Entrepreneurial Fever: Health Tech Startup Master Steven Collens

Casey Gordon | August 4, 2016


This is the mantra that Steven Collens picked up in his favorite book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“No matter how stressful things get,” Steven says, “you’ll never make good decisions while freaking out.”

We’re not totally sure when he first read Hitchhiker’s, but judging from the very long list of good decisions on Steven’s resume, we’d guess it was probably a long time ago.

One of Steven’s best decisions to date? Leaping headfirst into Chicago’s tech scene after deciding to leave his cozy public affairs gig at healthcare giant Abbott Laboratories. The year was 2011, and his new boss J.B. Pritzkerplaced Steven on a leadership team charged with building a tech center for Chicago’s entrepreneurial community.

Five years and nearly 400 companies later, 1871 is now a globally recognized tech incubator.

Steven hasn’t looked back since. 1871 exposed him to the contagious energy of startups and the endless possibilities of tech, leaving him with this conviction: that the world’s most game-changing technologies will be built by entrepreneurs who are not constrained by traditional corporate structures.

Steven helped launch MATTER in 2014. With his decade of healthcare business acumen and his newfound passion for tech incubation, it may not have been possible to biologically engineer a more perfect candidate for CEO of the Merchandise Mart-based health tech startup center.

More than 100 startups in the fields of medical equipment, healthcare IT, diagnostics, and biopharmaceuticals operate at MATTER. By promoting collaboration between entrepreneurs, scientists, physicians, investors, and more than 50 partner organizations, MATTER seeks to bring next-generation products and services to market that improve quality of care and save lives.

We asked Steven about his favorite healthcare tech innovations, and we applaud him for being able to pick just five.

Steven shares 5 of his favorite health tech innovations:

1. Remote monitoring. The healthcare system is historically episodic. Interactions only take place when you visit the doctor or pharmacy. New tech allows providers to connect with people on a regular basis, outside the walls of healthcare institutions.

2. Bodies as data engines. The average person looks at their phone 150 times and takes 5,000-10,000 steps a day. We can harness that data to detect physiological changes, to anticipate the onset of medical conditions or relapse.

3. Genomics. Big data is allowing healthcare to realize the promise of personalized medicine. For example, Steven sent his genes to a lab that told him he is 3.6 times more likely to go bald than the average male.

4. Process efficiency. Healthcare is unbelievable inefficient. Emerging technologies and analytics are streamlining mundane processes in ways that create a better experience for patients, providers, and everyone in between.

5. Behavior change. People do stupid shit every day. Smoke, drink, eat too much, don’t exercise enough. Most people want to change, but don’t know where to start. New tools and analytics help people make scientifically informed lifestyle changes.

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