5 MBA Entrepreneurs Innovating In Healthcare Technology

From homecare apps to artificial intelligence, business school grads are breaking into healthcare with their own high-tech ventures

The healthcare industry is ripe for innovation. And increasingly, business school grads are breaking into healthcare with their own high-tech ventures.

EMLYON MBAs are innovating in biotech, GWSB grads are launching telemedicine startups, and a team of Chicago Booth MBAs are using nanotechnology to revolutionize cancer treatment.

We spoke to five more tech-savvy entrepreneurs, from five top business schools, to find out why they entered healthcare, and how they’re taking the industry by storm.

Seth Halpern, Georgetown: McDonough, co-founder and CEO of 1healthy.world

Before McDonough, Seth served as CFO of Edward Saatchi’s NationalField, the social software provider for the Obama presidential campaigns. After completing his MBA in 2015, he launched 1.healthy.world, a digital health startup building the first AI-powered receptionist to revolutionize patient self-service and healthcare administration.

On healthcare tech… Health AI promises to achieve the triple aim of healthcare: enhancing patient experience, improving population health, and reducing per capita healthcare costs.

To date, the triple aim has been a lofty and out of reach mission, simply because in most current health settings, no single entity or individual is accountable for all three of these dimensions. Health AI exists in the space between patients and their care teams. The possibilities are endless!

On 1healthy.world… We’re building the first digital receptionist. An AI-powered chat-bot capable of engaging patients in plain language to self-service medical appointments without human intervention.

By leveraging our technology, the average primary care physician will see an additional 200 patients per year and can reduce front office labor expenses by 15%.

And by providing our technology to NGOs and care teams operating in areas of need, we are raising the bar for the next wave of for-profit, for-benefit ventures that can make money while doing good.

Jamie Wilson, London Business School, founder and CEO of HomeTouch

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Jamie worked for 15 years as an NHS psychiatrist before starting HomeTouch after his MBA. HomeTouch is the UK’s fastest-growing homecare platform, connecting families with high-quality elderly care. A marketplace model, it’s already expanded across London and is in process of scaling into a national service.

On healthcare tech… It’s been pretty obvious for a while that technology is going to have a big impact on healthcare. It’s such a massive industry and, in many ways, quite backward.

I wasn’t particularly happy working in the NHS. From my experience, there was a really big gap in terms of adoption of technology. I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial.

On starting HomeTouch… I was running dementia clinics. The homecare that patients were receiving was extremely inconsistent and unreliable; different people were coming through the door every week.

I found that most care agencies struggle to maintain good staff - they pay them minimum wage if their lucky - and that leads to a turnover of staff in the region of 30-40% a year. The whole industry was broken.

My first business model – an app focused on early dementia care – didn’t work. Although it solved an important clinical need, it was difficult to find customers. But I managed to leverage the existing product and launch HomeTouch, in its current form, in January 2015.

Our mantra is around choice, transparency and control. We’re trying to bring good carers back to the industry.

On the MBA… My chairman’s from LBS, two of my investors are from LBS, my COO is an INSEAD grad. An MBA accelerates your trajectory and strengthens your network. It gave me the confidence to communicate in a commercial way; to not be intimidated by people at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, but to see them as peers.

Rick Karr, The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, co-founder of Vertebration Inc.

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Rick was a Microsoft account manager for a decade prior to his EMBA at Fisher. There, he co-founded Vertebration Inc. with a group of fellow students. The aim: to develop revolutionary spinal implant systems. In 2015, its flagship product, XYcor, was licensed to medical technology firm Alphatec Spine, where Rick now works.

On healthcare tech… I left Microsoft for entrepreneurial opportunities. At Fisher, I helped build a business plan around a minimally invasive spinal implant as part of the entrepreneurship class. That really got me into medical devices. After winning Fisher’s annual business plan competition, we had the opportunity to commercialize.

On XYcor… Back pain and degenerative spine disease is very common. As people age, they have back problems because their discs start to degenerate between the vertebra. The collapse places pressure on nerves. Our technology helps re-establish this space, lessens back pain and the conditions associated.

Traditional implants with large footprints can only be brought in through the abdomen, which requires generally two surgeons, a spine surgeon and a general access surgeon. XYcor provides a less invasive spinal implant. It goes in collapsed from the back and expands in the body. It means less invasive surgery, quicker recovery and better structural support.

On the EMBA… It was a critical enabler and a foundation to build the business and commercialize the implant.

Marc Albanese, NYU Stern, co-founder of Smart Vision Labs

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Marc met his business partner Yaopeng Zhou back in 2001, during a masters in electrical engineering at Boston University. Marc went on to an MBA at NYU Stern in 2006 and a career in Wall Street banking. A few years later, Yaopeng followed the same path, studying at NYU Stern while working on his idea for a smart-phone based vision test. The two former classmates joined forces to found Smart Vision Labs in 2013.

On Smart Vision Labs… At Boston University, Yaopeng first had the idea to create a portable vision test using a super computer. Back then, we had a massive computer, a massive camera system and a large table full of optics.

Ten years later, the iPhone in my pocket is ten times more powerful than the computer in the lab. The camera is just as good, the optics smaller, and it’s connected to the internet. Now, our telemedicine platform will do a visual eye test and prescribe glasses in five minutes.

We’re really focused on increasing access to vision care. Throughout the world, there’s huge pockets of people who are not getting their vision tested.

On the MBA… NYU Stern was a great launch-pad. We partook in and won a business plan competition which gave us a crash-course in starting up the company. And there’s a startup incubator at the school, where we were super-focused on figuring out our first target market.

I got two careers out of NYU Stern. First, I did finance which I credit NYU Stern for getting me into, one hundred percent. Then, I got the opportunity to come back and use all the resources of the university again to help with my business.

Ana Maiques, IESE Business School, co-founder and CEO of Neuroelectrics

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Ana is an award-winning entrepreneur with over 15 years’ experience in the field. She boosted her leadership skills with an advanced management program at IESE in 2015. Back in 2000, she co-founded Starlab, a Barcelona-based scientific research group.

In 2012, she launched Starlab spin-off Neuroelectrics, to bridge the gap between scientific research and reality. Winner of Wired Magazine’s best health startup in 2015, Neuroelectrics commercializes and develops neuroscience-related products.

On healthcare tech… I’m a business person but I’ve always wanted to have a social impact. Science is the perfect place to find solutions for big human challenges.

In healthcare, we’re starting to see revolutions, and it’s no wonder people want to step into this world. The need for innovation is huge. We’re living longer, we’re aging, and it’s a fact that we are going to need more and more technology to live in a better shape.

Now, we have a lot of knowledge that we didn’t have 20 years ago. And brain health is going to change dramatically.

On Neuroelectrics… With Starlab, we wanted to do good science and take that to market. But we couldn’t do it with the same company. Starlab was focused on research and its people were scientists. With Neuroelectrics, we have more of a business focus.

We want to be the digital brain health company. This means being able to deploy our technology, to early diagnose and personalize treatment through electrical stimulation, in the home. To get there, we’re doing our first clinical trial, using our brain stimulation device to stop children with epilepsy from having seizures.

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