Chicago’s Medical Startup Ecosystem

Funding_gapEstablished in 2013, Insight Accelerator Labs is celebrating our first year of helping healthcare startups take ideas from patent to practice. In their time with us our first member company Briteseed has achieved not only several funding milestones but also huge steps in realizing their technology. Their accomplishments include winning first place in the healthcare track for the Rice business plan competition, raising over 1.3M in funding, doubling in size from three to six all while still maintaining a lean startup philosophy. The IAL-Briteseed team has its first live-animal test coming up in several months that will demonstrate the technology as an integrated surgical tool in a real environment with realtime feedback to the surgeon. We feel it is amazing progress in a rapid time frame for a complex medical device and one that we’re confident will have a big impact on the market and the people it helps. 

While we derive satisfaction from helping Briteseed achieve its goals, we are still unable to bring the same benefits to many other startups with promising technology. Before we became involved in the startup community we did not yet have a good understanding of the investment landscape in the Chicago area. Now that we have exposure to it, it is readily apparent that a pretty significant funding gap exists for medical startups. This presents a challenging problem. The return on investment for medical device companies is not fast; it needs to be patient money. The return on investment for medical device companies is not fast; it needs to be patient money. Unlike many tech startups that can make rapid progress on software, web, and mobile apps with a rapid-development agile process, medical device development typically involves a complex technology working within a regulated environment with multiple stakeholders and varied workflows. Having worked in the medical industry for decades we’ve developed methods, techniques and processes to navigate these complexities. But for investors and established medical companies these bring uncertainty and risk, leaving many promising startups languishing and life-saving technologies undeveloped and sitting on a shelf once the founders leave universities or other startup supporting programs.

In our view this relative lack of funding is a huge problem for Chicago. These ideas and teams if transplanted to St. Louis or Boston or San Francisco would most likely have access to true early-stage funding. As illustrated in our infographics below, the gap is limiting or transplanting medical startups out of Chicago. We hope to find ways to close the gap. Recently IAL and Northwestern formed a partnership to expand the education and translation of ideas and companies coming out of the Center for Device Development (CD2) and the NUvention medical program. This partnership will allow the university to broaden the students capabilities and also allow the evolving concepts and ideas form more tangible commercializable solutions that are of interest to industry. In the coming year we hope that working together with others in our community and in business we can build a robust funding ecosystem that matches the program level support structure.

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Chicago's Medical Startup Ecosystem

About Insight Accelerator Labs/Insight Product Development

Insight Accelerator Labs has proven to be a tremendous benefit to parent company Insight Product Development (IPD). IPD has worked with fortune 500 medical companies over the past 25 years and helped bring over 200 medical devices to market. The infusion of startups has increased IPD’s knowledge base on progressive technologies and evolving trends in the medical space. Our team has invested time and energy in working with the local universities to inspire new technology visions and provide guidance and best practices along the innovation and development path.

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