying in N.J., since their potential customers and partners will be in this area. …That said, we don’t have any strict residency requirements,” Navarrete noted.

Navarrete said his goal in starting the accelerator isn’t just to start an accelerator but to collaborate with the big healthcare companies to try to solve their problems. Stuart Essig, chairman of the board at Integra LifeSciences (Plainsboro) and Breg (Carlsbad, Calif.), is a founding investor.

“We are truly excited that we can help create an entrepreneurial ecosystem here in the state. Our proximity to big pharma is a great competitive advantage over some of the other programs in the U.S. We are filling our mentors and friends list with executives from a variety of medical technology companies as well as other healthcare-related companies. Applicants to our program can expect access to some pretty high-level executives,” Navarrete added.

Tigerlabs is already in conversation with some healthcare IT startups, Navarrete said, but the accelerator plans to continue evangelizing about its new accelerator at industry conferences.

While Tigerlabs’ first accelerator class focused on students, this group will probably include more seasoned entrepreneurs, who will bring their own set of issues to the table, Navarrete noted. The winter accelerator program is expected to continue in the same fashion as the summer one, with in-depth mentorship and weekly speakers lecturing on topics useful to startup entrepreneurs.

“We will continue to grow and develop the creation of really deep mentorship around design, in the sense of user interface design — one of the things we see as a core differentiator of our program.”

While many healthcare IT solutions take longer than 12 weeks to bring to fruition, “this doesn’t change our expectations that [selected teams] will have a minimum viable product by the end of the 12 weeks,” Navarrete noted. “We will be evaluating the applications not only in terms of where they are in their development but in how we can assist them in accelerating their growth.”

“From my perspective, it is still very much an emerging market, a very green field, in terms of healthcare IT, and I expect there to be a variety of applicants across different cycles of development. We are really honing in on companies where we can have the greatest effect.”

Each team selected for the accelerator will receive seed funding via a $20,000 convertible note. As a Microsoft BizSpark partner, Tigerlabs will provide each team a full suite of Microsoft software including Windows Azure, the cloud development product. The law firm Drinker Biddle is providing the legal underpinnings for the group, including incorporation and cap table structuring A complete list of service providers to the portfolio companies can be found here.

Navarrete said the accelerator is looking for teams that have strong technical talent at the founder level, are very knowledgeable about how their particular solution or product fits into the healthcare landscape across the different sectors and have demonstrated past success in building products.

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