Health

Healthtech startup Prebacked wants to reverse the incubator process

Garrett and Chris (2)

Most incubators aim to help startups land funding for their ideas, but one healthcare technology startup is aiming to change this model. Prebacked hosts pre-incubation programs that get customers (large enterprises, such as Fortune 500 companies) to pitch the problems they are facing to early-stage startup teams, rather than the other way around.

The teams then build innovative, scalable solutions to solve these challenges. Winners land a revenue-generating contract with the enterprise.

“We call ourselves a reverse hackathon because we source together talented teams and pair them up with major enterprise clients,” its co-founder and former healthcare strategy consultant Chris Edell said in an interview with VentureBeat. “Our goal is new disruptive innovations and to act as a pipeline for the best talent.”

This past weekend Prebacked hosted 25 teams of three to five people, recruited from hackathons and code-a-thons, at one of its reverse hackathons in Campbell, Calif. Prebacked pitched three problems to the groups to solve. Prebacked judges will analyze the teams’ presentations on May 11. A 90-day incubation period follows, along with an integration stage in which enterprise will sign a major contract with the winning startup(s).

Hackathon program

Above: Hackathon program

Sameer Sonalkar, chief technology officer of the health insurance company Wellmark, works with Prebacked to select winners and come up with healthcare problems to solve.

“Because of healthcare reform, the industry is going through significant challenges,” Sonalkar said in an interview with VentureBeat. “The operating models are going to change; prices are going to change. We will need to adopt systems and solutions to help communities.”

Edell added that it also provides Wellmark with an incredible innovation channel at low price.

After being selected, Wellmark writes the team a letter of intent that indicates it is interested in seeing what the team can produce during the incubation period. These teams are also invited to weekly private events, dinners and mixed with top industry and venture capital (VC) executives.

“This attracts micro VCs and sends a signal that you’re a startup close to landing major deal with large enterprise,” Edell said.

An example of a past challenge Prebacked worked on was how technology lowers costs for the disabled/handicapped. The Prebacked team, which eventually became Benevolent Technologies For Health (BETH), built a low-cost prosthetic.  The team built a mold using coffee grounds and ground walnut shells, which conform to the body. The company is now in discussions with Band of Angels and other VCs.

Prebacked also poses questions like this one: “Different health care providers often charge different rates for the same procedure. Members are unaware since they only pay a flat co-pay per visit. There is no incentive to ‘shop around,’ contributing to excess health spend. What technologies can you build to: increase transparency of costs to our members and actively engage them to ‘shop around’?” Solutions could garner up to $100,000 rewards.

“Prebacked, at its core, stems out of Chris and I realizing it’s critical that we get enterprise and startup people talking,” said Prebacked co-founder and startup veteran Garrett Dunham in an interview with VentureBeat. “Coming from oil and water, we still are able to mix. Other people are doing it wrong by focusing on one to the extreme; it’s about having a balancing act between the two.”

Dunham said they also hope to alleviate some entrepreneurs’ fears of navigating the territory of acronyms, $1 million fines, regulations and a massive industry with insane amount of capital.

Competitors include 2020 VC and TechStars. Prebacked was founded in March 2012 and their first successful event was in October 2012.

The May 4 and 5 event included three C-suite executives from health insurance, three Blue Cross Blue Shield plans participating, five partners from Venture Capital firms and over 100 attendees.

Top image: Prebacked founders: Garrett Dunham (left) and Chris Edell (right). Photo credit: Courtesy