There’s no magic key that opens the startup funding door. It takes persistence, a great product and team, and perhaps a bit of luck.
Just ask David Wenger, CEO of the Palm Beach Gardens-based health-tech startup Bridge Connector. He said he reached out to 300 to 400 investors before a friend knew someone who knew someone who introduced him to the Jenkins family of Publix Super Markets fame. “They agreed to a meeting and here we are,” said Wenger.
Bridge Connector recently announced a seed investment of $4.5 million, led by Tampa-based emerging-technologies funder Axioma Ventures backed by Howard Jenkins, former CEO of Publix. The financing will be used to continue hiring developers and bolstering its support, sales and management teams.
Bridge Connector, which launched in May 2017, is a secure integration platform as a service for healthcare. “We connect whatever disparate systems that healthcare facilities or systems use,” Wenger explained, using the example of a nursing home brand with 100 facilities around the country, each with different systems. “What we have done is found a way to do it for a relatively low cost compared to what else exists out there and we are full service. That means they won’t need to devote a whole team to build these integrations.”
Wenger, who grew up in Palm Beach County, formerly ran a marketing and advertising agency for six years. It was hired to build an integration for a healthcare client. “It took six months. I said to myself there has got to be a better way to do this.”
His father, a doctor and now also a Bridge Connector investor, inspired him to push on. “My dad always said, ‘create something that is yours and own it’.”
Without taking a salary for a year, Wenger and Judson Lathe, COO of Bridge Connector, went into stealth mode to bootstrap their platform. Developers Adam Henry and Aaron Wallace built the original platform. Wenger and Lathe assembled an executive team that includes Director of Sales Mike Iggulden, a former pro hockey player and Cornell grad who helped deliver a Salesforce partnership; Jason Raphael, VP of Client Relations, who joined from Accenture; CTO Joshua Douglas with 20 years’ experience in healthcare; and VP of Sales Andy Harlen.
“Now it’s literally clicking five buttons and we can build that whole integration that took us six months,” says Wenger about Bridge Connector’s integration tool. “We said to ourselves ‘this is really something’ and then we branched out. We partnered with Salesforce and some very big EMR companies.”
Since the fund-raising, Bridge Connector has been on a hiring spree. The startup, just six people in January, is now 25 in a recently expanded Palm Beach Gardens headquarters and offices in Knoxville, Tenn., and on Nashville’s Music Row. The company aims to be at 40 to 45 employees by year’s end.
“Our motto is master what we are good at and grow out other streams of revenue. There is a lot of opportunity,” said Wenger, who is married and has two toddlers. “We think Palm Beach Gardens is paradise. We think we can grow something very big in South Florida.”
But he added, “Regardless of how big we get, I always want to be the company that responds and communicates fully and transparently to our customers and associates. That’s very important to us.”
Over the next year, Bridge Connector plans to expand its platform and announce more key partnerships.
“Now we have the money to grow the company,” Wenger said. “We plan to be the integration solution for healthcare.”
His new funder thinks so too.
Howard Jenkins, co-founding partner of Axioma Ventures and former CEO of Publix, has joined Bridge Connector as chief strategy officer and a board member, as part of his company’s investment. Other investors in the $4.5 million round include Alex Jenkins, co-founding partner of Axioma; Hannibal Baldwin, CFO of Baldwin Beach Capital and Co-CEO of SiteZeus; and Dr. Jeffrey S. Wenger, a gastroenterologist.
“We are excited to back Bridge Connector,” said Howard Jenkins. “It’s a great example of thinking outside the box and leveraging the value of existing healthcare systems, rather than being disruptive for the sake of it.”
Written by Nancy Dahlberg / Palm Beach Tech