COVER STORY

Start Me Up

At the Columbia Startup Lab, the ideas keep on clicking.

by Rebecca Shapiro Published Fall 2014
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“Let’s say a patient is diagnosed with asthma and instructed to see a pulmonologist. BoardRounds would be able to make the appointment, arrange for transportation to the appointment, and send reminders about the appointment,” Jack says.

The service doesn’t stop with the actual medical care. BoardRounds also works with insurance companies to provide interventions for patients, and provides detailed analytics to hospitals and providers about patients’ post-discharge behaviors, such as appointment completion rates.

“We wanted to make sure that we were always looking at the bigger picture. The analytics piece helps our providers see that as well,” Jack says.

With their software mostly complete, Jack and Mukerjee are focused on raising money and forming partnerships with hospitals and medical providers. To date, they have raised more than $300,000 in seed capital, with backing coming from the Dorm Room Fund — a student-run venture firm that invests in student-run companies — among others. The system is already in place at a major New York City hospital and a dialysis-care center, with new partnerships imminent.

Jack didn’t start his medical training intending to go into business, but he is unusually qualified to do so; before starting at Cornell, he studied applied math at Columbia and worked for two years in finance. Though he hasn’t ruled out practicing medicine at some point, he says that this feels like the best use of his skills right now.

“I went to medical school to save lives. That’s our mission at BoardRounds, too, but on a bigger scale,” he says.

Preconceive


Gathering Expert Advice for Mothers-to-Be

Sarah Robinson ’13BUS doesn’t have any children yet.

“My husband and I got two consecutive MBAs,” she says. “Those have kind of been our babies so far.”

But when the time comes for her to start thinking about it, it’s safe to say that no one will be more prepared.

Robinson is the founder of Preconceive, a website that helps women navigate fertility treatments. The site, now in beta-testing, will compile medically vetted original content on fertility, provide community groups for people to share information and emotional support, and employ a network of trained professionals to answer questions on a variety of subjects.

“It started at a dinner party full of professional women. Everyone seemed to have questions about babies, and about conception. Some of us were struggling to conceive, and some of us knew we wanted children but weren’t ready to start trying for a long time,” says Robinson.

Robinson’s friends were lucky; one of their fellow dinner-party guests was an ob-gyn, who quickly became the group’s go-to resource.

“Sadly, not everyone has such a convenient friend,” she says. “There’s a world of information out there, but without someone knowledgeable and trusted, it can be really hard to navigate.”

Robinson began to research fertility websites, and found that there was no reliable, centralized site that helped women dealing with these issues. More importantly, while they offered information, none of the online resources connected users with people that could actually help with problems.

“We’re going to have a stable of experts on hand to answer individual questions,” Robinson says, “from licensed psychologists to help navigate the emotional side to professionals who can advise on how to fast-track insurance reimbursements.”

As a Columbia Business School student, Robinson had no experience working in health care — she spent most of her early career in fashion relations at MAC Cosmetics. She was interested in getting involved in a business in its early stages, though, and knew that she wanted to focus on something more relevant to the next stage of her life.

“Fashion felt right for my twenties, but these are the things that my peers are talking about now, and that soon I’ll be thinking about,” she says.

Robinson got involved with the business school’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, and when she graduated last year was given a desk in their co-working space, which has since been absorbed into the Charlton Street lab. Her year there culminated with a strategy competition, which Robinson won. She’s now using her prize — strategy sessions with a consulting firm — as well as the resources of the new lab to do a soft launch of her site, with an anticipated full launch planned for the winter.

“The atmosphere in the lab is a little different from Paris fashion week,” she says. “The dress code is way more comfortable.”

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