When Atlanta-based startup company SoloHealth joined Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in October 2007, it had just launched its inaugural product, EyeSite™, a self-service vision test powered by sophisticated software and an interactive video interface. In three years, EyeSite has been placed in high-traffic retail environments in nine metro Atlanta supermarkets and more than 650,000 people have used the vision screening kiosks.
“Of the people that have used the kiosk, 25 percent said they’ve never had an eye exam, ever. And for 38 percent, it’s been more than two years,” said CEO Bart Foster, who previously worked for CIBA Vision developing innovative contact lenses. “SoloHealth is focused on self-service health care, and it’s about consumer empowerment and engagement. We feel that if we can give people the tools to take care of themselves, they will.”
Now considered a leader in self-service consumer health care, SoloHealth is looking to expand its presence with a next-generation health and wellness platform technology. The company is developing the SoloHealth Station – an interactive self-service health screening kiosk that allows consumers to screen their vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index in seven minutes or less and track the information from store to store, as well as online and via mobile devices.
“What’s really changed for us is the platform we’re developing. We’re not a kiosk company; we’re a health care technology company. The kiosk is simply the entry point for health care for millions of people,” Foster explained. “We’ll connect consumers via a web site, social and mobile applications, as well as to the local insurance providers, hospitals and doctors. We’re also building the connections into the major electronic medical records and personal health records systems, so it’s an entire health and wellness ecosystem. We have coined the term ‘POI’ – Point of Interaction – to describe the multiple ways in which consumers can interact with the SoloHealth platform. And these multiple touch points provide unique and highly personalized avenues for advertisers to engage with consumers, as well.”
The SoloHealth Station, currently in development, will have a number of revenue streams – a retailer service fee, as well as content sponsorship and advertising from manufacturers of health-related products and local providers. Foster says the company will continue to maintain the EyeSite units, but will focus primarily on developing the SoloHealth Station to monitor health problem areas such as hypertension, obesity, eye health and vision, nutrition and pre?diabetes, based on risk factors such as weight, BMI, medical history and lifestyle habits.
SoloHealth was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, a federal research and development initiative that helps high-tech firms turn innovative ideas into commercial products. The grant, awarded in May 2010, brought SoloHealth recognition and credibility – and caught the attention of a number of major retailers, venture capital firms and advertisers.
Not only did ATDC assist SoloHealth with the federal grant application, but the company also received a significant portion of its initial seed round and ensuing funding the ATDC Seed Capital Fund and Atlanta Technology Angels. In 2007, SoloHealth was one of 15 technology companies selected to participate in ATDC’s CapVenture Program, a comprehensive fundraising boot camp designed to equip CEOs with business and funding strategies. Only 15 of 100 companies that applied were chosen to participate.
“The mentors and one-on-one meetings we had in CapVenture were great; a lot of our current advisors were part of that initial program,” Foster said. “ATDC was a great catalyst for us early on, and they continue to be supportive from a networking standpoint.”
Since joining ATDC, SoloHealth has received accolades within the industry. In 2008, the company was recognized at the largest trade show in the world for self-service devices with awards in best product innovation, best health care innovation, and best in show. Forbes.com named SoloHealth as one of top five innovative companies out of 1,500 applicants nationally, and technology trade associations TechAmerica and the Technology Association of Georgia recognized it as the best emerging company in 2010.
SoloHealth is also growing its management team. It recently announced that Rebecca Barnett-Miesch, former director of strategic partnerships at WebMD, had joined the company as vice president of advertising sales, and Rick Voight, former national sales manager of retail publishing at Hewlett-Packard, was coming on board as vice president of channel development. Together they bring 45 years of experience to an already seasoned management team that includes a chief medical officer, senior director of research and development, vice president of sales and marketing, and senior vice president of operations and finance.
“We’ve expanded from the two or three folks we started with and we have nearly 15 people on staff. We’ll be adding another 12 to 15 jobs this year,” said Foster, who was named one of the top 25 up and coming entrepreneurs by Business to Business magazine last year. “We found Atlanta is a great spot to acquire high quality talent from both the IT and health care aspects. So from an economic development standpoint, we’re trying to do our share.”
About the ATDC:
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a startup accelerator that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Founded in 1980, ATDC has graduated more than 120 companies, which together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. In 2010, ATDC was named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world.”ATDC is part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Tech, which helps Georgia enterprises improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. ATDC currently has three facilities; two at Georgia Tech’s main campus in Atlanta, and one at Georgia Tech’s satellite campus in Savannah.
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright