Business models for 
digital health start-ups

Business models for digital health start-ups

July 15, 2016

  • Digital technology is improving our health and the business of healthcare in exciting ways. Over and over again, I am impressed by the creativity and the quality of the ideas I encounter. That said, I believe it is time to focus energy elsewhere – on developing strategies that will make business models in “HealthTech” become and remain profitable.

Please allow me to philosophize a moment about what I mean. I am not here to knock creativity. Creativity is great and we need it. But innovation is creativity for the long term. It is a creative idea sustained over the long term, and it takes successful business models to do that.

An amazing day of pitches, brainstorming, and exchange
An amazing day of pitches, brainstorming, and exchange

This is one of my main takeaways from the Digital Health Europe Summit 2016. It was hosted by Startupbootcamp Digital Health at the end of June in Berlin, and Roland Berger was a cooperation partner. We had amazing pitches, brainstorming, and exchange among established companies, start-ups, mentors and other advisors. But it’s not just about matchmaking and piloting anymore. Start-ups and their corporate partners really need to think through strategy to create the right business models for the long term, even as the application of digital technology disrupts the market in the short term, keeping everybody on their toes.

In this video, you can get a feel for what we did in Berlin at the Roland Berger Spielfeld , a digital innovation hub for corporates, start-ups and consulting experts across all industries. At roughly minute 2:00, you’ll see me talking about our goal of bringing corporations together with start-ups, why that’s important, and why it needs to be done right.

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Digital Health Europe 2016 in Berlin

Getting strategy right can mean many things, including developing R&D programs for companies, working on externalization or internalization projects, or identifying new product opportunities in the biotech sector for big pharmaceutical companies. Often, it starts with a chance encounter between corporates and start-ups, or an idea translated between the two cultures that brings these two together.

Before I close, I’d like to tell a story that shows the value of what we did – also in hopes that it will encourage even more people to participate in the next Startupbootcamp.

bn EUR in 2020

global market volume of digital business in the pharmaceuticals industry

I was interviewing a scientist from the University Aachen on stage in Berlin. Before the event, he had asked if we could possibly do the interview via video conference (he is involved in tele-medicine). I encouraged him to come to Berlin personally and, bingo, he found out why: When he stepped off the stage after the interview, a financial investor stopped him to talk about a similar business in the UK and why the scientist should scale up his work. That was exactly the point of convening in Berlin – to bring two worlds together.


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Next time, I’d like to see even more people in Berlin, and it is my personal goal to continue our format of serious conversations on stage but also leave enough time for informal conversations to develop on the sidelines.

Between now and the next Startupbootcamp, I expect Roland Berger to complete many more projects that involve both start-ups and corporates. I plan to report back to my friends and colleagues at the boot camp about our experiences.

I’d even venture to say that right now we don’t actually know all the topics we’ll discuss - and for good reason: We’re living and learning new business models and ideas every day. And both will undergo many transformations before we meet again in Berlin. Hope to see you there.

  • Photo: Ariel Skelley, Getty Images

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