Erik Reinertsen     Blog     Research     Teaching     Tech     Talks

Why we started Forge

This was the first blog post published on Forge’s website, which is now archived here.

I am excited to kick off 2015 with a blog post describing Forge’s story, principles, and vision of improving healthcare through technology.

Rewind to 2013: as a medical student interested in building new ways to help patients, I was not alone in Atlanta. My colleagues and I enjoyed meeting with residents, faculty, and young professionals to discuss technology in medicine. Our gatherings were informal; we talked about unmet clinical needs, problems with the EMR, and research questions over coffee or brunch.

One afternoon, a group of Biomedical Engineering students from Georgia Tech approached us. The engineers were starting their semester-long senior projects, and wanted to meet clinicians for input. We offered to host a meeting, but realized we could scale these interactions more. In October 2013, my colleagues and I organized “Medicine 2.0”, the first multidisciplinary brainstorming session at Emory University School of Medicine connecting clinicians with engineers and students from Georgia Tech. Medicine 2.0 was one of many gatherings in 2013 that revealed significant interest at Emory and Tech in applying engineering and technology towards medicine in an applied rather than academic fashion.

We hypothesized there was a nascent community of clinically-minded technologists andtech-enthused clinicians in Atlanta who wanted to interact but had not found good ways to do so. To learn more about this ecosystem, we joined an executive team from Emory University at Flashpoint, a unique and efficacious mindset school and startup studio at Georgia Tech. Our team had 200+ conversations with scientists, physicians, industry professionals, investors, etc. We discovered pockets of startup activity relevant to medicine, but this fledgling ecosystem was disorganized. We also learned many people did not believe Atlanta has adequate culture, resources, and opportunities to enable successful outcomes in medical entrepreneurship, at least in comparison to San Francisco or Boston.

We decided to cohere the disparate components of our medicine + technology ecosystem. In spring 2014, I co-founded Forge with Evan McClure (an MD/MBA student then, who now works in executive life science recruiting and private equity) and Arash Harzand (a chief resident in internal medicine then, who is now a cardiologist and digital health researcher). We recruited a team, organized events, and met lots of new peoplewho shared our vision of making Atlanta a viable place for multidisciplinary biomediucal entrepreneurship not necessarily confined to the ivory tower.

In fall 2014, Forge organized the first healthcare hackathon in Atlanta under the leadership of Kevin Olsen (now an anesthesiology resident). The success of this event followed months of well-attended events and continued sponsorship interest. We felt the scarcity of resources for medical startup founders was a problem we could help with. To better serve this goal, we incorporated as a non-profit organization with Arash at the helm. This enabled us to raise more money and market ourselves with transparency and credibility. We also created a Board of Directors to have access to, and oversight and advice from leaders in academia, industry, and the investment community.

It is now 2015 and Forge has new ideas, leaders, and partners. We will organize another hackathon, coding and design workshops, and evening networking events for founders, investors, and operators. We also have a new look, logo, and website.

However, we must remain focused on signal over noise. Startups are a buzzword and every week there is a new meetup, group, or conference. When we organize events and initiatives, we ask if it is relevant to our focus: to seek people solving clinically meaningful projects with intellectually exciting technology, and to provide them with useful resources and a supportive community that did not previously exist in industry or academia alone.

Erik Reinertsen
Co-founder, Forge