Democratisation of startups in the healthcare industry – transcript

Ideas to Innovation - Season Two


Jerry Harrison: I think the recent pandemic has given us a look into the future about what can be accomplished without going to the doctors or going to the hospital. It also has shown when it really is required for you to go. I think that everything has been accelerated by we need to have home testing, we need to have a way for you to then talk to a physician and then him or her to feel confident in prescribing either a test or even perhaps a drug for you.

Intro: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.

Neville Hobson: The healthcare industry worldwide is changing. Hospitals and health systems in many countries are struggling to control costs, increase revenues, train and retain skilled employees and treat and care for patients. In the business of health care, new approaches and ideas are coming to the fore as part of this journey to transform healthcare and ultimately change patients’ lives.

Welcome to Ideas to Innovation Season Two, I’m Neville Hobson. Joining me in this episode is Mike Ward, Global Head of Life Sciences and Healthcare Thought Leadership at Clarivate. As both a journalist and analyst, Mike has been writing, analysing and commenting on the life sciences industry for more than 35 years. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Ward: Yes, thanks, Neville. Happy to be here.

Neville: Great. With the inclusion of a special guest on this episode, we’ll talk about the democratisation of startups in the healthcare space, where the new approaches to investment connect financial and human capital to healthcare startups as a community that shares knowledge, interest and passion for healthcare innovation. And we’ll examine how innovation is bringing some startling ideas to life.

Our special guest is an American songwriter, musician, producer, and entrepreneur. He began his professional music career as a member of Cult Band Modern Lovers in the early 1970s. Later that decade, he became a keyboardist and guitarist for a New Wave rock band that’s been described as one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ’80s.

In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Talking Heads. I am, of course, talking about Jerry Harrison. Welcome, Jerry, thanks for joining us today.

Jerry Harrison: It’s my pleasure.

Neville: We’re going to talk a bit about your background. I’m intrigued with one question to start us off, Jerry. It’s quite a journey from being part of two rock bands, being a solo artist, getting a degree from Harvard University, record producer, co-founder of GarageBand, and then founder of RedCrow, a web-based direct investment platform that you recently sold to Alira Health.

My question is this, how and why did you make the leap from making music to helping healthcare startups change the world through innovation as a way to change people’s lives? Why are you so passionate about this?

Jerry: I think that one part of this is when I moved to San Francisco from New York City, the startup community and what was going on with the merging of audio and computers that I had been a keen, let’s just say user of because I was an early user of synthesizers that had memories, early samplers, and many of these companies were based in San Francisco.

Also, when I got to San Francisco, a good friend of mine from college had a very sophisticated microprocessor company that went through a near-death experience, and I joined the board. Which gave me all of these, you might say lessons of the pitfalls that could happen to companies because they had gone through just an amazing cycle. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that all worked out in the end, but it was quite a battle and quite a journey.

Then I was invited to become one of the co-founders of, which was really the first company to do what we would call crowdsourcing. The idea was before, as a record company, you spend money on music that you pre-tested. The idea was using audio over the internet, which of course, at that time was not the kind of audio that you would want for your collection, but certainly good enough to identify a good sound, that we would gather information and to a degree run almost like a contest, but with an algorithm that analysed people’s preferences and adjusted for their preferences, so as to get a cleaner data about something that was new and exciting.

That then progressed to me being involved on the board of directors of a number of companies that were about music and the internet, that then one of them,, morphed into iLike, which was the first company to allow you to share playlists across the internet. It became a success when it was introduced on Facebook when they opened up their platform and eventually was sold to MySpace.

I then met a scientist who had an idea about saving lives of people who had been bitten by a snake and I learned about what an incredible problem this really is, particularly in the developing world. I thought this would be something easy, that would be perhaps an introduction to someone who I knew at the Gates Foundation. Well, that was a decade ago and we realised that we had to start a company, that had to be a lot more money raised than a nonprofit was really going to give us. I’m happy to say we’re in clinical trials right now in India and the United States.

Which led me to RedCrow, which was an idea that Brian Smith, my co-founder, brought to me. As I started discussing it, I said, “Well, I’ll be happy to give you ideas that I’ll be on your board of directors,” but as we got further along, and I got excited about it and I thought many of the ideas I was bringing to it maybe required me to be a co-founder so as to see those ideas through, and that’s how I ended up here.

