RockHealth Opens Incubator to Get the Web 2.0 Generation into Healthcare

We’ve written about the younger generation of consumer Web entrepreneurs taking on enterprise software, aiming to make truly usable business software that– to put it bluntly– doesn’t suck. Now, at least one group is aiming to apply all the lessons of the consumer Web and  mobile apps to revolutionize another neglected, stodgy industry: Healthcare.

RockHealth, a new incubator for healthcare IT startups, opened its doors for applications on Friday and has already received more than forty submissions. RockHealth’s founder Halle Tecco didn’t want to spill the beans on specific ideas, but examples include home health monitoring apps via the iPhone that can update physicians on chronic conditions or iPad games that can be used as hospital therapy for sick kids.

This isn’t your parent’s healthcare IT movement. The intersection between technology and hugely inefficient health care was talked up in the mid-1990s and again in the early 2000s but hasn’t yet yielded many huge companies. Innovation in the healthcare industry usually comes from inside hospitals and heathcare organizations– not always the best technologists. Meanwhile technologists don’t usually get real problems patients, doctors and hospitals face. “It’s a culture of ‘no’ and a culture of red tape,” says Tecco. “You can’t iterate, and you can’t move fast.”

So why bother? Tecco has had an obsession with applying consumer Web technology to solve healthcare’s problems since she entered Harvard Business School. Her application said she wanted to help bridge the two worlds, and unlike most HBS students, she graduated with the same idea. Her summer internship was even approving healthcare apps for Apple’s app store. She sat next to the woman approving gaming apps, and they had utterly different jobs. “She’d have all these cool things coming in, and I’d be begging for a hospital to just update its logo,” Tecco says.

Sexy or not, Tecco was determined to create a bridge between hot shot Web entrepreneurs who want to build something useful and places like the Mayo Clinic who don’t have a clue how to recruit them but desperately need their skills. She’s raised $500,000 for RockHealth and will be giving up to a dozen selected companies $20,000 grants to build their products, along with contacts at hospitals, healthcare organizations and even the FDA to help remove barriers. The plan is to have all the company selected by RockHealth’s June 16 launch party, and open the doors to the incubator June 20.

The main parameter is that teams can’t have raised venture capital yet, but angel funding or friends and family money is fine. As far as her own funding, Tecco decided to build RockHealth as a nonprofit, so that it could be more mission-than-sheer-returns-oriented. That said, many of her backers are venture capitalists, hoping she’ll spur more innovation for a huge, inefficient and lucrative market that Web 2.0 has mostly ignored. Supporters include Accel Partners, Aberdare Ventures, the California HealthCare Foundation, Microsoft HealthVault, Mohr Davidow Ventures, NEA and Nike; partners include the Mayo Clinic and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.