Catalyst's Ambitious Plan to Spark Innovation in Colorado's Healthcare Industry

Catalyst HTI is rapidly approaching its ribbon-cutting ceremony this spring in RiNo. Founder and President Mike Biselli explains how bringing scores of top healthcare businesses under one roof might make them all stronger.

Four years after Mike Biselli first envisioned Catalyst Health-Tech Innovation (HTI), it's jumping off the drawing board in a big way.


The onetime kicker for Stanford's football team, Biselli ran a health-tech startup, MedPassage, out of Galvanize in the Golden Triangle until he sold the company in 2013.


After the deal, Biselli spent a few weeks in Mexico. "I was doing a little bit of a debrief with myself? What was the biggest problem I saw in the healthcare industry?"


The answer: "a fundamental and utter disconnect between us as innovators and startups and the established healthcare system -- the Anthems and the Kaisers."

There's already a waiting list for the 60 small offices and desks on the fourth floor.

There's a huge need for innovation in an industry that still regularly uses fax machines. "It's now approaching 20 percent of our GDP. It's a massive, massive industry."


Galvanize's collaboration-centric model gave Biselli an idea for a hub for healthcare innovation in Denver as a wave of health-tech entrepreneurs relocated to the city. "People are moving here from all over the world," he says.


In 2015, Biselli partnered with Koelbel and Company to build the ambitious, 180,000-square-foot project at 3513 Brighton Blvd. in RiNo. His "four-year journey" is nearing a finish line: Catalyst HTI is set to open in May 2018.


Industry integrator


Biselli says that about 600 people will work at the space every day after it opens in the spring. He's quick to point out that Catalyst HTI is not a coworking space, while it does have a sold-out desk and office area on the fourth floor.


"This is not a coworking space. This is not an accelerator," he says. "What I call this is an industry integrator."


He describes tenants ranging from "from the Fortune 500 company to the back-of-a-napkin sketch and everything in between.


Kaiser Permanente will operate a clinic on the first floor, alongside a pair of restaurants, a cafe, and a 250-seat event hall. Also on-site: a 3D printing lab, community kitchen, gym and a coding and business academy. Some of the other tenants are Terumo BCT, Hitachi Consulting, Delta Dental of Colorado, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and numerous startups.


Biselli says he has a waiting list for the 60 small offices and desks on the fourth floor as more than 70 percent of the building's 180,000 square feet is already leased.


A provider of a healthcare financing user interface, Affordify Solutions is one of the inaugural startups on the fourth floor. "We are in the process of moving our headquarters from Houston to Denver -- primarily because of Mike Biselli," says Ryan Kraynick, Affordify's co-founder and CEO. He says the company will be based out of a small office at Catalyst "that will grow over time."

Founder Mike Biselli partnered with Koelbel and Company to build the ambitious, 180,000-square-foot project at 3513 Brighton Blvd.


After meeting Biselli at an industry event in early 2016, Kraynick was quickly won over by his vision for Catalyst. "When Mike and I started talking, it just looked like a perfect fit," he says.


So he quickly made the decision to move to Denver. "We don't come from the medical space, so we knew we needed to sync up with a wealth of experience in medical," says Kraynick. "Us being able to collaborate with Fortune 500 companies is going to be a huge benefit."


Serendipitous collisions


"What I'm most excited about is stuff that's already occurring -- partnerships coming together because of Catalyst," says Biselli, highlighting a partnership between Kaiser Permanente and CirrusMD, a 32-employee medical communication platform provider founded in 2013.


Andrew Altorfer, CirrusMD's founder and CEO, says he first heard about the concept for Catalyst soon after Biselli came up with it in early 2014. "We thought it was a really good idea," says Altorfer. "We saw a lot of benefits from the ability to interact with bigger companies."


He says "the ability to be around other people re-imagining healthcare” was the primary draw. "I think Catalyst can be a huge opportunity for Denver and for Colorado to build a hub of healthcare innovation."


After outgrowing an office at Industry, CirrusMD is now based in a cramped office in RiNo, so space is an issue. "We likely will be doubling our team in the next six months," says Altorfer.


Delta Dental of Colorado, the largest dental insurer in the state, is another founding tenant. With 200 employees in the Denver Tech Center, the nonprofit company is opening a 2,000-square-foot office at Catalyst with about five employees and regular meetings.


President and CEO Helen Drexler says she's hoping to increase the frequency of "serendipitous collisions" that generate and advance new ideas. "We decided to be part of a community that is innovating in Colorado," says Drexler. "We need to get out of our box to do that."


The big questions: "What do we want to be when we grow up and what should we be doing to be what we want to be in 10 years?" The speed of innovation in the 21st century, Drexler adds, it's easy to be left behind.


"It'll be an innovation space, a convening space, an ideation space," she adds. "It's the place we'll go to dream, think and vision."


Executives will regularly work out of the new office. "We need to get them out of their comfort zones," she says. "In order for me to really innovate in the dental world, we need to interface with dental professionals. I'm not going to be able to do that at Ulster and Belleview."

Catalyst's new logo will soon beome a fixture in RiNo.

At Catalyst, she plans to invite dentists in for a wide range of events. The RiNo location is a big draw: "It's sexy, it's fun, it's hip, it's happening."


And the shared amenities make Catalyst ideal for meetings and events, she adds. "I don't need 25,000 square feet if I can do 2,00 and take advantage of the shared amenities."


Drexler is also hoping to collaborate with other tenants, and has her eye on the office next door for starters. "We'll be neighbors with MGMA," she says. "We should be working together."


Likewise based in the Denver Tech Center, MGMA is a research-oriented national association with a membership of 45,000 medical practice executives and administrators. About 30 of 130 employees at the existing DTC headquarters will move to a 6,000-square-foot space at Catalyst come May, says MGMA COO Todd Evenson. It will also play host to rotating teams working on new products.


"Clearly, there are so many opportunities for synergies," says Evenson, referring to product early discussions with Drexler and Delta Dental. "I think there's a lot of great tools we could co-develop in the future to offer dental practices."


He adds, "We don't have to compete. We can leverage each other's strengths. We can add value to both sides of the equation.


Those kind of statements are music to Biselli's ears. He points to the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, self-described as "the world's largest innovation hub," as a model for the kind of place Catalyst could become. The 1.5-million-square-foot space is home to about 150 companies and 6,000 employees.


That's an admittedly high bar, but Biselli welcomes the challenge. "Once we're open in RiNo, watch out," he says.

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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