Mobile health IPOs, acquisitions, and investments

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 3, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThree important stories broke on the same day this week: Epocrates went public and raised $86.4 million; Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong acquired GlowCap-maker Vitality for some unnamed tens of millions of dollars; A stealthy mobile-focused startup named Massive Health launched.

Which of these will prove to be the most important longterm?

Obviously the Epocrates IPO is a massive boon to mobile health, but it has been a long time coming. Epocrates filed its first offering in 2007. The company joins a very small club of public companies focused on mobile health. CardioNet is one of Epocrates few public company compatriots, though the two sit on near opposite sides of the wireless health spectrum: Mobile content for physicians and wireless-enabled monitoring of patients. Just as CardioNet founder Jim Sweeney has continued to innovate in mobile health, I expect the founders and executives of Epocrates to make their exits over time and lead new startups in the space. Epocrates co-founder Jeff Tangney is a good example: He launched Doximity last year. Epocrates’ listing on NASDAQ won’t be all that transformative for mobile health, however. Few wireless health companies are in a position to follow Epocrates anytime soon, either.

The acquisition of Vitality may be another story. Thanks to a consumer focus (no FDA clearance required), a grade A efficacy report from Partners (98 percent adherence!), and the backing of one of the largest telecom companies around (AT&T), Vitality’s GlowCaps were likely to drive it to early acquisition. Billionaire and UCLA Wireless Health Institute director Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is an ideal buyer. You can bet the good doctor is just getting started, too. More acquisitions are likely. A mobile health roll-up could very well be underway.

In the span of just six weeks Aza Raskin and Sutha Kamal managed to convince a stable of investors including Andresseen Horowitz, Mohr Davidow Ventures and others to seed their newly formed startup, Massive Health, with $2.25 million. Massive Health’s founders have promised to bring a “design Renaissance” to healthcare starting with smartphone apps for chronic disease management. Raskin was most recently the creative lead at Mozilla, which developed the Firefox web browser. The launch of Massive Health received unusual attention from the big tech blogs, because of the founders’ Silicon Valley credentials, the size of the seed round, and the high profile group of investors. Xconomy learned that self-insured employers are a likely direction for Massive’s business model. GigaOM closes with a prediction that mobile health is going “to get even more crowded” as more venture capitalists will begin to take a look. Did Massive Health’s launch wake up investors?

So, which is it: The IPO, the acquisition, the investment or none of the above? Which will have the most impact on mobile health in the longterm?

  • bhartman

    Not sure who will be a winner, though doximity looks very promising.
    Have to say despite the previous success of Aza Raskin, Massive Health would scare the hell out of me as an investor. I love the theme and mission – dead-on. Now with $2.25 capital in their pocket I’d think a business concept more detailed than “I make shiny things” should be due in the next week. I doubt ninjas send out press releases; at least not until they have a weapon in hand.

  • bfeldman

    Reflecting upon the evolution of other healthcare sectors, I suspect the industry will evolve similar to the medical device sector- where small companies tend to be bought by a handful of large companies. The interesting question is what type of companies will become the dominant players. My guess is whoever owns the data has the power.