By Jin Wu
Governor Bruce Rauner, Senator Dick Durbin and Mayor Rahm Emanuel marked the official opening of MATTER, Chicago’s new entrepreneurship and innovation incubator in the Merchandise Mart for digital healthcare, medical devices, diagnostics and biopharma start-ups, to “get Illinois’ healthcare technology booming.”
MATTER, the not-for-profit incubator, has already got its first groups of members; more than 100 healthcare entrepreneurs moved into the open space last week and dozens more will move in in a couple weeks, according to MATTER’s CEO Steven Collens.
MATTER was born under public and private collaboration, with totally an $8 million input. By creating personalized curriculums, workshops and inviting experts to be mentors, MATTER is trying to bridge healthcare and technology.
“Right now, there’s just so much lag work involved with identifying someone who understands healthcare, and MATTER brings it all together,” said Star Cunningham, the founder of 4D Healthware, a member of MATTER that focuses on increasing patient engagement and changing lifestyle through a web-based dashboard. “Now we have a home. As a healthcare start-up, I am surrounded by people who want to help us succeed and also understand the changes that need to be done in healthcare.”
Dr. Dana Edelson is the founder of Quant HC, one of the first members of MATTER. It develops an algorithm to send medical staff alerts about a patient’s deteriorating condition by analyzing aggregated data. She said it was MATTER that made her business possible. “MATTER provides us the access to mentors, colleagues, capital and also others in the curriculum,” she said. “To be frank, I would be too terrified to start if I do it alone.”
As part of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT, MATTER got a one-time $4 million funding from the Illinois government. MATTER is expected to boost the Illinoi’s economy and improve Illinoi healthcare system by incubating healthcare start-ups.
“Innovation jobs have a ripple effect on the workforce by creating more jobs and growing the economy,” said Gov. Rauner, “Nothing is more important than the economic future and prosperity to the state of Illinois. Bringing healthcare and technology together, leveraging the resources, the knowledge, the relationship, and the expertise in healthcare, are especially important.”
In the press release, Sen. Durbin also mentioned the benefits MATTER will bring to Illinois’ economy. “MATTER’s opening is great news for Chicago’s healthcare economy. The region already has a dynamic healthcare community with world-class companies, but MATTER will take us to the next level. Innovation requires a collaboration approach, and MATTER will give industry leaders and startups a chance to work together to bring next-generation products and services to improve care and save lives.”
The speakers said that MATTER would be a key contributor to the city’s economy ecosystem. Mayor Emanuel emphasized that at the grand opening. “By empowering entrepreneurs in the growing field of health innovation technology, MATTER will create new jobs, attract new companies, and make Chicago more economically competitive for years to come,” he declared.
The digital healthcare industry experienced a sharp growth in 2014 and is expected to keep growing in the future, Collens said.
“[The digital healthcare growth] is a tsunami right now,” said James L. Madara, M.D., CEO of the American Medical Association, which announced its partnership with MATTER last week. “We see the change from dominantly inpatient to dominantly outpatient in the last century, and over the quarters of century, it will change from dominantly outpatient to dominantly home. So physician’s offices will be virtual and a lot of digital healthcare will come out. The problem is how do you organize that and make that efficient. We are working with digital community and thinking about that now.
Sen. Durbin said: “We work hard in Washington to come up with more efficient and cost-effective healthcare for America and the world. That is going to explode here on an entrepreneurial basis. Whether it’s medical records or new technology, the object is just to keep people healthier with lower-cost while without scarifying quality healthcare to individuals.”
According to a latest Accenture report, Chicago is the number six tech destination in U.S., but mayor Emanuel sets the goal high. “Six isn’t good enough. Now we have MATTER, the foundation has been laid to boost Chicago’s technology innovation further.” He said that he believes Chicago could be the “hub for digital manufacturing,“ and Gov. Rauner envisioned Chicago to be the “capital of America for healthcare innovation.”
Although expecting to have further support from the government, Collens said MATTER would have to rely on its own sustainable revenues starting from today, which are mainly from membership fees and corporation partnerships.
Collens said the ample resources MATTER has aggregated are helping struggling healthcare start-ups improve, expand, and succeed.
“We have office hours with investors, partners, people who are all involved in the ecosystem of healthcare. So they are really able to help you,” Cunningham said. “If they don’t know how to do it, chances are they know someone who know how to get you what you need.“
MATTER will hold its first workshop for members in late February, Collens said.