Winners of the 2018 Lyfebulb and UnitedHealth Group Innovation Challenge. Pictured from left to right: Scott Sundvor, Nima Labs, third place; Jon Margalit, Complete Start, first place; Vik Kashyap, Toi Labs, second place.
Complete Start, a startup firm that sells nutritious organic breakfast shake mixes via mail order, took top honors this week in a contest in Minnetonka focused on innovative, patient-led solutions for the group of gut conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease.
A panel of industry experts with the 2018 Lyfebulb and UnitedHealth Group Innovation Challenge examined 11 finalists over two days before naming Complete Start and its founder, Jon Margalit, the winner Wednesday night. The contest was designed to highlight untraditional innovations from patient entrepreneurs.
“Making meaningful improvements in the lives of people living with chronic disease requires creative ways of thinking and new approaches to treatment,” said Dr. Deneen Vojta, Executive Vice President, Research and Development at UnitedHealth Group. “Complete Start is a terrific example of a product that will meet a condition-specific health care need but also has broad consumer appeal.”
The contest was jointly organized by Lyfebulb LLC and UnitedHealth Group. Lyfebulb is a New York-based firm that connects patients, product makers, insurers and investors interested in chronic diseases. UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, hosted the contest at its Minnetonka headquarters and funded the challenge.
Complete Start’s first-place finish comes with a $25,000 award. The contest was open to established companies of any size whose founders or families are affected by IBD and have created a product or service to address an issue faced by patients with the condition.
Complete Start sells prepacked breakfast shake mixes made from ingredients described on its web site as “non-GMO, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, low in sugar and formulated with care right here in the United States.”
Although the shakes aren’t directly marketed on the website as a solution for bowel diseases, Margalit has Crohn’s disease and he has said that the idea for the business came about after he found that other people wanted to drink the same shakes that he’d designed to fit his own breakfast needs.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease, a group of conditions in which the parts of the digestive tract become chronically inflamed, often triggering severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The second-place honors and a $15,000 prize went to Vik Kashyap of Toi Labs, which makes high-tech toilet seats that collect and analyze data from a person’s waste to improve health and wellness. Third place and $10,000 went to Scott Sundvor of Nima Labs, which makes a portable sensor that detects gluten in food.
“Since this is a challenge for patient entrepreneurs, the IP [intellectual property] belongs to the participants – UHG and Lyfebulb will have no rights to any IP,” a spokeswoman with UnitedHealth Group said in an email. “It’s really about supporting patients in bringing innovative solutions to market for the management of IBD – to help patients with IBD live healthier lives.”
The panel of judges included Rebecca Babcock, a patient ambassador at Lyfebulb; Shomit Ghose, general partner at ONSET Ventures; Dr. Karin Hehenberger, founder and CEO of Lyfebulb; Dr. Gerard Honig, translational research manager at Crohn's & Colitis Foundation; Dr. Scott Ketover, president and CEO of Minnesota Gastroenterology, P.A.; and Dr. Deneen Vojta, executive vice president of research and development, UnitedHealth Group.