Tampa Bay is probably not a region that jumps to mind when most people think of communities with a robust startup scene, but real estate investor Jeffrey Vinik is hoping to change that. He has deepened his relationship with Dreamit Ventures, a venture fund that invests in early stage companies, by investing $12 million in its accelerator. The deal seeks to support Vinik’s vision of making Tampa Bay an innovation hub.
Vinik’s partnership with Dreamit dates back to 2016 when they jointly launched an UrbanTech program, which engages startups such as those developing industrial automation, design software, urban mobility and water management.
Vinik, who owns the NHL team Tampa Bay Lightning and being a minority shareholder in the Boston Red Socks, is involved in the $3 billion Tampa Bay Urban Redevelopment Initiative led by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment.
“Together, healthcare and real estate present large opportunities for innovative startups that can deliver substantial impact while generating attractive returns,” Vinik said in a news release about his new investment.
Last year, Vinik outlined plans for an innovation hub, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The idea is to establish a central location that brings together startups, venture capitalists, potential mentors, academic resources, lawyers and financial advisers.
Vinik is also not a stranger to the healthcare sector. He has invested in bioelectronic medicine business ElectroCore and anti-aging therapeutics company Silk Therapeutics. He also donated an acre of land to the University of Florida in 2014 to build a new medical school.
The prospect of Dreamit deepening its relationship with Vinik holds a lot of excitement for Craig Anderson, Director of Innovation at not-for-profit health system BayCare in Tampa Bay.
“The healthcare startup community in Tampa Bay is burgeoning and that is where extra support from DreamIT and Mr. Vinik can make a difference — bringing expertise and funding to this space and helping it grow For these new startups to thrive they need early adopters…My focus has been to build the innovation practice for BayCare and determine how we can work with those companies.”
Anderson said the institution often starts with a pilot to assess the startup’s technology and the return on investment. He added that its number one concern is the experience for their patients and physicians. If the technology ticks each of those boxes, then the health system has the appetite to scale that technology.
Tampa Bay also has the resources to make an attractive alternative to the Bay area, Anderson contends. He pointed to the competitive cost of living in the region and a ready supply of young talent from area universities such as University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and Florida Polytechnic.
In an emailed response to questions, Dreamit Chief Innovation Officer Steve Barsh described how Tampa Bay fits into the accelerator’s program, which was tweaked a couple of years ago to focus more on roadshows that would bring its startups in front of investors and potential customers.
“We are in a base city (e.g. Philly, Tampa for about two weeks). We are on the road with Dreamit startups two weeks in various cities during customer immersions and two weeks during a bi-coastal investor roadshow (San Francisco / Bay Area, Boston, New York City). The rest of the 14 weeks the companies work with us remotely.”
Dreamit also revealed a group of 10 healthcare startups selected for its latest cohort, spanning care coordination, nurse staffing, caregiver support, clinical study design and execution and practice management tools for independent primary care physicians. Here are some of them:
Patient engagement business FRND Health works with accountable care organzations, primary care physicians, hospitals, payers and senior housing to provide a network of registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed clinical social workers to patients with the goal of reducing ER visits.
Surgical education business GibLib curated a web-based, mobile library of surgical procedures and medical lectures which are also available via Ocular virtual reality goggles. The company plans to extend its resource as a way to help users earn continuing medical education credits.
Health Tensor claims to use artificial intelligence to review patient data, diagnose the most common conditions, and create documentation for physicians, according to a summary of the company. One of the goals of the business is to reduce coding queries.
Trials.ai provides seeks to address some of the pitfalls of failed clinical trials. It claims to use AI to improve clinical trial protocol recommendations, automate study design, and optimize execution, according to a description from Dreamit.
Photo: StockFinland, Getty Images