Tampa General Hospital enters the VC market

The medical system created a $15m venture fund to invest and incubate start-ups in addition to the creation of an innovation lab.

The Tampa General Hospital wants to be known as the safest and most innovative medical system in the country and is debuting a three-prong venture strategy toward that goal.

The 93-year-old hospital network plans to launch Tampa General Hospital InnoVentures, a $15 million venture vehicle, in January. The initiative aims to help foster in-house and local innovation, said John Couris, president and chief executive officer of the hospital.

“There are hospitals that are considered to be the safest and most innovative in the country and there is no reason why Tampa Bay can’t be that. Period,” Couris said. “A piece of getting there is promoting, enhancing and funding innovation.”

Tampa General Hospital
John Couris: ‘You need a learning laboratory to figure out what works’

The fund will focus on three areas: an accelerator program, an innovation lab and direct early-stage investments.

Couris said that having an in-hospital innovation lab will give hospital staff and doctors space to try to solve healthcare pain points in-house and hopefully inspire potential entrepreneurs who know they have resources close to home.

“The innovation lab is critically important,” he said. “To help improve costs and quality access in healthcare you need a learning laboratory to figure out what works, and you might need some funding along the way.”

The second aspect, the accelerator program, looks to incubate existing start-ups by giving them space and resources to test out their products and assistance to help them bring their solutions to market. Couris anticipates these will be mainly externally founded companies.

The last piece is direct investments into early-stage start-ups that have raised a few rounds of prior funding. Couris said two areas he is excited about potentially investing in include the commercialization of healthcare and companies that help drive down healthcare costs.

The hospital is located in one of the fastest growing start-up markets in the US. More than $1.55 billion was invested across 86 deals in the Sunshine State through the third quarter of this year, according to CB Insights. This marks a 12 percent increase over the $1.36 billion invested across 108 deals in the entirety of 2019.

TGH InnoVentures will also open office space at local nonprofit start-up accelerator Embarc Collective, which will serve as the organization’s official healthcare partner.

The organization will also add Rachel Feinman as the vice-president of innovation. She was previously the executive director of the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator and will manage the TGH InnoVentures program when she comes on board in January.

Tampa General Hospital is not the first medical network to enter the space. Couris said that he has frequently consulted with Brent Stackhouse, the managing director of New York-based Mount Sinai Hospital’s venture arm.

Couris anticipates that the program will hit the ground running with direct investments in 2021 and look to ramp up and open its innovation lab and accelerator program during the second half of next year. He added the team is already looking at a potential investment into a company that could deliver Narcan, a common overdose medication, quicker than emergency responders could.

“It all started really with our new strategic plan that we introduced to the organization two years ago,” he said. “A big piece of the strategic plan is a very simple vision, to be the safest and most innovative health system in the country.”