After announcing plans earlier this year to launch the first Techstars program for Fort Worth, 10 early-stage startups are convening in the city to kick off the inaugural Techstars Physical Health Fort Worth Accelerator.
From medical devices to movement-tracking machine learning technology, 10 companies from across the U.S. as well as from Canada, Switzerland, and Germany make up the first group in the global investment platform’s first-of-its-kind physical health-focused accelerator program.
“We believe that Fort Worth can become the physical health innovation capital of the world, and this is an incredible next step to making that vision a reality,” Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams, the new president of the UNT Health Science Center, said in a statement. She will be acting as a mentor for the program.
Trey Bowles, the managing director of Techstars’ Fort Worth accelerator, believes it could lead to something momentous for the city.
“Physical health is an unbelievably large challenge to address, and there’s no place in the world that is a leading hub for that,” Bowles told Dallas Innovates. “[UNT HSC] saw Fort Worth could be—and is—that lead. There are a vast amount of resources that exist in North Texas for healthcare companies. Bringing those together in a collaborative and concerted manner will be part of the evidence that proves that Fort Worth is the center of the universe for innovation in physical health.”
Bowles calls it a win for a physical health company to be in Fort Worth. For the accelerator’s startups, “what they’re going to see is a conducive environment with resources, mentorship, and support,” Bowles said. “It’s not just business friendly, but startup friendly.”
Each startup is eligible to receive $120K in seed funding
The 10 companies—selected from hundreds of applicants—will take part in an “intensive” 13-week mentorship and programming accelerator aimed at building new technologies, treatments, and therapies. The accelerator will be capped off with a Demo Day on December 8.
In addition to entrepreneurial programming, companies in the program will be eligible to receive up to $120,000 in seed funding capital provided by the UNT Health Science Center and Goff Capital. Both are part of the public-private partnership, including the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, that helped bring Techstars to the region in February. Over the next three years, UNT HSC and Goff aim to make nearly $10 million in equity investments into companies going through the program.
“There’s not another program like this in the world,” Cameron Cushman, VP of Innovation Ecosystems at UNT HSC, told Dallas Innovates. “Over the next three years, they are literally going to bring 30 different, really cutting-edge, high-tech companies in the physical health space to Fort Worth.”
Cushman sees the potential impact being even larger for the Panther City.
The startups “are going to get a really awesome opportunity to see Fort Worth up close and personal,” Cushman added. “Our hope is that some of them, if not all of them, stick around—because they find relationships here; they find a clinical trial here; they find a mentor here; they find an investor; and they find a really compelling reason to never leave.”
“You’re putting more bets on the table that it will lead to some sort of future economic growth that you probably can’t predict,” Cushman told Dallas Innovates. While not all of those companies may move here, he says, “others may open an office here or use Fort Worth as the U.S. jumping-off point for their foreign companies—or pack up their entire company to move here.”
And as Bowles says, those new businesses “will attract B2B SaaS companies, apparel companies, food companies, and more.”
International breadth is by design
The participating companies’ international breadth is by design. As noted by Tarrant County officials and business leaders, each will help bolster the region’s density of activity in the physical health space and increase the city’s early-stage startup momentum, which has been relatively lacking to date.
The companies’ teams will be physically located in Fort Worth during the program. Mayor Mattie Parker previously said she hopes the Techstars program acts as a “recruiting mechanism to bring the best and brightest minds in physical medicine and rehabilitation” to the city.
“The fact that Techstars picked Fort Worth as a spot for one of their new accelerators speaks volumes,” Bowles told us. “And it’s not just the work that Cameron Cushman and UNT HSC have done, but all of the other entrepreneurial support organizations that have been working in Fort Worth to demonstrate the health of the ecosystem.”
“Where a city really has an opportunity to thrive is when you have several different shareholders in an ecosystem all working together to support the entrepreneur,” he added. “There have not been many cities that I’ve seen do that as intentionally and with such great investment as they have in Fort Worth. I think that’s going to pay off.”
