Independence Health Group, Ben Franklin, Safeguard Scientifics launch $6M early stage digital health fund

By Jonah Comstock

Independence Health Group, the parent company of Independence Blue Cross, will be one of three companies to pitch in $2 million toward a new funding initiative for early stage digital health companies in Philadelphia. Investor/accelerator groups Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Safeguard Scientifics will also pitch in $2 million each, making a total of $6 million available.

"While we will always focus on our traditional 'sweet spot' of Series A and Series B financings, we believe that it's also important to put a stake in the ground and allocate resources to a broader spectrum of opportunities to support the full ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship," Safeguard President and CEO Steve Zarrilli said in a statement. "Safeguard recognizes an opportunity to spur growth in the Philadelphia region, and this seed capital will ultimately build a pipeline of opportunities potentially suitable for future rounds of financing from Safeguard."

Ben Franklin will lead the due diligence and day-to-day fund management. Funds will be doled out to promising Philadelphia digital health startups based on the quality of their business model, the technology's viability, and the strength of the team's vision. IHG, Ben Franklin, and Safeguard will also support the companies in other ways, such as mentorship and connecting them with opportunities.

"Joining with these leaders who bring domain knowledge and expertise strengthens Greater Philadelphia's position to support one of its most thriving technology sectors," Ben Franklin President and CEO RoseAnn Rosenthal said in a statement. "Such a collaboration enhances and multiplies the quality of assessment, feedback and opportunity available to the region's digital health entrepreneurial talent, promoting development of solutions to benefit our community while offering companies even more resources to start, stay and grow here."

Independence Blue Cross has formerly supported Philadelphia-based accelerator DreamIt Health and last year invested $2.4 million in chronic care app developer CareCam. It launched its Center for Health Care Innovation in February 2014. The Center for Health Care Innovation's initiatives include investing in startups and partnering with universities.

"Independence Health Group is committed to developing and supporting the next generation of digital health entrepreneurs and helping our region become a global center for health care innovation," Daniel Hilferty, president and CEO of IHG, said in a statement. "At our core is the belief that innovation is always knocking at the door. We want to champion healthcare entrepreneurship in our region and could not have found better partners for turning game-changing ideas into real world applications that will improve our members' well-being."

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