Caitlin Cress — The Hale Center for Journalism
Walking into the Sprint Accelerator is a lot like walking into a recently remodeled college student union: there are open work spaces, MacBooks galore, pingpong and shuffleboard tables and white board surfaces everywhere — literally everywhere, even painted onto the wall.
The accelerator is a lot different than a place to lounge between classes, however. It’s a coworking space, where different startups can interact and collaborate. General Manager Erik Wullschleger said to consider the accelerator an entrepreneurial community center.
The accelerator hosted a coworking day with the Kansas City Startup Village Friday. By just sending out a few tweets, the space was buzzing with various startups from the Startup Village. Some were hard at work on their laptops, while others were busy networking.
“The goal here is to allow people to collide into people that are working on similar or even completely different things,” Wullschleger said.
The coworking aspect of the accelerator will be highlighted at the beginning of March when the Sprint Accelerator mobile health accelerator begins. Ten mobile health startups will follow a game plan from tech accelerator Techstars that will attempt to advance the companies from seed stage to high-growth in three months. Wullschleger said Techstars has a high success rate with this program: 90 percent of graduates are active companies today or have been acquired by another company. This is a huge jump from the 12 percent success rate of the average startup, he said.
The mobile health accelerator finalists were selected Jan. 31, but participants have not been publically announced. The finalists will work on the accelerator’s second floor with each other and with a variety of professional mentors from the tech, mobile, entrepreneurial and health care fields. These finalists will have incredible advantages over their competitors by working in a free space with incredible mentors, Wullschleger said. They will also be provided with up to $120,000 in combined seed funding, according to the Sprint Accelerator web site.
“These companies are burning flames, and this accelerator is a big barrel of gasoline,” he said.
Wullschleger said he couldn’t comment on the types of mobile health care applications the finalists are working on, but he did speak about why health care advancement is so crucial.
“The health care market is changing …. It’s an industry today that spends $3 trillion, and by 2018 is projected to spend $4 trillion, so you’re looking at an industry that’s dumping money into the care of us,” he said. “Today, though it’s run largely off clipboards and computers.”
The next technology advancement for health care is mobile phones, which we carry around every single day, Wullschleger said.
“We’ve all seen health and fitness applications focused on workouts, calorie counting, steps and things like that,” he said. “What I’m really excited about… are things that are hardcore health solutions, tackling big problems like diabetes.”
The finalists will work on apps related to both animal and human health, Wullschleger said. These mobile health solutions are being developed not just by traditional entrepreneurs, but nurse practitioners, doctors, pharmacists and surgeons.
“They’re taking a leave of absence or quitting their jobs to fix a problem in the health care space,” he said. “They’re really amazing people.”