Meet the startups
Here are the 10 companies joining the Techstars Physical Health Fort Worth Accelerator (with descriptions provided by Techstars):
- Articulate Labs (Dallas)—Articulate Labs has developed platform technology enabling faster physical rehabilitation through movement-synchronous electrical muscle stimulation. The first application of this platform will address quadriceps atrophy and inhibition related to chronic knee conditions or following knee surgery.
- BOOMROOM (Charlotte, N.C.)—An integrated platform that equips fitness entrepreneurs with the tools and technology to host superior virtual experiences and manage their businesses all in one place.
- GoManda (Austin)—A digital solution to building social skills through building vocabulary. It provides a tablet-based flashcard platform that gives educators the best tool to teach vocabulary.
- Neurofit (Toronto)—Neurofit creates virtual therapy exercises that assess, monitor, and personalize care for neurological impairments. The startup produces a digital data layer that uses telemedicine, remote monitoring, and digital brain health programs to give patients and clinicians a more proactive way to support the recovery journey.
- Pulsewave AG (Bern, Switzerland)—Pulsewave AG’s TempleGuard is a wearable attachment for existing eyeglasses that measures vital signs behind the patient’s ear. The company’s device combines real-time patient monitoring with AI algorithms in order to predict the development of cardiovascular disease.
- Stabl (Toronto/Chicago)—Stabl’s product is a computer vision-enabled platform entirely accessible through the internet that tracks patients’ biomechanics automatically as they perform their recovery exercises. The movement data is relayed to the patient’s clinical team members’ dashboard, where they can monitor patient recovery, identify potential health risks, and communicate with the patient.
- STRAFFR (Kassel, Germany)—For busy, health-conscious people who do not have the time or desire to go to crowded gyms or visit a physiotherapist, the company is the first truly smart resistance band that connects to an app to provide personalized and effective functional training, enabled by real-time feedback and supported by certified trainers and pro athletes.
- Recovr Health (Tampa, Fla.)—Recovr Health helps providers/payers increase compliance and decrease no-show rates by leveraging XR technologies to gamify physical and occupational exercises.
- Wellest Inc. (San Francisco)—Wellest Inc. has created an industry-leading AI coach for managing end-user nutrition and activity plans. The startup’s deeply personalized and dynamic plans optimize the users’ body compositions to help them look their best, feel healthier, and live longer, all while maintaining flexibility to live their lives.
- ZAMA Health (Washington, D.C.)—ZAMA Health is developing a behavioral health integration for any athletic program, fitness company, or gym.
Entrepreneurs-in-residence join Fort Worth accelerator
In addition to welcoming its first batch of startups, the Techstars Physical Health Fort Worth Accelerator has tapped two entrepreneurs-in-residence for the program. Both have industry expertise as well as “successful track records” of building their own companies, Techstars said.
One is Dr. Richard Munassi. Most recently the co-founder of on-demand prescription delivery startup Medzoomer, Munassi has a long background of supporting other entrepreneurs. On the board of a number of companies, including Techstars cohort member Articulate Labs, Munassi is managing director of accelerator Tampa Bay Wave and entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Florida’s UF Innovate program. Munassi also works to identify commercial technologies for use in the space program as part of NASA’s iTech team.
The other entrepreneur-in-residence is Dr. Ed Buckley. A self-described “digital health and behavioral nerd,” Buckley is the founder and CEO of corporate wellness-focused digital fitness platform Peerfit, which was recently acquired by FitOn after raising nearly $50 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. In addition, Buckley is the vice president of the board of directors at Florida nonprofit Balance 180.
Local accelerator, global reach
While this accelerator marks Techstars’ first entrance to the North Texas ecosystem, the organization has maintained a Lone Star presence since 2013 with the launch of its Austin accelerator program.
The Fort Worth program joins 11 others around the globe, including locations in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.
Since launching in 2006, Techstars said it has invested in more than 2,900 companies with a combined market cap of more than $179 billion—more than 150 of which have gone through its Austin program and later went on to raise, combined, more than $ 1 billion.
Quincy Preston contributed to this story.
Logo artwork was updated for Recovr and Neurofit on Sept. 15, 2022, at 10:20 p.m.
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