CUNY alumni July 15, 2022
Many startups dream of achieving “unicorn” status—a $1 billion valuation. For two CUNY alumni, that dream is now a reality. Alamin Uddin and Waleed Asif, founders of NexHealth, participated in CUNY’s inaugural Social Entrepreneurship “bootcamp” at the Zahn Center in 2014 during their time as undergraduate students at City College, developing their original concept, a platform to digitize and streamline the doctor-patient experience. The bootcamp operated in partnership with the NYC Regional Innovation I-Corps Node (NYCRIN), now known as the New York Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub. NexHealth is the first unicorn company connected to CUNY’s entrepreneurship training programs. Founded in 2017, NexHealth recently closed a $125 million in a Series C financing round, bringing the company to a $1 billion valuation. NexHealth is a patient experience and practice management platform that integrates directly with practice management and electronic health record systems. Its cloud-based platform enables real-time online scheduling, automated appointment reminders, video visits, patient messaging, digital forms and payments, reporting, and virtual waitlists. “What Uddin and Asif have achieved is an inspiration for our students and for entrepreneurs everywhere,” said John Blaho, director of Industrial-Academic Research at CUNY. “Consumers have frictionless digital experiences when doing virtually anything except visiting the doctor’s office,” said Uddin in a recent company press release. “We’ve come to expect very little innovation in the healthcare world, and NexHealth is here to change that, accelerating innovation in healthcare by connecting patients, doctors, and developers.” Haytham Elhawary, who was the founding director and led the Zahn Center a decade ago, recalls that Uddin and Asif were exploring several concepts, and NexHealth was one of them. “It’s been thrilling to see them take their original idea and bring it to a successful outcome,” said Elhawary, now CEO of KINETIC, a wearable tech company. “They were incredibly eager entrepreneurs,” added Lindsay Siegel, former executive director of the Zahn Center, originator of its Social Entrepreneurship bootcamp, and now head of impact for venture capital firm Company Ventures. “They were great storytellers, could pinpoint a problem, and were very committed to their idea.” The program in which Uddin and Asif participated relied upon the “lean launchpad” methodology of iterative development and prioritizing customer discovery. That approach is now a core tenet of NY I-Corps, a regional public–private partnership centered at CUNY and funded in part by the National Science Foundation, that helps to accelerate the transition of research and technology into commercial success. The NY I-Corps Hub connects academic researchers and students with technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities at the local level through the work of I-Corps sites, which nurture and support multiple, local teams that are transitioning their ideas, devices, processes, or other intellectual activities into the marketplace. The program seeks to spur translation of research into commercial application, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train students to understand innovation and entrepreneurship.