Meeting at the Intersection of Private & Public

One of the most exciting stories of the 2017 PULSE program involves a public-private partnership between two startups, one health insurance provider, and a city.

With the objective of adding value for its members, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC), a New England based health insurance provider, made offers to two startups during matchmaking for the 2017 PULSE program: Cake and Gain Life. Cake simplifies end-of-life planning. Gain Life uses machine learning and AI to optimize weight loss and enforce positive behavior change. Palliative care and obesity are two high pain and high-cost areas for HPHC and its members.

Shortly into the PULSE program, HPHC, Cake, and Gain Life decided to validate the startups’ products. HPHC would initially implement each technology with its own employees as a benefit before rolling it out to members. However, anticipating that the results would not reach statistical significance, Steve Fink, Director of Business Planning at HPHC, reached out to the PULSE team to see if the City of Boston would serve as a co-Champion for the Cake and Gain Life pilots. The City of Boston agreed to co-Champion the startups because the majority of the City of Boston’s employees received health insurance through HPHC, and the city wanted to provide their employees with high quality wellness offerings, such as Cake and Gain Life.

“[For Mayor Marty Walsh,] backing an initiative like MassChallenge and supporting innovation was important,” said Fink, who believed his support “motivated people [to get] on board” quickly. The initial meeting between HPHC, Cake, Gain Life, and the City of Boston occurred on March 31st. Within 31 days of the initial meeting with the City of Boston, the pilots were off the ground (May 1st).

“Harvard Pilgrim saw the importance of our goal and wanted to bring it to a larger market, [and help] open doors for our company,” says Suelin Chen, CEO and Co-Founder of Cake. Lizzy Briskin, Customer Operations at Gain Life speaks of her positive experience that “we are excited to have a lasting future with Harvard Pilgrim and the City of Boston. PULSE was in key in finding these connections.”

Fink is hopeful for another chance to form a partnership with a PULSE Champion in the future, “it all depends on who the next startups are and what their offerings are. Who knows it could be City of Boston again or a different Champion. We’ll see.”


Apply to PULSE today! Want to have the chance to partner with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care or the City of Boston? The PULSE application deadline is October 10, 2017. Use the code 2018PULSEBlog and get 50% off your application! boston.masschallenge.org/pulse