Minnesota wants to be the Silicon Valley of health tech

Photo courtesy Medical Alley Association

Minnesota’s Medical Alley Association wants to make Minnesota the Silicon Valley of health care tech. The association just launched the Medical Alley Starts program, to be led by Frank Jaskulke. Flyover Future spoke to Jaskulke about what the Association and the goals of Medical Alley Starts.

First off, what is the Medical Alley Association?

Jaskulke: The Medical Alley Association is a nonprofit trade association based in Minnesota for the health care and health technology industry in the state. 

The organization was created to make sure that our large and fast growing health care industry stayed fast growing, that it stayed in Minnesota, but had an opportunity to impact patients around the world. [You can read more about Minnesota’s medtech heritage.] Thirty-five plus years later, that’s what we’re still doing. Our mission is to make sure that Minnesota is the global epicenter of health innovation care.

What was the impetus behind Medical Alley Starts?

Jaskulke: We looked at the startup community for gaps. What could we do that would make the startup ecosystem more vibrant? There are already accelerators, investors and academic programs. We spent about a year talking with the startup companies and just asking them, well, what else do you need? What isn’t being taken care of or served well enough?

What are some examples of the gaps that you’re hearing about?

Jaskulke: First, the desire to access capital. If you have an established set of relationships, getting capital—while not easy—is doable. If you’re a new entrepreneur or you come from an underserved community, you may not have existing relationships. There’s a lot more work to get to the point of generating capital. So we’re pre-building the relationships to make it easier for companies to find the right kind of investors and make that connection.

So a startup company may reach out and say, hey, you know, we’re doing a capital raise. Who can we talk to? We have a database tool of the investors that we know. And then I’ll be on the phone or a colleague will get on the phone to talk with those investors and see if they’d be interested in a conversation. If they are, we make an introduction and then let the professionals do their work.

It’s the same sort of thing on the broad network of suppliers and talent. We would get calls all the time from companies that need something—a marketing consultant, for example. We spent a lot of time building this giant network where something might take one company a day or two to figure out, we can usually give them an answer in five minutes and save them that time.

You say you want to be the Silicon Valley of healthcare. What do you mean?

Jaskulke: We’re working to build a brand for the place where we live. If a health company entrepreneur tells an investor that they’re in Minnesota, we want that investor to immediately think it must be a top quality health care startup.