Sparks are flying with new technology companies and research in the Super Region.
Technology is now the No. 2 industry in Orlando, Tampa is coming on strong with research and the University of South Florida is breaking records with patents, Gainesville and the University of Florida are cranking out startups and the Space Coast is home to a growing aerospace sector.
It’s 2014 and technology is indeed disrupting and impacting people and by extension industries, such as health care, which is now a more than $3 trillion industry in the U.S. “Entrepreneurs are always attracted to opportunities,” says Ateet Adhikari, director, Healthbox, a health care accelerator. “Eighteen percent of our economy is going to health care.”
Not to mention in 2011, baby boomers started turning 65 in mass numbers. For the next 19 years, 10,000 individuals will turn 65 every day. By 2030, the percentage of our population over 65 will have grown from 13 percent to 18 percent.
Entrepreneurs are opening doors every day from hearing the knocks of opportunity getting louder.
Healthbox heeded the call. A very successful company formed in Chicago in January 2012, it provides “tools” for health care entrepreneurs. It has grown nationally and internationally and has branched into different areas of health care. Healthbox in 2013, set up shop in Florida where it began its first accelerator program in Jacksonville.
“The thing that drew us to Florida is Florida Blue. It’s our anchor partner of Florida programs. Having an anchor partner whose leadership is visionary and thinking about the changing landscape of health care and understanding that entrepreneurship and young innovators are going to change the business is so important.
“Florida is a huge part of our national presence,” says Adhikari.
Currently the second Healthbox accelerator in Florida is in Tampa Bay with its first class of seven companies (chosen from a pool of 91) in that market who will “graduate” from the program in late November. It is located inside the Tampa Bay WaVE business incubator in downtown Tampa.
The business model for Healthbox is to serve as an accelerator whereby companies pitch Healthbox to participate in its four-month program and those selected receive $50,000 in seed money, office space and liaison with top executives in the health care industry. In Florida, the mentors are executives with Florida Blue and other successful entrepreneurs. The ultimate goal: growth and raising capital.
An experienced entrepreneur and tech leader based in Tampa Bay, George Gordon, serves as executive director, Healthbox Florida. “I came here from Silicon Valley where I ran a startup company. … I’ve been working in the tech community in Tampa Bay since I arrived here in 2001,” says Gordon.
“We started this program on Aug. 13. We are finding as time goes on, the stage of the companies that are applying for the Healthbox accelerator program, are becoming a little bit later in the development stage. They’ve got customers, they’ve got a product in beta, they’re generating revenue — as opposed to an entrepreneur with a good idea, which is what earlier Healthbox accelerator programs saw,” says Gordon.
He also talked about their anchor partner, Florida Blue. “I think they really want to see innovation in the health care industry around the whole state.”
Gordon talked big picture technology in Florida. His observation is the state does not have huge technology companies that spin off little seedlings of entrepreneurs that say, ‘I can do it better than you’re doing. I’m going to start my own company.’
“That’s really what happened in Silicon Valley with Fairchild Semiconductor back in the 1970s. There have been over 100 companies that’s come out of what was Fairchild Semiconductor,” says Gordon.
“My goal personally is to connect dots between diverse markets in Florida, so the whole state can be looked at from the outside as, ‘hey this is the place where a technology company can locate and grow and prosper.’”
Adhikari said Healthbox is looking closely at Orlando and Miami and is “exploring opportunities across the state.”
“Florida absolutely has this balance of both talent and really strong entrepreneurs that are passionate, but also a willingness for them to learn and desire to get insight from experts who have worked in health care for a long time and know what works and what doesn’t work,” notes Adhikari.
Sunshine State forecast: a mix of entrepreneurs, health-care companies and lots of sun.
Electronic Pill to Swallow
Consumer health care on cutting edge
eTect was started almost five years ago (2009) and grew out of a Gainesville company called Convergent Engineering founded by Dr. Neil Euliano, currently eTect CEO. Eric Buffkin, company president, talked about eTect’s mission and genesis, including its prototype ID-Cap system to address the issue of medication noncompliance.
“It’s got this embedded electronic sensor in it. When you have your medicine in one of our capsules and you swallow it, it sends out a very low-power message. You can think of it like a little text message. The message is picked up and carried through the patient’s mobile phone back to our database and then we can share that information with the doctor, the patient, the patient’s spouse, caregiver or with their employer or their employer’s health plan. Whomever the patient has authorized us to share with,” explains Buffkin.
He is very grateful to the Florida Institute (Commercialization of Public Research) for its early funding of his company in May 2012. “With a funding commitment from the Institute we were able to secure the additional funds needed to achieve critical milestones in our product and company development,” says Buffkin. eTect received follow-on funding from the Institute’s subsidiary — Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund in April 2014. Buffkin noted the funds were matched by private money.
This Florida startup success story was a tenant at the Florida Innovation Hub at the University of Florida when it opened in 2012. Buffkin views it as a lightning rod in bringing people to Gainesville. He cited the university talent and resources as important elements in birthing a company.
Last August eTect was awarded a $1 million contract from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
According to an estimate by the New England Health Institute, medication noncompliance costs the health-care industry $290 billion per year —
a big problem. eTect has a pill-size solution.