Smaller organizations also can leverage their talent to serve larger companies. For example, TreeHouse Health, a healthcare innovation center started by former UnitedHealth executive Dr. John Blank; his son, Jeffrey Blank; and Joe Whitney in 2013, has partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to both share and gain insights into the transforming healthcare industry.
“The ecosystem that we have in this marketplace, I believe, rivals that of the coasts,” said Laurie Healy, director of marketing and communications of CoCo, a group of coworking spaces that are home to about a dozen healthcare startups in the Twin Cities. “There's a really strong entrepreneurial backbone here to help these companies grow.”
In the Twin Cities, “there are industry leaders in virtually every sector of healthcare,” said Jeffrey Blank, managing director of TreeHouse Health, adding that his goal is to create an ecosystem. The group's portfolio companies include app creator Pops Diabetes Care and software firm Carrot Health. Last August, TreeHouse announced a partnership with consulting firm Accenture that will help guide TreeHouse's startups.
Minnesota may lead the Midwest in funding healthcare tech startups, but it's still a small market compared to Silicon Valley and Massachusetts. Yet what it lacks in the number of companies, it makes up for in the concentration of patents: Minnesota leads the country for health technology patents per capita, with 55.72 patent grants and applications for every 100,000 people, followed by Northern California, according to Medical Alley.
Minnesota also makes up for it in expertise, Jeffrey Blank said. “Many of the entrepreneurs that we work with oftentimes have deep sector expertise and understand how healthcare is delivered and paid for.
“There's not necessarily the same volume of healthcare companies as in other markets,” he said, “but the quality of companies that are coming out of here is as good as anywhere.”