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You don’t have to spend much time or look too hard to see that the health care industry plays a central and influential role in job creation, the economy and infrastructure in Columbia. During my Christmas break, I was back in Columbia, and I was amazed to see how many new medical buildings and offices have sprung up around the city.
On one of my drives around town, I counted at least four new structures being built. These structures weren’t small-town offices, but rather big-city complexes. It made me wonder — with all of these doctors’ offices, hospital extensions and research facilities, why aren’t there more health care tech companies being founded in Columbia? Columbia should be a Mecca for high growth health care technology companies in Missouri.
During my time at the Missouri Innovation Center, I was aware that there was a large focus on health care startups and businesses in Columbia, but, when asked by a friend recently, I couldn’t give him one high-growth health care technology startup in the ecosystem. This shocked him and, quite frankly, embarrassed me. Columbia has numerous companies focusing on pharmaceuticals, animal health, research and devices, yet there is very little focus put on high growth health care technology startups.
I personally have had little involvement in the health care technology sector in my entrepreneurial career, but I have been fortunate in meeting some founders who are launching incredible companies and ventures that are doing amazing things, directly and indirectly, with the health care industry. These companies vary from a firm focusing on helping patients and hospitals with their billing to a plastic surgeon who is helping patients find cost-effective solutions to cosmetic surgeries. I recently read, in Fortune magazine, that between 2010 and 2014, the number of venture funding deals in the health care industry grew more than 200 percent, and in 2014 alone, more than $6.4 billion was invested into new health care ventures.
With health care reform, an aging population and our general fascination with technology advances (wearables, video chats, health and fitness apps), the industry is booming. Recently, some experts at Markets and Markets estimated that the global health care IT market will reach more than $228 billion by 2020, and wearables alone are expected to gross more than $2 billion in revenue by the end of 2016.
Many cities across the world are competing to attract these startups and the billions of dollars that could be invested in them. They are creating and developing programs that are purely focused on high growth health care technology companies. These programs include incubators, accelerators and other formal programs that provide favorable terms and investment opportunities for founders and startups. These programs not only offer financial opportunity, but also access to health care networking, office space, service providers and large industry partners.
Columbia has one of the best health care ecosystems in the country and has some of the best minds in the health care industry in its midst. Columbia should be doing everything in its power to attract, develop and create high growth health care technology companies. If not, I think it’s fair to say the community will be passing on the possibility of being a leader of this global technology.