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Q&A With the Managing Director of the UnitedHealthcare Accelerator Powered by Techstars

The UnitedHealthcare Accelerator Powered by Techstars Demo Day featured a wide range of ambitious and interesting medtech startups. We’ve already taken a look at the class roster, but we decided to catch up with the program’s managing director, Matt Miller, for a little postmortem of the 2019 event and a look ahead at what the 2020 edition will bring. The 2019 program is still pretty recent, but looking back at the entire experience, what are your thoughts on the program and its class?

Matt Miller: Most Techstars programs take time to build momentum in their first year. It’s a new thing in new city, so it takes time to get up to speed. That wasn’t the case with this program because of the gravity of UnitedHealthcare (UHC). That let us hit the ground running, and it was also a massive advantage coming in as a first-time managing director.

We also had the upper hand from a location standpoint. We’re fully convinced there’s no better place in the world to build a healthcare company than Minneapolis. It has the vast majority of senior healthcare executives, a low cost of living, high quality of life… Combining a location that makes sense with a partner that makes sense gave us an opportunity to really capitalize Women’s health, nutrition, diagnosis, health benefits, logistics… it was a pretty diverse collection of specialties from the class. Is there any consideration of creating that kind of diverse lineup when sifting through the applicants?

MM: We have four pillars — quality, cost, access, and engagement of care. Sometimes, it’s really hard to get people to take care of themselves. So, we might look for solutions that are specific to disease states or that have advance analytics, for example. We also look at the entire age range. There are massive problems all over, covering a wide range of people. It just happened to be that the most compelling, most brilliant founders that I met just happened to be working in these spaces and addressed whole life span.

We also make sure there’s no internal competition within the class. Ultimately, it comes down to the strength of team, size of problem, and viability of solution being proposed. How do you feel the accelerator is helping shape the Twin Cities tech startup scene?

MM: Once a business is here, they’ll realize this is the best place in world to build a healthcare company. There are all kinds opportunities to be involved in the process such as participating in events, demo days, and more. The applications for 2020 close in May. What’s on your to-do list between now and then?

MM: I’ll be spending a lot of time with UHC and other health system executives at large and getting an awareness of trends and problems that aren’t yet being addressed by solutions. What should we be thinking about next?

I’ll also be representing Techstars at conferences like CES, the StartUp Health Festival at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference (HIMSS).

I might also be traveling to Bangalore. Sometimes picking a global solution in the healthcare space is tricky because our healthcare landscape is so nuanced and complicated that it’s not always transferrable across borders, but it’s worth looking. It’s still early, but what can people expect from the 2020 event?

MM: Once the class begins to take shape, we’ll focus on curating the content curriculum and mentor pool. UHC has such broad spectrum of services that they provide. The result is a wide swath of subject matter experts with knowledge that’s able to be transferred. There was a lot of education required to fully recruit the pool of executives and subject experts this year and many had never worked with startups. But we’re already getting unsolicited asks to be involved next year. What’s your advice for the health-focused startups out there considering applying to the 2020 program?

MM: We’re looking for world-class founders who are addressing real problems and are looking for coaching and mentorship. Some programs have tried to over-engineer the process, but I’ve found that serendipity is real. It’s a dual opt-in situation — the mentors and companies meet, and both choose whether or not they want to work together. Some mentor pairs aren’t what you’ve expected.

But you have to be all in… and you need to be willing to laugh at my corny jokes.

Alex Skjong
Alex oversees the content produced for BETA, Twin Cities Startup Week, and When he’s not writing or editing, there’s a good chance he’s enjoying a refreshing brew and explaining the merits of heavy metal (of which there are many).