Fresh Startups: Accelerator for Health Startups Launches in Toronto

September 12, 2013

11:00 am

In early September, Toronto innovation firm Kinetic Cafe partnered with the Freshii health food chain to launch Fresh Startups, a six-month accelerator for startups in health, food, and fitness.

Starting in October, startups will work out of office space in Toronto and get hands-on coaching in business modeling, customer acquisition, design and development, and marketing and sales. They also get $25,000 in funding (for 5-12 percent equity) as part of the program.

Freshii, which has 80 stores in eight countries, will help startups connect with Freshii customers to test their ideas and take advantage of Freshii’s marketing and distribution channels. Plus, startups will get coaching from CEO Mathew Corin and a customized meal plan for their team.

Saul Colt, a principal at Kinetic Cafe, doesn’t like to call Fresh Startups an accelerator. Most accelerators last three months and have around 10 startups or more; Fresh Startups will invest all its energy in four startups over six months. Plus, he says, there will be much less focus on “the pitch.”

“We think the model is a bit flawed,” says Colt, former “head of magic” at Freshbooks and startup consultant. “[Startups who go through an accelerator] haven’t really been taught how to grow companies. They’ve been taught how to stand in front of a VC and say the right things.”

Plenty of other health accelerators exist, from Healthbox to Rock Health to Blueprint Health to Health Wildcatters. And they’re all part of the trend in health and fitness startups. Health apps are too numerous to count, and devices like the Nike+ FuelBand, Fitbit, and Jawbone UP are adorning wrists everywhere. In August alone, we saw Fitbit raise $43 million, MyFitnessPal raise $18 million for its food and exercise tracking platform, and Audax Health raise $20 million for its social platform.

According to Pew Research, around 14.5 percent of adults track some health indicator using technology. But to succeed, health startups will have to do more than change people’s habits. They’ll also have to learn to navigate federal regulations, and get on the radar of doctors and hospitals. Health accelerators are helpful here, as they can provide connections to customers and partners.

The application deadline for Fresh Startups is October 4 – apply here.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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