Apis Health Angel Conference recently launched as new forum to connect investors and health-related startups.
The program is modeled after the Seattle Angel Conference, which has been educating new investors and funding new companies for more than ten years, mainly through its startup competition.
It made sense to spin out a new effort, according to Seattle Angel Conference and Apis founder John Sechrest. Assessing health-focused startups takes different expertise compared to traditional tech companies, which make up the bulk of the startups in the original conference.
Health-oriented startups “had to work extra hard to explain what they were doing,” said Sechrest. He founded Apis to provide a forum for such companies.
The digital health sector broke records last year for funding, as startups raised $57.2 billion, up 79% year-over-year.
More than 50 companies started with the first Apis cohort late last year, and the pool is narrowing in a race to the final pitch day on March 24. That’s when Apis will announce the winner of the competition, which will take home the combined funds from more than 25 angel investors.
To qualify, investors must have either $1 million in assets or $200,000 in annual income. Each contributes $5,000. As they vet companies, new investors receive advice from more seasoned hands, some with sector-specific background.
The main aim of the new conference, as with the Seattle Angel Conference, is to create a new, educated pool of investors.
“In the process, they’ll get a deep perspective on different kinds of companies and the state of the market,” said Sechrest. “They’ll also get perspective on the other investors and how they think about the world, and they’ll build a much stronger investment thesis of their own.”
At the same time, startups also become more attuned to the funding ecosystem through the program. “We’re actually playing a little bit of a brokering role with some options and resources that are available,” said Apis program manager Elizabeth Cross Nichol.
The Apis conference recently heard 10-minute pitches from 12 semi-finalists and will narrow the pool next week to six. After that, it’s time for due diligence, prior to final pitch day. Pitch day will be virtual, and companies can be located outside of the Seattle region.
Apis Health Angels also has a partnership with the trade group Life Science Washington.
The next Seattle Angel Conference is also gearing up, with a Feb. 24 deadline for startup applications. Since its founding, the conference has educated more than 430 new investors and invested more than $4.5 million in more than 35 startups. “Apis 2” is already taking applications from digital health, medical device, biotech and other health-related startups.
Apis was the son of Apollo, the Greek god of healing, and was similarly a “seer and a healer,” said Cross Nichol.