Investing in innovation is not a new strategy for corporate America but it’s definitely become more formalized for the healthcare industry. Northwell is New York’s largest healthcare provider and their newest initiative is Northwell Ventures – an investment arm of the company purposed with financing progressive medical technologies and business models.
Thomas Thornton is Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Northwell Ventures. He spoke with Mandy Roth from Health Leaders about the company’s vision for the future and how they are making it happen. The company is comprised of a five-person staff. “We invest from a $50,000,000 allocation of capital, so we are investing off our balance sheet,” Thornton says. “We make investments only in areas that are important to Northwell’s growth.”
The Northwell Health strategy and leadership team guides the investment priorities and decisions are made based on these themes. As Thornton points out, they are able to vet companies more quickly than a venture investor because they have a clear vision of what they need and a deep knowledge of their industry. “We will not make an investment unless we can validate it inside Northwell, with an actual end-point driven pilot where it can be evaluated.”
Northwell Ventures was launched in 2013 with the idea that one of the newest trends in healthcare is collaborative investment partnerships. Thornton explains the shift towards working together: “If we all have the same strategies, then why aren’t we collaborating around these investments? I think that’s driving this big massive trend that we’re beginning to see out there.” It’s a win-win for health providers as they can pool resources, set priorities, and benefit mutually from cutting-edge ideas and technologies most needed in the industry.
To date, the company has made fourteen investments in just under two years. One of their most successful deals was their financing of Avizia, a company that designed teleconferencing software, which was later acquired by America Wells. While Thornton cannot divulge specific numbers, he expressed that the return was very good and he’s excited about the prospects of their model going forward.