Archive for category: mentors

Meet the 2016 founders!


Meet the founders of the 2016 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars. The companies arrived on February 22 to begin a three-month journey of mentorship, progress, traction and pitching. This is our third accelerator program and the first broadening the scope from a mobile health vertical. The 2016 class of ten early stage startups is building a wide range of products – an interactive robotic smart toy, clickable branded emojis, adtech solutions, data analytics, a trucking logistics platform. Find out more about all ten companies here. The teams have relocated their businesses to Kansas City for three months, coming from all over the world including Paris, Bangalore, Portland, Detroit, Denver, Utah, New York, San Francisco, and for the first time right here in Kansas City. Two local companies are in this year’s class – Super Dispatch is from Kansas City, MO and Mycroft from Lawrence, KS.

We are opening up the Sprint Accelerator for a one time only public event on Tuesday, March 22. Join us and meet the founders, program mentors, Sprint and Techstars staff. Ask the founders about their businesses, help get them connected into Kansas City and tell us about the cool stuff you’re working on. Let’s give the 2016 Sprint Accelerator class a big Kansas City midwest welcome! RSVP HERE to attend our meet the founders event and we’ll see you March 22.

A big thanks to the event sponsors: Economic Development Council of KC, Polsinelli, SendGrid, Sprint Accelerator and Startland News.

Meet the Mentors: David Voran, Truman Medical Center

Dr. David Voran, Informatics Director at Truman Medical Center, will be one of the mentors working with startups participating with the Sprint Accelerator for Mobile Health, powered by Techstars.


When it comes to your health, making small changes at the right time can be big.

“We can dramatically prevent a lot of bad things happening,” said David Voran, Informatics Director at Truman Medical Center.

Voran believes that mobile apps already are helping improve lives in this way and that they are poised to do far more. He is helping to make it happen.

He’ll be one of the mentors working with the entrepreneurs when the first class of startups gathers this spring at the Sprint Accelerator for mobile health, powered by Techstars

The accelerator hasn’t finalized the lineup just yet. Mobile health startups still can apply by the Jan. 6 deadline. Get more details and apply here

Mobile health offers such great promise because apps can be there when a physician, nurse or other health professional can’t, Voran said.

High blood pressure and obesity are examples of potentially devastating problems that can be affected by a patient’s lifestyle choices. Mobile apps can help someone track what they eat, focusing on such things as calories or salt intake to encourage healthful choices.

“A lot of apps provide individuals with immediate feedback,” Voran said.

Voran also is intrigued by apps that utilize sensors built into smartphones. These could help remotely monitor a patient after he returns home from surgery, for example, providing an opportunity to intervene at initial signs of a problem and prevent it from growing to be serious.

When working with mobile health startups, Voran will offer the experience of a physician who knows what information from an app would be medically valuable. He also knows what a patient is likely to use and what they won’t.

This insight will help produce new technology tools that are more likely to be useful for patients and the health professionals who care for them.

“I look at mobile apps and technology around that as absolutely key to enabling us to be more involved in our patients’ lives,” Voran said.

Meet the Mentors: Wayne Carter, Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute

Wayne O. Carter, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, will be one of the mentors working with startups participating with the Sprint Accelerator for Mobile Health, powered by Techstars.


Strong momentum among Kansas City’s life sciences companies could provide a tremendous advantage for mobile health startups.

That’s how Wayne Carter sees it.

Carter, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, said he’s eager to see what might emerge when startups working with the Sprint Accelerator for mobile health tap into the region’s resources.

“There are more and more assets here all the time,” Carter said. “We have a lot of essential components in the area that can help startups take off.”

The greater Kansas City area is home to large companies and fledgling high-tech ventures, bustling research centers, investors and other life sciences experts.

An impressive growth streak emerged when Carter’s organization took its most recent headcount of life sciences firms in the area.

The institute tallied 240 life sciences companies employing 22,000 to 24,000 people. That’s 17 percent growth in the number of companies since 2009 and a 21 percent increase in employment.

“There has been a lot of growth in the life sciences in the greater Kansas City area,” Carter said. “We are really excited about that.”

Before joining the life sciences institute, Carter guided new product discoveries and commercialization for Hill’s Pet Nutrition in Topeka, Kan. He also previously served as an executive director of Global Clinical Technology for Pfizer Human Health in Groton, Conn.

The largest sectors in the Kansas City region’s life sciences industry are biotechnology research and testing, drugs and pharmaceuticals, and software. These all are fields that could benefit tremendously from mobile health technology, Carter said.

Mobile health can monitor a patient in more reliable and detailed ways. This offers the promise, Carter said, of equipping physicians with objective data that can help them make better care decisions.

Researchers developing new drugs also can gain keen insight gathered from monitoring apps rather than having to rely solely on patients reporting on how they are feeling.

“There is so much opportunity for mobile health applications,” Carter said. “I believe it will revolutionize what we are doing in the drug development industry.”

Do you have a mobile health startup? Gain the chance to work with experts such as Carter by applying for the Sprint Accelerator for Mobile Health, powered by Techstars. The application deadline is Jan. 6.


Notes from the road: New York City


After an awesome event in Boston, we headed down the coast to host a similar get-together at Techstars New York.  Over 175 people registered for the event in a space that could hold around 75.  The standing room only crowd added to the energy in the room as we launched into a conversation around the impact a Techstars program has on an entrepreneur and their business (and while doing that downed 40+ pizzas and a couple hundred beers…it was a blast)

Techstars [superstar] Managing Director, Nicole Glaros, addressed the crowd of entrepreneurs who are considering or have recently submitted an application for one of the upcoming programs.  The entrepreneurs in the room had the opportunity to ask questions to a panel filled with Techstars employees, alum and successful CEO’s.

