SmartBridge – Improving Health Outcomes for Cancer Patients

In this interview we talked to Hua Wang, co-founder of SmartBridge and a member of Rockstart’s 2016 Digital Health Accelerator. Hua joined forces with Dr. Jeremy Force, Dr. Chris Mecoli, and Paul Peou to connect patients with world-class oncologists for phone consultations and expert second opinions.  

“We democratize access to top oncologists”

The SmartBridge co-founders worked in global firms and institutions.  Hua was a private investment funds lawyer at Proskauer and a healthcare strategy consultant at Accenture, Paul was part of a leadership team that took a startup from idea to IPO, Dr. Mecoli is a rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins, and Dr. Force is an oncologist at the Duke Cancer Institute.

When Hua and Dr. Mecoli came up with the idea of SmartBridge, they applied and was selected for the Washington Post Millennial Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition.  They pitched SmartBridge to an audience of over 500 people, and received great feedback from the audience.  Hua recalls that “they were lining up to learn more about it. That’s what really got us thinking that we might have something here. A few months later we received a grant from the Chilean government, which validated our idea and showed us that there was something to build on.”

“We want to make optimal cancer care accessible and affordable for all.”

Hua goes on to explain that they noticed a lot of inefficiency in healthcare.  It can take weeks, months or even a year to reach an oncologist.  Imagine the stress, worry and fear of trying to find the right information and the right oncologists when cancer cells are growing exponentially in your body.

“We are recruiting top oncologists trained and working at the best cancer institutions in the world,” Hua said. “Our oncologists can provide guidance on your diagnosis and treatment plan, look at treatment options in your area, and recommend you for clinical trials that you qualify for.  Over half of patients who get second opinions end up changing their treatment plans.”

As with any new startup, facing challenges is a part of the daily grind. Hua describes becoming the trusted source for cancer care as the most challenging hurdle for SmartBridge to overcome. “We are developing our sales strategy now.  We learned that patients trust large cancer foundations and organizations, and are reluctant to use a cancer startup that they have not heard of.  Our initial customers were friends of friends, people who know and can vouch for us.  We are now focused on creating partnerships with key cancer organizations to create that same level of trust,” she explained.

“By working with Rockstart in Nijmegen and opening a branch office in the Netherlands, we want to focus on UK/Netherlands as a key market.”

Hua is very impressed with the Rockstart Digital Health accelerator. “We really found our product-market fit at Rockstart.  We are grateful to be a part of this incredible community of hustlers and dreamers from around the world.”  

Also on Rockstart Accelerator