How to land an incubator spot and score a big partnership
AdhereTech, a New York-based company that makes smart pill bottles to improve medication adherence and patient engagement, has landed pilot deals with two major pharmaceutical companies, said co-founder and CEO Josh Stein. "If you're building a healthcare company," he said, "it's really important to have a partnership with a bigger company than you at some point."
But the road to that partnership, especially for healthcare companies, often begins at an incubator, Stein said. AdhereTech graduated from the incubator Blueprint Health, which Stein said paved the way for mentorship opportunities, office space, funding and more. The company is now part of another incubator, StartUp Health, which helped it secure a partnership with GE. "Without the incubator" Stein said, "it's very hard to get people to pick up your phone call."
How can a startup increase its chances of landing a coveted spot in an incubator? "Go as far as you can before you apply," Stein said. Have a product -- or at least a good mockup -- and customer feedback before you start the application process, he said. Be aware that incubators select companies based on a variety of factors, two of the most important being team and traction, Stein said.
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Stein:
Filter your advice -- Though smart people in the healthcare field have heaped praise on AdhereTech's product, Stein said, others have given questionable recommendations. Two equally intelligent and experienced mentors, he said, could offer the opposite advice. Before accepting every idea for your company, Stein said, consider the source. "Don't take everything that everyone says as gospel," he said. "Understand who is saying what. Give thoughtful consideration to everything people tell you."
Don't compare your company to others -- AdhereTech was the only hardware company in its Blueprint Health class and Stein said he learned not to compare the startup's progress to that of software firms. "Being a hardware company is really unique," he said. "We're a different company building a different sort of animal." While software companies can breeze through the installation of new features, Stein said, hardware companies face a longer, more complicated and more expensive endeavor. "If you're a hardware company, to put in a new feature is a redesign process," Stein said. "Do not compare your company and your company's traction and development to other companies."
Don't give up too soon -- The No. 1 skill every entrepreneur should try to develop is perseverance, Stein said. Keep working toward your goal, he said, even through the ups and downs. "You have to stay with it to get to the point where you know if it will or won't work," Stein said. "Once you get there, be honest with yourself."
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