All posts in “Startups”

Amino raises $25 million to match patients with doctors best qualified to help them


Find-a-doctor app Amino has raised $25 million in a Series C round of venture funding, according to CEO and co-founder David Vivero. Highland Capital led the investment joined by Accel, Aspect Ventures, CRV, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, and Pilot Wall Group.

A ZocDoc competitor, Amino gives users the ability to search for doctors who are most experienced in treating their particular ailment and tend to deliver the best health outcomes to patients of a similar profile. The company ranks doctors based on analysis of insurance claims and medical billing records, not merely user ratings or availability of appointments.

Users can filter lists of doctors by different scores from the likelihood they’ll perform a certain procedure, like a C-section, to their location or whether or not they accept Medicaid. The app includes both a cost estimation tool and virtual assistant that can book and confirm appointments for patients.

Vivero said that he was inspired to start Amino after frustrations seeking treatment and insurance plans that would cover his own, relatively rare condition– hereditary hemachromatosis, a metabolic disorder where your body fails to filter out too much iron. Now, the CEO reports, Amino includes information about some 910,000 physicians working in the US, and the estimated costs for about 100 different types of common procedures like DTaP vaccines for infants, X-rays or MRIs.

Vivero said, “We think healthcare is a unique ‘shopping’ experience. When you need it, you’ll find there is not a national price transparency tool. There is not a unique source where you go to buy it every time. You are usually a first time buyer of a given service. If you need knee surgery it’s not like buying coffee, where you do it everyday and have developed your informed opinions.”

The company started out solving the “search” problem for consumers, but it is beginning to work with health insurers, integrated delivery networks, employers and provider groups, as well. Vivero said health providers of every kind will be able to use Amino’s data and new tools for analyzing it to plan their own offerings.

“Insurance companies and employers are making important decisions with limited information today. We have about 10 years of data about American healthcare, and the tools to help them answer questions like: How do we design our premiums for next year? How do we think about the quality of physicians at our hospital? Or, where should we build an urgent care clinic?”

Highland Capital’s Head of Healthcare Credit and Equity, Michael Gregory, lauded Amino’s data-driven approach. He said, “Other sites provide summaries on health conditions, or anecdotal experience, but Amino uses actual data and cost report forms to deliver a new era of transparency to the consumer.” He views Amino as an “improved interface” for the healthcare industry.

Featured Image: Amino Inc.

Blackstorm Labs and Rakuten launch R Games to build high-fidelity HTML5 games


Blackstorm Labs, a startup that’s working to build technology that brings developers tools to get out games and apps more quickly through HTML5, today said it is working with Rakuten to build a new entity called R Games that will serve as a hub for games in Japan and Asia.

Blackstorm Labs has been working with Rakuten for some time on the project, but it is coming out officially this evening, and co-founder Ernestine Fu said that working with Rakuten dovetails with users in Asia generally having a more progressive worldview of app distribution. Apps running on Blackstorm Labs’ technology are designed to boot instantly and have the same quality of a regular app without having to download large files.

“if you think about any new distribution platform you try to create, you need to have premiere amazing content on that platform,” Fu said. “The game studio to feed some initial content. But at some point we’ll open to additional developers.”

R Games is more of a “joint spinout,” with Blackstorm basically handling education and development of the technology and relaying that over to Rakuten. R Games already has dozens of people working on games that will be distributed through Blackstorm Labs’ HTML5 technology, and is tapping big brands like Taito to make games like Bubble Bobble and Pac-Man. The startup has one board seat in the venture.

Blackstorm Labs isn’t actually shipping any of its existing employees off to R Games, which would certainly not be a scalable situation if it were to seek additional partnerships and deals like these. But late last year, it became clear that the technology had a opportunity to create, at the very least, a thriving gaming ecosystem based around HTML5 technology, Fu said.

“We built within two days this quick bubble shooter game — it was not polished at all,” Fu said. “We were able to take that game and show it to the folks at Rakuten. It was all these things that were rough but it was one of those big moments that there are new distribution platforms. At the time HTML5 tech was so rapidly changing, Google and Apple were a part of that,”

Games still continues to be one of the strongest showcases of the technology, with the ability to quickly dive into a high-fidelity gaming experience that can tap into more social elements across different platforms like Facebook Messenger. But Blackstorm Labs’ technology can theoretically go beyond games, if developers are able to use that technology to figure out new use cases for applications that can quickly spin up and launch within a browser while having the same level of quality of a downloaded app.

If that’s the case — and that was one of the core elements of Blackstorm Labs’ pitch — then developers may be able to sidestep the cluttered App Store completely if it gets wide adoption. The actual applications could theoretically be embedded within links in your News Feed or messenger clients while still behaving like a typical app. Getting that technology widely adopted is still going to be an uphill battle, but part of the reason the company started off with games is that they have very high performance requirements.

Author Ryan Holiday talks about the value of stoicism in a high-tech world


Ryan Holiday made his bones as a PR guy and then revolted against the industry in his tell-all book Trust Me, I’m Lying and then, after much soul-searching, came to embrace the ancient philosophy of stoicism. His latest work, including Ego Is The Enemy, are handbooks for the modern startup stoic.

This week I talked to Holiday about his books and how stoicism can help us all calm down and think. In this wide-ranging interview we chat a little about PR, a little about the media, and a lot about how we could all do with a little Epicurus.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Sticher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

The Pittsburgh Micro-Meetup is go!


In preparation for Disrupt New York and our upcoming TC Sessions series on Robotics Matt Burns and I will be heading to Pittsburgh to talk to some startups.

We have some good news! We’ve found a space. We will meet at the Shop on April 11 at 7pm, a new place near bakery square. Please RSVP ASAP. We also need lots and lots of startups, preferably in hardware. Startups will have two minutes to pitch and two minutes of questioning from a set of amazing judges (to be named.) We’re gathering some booze and food sponsors as we speak so you’ll be well-fed. Thanks to Kit Mueller and The Shop for the help so far.

If you’d like to pitch at our Pitch-Off please sign up here. See yinz soon!

Automattic’s head of design on diversity, the three kinds of design and the four quarters of life

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John Maeda is the head of design and inclusion at Automattic. In this episode, we discuss how he turned RISD into the best design school in the country, why inclusivity is the secret weapon on design teams, and why design is ultimately about the customer.

Classical design, design thinking and computational design: Maeda says these are the three kinds of design and elaborates on the issues that arise when you take a classical approach to computational design.

He also goes deep on when designers should or should not go to college, and what they should actually study if they do.

This post and episode notes were put together by freelance writer, Gannon Burgett. Watch for High Resolution episodes to drop every Monday on TechCrunch at 8 a.m. PT. You can also listen on iTunes and Overcast.