mHealth still in the incubator as Healthrageous breathes its last as an independent company

Life is difficult for any early stage start-up, even more so for those in the mHealth sector, however with backing by Boston based Partner’s Health Care, and $12.5 million in funding over two rounds since 2010, health monitoring company Healthrageous looked as if it might make it. In October Healthrageous’ fight for independent life ended with its acquisition by the insurance outfit Humana; financial details were not disclosed.

The fact that its skilled management team could not deliver speaks volumes about the health, or otherwise, of the mHealth industry. Milestones in the company’s development include the launch of a smartphone app called h!Go in 2011 and a trial projects with Blue Cross, Ford and the German pharmaceutical company  Boehringer Ingelheim.

Unusually, the company’s founder and CEO Rick Lee was frank in a piece written for MobiHealth News. First, he said that the mHealth monitoring goal “was possibly as ambitious as boiling the ocean,” noting that there needs to be a multi-faceted approach that is so broad that it is very difficult to execute.

Secondly he noted the challenges that come with early stage funding: “As soon as you take institutional money, the clock starts ticking,” he said, also noting that the search for a strategic partner in the form of an exit strategy should have taken place earlier.

Lee also talks about regulatory naivete and the importance of achieving software release deadlines, both of which had an impact on arriving at “the endgame situation that ensued”.

Most importantly though, Lee remarks on the importance of entrepreneurial insight: Solving a problem that you have may not address a market need,” he says, adding that there have been more than 100 solutions created for those interested in the quantified self which make up 2-8% of the population.

Conversely, the chronic disease population, targeted by Healthrageous, consists of an addressable market of “more than 100 million adults, [and it] has had very few solutions prepared specifically for them,” he says. “To succeed in today’s environment, you must be thinking about the unwell, where the money is.” That may be the case in the long term, but of all sectors that are categorised as M2M, mHealth is still very much on the starting blocks, despite its apparent long term market potential.