Running an impactful accelerator program isn’t easy. Let’s get that out of the way right now.
Behind every amazing Demo Day, there ten thousand boxes that need checking and at least a few worries that persist until the last minute.Before we even get there, we need to put together a program that provides real, actionable value for the startups in our cohort (for Digital Health CT, this program is three months long). And before THAT, we need to find ten startups that are a fit for our program and our partners.
The final step of the startup identification part of the process is our Selection Days, an event to which we invite the group of semifinalist applicants to meet, in person, with our partners and mentors. There’s much more that goes into the application process, but we’ll save that for a future blog post (our word count thanks us for this).
For now, let’s take a deep dive into Selection Days.
In order for us to host 19 startups for Selection Days, we had to whittle down a list of 391 teams that applied to participate in our program. A first cut narrowed the list to 75 startups, at which time our team did further due diligence and shortened the list to a pool of 57. We then shared this list with our program partners, so that we could receive their input directly. And, finally, we were down to our top 20.
Then, days before Selection Days were scheduled to begin, one of our international startups was forced to drop out. 19 it is.
In terms of prep work for the two-day event, most of it was fairly straight forward:
- Secure venues
- Plan catering
- Print everything that needs printing (name tags, signage, certificates…)
- Communicate relevant details to our registered attendees
The toughest part was making sure we had the right mentors lined up to attend from our partner Hartford HealthCare. These mentors are all practicing physicians – an occupation synonymous with busy, packed schedules. Fortunately, we were able to work around many scheduling difficulties and the night went as smoothly as could have been hoped for.
The startups in attendance found incredible value in speaking with the practicing physicians because of the meaningful feedback they provided. Since our program’s focus is digital health, many of these companies are IT-centric. As such, one of the greatest value adds our program provides is the ability to work closely with the people who would actually be using the technology these startups offer. Even if some members of the startups have medical backgrounds, being able to interface with practicing physicians, even just for one evening, provides insight that would otherwise be totally inaccessible.
On to day two.
Where day one of Selection Days was comprised of three rounds of 30-minute mentor/startup meetings, day two was chock full of activity:
- A few welcome addresses from our team and key members of our stakeholder community
- Short pitches from each startup
- A panel discussion between investors (our own Investor-in-Residence Gyan Kapur and Annie Lamont of Oak HC/FT, who doubles as First Lady of the State of Connecticut)
- Two rounds of startup/mentor meetings, divided by lunch
- Deliberation among our Selection Committee
- Announcement of the ten startups that were selected to participate in year one of our program
- Celebratory drinks, food, and networking.
So as not to underplay the strenuous nature of the day, it’s worth noting that during the two rounds of startup-mentor meetings, each of the 19 startups rotated tables to meet with all of the partners, mentors, and investors in attendance. 19 rounds of 15 minutes per round is exhausting for both sides. It seemed to make the drinks later on that much more appreciated.
Making sure everything went off without a hitch was a non-stop process. Each member of our team spent much of the day running around behind the scenes. Whether it was to round up attendees for interviews with the videography team, making sure our remotely-attending mentor was still connected, or rearranging tables to move lunch closer to the ongoing meetings, there were no idle hands.
But at the end of the two days, everyone’s hard work boiled down to an amazing announcement of our top ten and final cohort (see the photo above).
Fast forward to today. These startups return to Hartford in less than a week, when the Digital Health CT officially launches year one of our program on November 12.
We know the hard work is worth it. If you’d like to join us for our Demo Day on February 10, 2020, subscribe to our monthly news letter, where we will be distributing more details soon. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of all of the behind the scenes work.
Digital Health CT’s first cohort is made up of nine startups from across the U.S. and one from Tel Aviv, Israel. These companies have headquarters ranging from San Francisco and Chicago to Houston, Boston, New York, and other large metro areas in between. They are coming together in Hartford, Connecticut, to take advantage of opportunities that just don’t exist in most other parts of the world. Make sure to follow us for updates on their journey through Demo Day in early February, 2020.