Within the European digital health scene, there is an increasing interest by Pharma, insurers and other corporates to interact with startups. This is something that starts gaining momentum, exemplified by the launch of initiatives like Bayer´s Dealmaker, Imagine Express with Otsuka or the Innovation Factory launched by MSD - this one supported by TICBioMed.
In the last week, I attended two of the most relevant eHealth conferences in Europe: Health 2.0 in Barcelona and the eHealth Week in Malta. Many Pharma and insurer representatives assisted to these events: Roche, AXA, Pfizer, Chiesi, Merck, Johnson&Johnson, Novartis, Sanofi, Astellas, GSK, DKV, etc.
I had the chance to talk with them about their challenges when interacting with startups, and also attended the insightful sessions organized by Karolina Korth from Roche in both events.
Here is a summary of recommendations for digital health startups when approaching corporates:
- Do your homework first. Investigate the corporate and assess if they fit within your solution or strategy. For example, Bayer has just sold their Diabetes division. Don´t go to them if you have a solution exclusively targeting this disease. Roche is interested in Diabetes, but also in patient change management. Learn their interests before contacting, as it will increase your credibility.
- Find your ´right´ entry contact. Do not waste your time talking with those that have no decision power, does not know what to do next. Find the right connector that would help to navigate the corporate.
- Make clear what you are asking. State upfront what are you looking for: money, co-promotion, a commercial agreement, etc. Do not expect the corporate to come up with a proposal of the collaboration model. Do your thinking and have a first proposal ready, to be polished during the exchange.
- Leverage existing support. There are an increasing number of support organizations (Health 2.0 -just acquired by HIMSS-, ECHAlliance, ) and initiatives (Vertical, Caixa Impulse, Dubai 100). There are also public funded projects like Innolabs, ProEmpower and eHealth Hub that provide free business support and/or economic grants for eHealth startups.
- What your client needs is first. You likely know the kind of stuff that you’d love to develop, but this can not be more important than what a Pharma company really needs. Some of them have had bad experiences with startups as a technological partner. Why? Their feelings were that startups didn’t want to adapt the solution to the company's requirements, but to their dreams.
If you are a digital health startup interested in corporates, invest in preparing your approach. Your culture, procedures and timing and are very different from them, making the potential relationship challenging. In the other hand, both of you have value to share and could be a turning point for your startup so…do not despair!
Regarding leveraging existing support, TICBioMed is part of ProEmpower (a 3M€ public procurement project for diabetes) and eHealth Hub, that delivers free business support in business modelling, commercialization together with legal & regulatory assistance. You can also register to the eHealth Hub Platform, with 100+ profiles of private investors. We are about to launch a new version for corporates interested in digital health. Follow this and future opportunities here.
Jorge González. Director of TICBioMed
Jorge is specialized in delivering business support for Digital Health, with a very active presence in the European eHealth scene. @ticbiomed