With its complex and often cumbersome delivery system, changing technology, and built-in customer base, the healthcare industry is a sector ripe for disruption.
It can be agonizingly slow, with clinical trials for new medicines and treatments often taking years. It’s very often infuriatingly selective, with the best care often reserved for the most privileged. And, particularly in the United States, paying for healthcare is unduly confusing and sometimes prohibitively expensive, especially for underserved populations.
Just the right landscape, it seems, for an entrepreneurial-minded MBA to make an impact.
“Coming from Canada to pursue an MBA/MPH at Berkeley Haas, it was eye-opening to understand the inner workings of the US healthcare system. Payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, PBMs — there are so many healthcare stakeholders that start with P — yet patients are often the last considered,” Amy Fan, cofounder, CEO, and president of Twentyeight Health told Poets&Quants in 2020 when we selected her healthcare startup one of our most disruptive MBA startups of the year.
At Berkeley, Fan experienced first-hand the difficulties of navigating the healthcare system. She was not able to see an OB-GYN for over two years because her insurance coverage changed and she had trouble finding an in-network provider who was also accepting new patients.
“Seeing the challenges that many patients face across the board, I wanted to find a better way for individuals to get needed healthcare services,” she said.
HIGHEST FUNDED HEALTHCARE MBA STARTUPS OF 2023
With total funding of $16 million to date, Twentyeight Health is among the highest-funded healthcare startups founded by an MBA over the last five years.
Each year, Poets&Quants compiles a list of the 100 highest-funded startups over the last five years. For 2023’s list, a startup had to be founded between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2022, and must have had at least one MBA founder during that same timeframe.
One fifth of this year’s startups on 2023’s list were founded to solve some problem in the healthcare industry. They range from artificial intelligence-enabled tools for diagnosing kidney disease to 3D printed teeth aligners as an alternative to braces. Altogether, the 20 startups raised $1.15 billion in total funding to date.
In the following pages, we look at each of these MBA-founded healthcare startups to get a sense of the depth and variety of opportunity in the industry.
MBA Founders: Giovanni Colella and Naomi Allen, Columbia Business School
Total Raised: $212 million
Latest Funding Round: $10 million Series C July 2022
Brightline is a platform delivering virtual behavioral health services to children, teens, and their families. It connects licensed child/adolescent therapists and psychiatrists, as well as behavioral health coaches, with patients through telehealth visits, care plans, appointment tracking and more.
MBA Founder: Koenraad Wiedhaup, Columbia Business School
Total Raised: $187.00 million
Latest Funding Round: $140 million Series B Jan 2022
Leyden Labs is a biotech targeting viral families to protect humanity from known and future viruses. It is developing nasal sprays and other products to stop respiratory infections “at the gate” – the nose, according to its website.
Its Series A investors were led by Casdin Capital and GV (formerly Google Ventures). Wiedhaup, MBA, is the cofounder and CEO.
MBA Founder: Tim Knickerbocker, UCLA Anderson School of Management
Total Raised: $174.9 million
Latest Funding Round: $115M Series B Nov 2022
Tim Knickerbocker was building MBX Biosciences as an Executive MBA candidate at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. The biotech works to improve treatment of endocrine disorders through peptide therapies.
Knickerbocker, EMBA ‘21, moved from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, home to a vibrant life science community. As COO, it was his job to figure out the best way to apply the technology. The company raised $2.5 million to begin research based on its scientific credibility and an excellent business plan, he tells Poets&Quants. It closed a $34.5 million Series A funding round and has raised $174.9 million to date, making it the third highest funded healthcare startup founded by an MBA.
“It was quite intriguing to discuss financing deals in the (EMBA) classroom on Sunday, then negotiate a term sheet on Monday. You hear a lot about the real world being the only true education, but at Anderson, the real world was present in the classroom,” Knickerbocker told P&Q earlier this year.
Knickerbocker stepped away from MBX at the end of last year. He relocated to San Diego and is now working to launch two new biotech startups, both aimed at tackling huge health challenges facing people across the world. Knickerbocker went into biotech to do something bigger than himself, and he works on the business side to help talented scientists bring their discoveries to market.
NEXT PAGE: MBA Healthcare Startups Renalytix AI, Revelle Aesthetics, Osmind, and Gravitiq
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