HUG LIFE: “Healthy” Matchmaking Debuts in Charlotte
A creative “first” took place in Charlotte on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 — the inaugural Charlotte Healthcare Matchmaking conference organized by Charlotte’s Healthtech Women (HTW). It was helped — in part — by a HUG Micro-Grant.
Nearly seventy attendees and an impressive lineup of speakers and interactive workshops came together for a day of thought-provoking discussion, continuing education, and community engagement. The conference was the largest initiative undertaken to-date by HTW — a global non-profit organization that is committed to improve the health ecosystem, empower women, and advance industry opportunities.
The matchmaking idea, which brought together diverse and divergent folks across the healthcare value chain, was conceived by Sasha Cahill, HTW’s Charlotte Hub Director of event planning and operations. It was executed by Neeta Kirpalani, Charlotte Hub Strategist.
Born and raised in Asheville, Neeta earned her master’s degree in public health from Wake Forest University and accepted a position in Alabama after graduating. When she returned to North Carolina nine years ago, her plan was to stay for only two years, but she says Charlotte’s friendly, livable, and ‘easy-to-move-around-town’ attributes have kept her in the Queen City.
And, she has lots to do while she’s here.
Individual health choices and healthcare industry undergoing tremendous change…
According to Neeta, some of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry are:
- physician/care provider burnout
- the high cost of health care
- increasing consumer-driven health care choices
- non-traditional partnership formations
The use of analytics and technology is also paving the way for quicker decision-making and opening up opportunities for innovating processes and products.
But, more creativity and innovative solutions are needed. And, that’s where a HUG micro-grant fit into the conference.
To encourage innovation, conference planners featured a pitch competition for early-to-mid stage health tech startups and entrepreneurs during the event. Each candidate was given five minutes to present his/her pitch, followed by a five-minute Q & A session with the judges. Each pitch was scored based on merit in six areas: problem definition, product/solution definition, execution plan, sustainability, ability to scale and team strength.
And the winners were… (drum roll, please)
- Redipay, a solution for transforming healthcare reimbursement in the dental and vision care space, received $1,000 as the first place winner.
- Pure Surgery, a solution that streamlines the up-front process required for booking elective surgeries and reduces costs to employees, took second place and was awarded $250.
Earlier this year, Neeta applied and was awarded a $250 HUG micro-grant, which she used to fund the second place prize in the pitch competition.
“Without the HUG micro-grant and the support of our sponsors and partners, we would not be able to put on an event of this magnitude and have it be such a robust and valuable part of the community,” said Neeta.
The takeaways from this conference will inform next steps. Maybe a reverse-pitch competition? Maybe a healthcare incubator/accelerator model? If you have ideas and suggestions, or would like more information about HealthTech Women, click here.
HOW CAN I GET A HUG GRANT?
HUGs are $250 micro-grants awarded to individuals or organizations (for-profit or nonprofit) working on creative initiatives that are open to the public in the Charlotte area. HUGs are “strings-free” and are intended to remove a small financial obstacle holding a project or a person back from realizing the potential of their idea. HUGgees (HUG grant recipients) are also eligible to participate in special training events and seminars throughout the year. Since 2017, more than 100 HUG micro-grants have been awarded in Charlotte. To apply for a HUG, visit www.HUGGrant.com
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