As one of the new interns I’ll be occasionally popping up on the blog over the next 6 months so I felt the need to give a little introduction to what I’ll be writing about. Before I came to the Innovation Unit I worked in trend forecasting and market research. I want to use my posts to tell readers about innovative ideas from around the world which I think are either the start of something new or just too interesting to ignore.
Over the past few years, crowdfunding has opened up a new investment space for everyday entrepreneurs. Not only does it represent a great opportunity to shape new market dynamics, but it offers a platform for consumers to support projects they care about, and for people with ideas to test and realise them quickly. Crowdfunding is now entering the world of healthcare. Can it help to shape a more user-centred and innovative healthcare industry?
Unfortunately, one of the most popular platforms, Kickstarter, does not usually allow medical, fitness or health projects. However, when the fitness smartwatch Pebble raked in over $10 million on it, many health-related start-ups took notice. With the success of crowdfunding platforms becoming more and more apparent, many have begun to realise the potential they offer for healthcare.
MedStartr, launched in Beta in July, is healthcare’s answer to Kickstarter. Built by Mike Pence, the original lead developer on the Kickstarter project, MedStartr works in a similar way. Projects submitted to the site provide a description of what they are trying to achieve along with a short video explanation. Donations are tiered, rewards vary from project to project, and start-ups are encouraged to offer creative and generous incentives to get funding. Crowdfunding is a great way for health-related start-ups to generate interest, test ideas, and gain funding from the people who will potentially be their future customers. MedStartr links projects with their target market of doctors, patients, hospitals and medical centres, or even pharmaceutical and insurance companies. The site allows support for projects that would have previously seemed too innovative and potentially risky to receive adequate funding.
The site currently has eight sections to it: cancer, community, diabetes, fitness, for the doctor's office, patient power tools!, medical device, and sexual health. MedStartr asks that projects put up the minimum amount they are hoping to gain and asks them to stop fundraising if they reach $40,000. Avado , a physician-patient relationship management system, is the first project to have reached its target and is already $2000 over with twenty-four days left to go.
Health-focused crowdfunding is set to grow with sites like Health Tech Hatch and WeFundr currently in the works, according to Health 2.0. And it’s not only health that is turning to crowdfunding. iAMscientist, a global community of science, technology and medical researchers that has been around since 2008, has recently started to let its users advertise their projects on the site to gain funding.
There is a higher level of transparency within crowdfunding than in the traditional consumer/provider relationship. Funders are not tricked by gimmicky adverts or slogans, but instead want to see exactly why a project was created the way it was and for what reasons. As a result, many successfully funded projects show exactly how they reached the final design or idea without hiding the detailed steps and processes that allowed their success. If a project or product does not appeal to people enough, it will not reach its funding target. This method is similar to how the Innovation Unit works through a project – they focus on what people need. They don’t go in with a pre-decided outcome, but, like many crowdfunding projects, let the situation dictate what the result should be.
With the crowdfunding market rising from $32 million to $123 million in the past two years, it seems to be the perfect solution to support innovative individuals eager to make a difference to the healthcare industry, whether they are patients, frontline staff or academics.