Accelerator planned for healthcare-tech start-ups


Project Lift Miami will offer training, mentorship and funding to up to 15 entrepreneurial teams at the UM Life Science & Technology Park.


A new start-up accelerator focused on the intersection of healthcare and technology is coming to Miami next year.

Project Lift Miami, designed to help develop young companies and prepare them for investment opportunities, is a partnership between Lift1428, an innovation design, strategy and communications firm; the Miami Innovation Center at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park and its developer, Wexford Science + Technology; and the UM Miller School of Medicine, said Robert Chavez, the project’s executive director. “We’re being proactive and trying to support innovative ideas and companies. … We’d like to keep them here and really help to transform the area into a healthcare innovation hub.”

The accelerator will offer entrepreneurial teams a structured 100-day program of classes, workshops and training directed by national and local healthcare experts as well as mentoring and strategic support that will continue well beyond the program, said David McDonald, CEO of Lift1428 and co-founder of Project Lift Miami.

“This meets a critical unmet need in innovation,” said Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at UM’s Miller School, explaining that novel ideas often don’t find appropriate mentors and funding until they are pretty far along. “Where do you go if you have a great idea that really could be transformative? This provides much-needed support for these very early-stage technologies.”

Ten to 15 start-ups will be selected for the first class, which will start in May. Each will be offered seed funding — probably $20,000 to $30,000 in cash and services in exchange for a small equity stake — and will get free office space at the research park, Chavez said. The program will run through August, closing with a Demo Day, when entrepreneurs present their businesses to potential investors.

“There’s so much regulation and there are privacy issues and other barriers to entry that are different in the healthcare industry. Having the access to the environment we have here to test your idea and prove your concept is a great advance,” said Chavez, who is also executive director of business intelligence at UM’s Miller School. “That kind of mentoring you won’t get at a general accelerator.”

If Miami’s program goes well, future Project Lift programs could be rolled out at other Wexford science and technology parks across the country, said Bill Hunter, Wexford’s regional director of leasing. “Project Lift is directly aligned with our mission to cultivate innovation in our community. You need investment in those early-stage opportunities.”

Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the inaugural 2013 class can contact Chavez at rchavez@lift1428.com or 305-345-8670, or stop by the Miami Innovation Center at the UM Life Science & Technology Park, 1951 NW Seventh Ave., Suite 300. There is also more information at www.lift1428.com/projectlift.

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