Tech Startup: BurstIQ tackles issues with health data


Where: Denver
Founded: 2015

Initial Lightbulb: After working together at other data-centric companies, Frank Ricotta and Brian Jackson co-founded BurstIQ to tackle issues with health data.

“We felt there was this whole new wave of information-sharing and a whole new access model that we were on the verge of entering into with health around precision medicine, IoT, and even machine intelligence,” Ricotta says.

“Everyone wanted to just keep the data and not share the data,” Jackson says. “There was a lot out there, and over the last few years, almost too much data out there.”

With the right tools, the data could be leveraged to improve treatment and outcomes, he adds. “How do we put that data back in the patient’s hands?”

Ricotta and Jackson, the 20-employee company’s respective CEO and president/COO, anticipate hiring 20 more employees in 2020.

In a Nutshell: Launched in mid-2017, BurstIQ’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform aims to empower patients, health care providers and researchers by better leveraging and sharing data. Pricing is based on a traditional SaaS model, with base and transactional fees.

Security is a HIPAA-mandated priority, and BurstIQ leverages blockchain to balance data privacy with approved access. “It was a little difficult at first for some of the hospitals and health-care providers to understand it,” Jackson says. “As we move forward, people understand that this technology really does have a benefit.”

Ricotta points to the ability to add a “trust layer” to people’s health information and allow them to share it as they see fit, with doctors, researchers and even friends. “It allows lots of disparate parties to come together and collaborate, and still understand who owns what,” he says.

He cites “70 amazing projects on the platform,” and notes, “If you want to build a digital app and you want to use blockchain, I think we’ve got the best platform to do that. You can do that for free.” For example, Salt Lake City-based Empiric Health has helped 100 hospitals reduce costs in surgical workflow with the help of BurstIQ’s platform.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, BurstIQ launched Research Foundry in mid-March 2020. “When COVID came around it was, ‘How do we share this data?’” Jackson says. “That’s the premise of what we started the company around.”

Research Foundry “is an acceleration of our go-to-market plan with a broader data-sharing network,” says Ricotta, calling it a coalition of “researchers, public health officials, organizations both public and private, and innovators.”

With about 300 active participants, “We started seeing this cool collaborative ecosystem emerge between the innovators and researchers,” he adds. “It’s been a positive experience in this terrible pandemic we’re living through.”

In May, BurstIQ announced a collaboration with Hitachi Vantara and the American Heart Association (AHA) focused on the relationships between COVID-19 and other health conditions.

Wesley Wiggins, practice principal with Hitachi Vantara, says the goal is to “bring researchers who are looking to solve this problem to the data,” including imaging data from COVID-19 patients.

“Part of it is bringing the data itself to a virtual cloud environment through the [AHA’s] Precision Medicine Platform where researchers can log into,” Wiggins says. “They can be anywhere in the world, they can use this cloud environment that’s integrated with BurstIQ’s Research Foundry and work together in real time.”

Ricotta says the pandemic has catalyzed acceptance of collaboration around private health data. “People are a lot more comfortable in the virtual space, a lot more comfortable trying different access models,” he says. “The whole topic of security and privacy is going to take center stage now as we go into the next phase with all these jurisdictions, even here in the United States, talking about immunity passes and digital identities that validate your COVID status.”

The Market: Health IT is a global market of “several trillion dollars,” Ricotta says, noting that blockchain solutions could represent more than $4 billion of that by 2025. “When you really open up, it also extends into biotech and pharma as well as supply chain on the natural segment, as well as health and wellness tech.”

Financing: After a $250,000 seed round from First Mile Ventures, BurstIQ closed on a $5.5 million round led by Elsewhere Partners of Austin, Texas, in September 2019. “We pretty much have bootstrapped our company,” Jackson says.