Healthcare talks at Health Founders Forum

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St. Paul’s GreenHouse hosted three UW entrepreneurs — Curatio co-founder Zied Etleb, Penta Medical CEO Alexa Roeper, and Marlena Books founder Rachel Thompson — to talk about their health care startups in a panel moderated by PASS co-founder Tina Chan. Marlena Books creates books for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Penta Medical is developing wearables to help people integrate physiotherapy into their everyday life, and Curatio is creating a mattress to help negate bedsores.

Each person started by talking about why they decided to get involved in their venture and how they got started.

“I had a grandmother who lived with dementia for over 10 years and always loved to read, and then as dementia progressed, she was no longer able to read books or newspapers,” Thompson said. “I was just searching for a solution to that when I discovered there wasn’t a modified book for people with dementia, so I started creating my own.”

Etleb talked about Hack4Health, where he learned about bedsores and started talking to people.

“The hackathon was one of the best experiences ever. We actually learned that we should go out there and talk to people, get to know people instead of just trying to come up with ideas to solutions ourselves,” Etleb said.

When asked about people who can advise on their problems, Thompson said there are always the few she accesses all the time, while some are not always helpful.

“I think it’s just about choosing who is actually going to benefit your company,” Thompon said. “I have advisors that I trust a lot and that I will talk to them a lot about more things, and then I had bad advisors in different kinds of programs and organizations.”

On the topic of networking and cold calling, Roeper said, “Especially for marketing and things that are really critical, I definitely get the small fish first because you’re going to mess up. And then that way you can just practice with them, perfect it, and then move on to the bigger investors.”

Throughout the forum, all of the panelists commented on the importance of going out there and talking to people about your idea.

“What your startup really gives is that you can really go out there and you can find your own way of doing things, and you can skip by a lot of the bureaucracy that you have to deal with,” Etleb said. “Figure out your idea, find the guy with money and then just build it and figure out by selling it.”

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