Rockstart Answers Nijmegen: A Spotlight on Digital Health

With a selection of breakfast food spread across two tables in the middle of the spacious, industrial room in Rockstart’s Nijmegen office, the fourth Answers event of the year was ready to rock. In front of this spread were rows of white chairs facing a projector screen, where our Digital Health program director, Casper Smeets, would soon be giving an introductory speech to those in attendance. The people who would soon come to fill these seats and eat this food were investors, associates, experts, and fellow founders of the three entrepreneurs who would pitch their early-stage startups. With a casual atmosphere and relaxed setting, this event provides a safe space for startups to get practical experience in pitching their products. The point here is not to be perfect, but to get feedback and advice, and hopefully build connections.

This was just one in a series of Rockstart Answers events that takes place in over 20 cities around the world. The next event is happening this Thursday, May 4, in Barcelona, but it was in the Netherlands’ own Health Valley that we caught up with Rockstart’s Digital Health program associate Lotte Jorissen. As an organizer of this event, Lotte was able to share her insight on the hurdles that come with developing a startup in the healthcare world, and why these Answers events are beneficial to the emerging startups who are selected to pitch.

Health change happens with startups

Situated in the heart of Health Valley, Nijmegen provides the perfect location for Digital Health startups thanks to the accessibility and proximity of medical facilities and organizations, including Radboud University Medical Center. But being in the right place is not all it takes to make it in the healthcare world. Casper kicked off the event over Skype, where he mentioned that it is especially difficult to start a Digital Health startup. In regards to these difficulties, Lotte expanded, “the reason why it’s hard to get something done in healthcare is because you have an industry that works in different ways. You have your product, and then you want the healthcare professionals to prescribe that to your patients and they are in turn kind of bossed around by the insurance companies. It’s very hard—they’re choiceless—so if you want to do something in healthcare, you need to get so many stakeholders together to actually get to where you want to be.”

Overcoming obstacles is a big part of entrepreneurship, so these hoops should be leapt through with persistence just like they would be in any other industry. Casper also stated in his introduction that he believes it is possible for Digital Health startups to change the real world, and to be able to do that, it is necessary to build an ecosystem which can cater to the Digital Health domain. His goal is to make the Netherlands the number one digital health market wherein it will be possible to impact lives worldwide.

Answers for all

This was the third time that an Answers event was held in Nijmegen, and the second time that there was a singular focus on Digital Health startups. Typically, these events are open across all industries, with the organizers selecting five startups who ultimately get to pitch. How the event works is each presenter gets three minutes to pitch, three minutes of Q&A, and three minutes for the audience to fill out feedback forms. This format is meant to be beneficial for the startups, as it feels more like a brainstorm session with knowledgeable participants than it does a formal pitching platform. The three startups who pitched in Nijmegen were DigestInn, a game for treating overweight and obese clients; Beter Na Borstkanker, an app that helps women get back on track after breast cancer; and Ulivio, a service that releases medical records to patients and third parties. Lotte mentioned that one of the presenters had already given her positive feedback, relaying, “she said, ‘I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to be here’ and she said the questions were just really thought-provoking.” The participants also made note of how cozy the event was, which is part of the overall appeal.

The event is not only enticing for the startups, though; the casual atmosphere and informal approach to knowledge-sharing is also a boon for those in attendance. Lotte says, “I like the concept… I do think it attracts the audience because it’s five times ten minutes—it’s, ‘I just skip my morning and then I can be back in the office at lunch and have the rest of my day to work on my regular thing,’ so that’s a good concept.” It doesn’t require a lot of commitment, and it’s as much about networking and building bonds as it is about the pitches themselves.

While Nijmegen catered to a more specific audience, the upcoming Barcelona Answers event will no doubt host a different set of pitches and products. Each event naturally has its own character, depending on where it takes place in the world—and it’s because of this that we are planning on sharing more stories about our individual Answers events and their nuances. So be sure to take a look at our upcoming events to see if there’s one near you! Don’t miss out, be a part of the Answers.

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