Jacqueline Barendregt on her entrepreneurial journey to advance people-centered care
Jacqueline participated in the Autumn 2020 batch of StartupLeap with her startup idea for a digital health solution called Polaris CrowdLab. After the program, she continued working on the idea with her team, and they recently participated in an acceleration program at Health Holland.
Polaris CrowdLab brings together the best digital health apps for the most common health problems. They match people’s individual health needs with qualified health apps and provide support to integrate these new tools for self-management into people’s daily life. The solution combines the powerful benefits of personalized care and technology to guide people through the maze of 350k+ health apps for an easier, healthy life.
I got the chance to ask some questions about her entrepreneurial journey:
Where did the idea for Polaris CrowdLab come from?
I have a healthcare background. In the earliest stages of my career, I was a nurse, followed by a career in the biopharmaceutical industry. When working with people who suffered from chronic health problems, I would hear their stories about reoccurring issues. People look for ways to treat and manage their disease that best suits their personal situation but don’t know what is possible and get what is included in care standards and protocols. There’s a constant development of innovative solutions, but often they would not reach the people who need them or could benefit the most. With Polaris Crowdlab, I wanted to empower people with chronic health problems and find out what is preventing access to innovative health solutions. Our idea was not to come up with a new health tech solution but to enable more patients to access them. I shared this idea with my niece, who has a background in artificial intelligence, and she joined me on this passion project.
How did you experience the StartupLeap program?
It was great to access the materials for free and connect with the experts and other participants. It helped to have a structured program with different topics each week. Also, the homework makes sure you prioritize your time and makes you prepared for the progress sessions with your peers. Through StartupLeap, I made some new connections, which helped to validate the idea later. It is also inspiring to see the journey of the other participants in the program. It keeps you going when you are at a point where you are not making as much progress as planned.
How was it to do StartupLeap besides your day job?
It was good that it was online and that the sessions were in the evening. However, sometimes this was also intense since it was a busy period at the company where I work. Working in the evening and on weekends was demanding, but I always reminded myself that “what you put in is what you get out”.
How did your journey continue after StartupLeap?
We launched a pilot to develop the product-market fit with an offline MVP. There was no code at the beginning; we just wanted to learn from people and test our idea. Then we participated in a hackathon of the European Commission, and we were nominated to participate in their acceleration programme. Last Christmas, our technical MVP was ready, and we decided to explore possibilities in the Dutch healthcare system. We recently participated in an accelerator programme from Health Holland to hone in on the problem we’re solving to refine the idea. We welcomed a new member to the team, who we got introduced to by someone we met during the StartupLeap program. I recently decided to change course and move away from the original idea. I am keen to share my learnings and will continue to work on opportunities to advance patient care.
Do you have any tips for aspiring (health-tech) entrepreneurs?
There are many different stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem, and if you want to affect change, it’s essential to consider the possible impact on all stakeholders. Therefore, it is critical to get into conversations with them early. Develop and validate whose problem you are solving and stay open-minded about the possible solution. Share your idea(s) early on to generate insights to learn and refine your solution based on that.