Neville: That’s quite a journey, don’t you think, Mike?

Mike: Yes, no, absolutely. It’s interesting, Jerry, the way that you also explained how the evolution of technology has almost accelerated that process and made the conversation topic for us at Clarivate is actually how we help customers access connected data and solutions across the entire healthcare ecosystem, yet, still keeping the patient journey at the heart of everything that we do and the companies do.

It sounds like with the work that you’ve been doing with RedCrow over the years, you’ve had similar goals. I’m just wondering, how has the advent of new technologies paved the way for creating the healthcare solutions, many of which are potentially life-changing?

Jerry: Well, I think that the first thing that people are becoming aware of– this is worldwide, I mean, the world has many well-discussed here in the United States versions of health care, some are completely run by the state, some are a state-private partnership, even the United States would be considered that since we have Medicare.

I believe that the patient is going to become much, much more of a partner in maintaining and helping to diagnose what’s going on with them. I mean, we’ve always had the traditional conversation when you go to the doctor, “How are you feeling?” “Oh, I don’t feel so well.” “Well, what’s wrong?” “Well, that really is nothing,” or, “Wait a moment, we’d better delve into that further.”

As human resources have gotten more expensive, I think everyone’s experienced the frustration of a visit with a doctor that is it took too long to get the visit and a situation has progressed further and you wish you could have seen them either weeks or months ago, or that you leave the office going, “Oh, I forgot to talk about this,” or, “They just seem so rushed, I wasn’t sure they were paying attention to me.”

Even the bureaucracy that has now been attached to what doctors must file in their notes and in various things like this is a distraction for them. So things like telehealth and being able to be involved with your doctor in different kinds of ways, ways that are more efficient with both of your times are the beginning. But I think you, both Clarivate and RedCrow see this as a far broader synergy and coalition of how people take care of themselves and doctors help them to do it.

Mike: You mentioned in your introductory remarks how you’d been inspired by the snakebite treatment company that is now moving into clinical trials. I just wondered are there other standout examples of breakthrough ideas that you’ve actually been involved with at RedCrow?

Also because just the business model that you’ve got, where it is your crowdsourcing or crowdfunding of these healthcare startups, what do you think would be as the secret sauce or the secret recipe for success for startups in the healthcare space who want to take that route?

Jerry: Well, first of all, let me tell you success, that’s where you started. And this is fairly simple, but it shows how a simple idea still can be so important. There was a company that came onto the RedCrow platform called AngelEye and AngelEye provided a camera that would feed into the hospital Wi-Fi system, but with the proper safeguards about data sharing and things like that. It would allow a mother, a father, but also grandparents to view a premature baby that was being taken care of by specialists, usually the nurses and anyone who has ever gone through this, the parents are constantly wanting to check on the health of the child and the viability and any problems going on, which means they want to come in and at least look at their newborn.

But this sometimes gets in the way of the work of the specialists who are helping to keep, at the most extreme, the baby alive, but also the baby comfortable and to allow it to progress to the point that it can leave the NICU.

This idea of being able to check in on the health of your child without interrupting that process was a very simple breakthrough. It also allowed perhaps a grandparent or certainly an interested party, other siblings who weren’t going to be able to spend time flying across the country and certainly staying there during what could be a month or two, to have some ability to check in with not just a phone call to the parents, to nervously hear what’s going on.

As it works out, after being on the RedCrow platform for a pretty short time, they were purchased by GE and became part of the General Electric Health division. They were a perfect example of an idea that was not overly expensive to deal with, but nobody had thought of.

I think that we see it RedCrow that we offer companies first of all an ability to reach out to a wider variety of investors, who like the idea of getting in on the ground floor with all of its risks compared to investing later– startups have perhaps a 1 in 10 level of success, but also they look at say, this company is doing something that affected me personally, either someone close to me or even myself went through a process that was disappointing or difficult or painful or something that you do could be improved.

