Excitement and Exhaustion: Behind the Scenes at the Accenture HealthTech Challenge

Published on February 14, 2020

By Kurt Waltenbaugh

Thursday, February 6, 2020, was a long day.

But let’s back up. Carrot Health applied to the Accenture HealthTech Challenge in 2018, and we were told to mature our idea a little further and re-apply in 2019. We continued to grow our business and deepen our product offerings. In June of 2019, we submitted a second application, and this time it was accepted.

The regional finals were held in Boston in November. Along with a dozen other companies who had passed the juried selection process, we competed before eight groups of judges, including Accenture consultants and senior leaders from leading healthcare organizations, like Memorial Sloan Kettering. By the end of the day, Carrot and several others had been selected as winners from the region. Together with winners from San Francisco, we’d be heading to Houston in February for the final competition.

And so, an update: Thursday, February 6, 2020, was a long day. A VERY long day.

After setting up our presentation room, we had breakfast with the Accenture HealthTech Challenge judges and Accenture staff. This was the “gold” we were looking for – casual conversations with industry thought leaders and consultants. For example, with the head of innovation from Guidewell Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield, we shared ideas on empowering consumers. We exchanged thoughts on bending the cost curve with the Mayo Clinic and discussed ideas for accelerating and scaling Social Determinant of Health interventions with Accenture leaders.

Hurrying back to the presentation room, the day got busy. One after another, each of 11 groups of judges made its way through our room. We had 15 minutes to convince them of our value and viability by sharing our ideas and progress and answer their questions.

The questions were the best part. What do they take away from the conversation? Are they imagining how this might fit into their organization? Is there an objection we have not heard before? (These are the hardest: to identify the underlying concern and remove the barrier swiftly.) How do you handle security and privacy? What if we are a sophisticated organization who already has a lot of resources? What if we are small and lacking money/people to get started? How will we handle disparities between populations, along racial, economic, clinical, and geographic lines? And above all, what is the evidence that the vision we paint is true?

The beauty of this rapid-fire approach at the Accenture HealthTech Challenge is that it strips entrepreneurial ideas to their bare essentials. No room to over-analyze complex technology stacks. No time to explain how the future might look if only reimbursement models might change. No manicured promotional videos. Just speaking solo in front of eight senior leaders each of whom could be a future customer.

Every concept must be distilled into the most fundamental form where the judges could swiftly determine for themselves answers to an additional set of questions. Is this concept clear? Will this work in my organization, right now, with our current tools, and deliver value for our stakeholders? Will it work?

Including a short break for lunch and six cups of coffee, nearly 10 hours after the day started we were done. We were back in the auditorium, trying to muster enough energy to focus on panel discussions, documenting the advice received from the judges, and waiting for the final pronouncement.

And the award for “Top Innovator” goes to…. Carrot Health!

The final update: Thursday, February 6, 2020, was a long day. A beautiful, exhausting, energizing, and ultimately rewarding day. We received recognition of all our hard work to date, and are re-energized around the promise of the road ahead. We are making a difference in people’s lives and in the health of our nation.

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