Brainstorm the next big idea

In general, a hackathon is an event during which people come together to brainstorm ideas and build products within a short period of time. Princeton MediHack aimed to bring together hackers of various disciplines to solve problems connecting medicine, technology, research, policy, and entrepreneurship. Princeton University provided a place for students to drop everything and concentrate on a project for 36 hours with a team.

Undergraduate students, graduate students, and working professionals with interests in medicine, entrepreneurship, engineering, and design thinking were all encouraged to attened the hackathon. Princeton students as well as students from other universities can joined.

Princeton MediHack (PMH) focused on four tracks

Classic Hackathon

Healthcare-related software and hardware projects (open-ended)

“Propose a solution that effectively retrieves, organizes, and optimally uses data for food- and nutrition-related problem solving and decision-making.”


Computational NueroPsychiatry

Application of computational methods and mathematical theories of cognition for the study and prevention of mental disorders

-Recommended resource: PsyNeuLink, a block modeling system for cognitive neuroscience

“Develop a mathematical model of learning for individuals with depression using PsyNeuLink, an open-source software Python environment designed to build models of relationship between brain function, mental processes and behavior.”


Machine Learning for Drug Discovery

Application of computational methods for drug discovery, design, and optimization
-Recommended resource: DeepChem, a machine-learning approach to drug discovery

“Identify a potential new drug intervention using DeepChem, a machine learning approach to drug discovery.”


Design Thinking

A creative ideation-based approach to problem solving that includes a step-by-step process, a suite of tools, and a few orienting mindsets

“Propose a design-thinking solution for youth tobacco prevention and prescription drug abuse prevention.”

The Design Thinking track requires no coding at all.

Since learning is a big part of PMH, teams were encouraged to have members with a diverse skill set. Hackathon participants were encouraged to join more than one track. Team building sessions were setup to facilitate finding other team members who have similar interests and problems to address. An ideal team size of 4 people was suggested by the organizers.

In addition, there were many workshops and talks to attend, as well as mentors to answer any questions.

Early Stage Financing of Healthcare Startups


On of the best workshops was given by Sam Lee called “Early Stage Financing of Healthcare Startups.”

Sam scouts for new pharmaceutical technologies and designs new business models for entrepreneurial growth at Garage 5B; a healthcare focused VENTURE FUND.

Sam believes that the future of health will allow us to be in control of our health at all times.

He is keen to work with entrepreneurs inventing this future.

Sam holds Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from the University of Toronto.

He explained the difference between accelerators and an incubators. Accelerators are not the same as Incubators.which is an older concept that started in the 1990s. The main benefit of an the shared co-working space among startup entreprenuers. Similar to what WeWork does today. Incubators share large expensive resources like a web lab. The idea if there are a lot of startups in the same place, the co-location provides a fertile environment for shared costs. But Incubators do not provide financing. Service providers like law firms and accountants show up to provide services.

Accelerators are a recent phenominon over the past 10 years. Although an Accelerator can provide physical office space, they are cohort based. Accelerators take applications for a cohort that will be trained in a startup bootcamp. The teach you how to pitch, they question you on your assumptions, help you develop your business plan, work on your market analysis and at the end there is a demo day where the accelerator invites investors to hear your final presentation in order to get financing. The Accelerators are not out to seek rent from startups like incubators, but invest seed financing of the startups.

40% of accerlerators takes place in the major metropolitan areas all across America. In the USA, there are 170 accelerators versus 520 incubators and innovation centers. In fact, the top 3 startup accelerators produce 10% of “Series A” deals. The top startup Accelerators are listed below.

One third of US Startups that raised “Series A” went through an Accelerator. Pretty soon it will be 50%. Accelerators are making a big impact helping startups get both seed financing and “Series A” funding.

Accelerators are not the same as incubators; they offer following distinctions below.

  1. Fixed Term
  2. Cohort Based program
  3. Includes mentorship and educational components
  4. Includes an investment upon completion of the program.

Seed stage gets its funding from any diverse sources. Examples below.

  • CO-Founders
  • Family and Friends
  • Angel Investors
  • Seed Stage Venture Capitalist
  • Research grants
  • Small Business Innovaton
  • Pilot Study Programs
  • Corporate Innovation Centers
  • Crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter.

About finance, he explained how it is used to scale a business. The stages of funding are

  1. Seed Funding
  2. Series A
  3. Series B
  4. Series C

As more investors come on board, the stock becomes diluted. Now the angel investors issue “convertible debt.” which means the investors will give you the money but it will convert to equity at a later point at a discount to what the investors and startup founders negotiate at “Series A” stage. Because it is too difficult to determine the value of a startup company at an early stage in its development. The discount is 20-25% or a cap may be put upon on it. This method was popularized by Y Combinator. Because its difficult to know value of the true value of a startup at the early stages.

While the journey to “product market fit” and profitability is long road, often over 5 years, startup investors focus on fundamentals like: is the startup based on a compelling idea, can the team succeed in the market and is the business opportunity real and large enough to make such a gamble on it?


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