Adelaide to Houston: Digital Health Startup Takes the Leap
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Spending time at Houston’s Texas Medical Center (TMC) – the world’s largest
medical precinct – helped digital health company Personify Care achieve its
In early 2017, Personify Care was one of three Australian startups to
participate in the four‑month TMC Accelerator Program (TMCx), supported by
Austrade through the BioBridge Initiative.
After being immersed in TMC’s medical ecoystem with its campus of 60 member
institutions, the digital health startup is gaining a foothold in Texas.
CEO and founder of Personify Care, Ken Saman, attributes his company’s US
success to completing TMCx, understanding that each US state is a different
market, and investing time in-market to establish strong personal
Personifying the best in digital health
Established in 2014, Personify Care is based on the belief that patients
deserve the best possible care even when they’re not in a hospital or
clinic. The company’s proprietary web-based software allows nurses,
specialist practices and hospitals to detect when a patient is at risk of a
complication and intervene before their condition (and associated costs)
Personify Care’s digital platform is used by both patients and health
professionals and integrates with electronic medical records. In just the
last 12 months, the platform has been used by providers to monitor more
than 330,000 patient interactions and screen 110,000 patient clinical
In a recent study, the software was shown to reduce 68 per cent of the cost
of delivering clinical protocols before and after a hospital stay.
Furthermore, the support and information provided to patients
post-discharge aims to reduce re-admission rates and improve patient
As a digital health startup, Personify Care was ‘born global’ with an eye
on the US from day one. But establishing credibility in Australia first
enabled the medtech company to enter the US with experience.
‘Working with the TMC Innovation Institute provided an additional badge of
credibility, opened doors for opportunities and allowed us to have valuable
conversations in the US,’ says Saman.
Personify Care is making strides in the US having secured investment in the
US and Australia and securing its first pilots with surgical centres in
Journey to the US
After spending time in the US, Saman understood the growth opportunities
and the market.
‘We developed the platform in Australia for Australia, but always knew the
same problem of poor patient preparation and post-op readmissions existed
in the US at a much larger scale,’ says Saman.
Prior to joining TMCx, Personify Care explored US market entry
opportunities and investigated US compliance and legal requirements.
Talking to potential partners in Boston and Minneapolis, they hadn’t
Personify Care was invited by Austrade to meet TMC Chief Operating Officer
Bill McKeon (now Chief Executive Officer) and provided with information
about TMCx and the BioBridge.
‘Without Austrade’s connection to TMCx and the Australia-TMC BioBridge we
would not have known about the program,’ Saman adds.
Working with the TMC Innovation Institute and its associated long-term
benefits has helped Personify Care beyond the formal four-month program.
Saman notes that being part of TMCx saved the company six to 12 months
compared to entering the US market without structured assistance.
‘TMCx highlighted the value of networks and relationships, especially for
an Australian company expanding into the US,’ he says. ‘We learnt about the
commercial side and launched our first pilots in the US during the program.
‘Our first US investor came via a TMC introduction, allowing us to go back
home, raise additional private investment and secure support from the
Australian Government through the Accelerating Commercialisation program,
and then come back to the US. This enabled us to hire our first two people
in the US, both locally based in Houston via our TMC networks.’
Understanding the market
Six months after the TMC Innovation Institute program, Personify Care hired
local staff in Houston that understood the local culture and had invaluable
‘Working with staff that know local business practices and cultural
differences helped break down barriers and increased our credibility,’ says
‘On-the-ground experience showed us the US is not one market. Each state
has its own way of doing business and it’s important to tailor strategies
The company is working hard to build relationships and expand its US
‘We are currently in a growth phase and know that success doesn’t happen
overnight,’ says Saman. ‘It’s a process we’ve gone through in Australia and
are now going through in the US.’
Austrade continues to offer Personify Care support, including invitations
to networking events and facilitating introductions to contacts in its Life
Advice for others
For other Australian digital health companies looking to enter the US,
Saman offers the following advice.
‘Find locals who know the market and piggyback off this,’ he says. ‘Get
people on the ground early and spend time in the market yourself.
‘Invest time and effort to establish relationships and credibility. When
you’re trying to introduce something new into the US, you can’t do it
‘Come over here, build relationships, talk to people and figure out how to
approach the local market. I highly recommend applying for programs like
‘There’s a lot of noise in the US so you also need to be clear about how
you’re different. Tweak your model to suit the market and ensure your
product is always solving a real problem.’
Austrade has six US offices, including one in Houston, with advisers who
can provide support to Australian startups looking to enter the US market.
Austrade also manages the Australian Landing Pad program in San Francisco
for market-ready startups and scaleups, operating out of WeWork.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is the Australian Government’s international trade promotion and investment attraction agency. Its Landing Pad program assists Australian scaleups to enter new markets abroad with introductions to strategic stakeholders and tailored business advice. Further information on the Landing Pad program, including how to apply, can be found here.
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