Last week, Martin Kelly, partner at the IBM Venture Capital Group, spoke with Doctorpreneurs to give us the lowdown on the new Dublin-based Health Accelerator Programme, HealthXL. The programme is due to launch this February with applications open until December 23rd. For those who want to find out more, here’s a video to whet your appetites. You may also be interested in the pre-accelerator event taking place this Friday – HXL Checkup – further details of which below!


November 2012




Martin, tell us more about the HealthXL programme

Startup Bootcamp’s HealthXL is a three-month business startup acceleration programme based in Dublin. Our aim is to help health startups across Europe prepare to gain funding, find customers and scale up in both European and global markets. We have taken the accelerator model which is starting to be very interesting in the tech world, and applied it to digital health. It’s one of the newest accelerators in Europe and is the result of a collaboration between corporates, entrepreneurs and public sector organisations.


Why have you chosen to focus the programme on health specifically?

HealthXL is specifically designed for startups disrupting healthcare with breakthrough technology and is tailored to the needs of startups in the health sector. We think that healthcare is the world’s biggest problem and digital technology in particular can really help disrupt the area. More so, this disruption should be led by entrepreneurs.


What makes HealthXL different from other accelerator programmes?

The programme is specifically run by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, and offers much needed support for the startups.  Whilst it is entrepreneur-led, HealthXL Dublin also has strategic partners including well known corporates, thus offering brand credibility, in terms of global reach as well as deep scientific and commercial skills, so you get the best of both worlds! It will operate in a way that is driven by what the entrepreneur needs and at the same time adds value through the corporate partners.


Can you tell us more about those running the programme and HealthXL’s partners?

The program is run by experienced entrepreneurs and backed by leading global health investors, medical professionals and corporates including IBM, GSK, Novartis, Nesta, Enterprise Ireland, and an investment group; Personal  Health Solutions (PHS) to name a few. The guys running the programme are all entrepreneurs and include some great names from a variety of backgrounds ranging from doctors, health entrepreneurs and ex-pharma executives to technology savvy entrepreneurs.


Can you give us an idea of what the programme is like?

The focus will be on exposing and connecting startups to our expanding global community of top-level mentors and advisors.  The programme is structured to allow teams to attend certain events and classes but we really think the power of this programme is the network that it provides startups access to. We will try to help teams to understand and identify areas they may need help in and then pinpoint mentors we think can best support them. This makes it more personalised. The teams will have to physically relocate to Dublin for the 3 months in order to partake in the mentoring programme in particular and they will be provided with co-working space, a stone’s throw away from Google, Facebook and a lot of the tech companies, large pharmaceutical companies and med-tech companies as well. So proximity is key, and it’s right in downtown Dublin. Teams also receive a small amount of seed capital – €15,000 – and in exchange for the capital, as well as all the other benefits of being part of the programme, HealthXL receives 8% equity in their startup. The event will then culminate in an investor day at the end where teams will have a chance to pitch their ideas to investors.


Any tips on how to be a successful applicant?

  1. Be 100% committed –  joining HealthXL requires total focus and availability. It is unrealistic to combine the accelerator programme with a day job, studies or any other distraction.
  2. Be a team! Teams with a nice balance and mix of skills – with tech experts, commercial experts and industry experts would be ideal. We don’t have a bias towards age or gender, just a preference for those with an ambition to change the world and a complementary set of skills amongst the team that we believe can get there.
  3. Be coachable and ready to act on the best advice.
  4. Show some passion, resilience, determination and perseverance. Although money is important, building a business can talk a long time so you have to be motivated by more than money.
  5. Having a track record such as a beta product, or a previous start up would be good. You should really have something you can show to customers, so it can’t just be an idea. There has to be some sort of market engagement as well.


You also have a pre-accelerator event coming up soon I believe?

We have an event starting this Friday, 30th November, called HXL Checkup Weekend– the tag line is the doctor will see your business now. We get approached by doctors saying that they have a great idea but they don’t have the technical skill, and by tech entrepreneurs who really need help with understanding the industry and clinical part. So we are trying to bring them together, tailoring the weekend to focus around health. Our aim is that clinicians come with problems that they are interested in finding solutions for, and then instead of building a prototype and coding something which is typical over a startup weekend, we say don’t do that but instead spend the time to figure out what the business model is.

The event is open to any individuals or teams who are interested in bringing their skills or ideas to bear on one of the world’s biggest problems. We want to hear from not only individuals or teams who already have a solution to a health problem but, also individuals that have skills and ideas that could help develop IT solutions to health problems. We believe that even very mature entrepreneurs and teams will get a lot out of this and investors – both angels and VCs – will be there along with corporate partners.

On top of that we are going to have a number of our international mentors coming in or skyping in and on the Sunday teams will pitch their solutions to our Healthxl Panel of experts including Dr Johnny Walker, Jim Joyce, Martin Kelly, Eoghan Jennings and Dr Conor Hanley. There’s going to be a great group of people coming.

The weekend will conclude with The Healthies 2012, the first digital health awards hosted by HealthXL and Global Corporate Venturing. The winners will be recognized at an exclusive dinner where the keynote is Prof Ken Morse, founder of 6 companies including 3Com and someone who travels the world helping entrepreneurs to build and sell global businesses.


More details here: 

HXL Checkup – 30th Nov 2012

HXL Checkup will bring medics, engineers, designers, marketers and startup enthusiasts together to share ideas, form teams and launch startups!   It is a weekend-long, hands-on experience where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if their digital health startup idea is viable.  Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas and practicing the  LEAN Startup Methodology. The weekend culminates on Sunday evening with teams presenting in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback. Book your place here: eventbrite


Great so if people are interested, how do they find out more and how do they apply?

It’s all on the website: They can read more about upcoming events and there are videos online which showcases some of the directors and mentors. The application contains about 10-15 questions, so the application process is quite light. That’s because all we want to do is to start a conversation. We think the most interesting thing is the dialogue that happens with the teams rather than what’s written on the form.