I had the pleasure of interviewing Rock Health’s founder and CEO Halle Tecco before leaving my job as head of marketing and sales of StartupGrind, a global community of entrepreneurs. I left StartupGrind to found my digital health company, EmbraceHer (now EmbraceFamily Health) focused on maternal-child health and women’s health.
As we come to the end of XX in Health week it’s fitting to pay tribute to the woman who launched XX in Health, Halle Tecco. Halle is co-founder and CEO of Rock Health, a seed accelerator for health tech startups that helps entrepreneurs working to transform healthcare. XX in Health is an initiative through Rock Health that connects and empowers female visionaries to drive change in healthcare.
I interviewed Halle in San Francisco earlier this month prior to Rock Health’s 4th annual Health Innovation Summit. We talked about Halle’s journey from Silicon Valley to Intel, Apple and Harvard Business School, where she ultimately founded Rock Health before graduating. We also touched on the joys and challenges that technology entrepreneurs face while innovating in the health space, including the role of ‘healthcare outsiders’ in helping to bring change to a system that’s long needed a little shaking up. We explored the exciting trends disrupting healthcare including mobile, wearable devices, the consumerization of health tech, remote monitoring and more.
We also explored the central role that women play in healthcare as the chief medical officers and caregivers of the family and why more women entrepreneurs would bring a welcome perspective to health tech. Here are some highlights featured in XX in Health’s State of Women in Health Report:
– 85% of women choose their children’s doctors
– 84% are responsible for taking their children to appointments
– 78% of the health industry’s labor force is comprised of women
According to the report, although women play a major role in health purchase decisions, women are still underrepresented as health tech entrepreneurs (a mere 16% of Rock Health founders are women), as CEO’s of hospitals (19%) and healthcare company Boards of Directors (14%). Women entrepreneurs relish a good challenge, however, and I was pleased to hear of the many women innovating health coming out of Rock Health such as Amy Shen of Cellscope, Mikki Nasch and Christine Lemke of AchieveMint, Maria Ly of Skimble, Meghan Muntean ofChickRx, Somaira Pujwani of Medmonk, Rebecca Woodcock of CakeHealth and many more.
As a health tech entrepreneur focused on women’s health and a mother of a young daughter I’m inspired by the example that Halle has set for us. She is empowering both women and men to disrupt healthcare by providing education for entrepreneurs, collaborative access to networks and capital and a positive role model for those who want to affect human health in a positive and truly scaleable way. Are you inspired to shake up healthcare? Apply to participate in the next Rock Health batch and no matter what challenges come your way (because changing healthcare is REALLY hard), keep rocking on!
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Denise Terry: Halle, why don’t give the audience some background on who you are and your education?
Halle Tecco: Sure, I was born and raised in Ohio, in a very boring town. My mom was a stay at home mom until my parents eventually divorced. Much of my childhood was filled with me entertaining myself because my siblings where much older than me and were more like parents then siblings.
I stayed in Ohio for college and moved to California where I eventually made it to Silicon Valley. I eventually went to Harvard business school while keeping my foothold in Silicon Valley.
I eventually started working for Apple and their App Store, but my passion was in Health Care and I would eventually leave Apple to start Rock Health.
Healthcare is important for everyone. I wanted a way to seek out and inspire others.
DT: What did you learn from Apple that you took with you to Rock Health?
HT: What I learned was that mobile was the future and health care was behind. Healthcare was stagnant. I knew the mobile health revolution was coming.
DT: What were some of the fears or barriers you had when starting Rock Health?
HT: Regulations would be at the top of the list. The FDA specifically is a big barrier. The FDA has not came out with guidelines as to what would make your mobile device a medical device. This can make things hard for people to come out with innovative new tech products.
Selling into large legacy organizations is definitely challenging as well.
Funding is an issue too. There is just more money going into other verticals and not so much into healthcare.
DT: You graduated and came back to Silicon Valley to start Rock Health. How did you getting things started?
HT: While in my 2nd year of business school I met with tons of Boston VCs seeking money and got shut down by all of them. I eventually left and went to Silicon Valley and raised about a half million to get Rock Health started.
We launched at SXSW in 2011 while I still had a few months of school. I was trying to do a lot at once. I had to start with getting the company ready and building a team. The day after I graduated I went straight back to Silicon Valley.
