Last month, on October 8th, innovators, providers, players, funders, health systems, economic developers and businesses virtually came together to attend the annual MedHealth Matchmaking Mixer.
“The MedHealth Matchmaking Mixer is a cross-border collaboration between Canada and Southeast Michigan,” MedHealth Program Manager Stacey Frankovich explains. “We host the mixer and an annual summit every year, to educate innovators and provide an opportunity for them to meet with potential partners and customers through our matchmaking activities. The activities are very highly curated. There’s an application process. Each company is heavily vetted—everyone is chosen based on a very specific set of criteria.”
WEtech joined the leadership of MedHealth as a result of its successful cross-border collaboration on Hacking Health Windsor + Detroit.
“This bi-national collaboration supports the growth of the medical device and digital health entrepreneurial ecosystem; contributes to the growth and retention of business, talent, and investment; and serves to position medical innovation as a catalyst of the regional economy,” explains WEtech Alliance President and CEO, Yvonne Pilon.
Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit cross-border leads Paul Riser (left) of TechTown Detroit and WEtech Alliance’s Irek Kusmierczyk of WEtech Alliance are all smiles during the 2016 event at the University of Windsor
Such an event is indispensable for a sector like healthcare, which can sometimes move at a glacial pace.
“Bringing any kind of medical innovation into the market is more complex than other industries, because of testing and clinical testing and other requirements,” WEtech Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) Deborah Livneh states. “Healthcare systems are understandably risk-averse. So, in order to speed up the process, we formed this collaboration between both our countries and both our healthcare systems.”
The atmosphere at the annual mixer and summit, former WEtech Director of Partnerships and current Member of Parliament, Irek Kusmierczyk explains, is always electric.
“There’s tremendous talent on both sides of the border,” Irek explains. “And I think we’re just scratching the surface of that. We have these incredible creative people in both our regions, and the opportunity for us to work together and find our missing pieces is so important.”
“There’s an enormous opportunity to grow startup companies in the medical side of innovation,” Irek states. “It’s a great way to unite our two communities. There’s always this incredible electric feeling in the air whenever I attend this event. Getting plugged into that is always really exciting.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused this year’s mixer to change shape.
“When COVID hit, we had to figure out what we wanted to do,” Stacey explains. “So, we pivoted into the virtual matchmaking event. The platform we used actually had some intelligence attached to it, and would help connect people based on a set of criteria. As a result of that, we had a tremendous turnout.”
The attendance for this year’s virtual MedHealth Matchmaking Mixer vastly exceeded the organizer’s expectations.
“As a result of us going digital, companies and organizations from all over the world showed up,” Stacey states. “We had nine countries represented at this virtual matchmaking event! Investors and other health systems from outside the Windsor-Detroit region made an appearance. So, going digital provided some major benefits! It allowed for much more outreach. It allowed us to showcase what we’re doing in Southwest Ontario and Southeast Michigan to a much broader audience.”
And despite some unexpected challenges presented by the climate we’re all living in, this year’s event can safely be categorized as a rousing success.
“Every year the MedHealth summit provides more and more impact for our region, and even though this year looked a little different, the connections made were no exception,” WEtech Director of Venture Services Adam Castle states. “Out of the 13 meeting requests that came through, we were able to create new relationships with investors and medhealth specific accelerators to better funnel our clients to the right experts and funding opportunities within their space. With such a broad umbrella under the industry, these connections will be invaluable to our portfolio.”
“The problems that are facing our world right now don’t recognize borders. And when it comes to finding solutions, neither should we.”
And while the MedHealth Summit did have to be cancelled, the success of the virtual mixer is evidence that our communities remain bridged during these isolating times.
“This year was an opportunity to keep the spirit of the MedHealth Summit alive,” Irek stresses. “It was just remarkable to see. I got a chance to sit on the panel where Dr. Lisa Porter presented her research and We Spark Health Institute introduced their work to the folks on both sides of the border. It was a tremendous honour. The problems that are facing our world right now don’t recognize borders. And when it comes to finding solutions, neither should we.”
You can watch all of this year’s MedHealth Mixer sessions on our YouTube channel.
Michael Seguin was born with a pen in his hands and too many words floating around his skull. Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to get them out. Unfortunately, more keep taking their place. After university, he began dabbling in marketing and journalism. At the age of 26, he became the first in-house writer at Windsor Life Magazine, an esteemed local publication. As the newest member of the WEtech Alliance team, Michael is dedicated to lending a voice to the tech sector around Windsor and Chatham-Kent.