Does Your Startup Need a Breakout? Hang Out By the Cheese Cubes

For a startup to succeed, it needs a breakout idea, investor, or user. If your startup is attending conferences in hopes of finding one, try hanging out by the free food.

When I attend a conference, I usually make sure to go to three places first—the free breakfast table, the vendor area to check the new toys, and the president's reception where you get all-you-can-eat cheese cubes and boxed wine. There is just something about doctors and free food.

When I go to the vendor areas at a digital health conference, many booths are populated with startup digital health company CEOs. You can tell they are startups because they are wearing golf shirts with logos, they have high-tech demos and very few giveaways at their tables. More importantly, they are there because they are looking for three types of breakouts: Help building a breakout product, a breakout end-user/customer, or a breakout investor. You usually don't get one without the others.

For startups, getting the attention of life science companies or BIG PAYERS or BIG HEALTH SYSTEMS is challenging.

Take, for example, an analytics company that offers a product to reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in a given population by bundling “all we know about pre-diabetic behavior change.” When I asked if they had any data that it works, they said they were looking for a hospital interested in testing it.

Creating a breakout product, finding a breakout customer, and securing a breakout investor are at the top of the list when it comes to filling the digital health design, development, validation, testing, deployment, and post-deployment surveillance gaps.

I suspect most will be disappointed and go home empty handed. However, since we all underestimate how much luck plays in our success, you never know. That person eating all those cheese cubes next to you might be the EVP for Strategy at GE Healthcare or Aetna who was trying to find you at the meeting.