Thursday, July 28, 2022

How to Break into Health Tech

Following last week’s tactical career post, A Networking Email that Works, here is a method to crack into the Health Tech/Service Innovation startup world. I assume this would work in other start-up heavy fields, but cannot confirm. 

The startup world can be daunting, especially for those used to larger organizations and/or academia.  The risks are greater, the rewards are supposed to be greater as well, but the truth is, if you really, really want to change health care, start ups seem to be the best place to do it.  One strong word of advice on risk– the best way to deal with career risk is cash.  I highly recommend you have at least 6 months of full living expenses (you budget, don’t you?!?) before joining a high risk company.  Otherwise every ebb and flow will send you careening in unhealthy ways.  You read into every meeting to see if your family is going to starve, and that makes it hard to change the world. Ok, if I haven’t shaken you yet…

Cracking into the world of startups is a networking game.  As an academic physician (the role most likely to ask for advice in this scenario) you are both too expensive and know almost nothing useful to a startup.  That said, we clearly need doctors in digital health.  If you are not a doctor, the odds are that you know more and cost a little less, but the same patterns hold true.  

There are tons of digital health companies created and dying every day. Any database is out of date and so you need to create it in real time.  Fortunately, the journey is helpful.  

Step 1: Check out the portfolio page of high quality health care Venture Capitalists (VCs).  

VCs examples that I like from past positive experience are:

There are others, feel free to go wild, this is just a starting point.

Now, look through EVERY COMPANY on the Healthcare Portfolio page.  Pay attention to the ones that seem interesting to you and discard the rest.  I am a deeply intuitive decision maker, so I just go with my first instinct.  You do you. 

Step 2: Check out the Portfolio Company websites.  

You are looking for 3 things in priority order to pull you further:

  1. Company Mission including population served

  2. Leadership team background

  3. Open Roles page

The goal here is to find a company that speaks to you enough to reach out in Step 5.  Don't worry if there isn't an opening, reach out if you like the company as you never know what will happen. In a subsequent post we can go into how to evaluate a start up you’d consider joining (hint: think like an investor).

Step 3: Find out the other funders of companies you like.

Sometimes this information is on the company site, sometimes it is on Pitchbook or Crunchbase.  This lets you build a database, see who knows whom, and find the few companies or investors on which to target.

Step 4: Repeat until you have 5-10 companies you like, or run out of time or energy. 

Step 5: Reach out through your network

This one can be a bit tricky, but send A Networking Email that Works to anyone in your network that might get you closer to a company on your list.  LinkedIn is helpful.  If you don’t have anyone, send a cold email to the leadership team, what do you have to lose?  Alternatively, track down a VC (hint, the board members of the company who work for VC funds are usually the lead VC for that deal).  Remember you are going for an informational interview— to learn more about the company— not a job offer, so play it cool.  

Good luck!  Again, this took me 50-70 conversations before finding the right match for me, so be patient, polite and persistent.

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