Interview with Lars Buch, SBC Berlin

What is your elevator pitch?

Startupbootcamp (SBC) Digital Health Berlin effectively stand out under the motto “The Serious Health Accelerator for the serious health startups”. We have moved away from wellness and focus on solutions, solving a real pain with a clear science/clinical foundation. We connect globally to Digital Health Programs in Miami and Chengdu and 20+ other SBC programs worldwide.

What makes Startupbootcamp teams different from other accelerators? Why should a startup join your batch vs any US or European health accelerator?

The first thing to do, as a startup considering joining an accelerator, is to check out the key performance indicators. Most accelerators simply do not achieve results worth sharing in public, so forget about those ones and focus on the top ones. Basically, Techstars and SBC stand out with similar positive achievements in the early stage, and SBC has a strong ecosystem of corporate partners in the health industry, interested in engaging with startups for pilot activities, investments and, in some cases, acquisition.

SBC as a whole, stands out as a global top five accelerator, a top ten investor and one of the top investors pro-actively pushing equality and women founders.

The Berlin program’s strongest assets are top-brand engaged partners, almost 200 quality mentors who are more engaged than anywhere else, and Berlin´s natural position as a key entrepreneurial and health hub.

How should a team make sure they get into the batch? What should they focus on when applying?

The three key elements are: first, make sure that the pain to solve is real and that the world really needs a solution for that pain; second, gather the right team to solve this problem, both from technology and a business point of view; and third, do your homework and check if you actually have some kind of unique angle when solving this pain.

Experience shows us that we need to solve problems in a radically improved way to interest not only the end customer but also investors and go-to-market partners along the way.

What do you see as digital healthcare’s biggest challenges looking into 2019 and which of them can be achieved/managed in 2019?

Regulations: In general, we have an issue right now with new CE rules on the way in 2020 that make the clinical validation path even more unclear for many teams, but have also inspired many teams to seek third-party support for faster validation tests and/or focussing on the US market and FDA approval before making an EU entry.

More regulations: Technology moves much faster than regulations and everybody involved in radical innovation in the health arena needs to balance between moving faster and doing proper validation of new solutions. We compare rules and regulations between different regions in the world and actively support startups to validate solutions even faster by having a global footprint with access to many markets with different rules. Lets show “proof of concept” and “proof of business” outside Germany, if possible, and then secure the clinical validation and classification in Germany.

Big Data: One dilemma right now is if patient data should belong to only a few, creating new business opportunities, or to “everybody”, to accelerate broader solutions. E.g. Big Pharma is investing heavily in “owning” data, AI solutions and new digital products. In parallel, other initiatives pop up to support open source development. 2019 will give us an indication of where we are going.

The Holistic Human: Healthy Lifestyle/Passive detection/Prevention vs. Diagnosis/Treatment. It seems that the majority of corporate focus, government activities and investor cash goes to improving the health care system, but insurance companies in particular are ever so slowly discovering the potential advantage of true prevention. How to carry out really effective prevention solutions for the masses without breaking data protection rules and intrude on people’s privacy remains a fascinating question.

In the tech sector we are talking a lot about AI at the moment. What is your take on its role in healthcare?

AI, with an added “APPLIED” AI, is changing the world of health entirely. Great maths and coding skills are everywhere, but we look for startups that develop outstanding Algorithms and also manage to access the necessary patient data, to train and validate the solutions. Quoting a startup pitch: “Your GM makes a diagnosis decision in a few minutes with access to 2-3% of the knowledge available about the “entire you” and we are changing that, it’s pretty logical that it will improve healthcare”.

If in doubt about how AI can change healthcare, pay attention to our startups from the past two years’ programs.

SBC is a partner in “Digitwin”, with a goal of developing true “digital avatars” for drug development and general health improvement, the biggest EU health bet ever made, and we look forward to seeing how this pans out over the coming years.

The interview has been originally published on the special issue of CoFounder.