IBX, Penn hire DreamIt for health venture bake-off

Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia's dominant health insurer, has joined the University of Pennsylvania hospital system in hiring Philadelphia-based DreamIt Ventures to pick 10 small healthcare companies that offer "innovative solutions."

Winners will be encouraged with technical assistance and grants of up to $50,000, in exchange for giving Penn and IBC an 8% equity stake.

DreamIt will accept applications through Feb. 8 for the "Philadelphia Health Accelerator" program. Winning entries get offices at Venturef0rth, a Philadelphia coworking space at 417 N. 8th St., April to July, culminating in a "Demo Day" before investors and healthcare company reps. 

"Our vision is that Philadelphia becomes the hotbed of healthcare innovation," Independence chief executive Daniel J. Hilferty.

Hilferty noted his firm has sponsored a couple of previous small-company support events "to help develop startup ideas" at local firms. The Accelerator, by contrast, is aimed at national applicants. The goal is to lure more firms to Philadephia and build its reputation as a healthcare version of Sililcon Valley for "health technology, meidcal devices, the way healthcare is delivered." 

A previous Independence-backed effort, the IBX Game Changer Challenge, attracted 150 local applicants and gave $50k grants to three start-ups: 1 Doc Way, Samir Malik's psychiatric telemedicine service; Kitchen Cred, Doug Barg's school nutrition training program; and QuickSee MD, a smartphone linking users to local doctors' offices (non-emergency). 

Hilferty spoke as he prepared to go to New York for a healthcare-business caucus in advance of this weekend's Pennsylvania Society gathering, that speechifying-drinking-shopping extravaganza where upstate politicians and industry lobbyists remind Philadelphians that our city is only one-eighth of the state (or one-third, including burbs), and that Manhattan is the real capital of business and party America.

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