'Nest for medical devices' launches out of Y Combinator

The latest company out of famed tech accelerator Y Combinator is a med tech: Shift Labs. The startup aims to make medical devices connected, streamlined and intuitive, much like Google's Nest has done for household thermostats, according to an article in TechCrunch.

Y Combinator has launched some valuable and well-known companies, including dwelling rental service Airbnb and digital storage company Dropbox. But few of them have been focused on med tech, making the Shift Labs experience a particularly intriguing one. Twice a year, Y Combinator invites a startup class--the most recent one was 85 companies--to provide them each with a $120,000 investment and three months of residence and tutelage within the accelerator.

Rather than devices that compete through added bells and whistles, Shift Labs aims to create med tech that appeals to the user and doesn't aim to justify a higher cost via unnecessary add-ons, the article suggests.

"I once had a VP of a medical device company who took me aside and said, 'We could make simpler and cheaper devices, but then our revenue wouldn't support our sales force,'" Shift Labs' CEO Beth Kolko told TechCrunch. "There is no reason why we can't make products for nurses and medical practitioners that they enjoy using. But no one is building products for the people who are going to be providing the care."

DripAssist--Courtesy of Shift labs

For example, its first product is DripAssist, a very simple infusion pump for monitoring an IV drip. The device retails for $225 and runs for days on a single AA battery; infusion pumps typically cost from $5,000 to $15,000 so their use is limited to the most needy patients, the article suggests. The DripAssist is being sold in some international markets and for veterinary usage, while Shift Labs works toward FDA clearance.

Shift is in the current Y Combinator class and has already secured seed funding from it and several angel investors. The startup thinks it has an advantage over established medical device companies that are highly invested in continuing to build upon the way they've been doing things.

"They are so used to just doing the feature creep thing. They're not starting from point zero and saying, 'Is this what people want? How do we build it in such a way that it fulfills the necessary function?'" Kolko told TechCrunch. "This is where, being a startup, we have an advantage."

- here is the TechCrunch story
- and here is a Shift Labs blog post about Y Combinator

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