Sydney-based medical tech startup HealthMatch has won Australia’s first ever TechCrunch Startup Battlefield, with the team pitching to investors last Thursday and taking home $25,000.
HealthMatch was founded by Manuri Gunawardena and Arran Schlosberg in 2016, after Gunawardena realised there was a need for an easier way for patients to be matched with clinical trials for new treatments and products.
“I was in my final year of med school working in a brain cancer lab manually helping patients find clinical trials when I realised there was a need for something like HealthMatch,” Gunawardena tells StartupSmart.
“We wanted to get rid of the inefficient manual process, as often patients would have to fill out hundreds of forms to see if they’re eligible and a lot of the time the questions overlapped.”
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“It was repetitive for patients to do, but not for algorithms and machine learning.”
With Gunawardena heading up the medical know-how aspect of the business, she pulled co-founder Schlosberg into the mix to deal with the tech side, as “doctor turned software engineer”.
TechCrunch Battlefield announced it would be coming to Australia in July, with leaders in the startup space excited about the potential for US-Australian innovation that could spring from bringing the famous pitch event Down Under.
Fifteen startups were picked to pitch at an event held last Thursday before a rotating panel of Australian startup heavyweights, including Blackbird Ventures’ Samantha Wong, Canva founder Melanie Perkins, Blue Sky VC Elaine Stead, and Airtree Venture Capital’s James Cameron.
“They let us know we were part of the final 15 about a month beforehand, and then it was just working with the editors and the team in Silicon V alley to prepare for the pitch,” Gunawardena says.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to have that level of exposure on a global stage – they told us about 500,000 people were watching it worldwide.”
The team has also won an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco to pitch at TechCrunch’s flagship Disrupt SF 2018 event, which has helped birth startups like Dropbox and Yammer.
But that isn’t the only opportunity the founders have landed from the event, with Gunawardena saying numerous company founders and mentors chased down the pair after their win, offering “advice, connections, and some great business opportunities”.
This included Mint.com founder Aaron Patzer, which Gunawardena said was looking to “potentially invest”.
“It’s been a fantastic validation of our idea and business model,” she says.
The co-founders will be looking to build that validation out further through a seed round they’re looking to raise next year, while the $25,000 from TechCrunch will be used to help build out the company and to look at hiring staff.
Gunawardena says the startup also wants to look for expansion into other markets, saying Australia is a great place to start, but HealthMatch wants to “bring those innovations to other markets”.
“We want to start going global in the next year, along with growing the number of medical conditions patients can choose from on the platform. Right now we have 12 conditions listed, but we want to put up some more of the rare diseases,” she says.
For other startups keen to get pitching, Gunawardena advises careful consideration and validation of your idea before plonking it in front of investors, saying the number one thing to do is “test the market”.
“Validate what you’re creating and show that your customer will want the thing you’re making. We spoke to a lot of pharmaceutical companies, even though we knew it was a problem for patients, we had to see if it was a problem the companies were facing too,” she says.
“The pitching process was a great opportunity to learn how to structure our pitch – covering all the elements investors are interested in including the market, the business model, the sales strategy. It was good to learn that on a higher level.”
Watch HealthMatch’s pitch here.