How South Florida is winning at health tech

A common refrain about South Florida is that it’s still defining itself as an innovation hub.

But companies in one particular sector are already showing impressive growth, giving South Florida a rep as its nexus: health tech.

The region is leading in everything from electronic health records management (EHR) to telehealth. And running alongside it is a tech accelerator program specifically designed to foster health tech companies.

Ken Comée

“We’re attracting some of the best and brightest medical minds to our region to practice, teach and research,” says Ken Comée, CEO of CareCloud, a digital platform for medical practitioners to manage health records and revenue and one of South Florida’s buzziest health tech firms.

The company, whose headquarters sits next to the airport on the Dolphin Expressway, announced at the end of last year it had raised $31.5 million in its third round of funding. That brings its total amount raised since its founding in 2009 to $103 million. The company now manages more than $4 billion worth of accounts set up by hospitals and doctors.

Comée says the company is also doing its part to grow South Florida’s tech talent, citing its current partnership with Wyncode Academy, a coding school, which includes internships and, for anyone CareCloud hires, subsidies for the cost of their training. There are now seven Wyncode grads on CareCloud’s staff, he says.

Just up I-95 is Modernizing Medicine (MM), another EHR startup that has raised $91 million in six rounds since its founding in 2010. CareCloud has partnered with MM and its flagship product, Electronic Medical Assistant, to support physicians’ IT needs. This paragraph has been updated to correct the nature of the partnership between Modernizing Medicine and CareCloud.

South Florida health tech also enjoys a component frequently seen as lacking in other sectors: venture capital. A little-known operation run out of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital called Children’s Health Ventures has also assumed a leadership role in the sector.

The group now puts aside $3 to $5 million a year to invest in health tech companies, both in South Florida and elsewhere. So far it has invested in two: a weight loss management system; and Nesa Solutions, a Miami-based IT company. Davis did not disclose the amounts. He said they are finalizing terms with two other companies but declined to name them.   

The fund is directed by Michael Davis, corporate vice president of strategy and business development at Miami Children’s Health System, parent organization of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, told The New Tropic that Miami’s strategic advantage in the health sector lies in the city’s global reach.

The need for access to quality care from around the world, and especially Latin America, has spurred innovation in cloud-based and telehealth products.

Michael Davis

“We all are trying to look abroad at opportunities to bring our care and expertise,” Davis said.  

At the same time, that global access gives the hospital the ability to bring in revenue from abroad.

“In order for us ensure our sustained viability, we want to be bringing our care to other parts of the world that pay differently,” he said.

Davis credited the health system’s CEO, Dr. Narendra Kini, for inspiring the character of the fund. A trained pediatrician, Kini was born in India, received his M.D. in Nigeria, and went on to serve as director of GE’s Healthcare Leadership Institute and its medical information technologies unit before taking over Nicklaus in 2008.

“He’s a clinician first and foremost, but he’s also an innovator, and people like him foster what we can do in South Florida,” Davis said.

The fund has closely collaborated with the Miami division of StartupBootCamp (SBC), Europe’s largest tech accelerator. Thanks to a $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation, Miami’s SBC has made health tech its focus.

It was Dr. Kini who spotted what SBC was doing and decided to make the organization one of the main vehicles through which it would invest in health tech startups.

Dr. Narendra Kini

“Startupbootcamp has really brought to life the technology startup scene in Miami,” Kini wrote in December during Startupbootcamp’s Demo Day. “By focusing on health it is really building out the ecosystem for innovation. We hope to see the next major healthcare players originate in Miami.”

Cristian Robiou, who is just ending his tenure as Startupbootcamp’s Miami chief operating officer, said SBC has tried to serve as the glue in bringing together the disparate parts of Miami’s health tech scene: the entrepreneurs and tech heads, the capital, and the health care practitioners themselves.    

In Miami, he said, “outside of real estate and some tourism, the medical industry is pretty much where a lot of the money is going. The idea is can we keep that up? Can we keep developing good care but also good technology?”

Startupbootcamp is currently working with 12 different health tech startups covering a range of competencies, from Babyscripts, a platform for remote monitoring of an obstetrician’s patient population in between visits; to KeepLivin, a digital platform to bring health and wellness services to underserved communities in both the U.S. and Caribbean.

One other company that has recently benefited from a venture capital surge is MDLive, one of the largest telehealth companies in the country. The venture, which is headquartered in Sunrise and has 256 of its 339 based in Florida, received $50 million in private equity funding in June 2015, bringing its total venture funding sum to approximately $74 million.

Scott Decker

In an interview, recently-appointed CEO Scott Decker said the access South Florida has to Spanish-speaking populations gives Miami health tech companies a competitive advantage on the national scene, given the country’s changing demographics.

“When you’re trying to build a healthcare company company, being able to tap into an employee base that represents the kinds of customers we’re going to be serving  across country and the world is pretty cool,” he said.   

By Rob Wile
Rob Wile, the curator for Startup.Miami, is a writer and entrepreneur living in Miami Beach. He’s a former staff writer for Fusion and Business Insider. His work has also appeared in Slate, Newsweek, Money Magazine and The New Tropic. He writes a newsletter on tech, business, and the South Florida economy called The Heatwave.