Baptist Health, Innovation Hub to Launch Health Care Accelerator

Baptist Health, Innovation Hub to Launch Health Care Accelerator
Unveiling the new HubX logo on Friday were (from left) Baptist Health's Grejuana Dennis, Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells, Innovation Hub Director Warwick Sabin and Gov. Asa Hutchinson. (Mark Carter)

Baptist Health and the Innovation Hub are launching a health-care startup accelerator, officials announced Friday.

Organizers said the privately funded, industry-specific program represents a first of its kind in the state. The Hub will administer the program with help from Iron Yard Ventures Digital Health Accelerator of Greenville, South Carolina.

Baptist Health will provide the money. CEO Troy Wells couldn't provide an exact figure but said his organization's investment in the accelerator was "six figures." The HubX program will support and accelerate health-care startups beginning next spring from the Hub's Argenta Innovation Center in downtown North Little Rock.

More: Read more comments from Arkansas officials and tech community members to the HubX program.

The program will launch with five to 10 startups, each of which will receive seed money of $25,000 to $50,000 and will also qualify for additional back-end investments. Startups will be selected based on potential in the following prioritized areas as identified by Baptist Health: digital health-care platforms, health-care services and medical devices.

Much like the publicly funded ARK Challenge accelerator that Sabin directed last year in Little Rock, HubX will solicit applications from startups across the globe.

Program participants will make use of the Hub's Launch Pad maker space and Silver Mine co-working space. They'll also have the run of Baptist facilities across the state.

Jeff Stinson will direct the program. Stinson, executive director of Fund for Arkansas' Future and former director of TechLaunch at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was hired earlier this year to lead the Silver Mine as well as the Hub's Arkansas Innovation Fund.

The program will run for 13 weeks from April to June. The Iron Yard will provide expertise, training, its network of mentors and other assets. Hub Director Warwick Sabin said the affiliation with the Iron Yard, in addition to the commitment of a major Arkansas corporation like Baptist Health, was important to lend HubX instant credibility. He called the Iron Yard's health-care accelerator one of the top five rated programs in the country.

The Iron Yard also operates coding schools across the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, and earlier this year opened a campus in downtown Little Rock.

Sabin said the Hub plans to introduce other industry-specific accelerators under the HubX umbrella and noted that more corporate sponsors for the first installment may be forthcoming. The official name for the accelerator devoted to health care is HubX Life Sciences. 

Wells said Baptist had been looking into startup investment opportunities and had even considered starting its own innovation fund. Baptist Health will have "first dibs" on any startups coming out of the program, he said. Details regarding Baptist Health employees participating in the program and possible ownership issues resulting from any successful startups that come out of it are still being worked out, he said.

Sabin said the announcement marks a huge step in the evolution of the Arkansas tech startup ecosystem and called the involvement of a corporate partner like Baptist a tipping point. 

"Somebody needed to go first and be the leader, and Baptist went first," he said. 

A privately funded, industry-specific accelerator is new to Arkansas and still a fairly unique thing nationwide, he said. 

"Our state has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health-care delivery, and we applaud Baptist Health for taking this bold step to support and accelerate the development of new technologies and creative approaches to meet those needs," Sabin said.