Rock Health seeks physician angel investors

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 14, 2012        

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rock health angel groupSan Francisco-based digital health incubator Rock Health is launching a program to create a new class of physician angel investors. Earlier this week StartUp Health also announced an education program for new investors, partnering with SecondMarket, although their program isn’t physician-focused.

Rock Health will launch two workshops in the new year to help physicians and health care executives learn about the world of angel investing, including areas such as market trends and angel investing mechanics. Venrock partner and former Obama adviser Dr. Bob Kocher will speak at the workshops, as will Dr. Beth Seidenberg, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Rock Health will also be working with the California Healthcare Foundation to launch the program.

To participate in the program, providers must meet the SEC definition of an accredited investor, attend the two 2-hour workshops and complete four hours of homework. As a bonus, they’ll get a free pass to Rock Health Demo Day at the end of February. Rock Health hopes to educate 36 providers, mostly physicians, in the first group. The workshops will take place January 31st and February 13th, for a $99 registration fee.

Rock Health CEO and co-founder Halle Tecco told MobiHealthNews that she hopes the program will appeal to physicians who have the means to invest but haven’t done so before.

“Our goal is to actually create a new pool of angels,” she said. “There have been very few angels who have been prolific in this space. We’re creating the bridge between being interested in digital health investment and being confident that you are making an investment that will produce returns.”

Dr. Priyanka Agarwal, a resident at the University of California’s San Francisco Medical Center who will be helping to set the curriculum for the classes, said a lot of young physicians want to be involved in shaping the future of healthcare, and they make up a largely untapped market of potential investors.

“We want to encourage the use of digital health among providers,” she said, adding that hopefully physicians in the class would take insights about digital health technologies back to their practices. “Good technologies are being developed, but how do you encourage their dissemination? That’s a wonderful externality as well.”

Tecco compared the digital health investment space to two other spaces: tech and life sciences. Development in digital health moves more slowly than the general technology sphere, and so investors accustomed to that space sometimes lack the patience for health investing, she said. But a lot of physicians already invest in the life sciences space and are used to being patient while technologies are developed and proven. She said the space lacks the angel investor boom that the tech sector experienced when major tech companies made it big.

“We don’t have the Facebook and Google that spin off angels to invest in the next Facebook or Google,” she said. “There’s a big gap in funding between the incubator stage and the venture stage. We do what we can to help.”

Although participants will get a pass to Rock Health’s demo day, they won’t be required to invest in any Rock Health companies.

“Obviously we’d love to see them invest in our startups, but we’re happy to see them confidently and handsomely rewarded for investing in the space in general,” said Tecco.