When we started the Relevant Health Accelerator, we had little idea what we were getting ourselves into. Last week, we concluded five months of taking classes, testing prototypes, and learning to manage a business at a Demo Day. Those five months took Neopenda from a great idea in a design class to a viable startup. We’re moving from prototypes to small-batch manufacturing of our wearable vital signs monitor for newborns. Now seems like a good time to pause and reflect on what we put into the Accelerator, and why we got so much out of the experience.
We were among the seven companies in Relevant Health’s first cohort. Participating in an accelerator was the difference between leaving all the potential of a good idea languishing on the backburner and transitioning to small-scale manufacturing this month, launching a Kickstarter to fund our field deployment, and competing in the Rice Business Plan Competition in two weeks.
“During their time in Relevant Health, Sona and Tess developed from engineers into product managers capable of launching their product and company. Taking Neopenda, a hardware-based product, from design to pilot-ready product in five short months is a tremendous achievement.” Evan Haines, Director of Strategy and Operations at Relevant Health
What we gave
Our full attention. This was the most important element to success. We committed fully to transform a good idea from a grad school design course into a viable company. We devoted these five months to refining the technology, honing the software, and developing a sustainable business strategy.
Our apartments. We relocated to Rockville, Maryland to participate fully in Relevant Health’s curriculum. We commuted back to NYC to finish our degrees, but Maryland was where Neopenda lived, and we did, too.
8% equity. Like most accelerators, Relevant Health received a portion of equity in exchange for the resources we received.
What we got
Tangible support. We received a $50,000 investment, lawyers, two software developers, and coworking space. All of these made it easier to devote time and attention to developing our product and business strategy.
Knowledge. We had plenty of classes in engineering, but not as many in how to make a product for a customer, how to pitch a good idea, and how to make a business plan. The Product Bootcamp made us rethink exactly what problem we are solving and how to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and users.
Access. Besides formal classes, we had access to advisors and experts we would not have found otherwise, who gave us unique insight into the problems we had to tackle. Because we spent five months with them, we built relationships that made coaching and problem solving more effective.
Community. Building a startup can be a lonely process. Our cohort helped us gain perspective on what was a normal part of the struggle. Everyone’s pitch improved over the five months, no matter how experienced they were coming into the program. On Demo Day, knowing that everyone else was just as nervous — and facing last minute challenges of their own — was a comfort and motivator.
The last five months we have learned more and worked harder than ever before. The hard work is far from over, but Neopenda is now better positioned for long-term success. We’ll share the story of how we came to Relevant Health and what to look for in an accelerator later this week.