Sellout Crowd @Techstars NYC

In Boston we talked a lot more about the “access” that the ‘powered by’ programs afford you due to the close affiliation with corporations like Nike, Microsoft, Kaplan and Sprint.  The conversation in NYC centered on the powerful global network of mentors that comes with EVERY Techstars program.

Often know as mentor “whiplash,” the first month of the program is spent diving into your business, tearing apart assumptions with facts, getting into the mind of your customer with the help of people who have been there before.  The panelists described this phase to be one of the hardest and most emotional experiences of the Techstars program, but also the most valuable.  Taking this input and utilizing it to build a better business over the next couple months is what makes a Techstars company outperform the market.

The art of pairing up mentors is an organic process.  There isn’t an assigned set of mentors to each team, instead relationships are formed based on expertise and interest.  Over time connections continue to be made and these relationships last far beyond the bounds of the 3 month program…turning into lifetime advisers and friends.

The mentors volunteer their time because of their belief in the “give before you get” mantra at Techstars.  A mentor who approaches a program with this mentality is there for no other personal gain but to help lend their experience to a new business.  In reality, they’re taking just as much away from the experience as the entrepreneur, gaining a new perspective, finding a new partnership opportunity for their business or just a re-awakening of that impossible to describe entrepreneurial mojo.

For the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, we’re lining up a HUGE network of mentors in the life sciences, mobile tech and entrepreneurial eco-systems (check out a portion of the list HERE).  Every one of the people on our list is beyond excited to sit down and spend some meaningful time working with you and your business.

We’ve been talking a lot about unfair advantages lately.  After hearing the alum talk last night, the Techstars network is the true power behind the program…unprecedented access to people who have faced the same problems you are, donating their time to speed you through those obstacles.

If this is the kind of unfair advantage you’re looking for in the mHealth space then APPLY NOW!!

Meeting with Mentors: Sheryl and Kate from Citizen

Mentors are one of the strongest assets surrounding the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator.  We’re assembling a team of mobile wizards, successful entrepreneurs and life sciences experts.  You can check out the current list HERE but when all is said and done, we’ll have HUNDREDS on hand, ready to help you clear any hurdles in building the future of mobile health.

Last week, I had the pleasure of grabbing coffee with a couple mentors as they happened to be passing through Kansas City.  I sat down with Sheryl Maloney (Director of Strategic Partnerships) and Kate Sommers (Director of Operations)  from Citizen and together we geeked out about mobile technology, design, user experience, PDX and KC.

Here’s a brief recap of our conversation:

Erik:  Tell me about Citizen

Sheryl:  Citizen is a global strategy, design and development firm with deeps roots in the mobile industry. Our focus is not just on building apps but rather understanding the intersection of industry, users and technology to be able to build long-term mobile strategies and experiences for our clients and partners

Erik:  What excites you about Mobile Health?

Kate:  I studied International Affairs at college, and now that I work in the mobile space, I always consider how new trends and technologies might have an effect internationally. So along those lines – what most excites me about mobile health is its potential for global healthcare and disease prevention. People in the healthcare industry are already exploring how mobile devices and the mobile ecosystem can be re-purposed to reach communities that have never before had access to premium medical care. Due to the increasing adoption of mobile devices and networks across much of the developing world, there is the opportunity to create inexpensive methods of remote diagnosis as well as new ways to track a patient’s progress.

Sheryl:  What excites me the most about mhealth is the potential it has to more quickly detect and prevent disease globally. With the advancement of global mobile networks and rapid adoption of passive sensors, whether it be through wearable’s or ubiquitous mobile devices, I believe we are sitting on top of a wellspring of data around the physiology of the human body unlike any other time in history. Combining this new data with already known healthcare and behavioral data we will be able to tap a much larger population of people to more accurately predict patterns of prevention. Even more exciting to me is that the low barrier to entry to track and quantify one’s personal data levels the playing field so that the next great cure or advancement may not be detected in a fancy lab or by someone with an advanced degree, but rather by an individuals with a passion for solving problems. 

Erik:  This is a first visit to KC for both of you, what are your first impressions?

Sheryl: Frankly it surprised me.  It was much larger than I imagined and the infrastructure built up around the cultural arts and emerging technology was exciting to feel and see. Being a native of the Midwest who now lives in the heart of techlandia in Portland, I love to see a central city rapidly adopting and ushering in new technology while still maintaining that famous mid-western ethic I grew up around. It is evidences from it’s friendly people and even through the reuse and renovation of old buildings which shows me that KC not only loves and wants to sustain its roots and but also it’s people.  

Kate:  I had heard good things about KC before I came out here (Paris of the Plains, right?). I was delighted to see that the rumors were true. The city has a great, energetic feel, and some great food! I wanted to balance out all the (very delicious) BBQ I’ve been eating, so we found some awesome salads today at The Westside Local.

Erik:  You both have signed on to be mentors for the program, but typically you benefit just as much as the entrepreneurs.  What are you hoping to learn?

Kate:  I’m really looking forward to learning about the different ways people are approaching the space. It will also be great to see how the teams adapt and collaborate once the accelerator is up and running.

Sheryl:  Having been a mentor for a previous Techstars program in the past I find that I am always surprised by the wealth of knowledge the teams and mentors bring to the table. I also love the collaborative spirit and long-lasting friendships that develop between teams and mentors.  More of that please! 

On behalf of the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, we’re super pumped to have people like Sheryl and Kate as part of the program.  They’re talented people who will bring some great expertise to you and your startup.

If you are tackling a huge problem in the Mobile Health space and want to surround yourself with talented mentors, hit the apply button or click HERE to start working on that application!  We’re keeping them open until January 6th…don’t wait!