If you see a company on RedCrow that is making a product or a system or something that can improve that experience and you have personal information for it, not only could that make you interested in investing in that company, but it also could make you want to give comments that would help that company be a company, help it have a better idea, help it head off where it’s going to do its primary marketing, because maybe the information you give it says, “These are the people that you should start reach out to first, because we have already have knowledge about this.”

Mike: Yes. it’s a great example, AngelEye, as you were talking about it, I was just thinking like all the brilliant ideas, it’s why didn’t any of you think of that before? I could imagine that the almost like the simplicity of the message would actually be something that would attract investors to the story.

The other thing that I asked and maybe I convoluted things by asking too many questions at the same time, but when you look at these companies who are looking to find that initial finance, what sort of advice would you give to an entrepreneur who’s thinking about creating a healthcare startup, which are not inexpensive businesses to create?

Jerry: That’s very true. Healthcare is not the– it has often regulatory agencies that must approve what you’re doing and the cost of that is substantial. There are certain kinds of things where you merely have to show that you’re just as effective as a previous product are far simpler than when you’re doing something entirely de novo, where you need to do clinical trials that in some cases it’s the difference between using a product or using a drug and not using it.

Those are complex and expensive but can be extremely lucrative. We see that pharmaceutical companies are very highly valued and often very disparaged because they charge a lot for drugs that cost them a lot to develop. It is part of the process of how we get such innovative solutions. I think at RedCrow, we certainly did not see these very expensive developments as our sweet spot, we saw more reasonable ones, but they’re still more expensive than say a software company or some of the other companies that you will find on normal crowdfunding platforms.

That’s why we decided that we would have a product that was only about healthcare. We felt that we didn’t want a prospective investor to be sifting through a general purpose place where you could make, decide to make investments, where literally you could be in the same list as a food truck and maybe someone selling underwear.

I’ve giving you extreme examples, of course, but we wanted it to be serious.

We have a scientific and business review board for the companies that come on our platform, particularly when they’re getting more serious than just giving their initial presentation. We have levels on RedCrow from the discover, what we call discover supernovas, which is very open and very inexpensive for someone to come on and then it moves to us helping them raise money and then of course, there’s a cost for our attention to do that.

Neville: There’s a terrific insight, Jerry. I’ve got a final question that I wanted to ask you now. This is the look- ahead question. Here we are in 2022, discussing this topic in the midst of these huge changes in the healthcare industry talking about the business of healthcare, where hospitals and health systems, as I mentioned at the start, are struggling to control costs and increase revenues, here we have something that unquestionably has innovation at its heart, the whole notion of healthcare startups.

What do you see the landscape looking like towards the end of this decade, maybe at 2030, if not 2027, 2028, what would you see things looking like then?

Jerry: Well, I think the recent pandemic has given us a look into the future about what can be accomplished without going to the doctors or going to the hospital. It also has shown when it really is required for you to go. I think that everything has been accelerated by we need to have home testing, we need to have a way for you to then talk to a physician and then him or her to feel confident in prescribing either a test or even perhaps a drug for you.

Also what are the proper controls of that because we don’t want charlatans somehow being able to intercede into that process and not only perhaps prescribing the wrong thing, but abusing the system. So the regulatory bodies have had to get on board and say how do we monitor this and the pandemic just accelerated that.

I think if we look ahead, I think we’re going to have more and more sophisticated testing that can be done, perhaps connecting to a smartphone or your computer. I think we’re going to have a combination of televisits and real visits to your physicians and I think we’re going to be able to bring in experts from perhaps even all over the world.

This is already happening behind the scenes, where x-rays, that are taken in Great Britain or the United States can be sent to India to be read and then the information comes back. The addition of artificial intelligence to that will be– at best, it will be a combination of artificial intelligence giving its best guess and then helping experienced radiologists with what they’re seeing there. I think that it’s we will want to always have humans as somewhat of a gatekeeper of when artificial intelligence is making decisions that are so crucial to our health.

Neville: That’s terrific. Jerry, thank you. This has been an excellent conversation and I’d like to thank you for your time and sharing your insights about innovation in the business of healthcare. Thank you very much, Jerry.


Jerry: My pleasure.

Neville: Season two of Ideas to Innovation continues with our next episode in a few weeks’ time, visit for information. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.

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