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Hospital Entrepreneur in Residence

Just recently, a personal health platform company I advise, Healthspek (, spoke with Adam Dole, a White House Innovation Fellow. In Adam's past life, his exact title was "Business Planning Manager in Global Business Solutions at Mayo Clinic" ( In short, the job description is a sort of Entrepeneur in Residence (EIR) for the Mayo Clinics healthcare system. This provocative idea is quite interesting when you break it down, and a great move on Mayo Clinic's part.

EIR's fit smack in the middle of Venture Capital's model to filter prospective investments (companies) through a series diligence checkpoints, and once filtered, catalyse and incubate the portfolio through experiential guidance. The ability of EIR's to provide a 30,000 foot view of an eco-system as well as being one step removed from the product, allows for the recognition of value and efficiency that would have otherwise remained elusive. A provocative thought then would be, could hospital and healthcare system's have EIRs? Sure some of the large systemes have seperate venture arms, but how about incubation from within?

If one was to explore the hypothesis of an EIR within a hospital system, then a nice role begins to take shape. "Once the innovation efforts at a healthcare center have been identified, the EIR can help identify a handful of projects to explore for potential incubation. Startup incubation is an intesive interpersonal endeavor, so ensuring that the clinician-innovator is amenable to working with an EIR is important and should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Even though externally, it is ieasy to see the value of an EIR, many clinician-scientists can be territorial about their work or perceive profit-generation as taboo. Provided that the clinician is willing to work with an EIR, their relationship would be dynamic and diverse depending on the level of entrepreneurial experience of the clinician-innovator and their time availability. Ideally, the EIR serves as an advisor and the clinician-innovator would be spearheading the effort of value discovery for their own ideas, tough, given the time constraints on clinicians to practice, conduct research, and teach, there may be situations where it is appropriate for an EIR to be more involved in the operations of a startup.

In addition to advising, the EIR should be responsible for building innovation capacity by teaching clinician-innovators about the value discovery process. Most entrepreneurial ideas will result in invalidation of the original hypothesis; however, those invalidations should not be perceived as failed attempts to start a company. Rather, each iteration of testing an idea for market viability should involve a learning process whereby the EIR teaches the clinician-innovator the foundational principles of lean methodology, customer development, agile product development, innovation accounting, and design thinking. The learning may be experiential as well as didactic. Formal “Innovation Grand Rounds” can be set up much like the Innovation Accelerator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital is doing with their monthly innovation forums. The benefit to the clinician-innovator and the their healthcare institution is that overtime there will be less reliance on EIRs and more internal capacity for social and commercial value discovery and creation leading to more revenue for the hospital and better service to patients.

A particularly unique role for a hospital-based EIR rather than a VC-based EIR is the responsibility of disseminating learning in order to advance knowledge in the academic community. That dissemination can be through informal means such as a blog, but it should also include peer-reviewed publication of best-practices and findings from product development cycles. Sharing successes and failures with the general innovation community can help to avoid recreation of the broken wheel and an EIR bilingual in clinical and entrepreneurial language can effectively relay entrepreneurial learning through an academic lens." [1]

Lastly, when I began really thinking about the idea of an EIR at Stanford, I also realized the benefits that are specific to this area's ecosystem. Innovation runs rampant right outside our walls, and more conduits are needed to capitalize on the strategic physical locale of Stanford (in the heart of Silicon Valley). In a industry ripe for disruption and differentiation, perhaps a Hospital based EIR is the start of a creative solution?

1) Visited 5/5/14

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