Even during a recession, pockets of innovation are forming across the country. Business Week recently put together a great pictorial feature on 75 of America's Most Promising Start Ups. Some of these companies are a bit, well, quirky -- like a company that produces a product for picking up manholes quicker and easier or the (no joke) oven claw company -- but many of the companies identified by Business Week are helping to provide real solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
In the healthcare sector, for example, Banu Ozden's Smart Medical Consumer is able to position itself as the right company at the right time to solve some of America's healthcare needs. We all know the healthcare system is broken, we all know that Barack Obama is taking a hands-on role in the often volatile debate around the future of healthcare, and we all know the frustration of dealing with wrong (and often inflated) medical bills. Smart Medical Consumer is attempting to change all of that:
"Some people you just shouldn't mess with. When Turkish-born Banu Ozden couldn't get a straight answer from her health insurance company about treatment costs after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she got mad. And she got madder still as she went through treatment and received myriad bills filled with unintelligible codes and statements that didn't accurately reflect what she owed. When she finally sorted through the mess, she discovered that she had overpaid by about $4,000. Instead of simply complaining, Ozden, 44, decided to get even.
Formerly a computer science professor at the University of Southern California and director of computing systems research at Bell Labs, Ozden built a medical-billing management service designed for fellow patients. Her Web biz, Smart Medical Consumer, launched in January 2007, with $380,000 from angels. The New York-based company has spent no money on marketing but already has 1,000-some registered users who upload their confidential claims and invoices. Smart Medical Consumer plans to make money by selling ads to medical and pharmaceutical companies. Though Banu continues to undergo cancer treatment, she says she feels healthy and plays tennis when she can and would like to get back into windsurfing."
Innovation in the healthcare space is, in my opinion, just starting to heat up. Once the doors to U.S. healthcare reform get flung wide open, look for new innovations in "branded healthcare" as well. Any other ideas for start-ups (or established companies) that are coming to market with game-changing innovations?