Health startup CohortIQ scoops up AU$200k DataStart prize

CohortIQ says it is one step closer to reducing patient numbers in hospitals after taking home the top prize from DataStart, a public-private partnership between the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and startup incubator Pollenizer.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Health-focused startup CohortIQ has collected AU$200,000 in seed funding as a result of winning the public-private DataStart initiative.

In November, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet partnered with Sydney-based startup incubator Pollenizer to begin a contest that saw participants able to use over 7,500 open data sets via data.gov.au, and vie for the top prize of seeing their concept incubated through to delivery, as part of the nine-month Pollenizer Success Core Program.

Ian Tebbutt, CohortIQ co-founder, said that what his company does is take health data and open government data and put it through a machine learning system to identify "unnecessary admissions" -- people who should not be in hospital.

"What [CohortIQ] is aiming at initially is people with chronic illnesses like renal failure or diabetes, people who are much better treated in a community environment. What tends to happen is they turn into a frequent flyer, come into hospital and stay for a few days and then bounce back," Tebbutt said.

"The aim is to keep these people out of hospital and get them into intervention programs and the like which frees up the beds in the hospital.

"It is a very well known problem in health, the innovation we're bringing to it is essentially the identification of these people."

As his team was able to access hospital episode data from data.gov.au, Tebbutt said the partnership with government was crucial in bringing their idea to life. Prior to DataStart, Tebbutt said CohortIQ was merely an idea he and two others had.

"DataStart gave us the opportunity to take it up to the next level," he said. "There are 235,000 unnecessary admissions per year; our aim is zero."

Although currently riding what he called the "startup whirlwind", Tebbutt said the seed funding will give the company space to further develop its technology, in particular its automation and scalability.

"We do want to go large. This is a world issue, not just an issue for Australia," he said. "Hospitals do a lot of data analytics but it's heavily manual. We want to make it as simple as possible for a hospital to use it."

There were over 200 entries for the program, out of which a handful of finalists presented their ideas to a panel of judges comprised of the recently appointed CEO of the government's Digital Transformation Office, Paul Shetler and other government representatives, investors, and entrepreneurs.

CohortIQ's prize money comes courtesy of Right Click Capital and Pollenizer, with Pollenizer chosing Comployment founder Evan Wong for a fellowship with Founder Institute, and also offering an incubator position to Mezo Research, and coaching sessions to Gemini3 as part of the DataStart prize pool.

"By sponsoring an incubation program it allows founders runway to find a globally scaleable and valuable business model, and not just initiate projects and just hope they scale," Daniel Ringrose, partner at Pollenizer said previously. "Government now understands that a fast failure should create learning insights, and new ideas can pivot."

Ringrose said that DataStart allowed startups to pursue their big vision without restrictions to comply with mandated themes or outcomes, saying previously that it was the startup's founders, not the data, that would make the program succeed.

On Tuesday, Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy announced a AU$7.8 million investment that will be spread across 17 Australian companies with ideas he said will benefit the mining, information technology, renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing industries.

The 17 startups will receive grant offers between AU$69,000 and AU$1 million in commercialisation assistance, which Roy said will help them to develop products and services.

The Entrepreneurs' Programme is an initiative designed by the Australian government to boost business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level. It forms part of the Australian government's industry policy outlined in the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda released in October 2014. As part of the agenda, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was part of the federal government's move to "strengthening Australia's competitiveness".

According to the government, the program to date has provided 102 commercialisation grants worth more than AU$54 million to support Australian innovation.

"This announcement sees another 17 companies benefit from the government's Entrepreneurs' Programme that has already helped over 100 entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground and into the global marketplace," Roy said.

"I'm pleased to see such ground-breaking ideas coming from Australian companies, including yield maximising technologies for the minerals industry, production technologies for effective and cheaper solar cells, and 3D printing for aerospace manufacturing.

"This support will help the recipients commercialise their ideas to take advantage of global market opportunities and protect their intellectual property, ensuring Australia sees the benefits."

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