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Start-Ups Shine at 2019 Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge

Four healthcare entrepreneurs with innovative proposals for improving community wellness won the second round of the Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge, a training program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) i6 Challenge with more than $60,000 in sponsored prizes that is overseen by Hofstra University’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

The challenge focuses on inspiring entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions to health problems in underserved communities on Long Island, in New York City and in the Hudson Valley and is funded by a three-year i6 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s EDA.

Each year, the project – a partnership of the Center for Entrepreneurship, the School of Health Professions and Human Services, the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and Northwell Ventures, the investment arm of Northwell Health – picks a challenge topic.  The 2019 theme was “Creating Wellness,” which focused on non-traditional sectors that contribute to overall wellness such as housing, transportation, education, criminal justice, financial literacy and economic development.

The 2019 program consisted of a bootcamp at Hofstra University, a mentorship and technical assistance program, customer discovery in underserved communities, and the Regional Symposium and Pitch Competition.  22 teams of healthcare innovators participated in the Bootcamp; half of the companies were founded by women and 1/3 had diverse founders.  The entrepreneurs participated in 110 mentor sessions from May through September 2019 and conducted hundreds of customer discovery interviews.

The 2019 winners are:  

First place and a $25,000 prize package: CATSCAN, founded by Cat Andersen. CATSCAN is an app that instantly shows you what’s inside products that can trigger cancer, chronic diseases, birth defects, weight gain and other health conditions.

Second place and an $18,000 prize package: Cress Health, founded by Hofstra University student Michael Lai.  The Cress Health mobile application utilizes modern technological methods to provide a 24/7, virtual support group of like-minded individuals to help patients maintain sobriety after completing a formal treatment program.

Third place and a $14,500 prize package: Narrative Nation, founded by Kimberly Seals-Allers. Narrative Nation’s product Irth combats bias in maternal and infant health with a Yelp-like app for doctors and physicians that features crowd-sourced reviews filtered by racial and ethnic identity.

This year, the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University sponsored the Community Impact Award, which awarded $5,000 to a diverse entrepreneur who plans to make an impact on suburban health in communities that experience health inequity.  The winner of the Community Impact Award was also Narrative Nation.

Craig Buerstatte, acting director for EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said, “We’re thrilled to see Hofstra University’s progress under this award, and continuing to help businesses start and scale across the region. These recent winners will strengthen the local healthcare sector with new jobs and economic growth.”

“The Healthcare Challenge is a unique entrepreneurship program that provides assistance to innovators who are developing new products and services that will have a positive impact on communities that experience health inequity.  Thank you to the U.S. Economic Development Agency, our sponsors, and partners for making this program possible,” said Stacey Sikes, executive dean of entrepreneurship and business development at Hofstra University.

Northwell Health, New York State’s largest healthcare provider and private employer, was the 2019 Signature Prize Money Sponsor and also provided programmatic support to the participants.

“To foster sustainable innovation in health care, it’s of paramount importance that we create scalable, profitable businesses, while also making incremental changes in embedded cultural norms and workflow in health systems,” said Eric Feinstein, assistant vice president at Northwell Holdings and Ventures. “Thankfully, sponsors such as EDA, Northwell and others recognize this need and provide support for pilot projects, boot camps and other means to hone these business models.”

Dr. Martine Hackett, associate professor of health professions and steering committee co-chair, said, “Addressing public health problems simply demands the bold, innovative actions of entrepreneurs. Improving the health of communities will require untraditional partnerships working towards a common goal. The Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge is a model of how to make it work.”

Dr. Anthony Santella, associate professor of health professions and steering committee co-chair, said, “The School of Health Professions and Human Services is proud to partner with the Center for Entrepreneurship on this important program. Opportunities such as the Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge are needed to further develop public health entrepreneurship as a discpline and will add tremendous value to the mission of the public health field.”

The prizes are also sponsored by Digital Remedy, a global digital marketing firm founded by Hofstra Board of Trustees member Mike Seiman; Ernst & Young, one of the world’s largest accounting firms focused on building a better working world for their people, clients, and communities; Nixon Peabody, a full-service law firm with more than 600 attorneys who serve clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs; and the NuHealth Foundation, which furthers NuHealth’s healthcare delivery to hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders, including those who are underserved, uninsured and overlooked.  Intelligent Product Solutions is providing prototyping consulting services as an in-kind prize, and Hofstra University’s Center for Entrepreneurship is sponsoring in-kind prizes including technical assistance, incubator space, and marketing support.

Applications for the third year of the Healthcare Challenge will open in Winter 2019 at www.nyhealthchallenge.com.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

About Hofstra University’s Center for Entrepreneurship

The mission of the Center for Entrepreneurship is to provide Hofstra University’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community with the skills and training necessary to become accomplished entrepreneurs and to serve as a leader in Long Island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since its founding in 2015, the center has hosted more than 170 events, facilitated more than 1,100 mentor sessions and entrepreneurs affiliated with the Center have received $397,000 in cash and prizes to jumpstart their businesses. The Center was named the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers 2017 Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center.

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