DT: Is Rock Health a for-profit or non-profit organization?
HT: We kind of have a hybrid model going on. We’re a non-profit when we want to work with the hospitals. This was due to how hospitals run. Hospitals said it was easier to partner with non-profit organizations versus for-profit organizations.
We don’t pay taxes with these deals, but it allows us to work well with hospitals and create better programs.
It’s not always about making money, it’s about making good.
We eventually created the Rock Health fund, which allows the company to be a for profit organization away trading for equity. People can invest money for equity.
DT: What do portfolio companies benefit from joining Rock Health?
HT: The program is 4 months long. We like to look for a company with a great team and idea. You have to have more than just a great idea.
We want to see teams that are really passionate, because healthcare is a really crappy road.
DT: What about hardware and wearables? Tell us about that.
HT: I love hardware!
Hardware gets interesting on the consumer side. When you can build something that is traditionally on the hospital side but brings it to the consumers.
The iPhone app, Otoscope, acts as an ear infection detector as a great example.
DT: What is the FDA? What do they do, and why do they exist?
HT: The FDA is set up to protect consumers, in short. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved as well. The FDA has been working in the healthcare space so there are standards, but they are just starting to see more mobile tech and creating a comity to help figure things out.
If your marketing material claims your product can diagnose someone, then it needs to be run by the FDA to make sure your app and advice is legit. We don’t want bogus apps out there giving false advice.
DT: Talk to us about the venture space.
HT: Look up Rock Health on Slideshare we have slides up there.
There were 180 investors in the digital tech space, 80% only invested in one startup. There are no angel investors in the digital health space. This really hurts the eco system of companies trying to make a name for them in this space.
DT: Some people say that the use of doctors is going to decline in the coming years, what are your thoughts on that?
HT: Tech can help with standard things around a doctor’s office. If a kid keeps coming in with an ear infection, a doctor doesn’t need to look at it, a machine could do it. This frees the doctors’ time to do things that a machine can’t.
DT: What are some things you haven’t seen and would like to see in the tech health care space?
HT: I’m personally into remote continuous monitoring. Things you can wear in the home to help consumers understand their bodies and health. We currently have a few companies like that now.
DT: Tell us about women in health.
HT: There aren’t a lot of women in the healthcare generally, so we started an initiative to support more women in digital health. Women make most of the health care calls in the home anyways, so getting them involved allows the industry to get a new perspective.
I was really disappointed to see very little women applying and getting involved in Rock Health.
DT: Explain Obamacare.
HT: I don’t understand all of it, but I see the main goal is about access. There are 50 million uninsured Americans and this is one of the reasons why healthcare costs so much.
Healthcare can be expensive because people who don’t have insurance cost taxpayers money to help pay their bills.
Pretty soon insurance companies will start to compete with each other with price and quality. This will bring innovative new plans and ideas into the hands of consumers. This should get more entrepreneurs involved into the health space too.
Insurance providers really need to reduce their costs and overhead. Insurance companies are also buying up smaller companies to get a competitive edge over their competitors. Planning for the future.
DT: You have an amazing health summit coming up, Tell us more about it.
HT: It’s the 3rd annual health innovation summit in SF at the W hotel. It’s sold out, sorry.
We want to try and live stream it, but not sure yet.
John Sculley, who has been investing a lot in the industry, is speaking about building an iconic health company. And Steve Blank will also be speaking about the Lean-ish healthcare startup.
We want to make our conferences more geared toward tech with more positive vibes compared to the negative type of vibes that health conferences have. We want people to have fun and learn.
DT: What do you see the next 10 years is going to be like in healthcare?
HT: I hope remote continuous monitoring takes off to help reduce visits to the hospital for general checkups.
Baby boomers are creating a big market, so I’d like to see some stuff there too.
DT: Well that’s it for tonight. I’d like to thank Halle Tecco for coming out and speaking to everyone.
Halle is responsible for building partnerships and overseeing Rock Health’s strategic direction. She previously worked for Intel and Apple, and founded YogaBear.org. She earned a BS at Case Western Reserve University and an MBA at Harvard Business School. Halle was named one of CNN’s “12 Entrepreneurs Reinventing Healthcare” and Forbes “30 under 30″. Follow her on Twitter @halletecco