From Düsseldorf to Barcelona to New York City to Austin to Düsseldorf

… or why applying for startup competitions like MEDICA App Competition makes sense….A guest post by our Community Advisor Maren Lesche

Yes, you can plan. Yes, you can overthink. And yes, you can also embrace the opportunities that are served to you unexpectedly.

What made you interested in ehealth, people keep asking me? With a communications background, the highly regulated and very special digital health sector does not seem the first choice. My answer: unexpected opportunities pulled me in!

In 2014, I met the team of VoiceItt at a startup competition powered by Deutsche Telekom. In Krakow, Poland, we talked about crowdfunding, pitching and hurdles that a young company offering a voice-pattern recognition software for people with disability faced when entering new markets. Social entrepreneurship? A high-tech solution for people with impairment? A small team with limited funding working on a very techy product? I was hooked immediately!

What started as a small favor to present VoiceItt in Berlin, lead me to WebSummit in Dublin and Slush in Helsinki. One of my unexpected “tour stops” brought me to Düsseldorf – a very short trip! Little did I know that the “small event” at Düsseldorf will open up the world of healthcare to me: MEDICA is one of the largest and most prestigious healthcare and medtech trade fairs in the world. As a small event inside MEDICA, the Medica App Competition – MAC for short– was reaching out to very specific startups. Due to MEDICA’s close ties to the Israeli startup ecosystem, VoiceItt saw the startup competition and applied. After making the finals, the ball was in my court again: “Could you present us on stage? Nothing major! One day only” – less than 24h of networking, pitching on stage and reconnecting with old friends.

Ten awesome startups pitched two years ago. A hard battle – that VoiceItt won! Our prize: an IPad and a ticket to Mobile World Congress. Barcelona, we are coming! So one pitching event opened the doors to another stage! Selling the iPad provided the necessary travel money. A few weeks before Mobile World Congress, by accident again, I saw another event in Barcelona: A TechCrunch Meetup for startups! Anybody interested in presenting? All in? Right! I guess my communications background came in handy here: writing nice applications is as important as presenting on stage later. So yes, I used my trade to push VoiceItt to success!

I still remember this event! As one of the last startups to pitch, I had to balance on a broken wooden crate: no slides, not timer, just me and my faulty equilibrium. But yet, I could not have been that bad, since winning this small event secured VoiceItt tickets to the prestigious TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City. Again – nothing I had planned, totally unexpected!

Step by step I worked my way deeper into the ehealth startup ecosystem, became a mentor at Startupbootcamp Digital Health, did research on wearables, learned about biotech and performance materials. The following year, I joined the MEDICA App Competition as a juror, soon after that, I became Community Advisor at the newly founded ehealth think tank FTR4H, short for Future4Health, powered by MEDICA. In March 2017, FTR4H officially launched at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Since then, FTR4H has been active in Delhi, India, and Suzhou, China.

Next stop? Düsseldorf! In November 2017, I am captain of the MEDICA App Competition Jury and will get a front-row seat during the pitching event happening on November. This year the contestants can win up to 2000 Euro and tickets to SXSW 2018 – so no detour via Barcelona and New York City for them!

And did I see that coming, when VoiceItt applied at MEDICA? No! But hey, you can plan. You can overthink. But you can never know where unexpected opportunities will lead to!

PS: Application for MEDICA App Competition 2017 are still open till September 30!

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