Richard Schwartz, SVP of marketing and connected health partnerships at Digitas Health LifeBrands, meets with startup entrepreneurs selected in Dreamit’s health vertical.

Digitas Health LifeBrands and seed accelerator firm Dreamit formalized a strategic partnership aimed at helping later-stage digital healthcare startups grow their businesses.

Now, startups accepted into Dreamit’s healthcare vertical will be connected with Digitas Health LifeBrands’ corporate partners and clients to explore pilot projects. The healthcare agency will also offer brand strategy advice, to help startups refine their brand identities and positioning in their markets, as well as further develop their marketing plans in areas such as mobile strategy, social content marketing, and community management.

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“To be able to bring our two worlds together in a meaningful way — through advice, customer collaboration — has formalized itself in a way that we’re now able to deliver the expertise of a globally renowned agency for companies that aren’t usually able to get this service,” said Dreamit CMO Seth Berk.

“‘Partnerability’ is the new capability in marketing,” added Richard Schwartz, SVP of marketing and connected health partnerships at Digitas Health LifeBrands. “By applying our skills to their challenges, both entities grow exponentially.”

Last year, Digitas Health LifeBrands worked with some of Dreamit’s healthcare startups informally. Dreamit startups can now receive commercial feedback on de-risking their businesses and products in an on-site customer immersion event.

A number of other agencies have also launched accelerator programs for health startups, including McCann Health and MM&M’s annual Shark Tank and Publicis Groupe’s Publicis90 initiative.

See also: Care Angel wins MM&M Shark Tank challenge 2016

“These younger organizations that don’t have the funds often have a product but not a brand; they have data and insights but not a narrative,” said Schwartz. “Many times they have a pitch, but not one the marketing agency side would view as a brand position. What they’re great at doing is creating solutions where there are gaps.”

The accelerator has already helped launch more than 250 startups that are collectively worth more than $1.5 billion. Its digital health portfolio consists of more than 50 startups, including mobile app developer Tissue Analytics, digital pillbox TowerView Health, DNA diagnostics provider Biomeme, and smoking cessation app developer Somatix.

Dreamit runs two cycles per year in the healthcare sector and selects a cohort of about eight to fifteen companies in each cycle. “But it’s not based on any quota,” noted Berk. “We accept the best of the best.”

The program is international, with 25% of startups from outside the U.S. — the firm is currently working with companies from Israel, Canada, and Mexico.  

“They’re able to do this because our program is mostly remote,” said Berk. “They just come in for a few weeks at the beginning and end of our program. The rest of the time, we’re in contact with them on a weekly basis.”

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When it comes to digital health, Berk said the focus is on startups between the post-seed, when a company has raised about $2 million, and the pre-A funding stage. “There’s a huge funding gap for entrepreneurs who already received early stage funding,” explained Berk. “We wanted to work with serial entrepreneurs.”

It’s a trend that can’t be ignored, said Schwartz. Startups are becoming critical collaborators for pharma companies, and they have the potential of becoming their future customers as well. Last year, Rock Health reported $.4.5 billion in total venture funding for digital health in the U.S.

“We’re already at $3.9 billion for connected health, and we’re on track to exceed the $4.5 billion,” Schwartz said. “I’d rather know them when they’re young and hungry, and be supporting them from the beginning.”