The “Network” Effect: Avoiding Death By Pilot

Sep 27, 2021

By Sar Ruddenklau, Head of Communications for Rezilient Health

Healthcare startups face huge roadblocks when it comes to breaking into behemoth legacy healthcare systems. Former Techstars Future of Longevity Design Associate, now Head of Communications for Class of 2020 Rezilient Health, shares how partnering with another Techstars 2020 startup, OpenLoop, can offer mutual competitive advantages for scaling and experimentation.

It’s easy to see why corporate partnerships with startups make sense: startups can benefit from corporate funding, resources, and customer access; while corporations need to innovate to stay ahead of competitors and access new technology.

But in an industry like healthcare with its heavy layers of bureaucracy and regulation, startups negotiating these partnerships often face what Sachin Jain in Forbes recently called the “classic Healthcare Holdup”–also known as “Death By Pilot”.

The biggest barriers to successful partnership aren’t technical, they’re cultural and organizational. The huge, slow moving machine of a hospital system is an existential threat to a startup that has a limited amount of time and money to nail their product-market fit.

So what is a nascent startup with potentially life-changing technology to do? Risk being suffocated while trying to swim through a molasses-like healthcare system? Or try to quietly build their own path out back?

One underestimated answer is: collaborate with a like-minded startup that’s tackling a different part of the big problem. It’s as simple as two heads being better than one. 

Putting together people who can ride the rollercoaster is a recipe for innovation–they can sprint toward the highs and, more importantly, they can turn the lows into lessons.

Startups have that test-and-learn mindset in abundance. 

Moreso, they can provide each other with a real-time testing ground of how their products might need to evolve. The stakes are lower for risk-taking than they might be within an enterprise partnership, so iterations can be fast without potentially upsetting the big fish. It’s innovation over reservation–a philosophy that, if core to culture, will safeguard a business for future success.

Two Techstars healthcare startups that have embraced the collaboration mindset are OpenLoop, Techstars Iowa Class of 2020, and Rezilient Health, Techstars Future of Longevity Class of 2020.

OpenLoop is a whitelabel telehealth company powering virtual care services in every state with full stack clinical operations and a vast network of certified clinicians. Rezilient provides CloudClinics which patients can attend to consult remotely with their physician via a large monitor, supported by an on-site nurse.

Because OpenLoop is building a digital health-focused workforce, Rezilient’s rapidly scaling clinical environment provides fast, valuable feedback on optimizing systems and processes to create a fit-for-purpose talent pool.

And because Rezilient’s CloudClinic setting is a departure from both standard telehealth and a traditional doctors office, OpenLoop provides quick access to a range of clinicians with a startup mindset to offer feedback on tech-forward clinical workflows. 

Put simply, by working with a partner who’s tackling a different part of the same problem, both OpenLoop and Rezilient have both had the ability to test their functionalities and limitations to gain insight into service-market fit. They certainly wouldn’t have this opportunity as a lone wolf.

There will always be risk involved in partnering with another relatively unproven company. But when Techstars startups combine their strategic capacities, salient knowledge and motivation to reimagine solutions to big, complicated problems, the reward can come back tenfold.

About Techstars

Techstars is the most active pre-seed investor in the world having invested through its accelerators in more than 4,000 companies. Founded in 2006, Techstars believes that entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to invest in an unprecedented number of startups per year enabling more capital to flow to more entrepreneurs around the world. We do this by operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, as well as by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities.

About the Author
Sar Ruddenklau

Sar is Head of Communications for Rezilient Health. As a strategist and designer, she has built and rebuilt brands across healthcare, tech and residential real estate development in Australia and the US, centering the brand’s story to carve out its unique market position. Leveraging her fine art training, she brings a creative mindset to brand and communications which is a perfect synergy for the unique challenges startups face reaching their customers.