Funding startups to fuel healthcare innovation

By Marigrace Ragsdale

Innovation in any industry is important, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that innovation in the healthcare industry is essential. In the tech world, innovation usually means some sort of flashy new idea, automated system or a new technology that makes our lives more convenient or more enjoyable. In the healthcare space, innovation often equates to lives saved. That’s profound, and important.

There are many ways that healthcare innovation comes about, oftentimes through research and clinical trials as seen with the recent pandemic and vaccine rollout. But innovation in the healthtech space is also necessary as our world continues to evolve. Pitchbook, a financial research database, defines healthtech as “technology focused on streamlining healthcare operations, lowering cost, enhancing care quality and enabling individuals to proactively care for their health.” There are thousands of startups that are using technology to solve problems in healthcare, and their success will be paramount to continued advancement within the industry.

Brilliant people come up with these new ideas and decide to formulate a team and strategy to pursue them. But brainpower and human capital is just one piece of the puzzle. Usually, external resources, especially financial capital, are needed to help these ideas become businesses. Venture capital is the primary source of funding for healthtech startups with a high growth business model seeking to aggressively scale. In Louisville and surrounding regions, venture capital funding is hard to come by, especially capital that is willing to step in at the earliest and riskiest stages of a startup’s development. For our region to become a place where innovation thrives, especially healthcare innovation, we need to ensure that there is adequate funding to support these new ideas.

Supporting Innovation

Render Capital is a $15 M fund with a mission of increasing access to capital for businesses in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Our goal is to create a thriving regional economy where entrepreneurs can find the appropriate risk capital to start and grow their businesses. Our approach is to provide the capital that is so crucial, yet often difficult to access, for entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of building their businesses. This capital comes in the forms of equity, debt, grants and alternative structures.

One of our primary capital initiatives is the Render Competition, an annual program that invests $100,000 into eight startup companies each year to encourage their growth and scalability within and beyond our region. The recipients of these investments are high-growth startups that are at the earliest stages of their journey. These companies need upfront capital to quickly scale. The Competition funds aim to introduce them to venture capital funding and propel them on a path to attract subsequent capital from other sources that will help them become sustainable.

The Render Competition launched in 2020, funding its first cohort of startups. Companies from all over the world applied, and if selected, the winning companies and their founders were required to relocate to Louisville or Southern Indiana. The Competition evaluates and funds startups of all industries, but because the healthcare industry is one of our region’s strongest, startups that are innovating in the healthcare space are attracted to the program for strategic reasons. Oftentimes, a startup views relocation to the region to be just as valuable as the capital infusion because of the proximity to large corporations, research, potential customers and overall synergy.

Attraction and Retention

In the inaugural year of the Render Competition, two of the eight winning startups were completely healthcare-focused: Briocare and Moxie Girl. Two of the others – True Adherence and Roborus – plan to adapt their technologies for healthcare use cases, primarily because they see the potential interest and collaboration opportunities for a healthcare-focused product in our region. Three of these four healthcare-focused startups relocated to Louisville from Dallas, New York City and Salt Lake City. The jumps from these markets are truly a testament to the accessibility and promise of our region’s healthcare industry.

“Louisville is positioning itself as the Agetech capital of the country and is helping startups in the agetech space. There are a lot of senior care and healthcare companies headquartered in Louisville [with whom] we have started partnering. Also, there are multiple agencies and individuals that are working to help startups,” said 2020 Render Competition winner Shaun Mitra, CEO and founder of Briocare. Briocare is a proactive voice-first care hub, bringing personalized engagement and care support to older adults and caregivers. Almost one year after winning its $100,000 investment, Briocare has been able to connect with countless healthcare and aging care innovators that have offered their support in helping them integrate into the community.

In the current 2021 cycle, over 300 startups from all over the country (22 different states) and even from outside the country (27 total countries) have applied for a shot at one of the eight investments from Render Capital. Applicants go through multiple rounds of judging by Render’s subject matter experts, and healthcare applications dominate every round. Of the total applicant pool, 20 percent of the companies were directly innovating in the healthcare space. At the time of this article, the Render Competition has narrowed down the applicant pool to the top 16 companies. Of these finalists, five of the companies (31 percent) are healthcare startups.

The Render Competition will announce the eight 2021 winning startups at an event at Lynn Family Stadium on September 23rd, 2021. Stay tuned to learn more about the next batch of up-and-coming startups that will be building and growing in Greater Louisville. Hopefully one day soon, you’ll find yourself using their products or services in your daily lives as healthcare professionals.

13 finalists announced for Render competition

Render Capital, a $15 million regional fund that is focused on providing early-stage risk capital for entrepreneurs in Louisville and Southern Indiana, has named 13 finalists for its 2021 Render Competition, who now have a shot at $100,000 to help turn their startup dreams into reality.

The competition makes funding more accessible to local early-stage startups in the Greater Louisville region, while also helping attract new entrepreneurs to the area. Out of the 13 finalists, eight winners will be awarded an investment of $100,000 on Thursday, Sept. 23, during the event at the Lynn Family Stadium.

Of the 302 applicants from 27 countries, the 13 Render Competition finalists include: DiningTek (Broomfield, CO), Symba (Louisville, KY), Innovative Therapeutix, Inc. (Louisville, KY), Rivet (Boston, MA), Moolathon (Louisville, KY), Xena Intelligence (Boston, MA), HealthOpX (East Lansing, MI), Repaytient (Louisville, KY), Veeper, Inc. (Kansas City, MO), Wellness Wins (St. Louis, MO), Legal Gantt (Louisville, KY), DenScore (Des Moines, IA) and XpressRun (Louisville, KY).

To learn more about the Render Competition, visit

Marigrace Ragsdale is a senior associate at Render Capital.