Here's an Idea and Money for You - What Are You Waiting For?

Many would-be entrepreneurs simply lack the idea.  They might have boundless energy and enthusiasm and they might have prepared themselves well, but they just haven't had that "eureka moment" of having landed on a great opportunity.  And potentially they also lack the financial resources to bring that idea to fruition if they did have their light-bulb moment.  This post is to help you with both: an idea and the money to make it happen.

I just got back from the massive HIMSS (Healthcare Information Systems) conference in Orlando, FL.  Imagine 31,000 people all in one place talking about the future of healthcare information technology.  I was there to meet with companies that were looking for investors and/or companies that were looking for merger and acquisition opportunities (after all I am an investment banker and that's how I make my living).  I was also there to announce my new research report on healthcare IT which includes my read on the industry, where it is headed, and the opportunities for company builders.

I came back from the conference with literally hundreds of ideas for new opportunities for entrepreneurs.  Here's some advice: if you are looking for an idea, mix it up with others that have great ideas, study, research, equip yourself, stretch yourself, listen to the market, look for issues, allow yourself time to speculate, think, and create, and then connect ideas and connect solutions.

I spent some time in a couple of sessions with Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and had a chance to talk with him.  That's right, our country has a CTO.  And, unlike what one would typically expect, Aneesh is not a typical Washington bureaucrat.  He is very impressive, very dynamic, and an excellent communicator.  But importantly, even though the Obama administration has made some huge missteps and taken our country in the wrong direction on many issues -- including healthcare reform -- there are always going to be some good initiatives and that will work well.

One such initiative that Aneesh is championing is healthcare "data liberalization" amid a larger initiative to spur innovation in the area of  healthcare IT. What he means by data liberalization is the intention to release all healthcare information on as many Americans as possible (without the sensitive information such as name, address, and social security number) to the public so that entrepreneurs can take all of that data, analyze it, look for trends, issues, solutions, etc. and develop decision support tools, intelligence, health care protocols, etc. and then develop applications that can then "inject" that intelligence back into healthcare IT systems for consumers and for physicians at the point of care so that healthcare practitioners and patients alike can be better informed.  Imagine the patient with a new diagnosis of an ailment, that can access an "app" that can benchmark that patient's actual lab results with hundreds of thousands or millions of other patient data with the same ailment -- and their treatment plans.  Imagine a physician, with the ability to "see" numerous protocols and treatments for that ailment and then in real time prepare a more informed treatment plan for their patient based upon all of the data.

And, to make it even easier for the entrepreneur to create those applications with all of the that data, there is a lot of money now available through various healthcare reform and stimulus programs (that's right, not all of the money is wasted) in the forms of various "challenges" (business plan competitions and bake-offs) to reward those entrepreneurs that came up with the best ideas with free grant money and numerous grant programs to help entrepreneurs get their ideas to market.

A couple of examples: 
  • The CTO for the Veterans Administration, Peter Levin, mentioned that he had hundreds of millions of dollars to give away in grant money to entrepreneurs that could take VA healthcare data and use it to help improve veteran healthcare outcomes (see one such competition here).  He also mentioned that 100% of the companies that applied for grants thus far in one program area had been funded to the tune of $1 million or more each.  Several Federal agencies had similar grant programs to help spur healthcare innovation.  Government intervention often mucks thing up, but I was fairly impressed with the opportunities being created as a platform for innovation.
  • One company I met with had just received a $1.25 million grant to further develop their application from the Office of the National Coordinator (for healthcare reform).
So, all of you analytics entrepreneurs that are looking for ideas and money, rise up, download some data, create some new analytic algorithms, create some new visualization tools, create a plan, present it, get some grant money, finish building your application, take it to market (add it to an app store, partner with large healthcare IT companies), improve healthcare, serve your fellow man, create a successful company, and give the glory to God.

Oh, and please let me know how it goes, I'd love to hear about your success story.  Perhaps it will make it on a future Family Works episode.

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