By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
For evidence, look no further than the 18 startups that exhibited in the Austin Health Pavilion Monday and Tuesday at the inaugural South by Southwest Interactive MedTech Expo.
“The goal of the Austin Health Pavilion at the MedTech Expo is to give all of the early stage technology companies in Austin a voice during this premiere event at South by Southwest,” said Kyle Cox, a venture capitalist in Austin.
“The best and brightest of early stage health-tech companies in Austin are represented here,” Cox said.Most of the Austin medical technology startups just launched in the last few years. They run the gamut from hardware and software startups to data and analytics companies.
SXSW introduced health tech programming four years ago, said Dana Abramovitz, community liaison for the SX Health and MedTech Expo.
“This really stemmed out of the growing interest in MedTech in the community,” she said.
Part of the focus of the two-day expo at the new J.W. Marriott Hotel was to bring creative and innovative people together to have a discussion about what they can create together, she said.
Jean Anne Booth, a serial entrepreneur, had a wearable tech device for seniors on display at the expo.
A few years ago, Booth launched UnaliWear, a Kenega watch with speech recognition for seniors that acts as a medical alert system, medication reminder and guards against wandering. She saw the need for a fashionable safety system for seniors because of some incidents involving her 80-year-old mother and her twin sister. Both women live independently.
Booth successfully raised $800,000 from angel investors and she has exceeded her $100,000 goal on a Kickstarter campaign with six days left to go. So far, she has raised $104,000. She plans to deliver the Kickstarter devices early next year and have her watch on the consumer market by next summer. The watches cost $299 for an activation fee and $35 to $80 a month for monitoring services.
“It’s discreet,” Booth said. “You don’t have that big help button that screams to people that I’m old and out of control in my life.”
New activity in the MedTech industry is also attracting new companies to Austin.
Because of that increased activity, Robert Palmer moved his company, PotentiaMED to Austin. He has 20 employees and hopes to add another 15 in the next year.
PotentiaMED is a data analytics firm that does outcome analysis on cardiac treatments. The company builds tools to predict what treatment will work best for each individual patient based on years of data analysis.
Palmer has personal experience with the dilemma on choosing what kind of treatment is the right one for the patient. His dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he passed away within a year. If Palmer had better analytics on outcomes of patients with prostate cancer, he would have made a better treatment decision for him, he said.
The goal of the company’s work is to improve the quality of life of the patient, Palmer said.
To further its expansion, PotentiaMED has raised $4 million to date and is looking to close a $10 million Series B investment round.
Palmer looked at Silicon Valley and Boston as possible relocation sites but decided on Austin because of the strong healthcare ecosystem here with the new Dell Medical School and the Livestrong Foundation, Palmer said.
The local MedTech activity is also attracting more funders.
Because of increased activity here, Martin Ventures, a Nashville-based venture capital firm focused on medical startups, opened an Austin in Austin last September, said Suzanne Towry, spokeswoman.
“We really see it as a new hub for innovation and technology especially in the healthcare space,” she said.
Martin Ventures has already invested in eRelevance, a patient and doctor communications platform founded by Bob Fabbio, a serial entrepreneur in Austin. The firm makes early and seed stage investments generally in the range of $2 million to $5 million, Towry said.
“We’ve invested as little as $25,000 and as much as $18 million during the lifetime of the company,” she said.
Andrew O’Hara, founded Chiron Health about a year and a half ago to provide telemedicine healthcare consultation for doctors with patients remotely over the Internet. With the Chiron Health platform, doctors can review lab results, adjust medication and answer other patient questions easily without a visit to the doctor’s office.
Chiron Health is working with 20 healthcare providers. It has raised $1.2 million in seed stage capital and has 14 employees in Austin.
“We see telemedicine over the next three to five years making a big impact in the healthcare space.” O’Hara said.
Chiron Health plans to release native iOS and Android apps for its telemedicine platform with the next financing round, he said.
Capsenta, which spun out of the University of Texas at Austin, also put its technology on display at the expo.Daniel Miranker, professor of computer science at UT and Juan Sequeda, graduate student, founded the company. It is based on the trademarked “ultrawrap” software that Sequeda invented. The software automatically compiles disparate data using keywords and phrases.
“Capsenta works with relational databases and applies semantics on top of it,” said David Arnold, CEO of Capsenta.
In healthcare, Capsenta works with medical device companies that make pacemakers. The technology is highly proprietary, but Capsenta is able to take the databases of the various companies and match them to patients so that a doctor can know in a minute or less what kind of device a patient has. It used to take several hours to figure out what kind of pacemaker a patient had. In an emergency room, Capsenta’s technology can potentially save a person’s life.
Capsenta is raising a $1 million seed stage round through June. So far, the company has been funded through National Science Foundation grants. It has six employees with three of them working full time.
“We’re growing and we have partners that are helping us grow,” Arnold said.