PatientWisdom Now Available in Epic App Orchard

NEWS PROVIDED BYPatientWisdom, Inc. 

Jul 28, 2020, 11:22 ET

NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — PatientWisdom, Inc., the digital-health company with solutions that transform the experience and delivery of care by listening to the people involved, announced that its flagship solution is now available in the Epic App Orchard.  PatientWisdom® distills information about what matters to patients into point-of-care insights to help clinicians and healthcare organizations deliver truly patient-centered care.

PatientWisdom’s HIPAA-compliant, mobile responsive website captures valuable contextual information directly from patients and integrates it into the clinician workflow. An at-a-glance inSIGHT summary is displayed in the electronic health record (EHR) to help busy clinicians better address patient needs, concerns, and preferences.  PatientWisdom uses SMART on FHIR and Epic SmartData Elements to integrate with Epic, making it even easier to install and maintain.

Check out the App Orchard listing for PatientWisdom.

PatientWisdom, Inc. Founder and CEO Dr. Gregory Makoul highlights the benefit for healthcare organizations, clinicians, and, ultimately, patients:  “The need to humanize care has never been more apparent.  Our participation in the App Orchard makes it even easier for Epic clients to integrate PatientWisdom and use clinically valuable contextual data – real-world perspectives about goals, barriers, and preferences – to strengthen clinician-patient relationships and better meet patient needs.”

The company offers four solutions — PatientWisdom, ProviderWisdom®, CommunityWisdom® and StudentWisdom — all designed to augment standard information by focusing on what matters to key stakeholders.

  • PatientWisdom: Makes it easy to understand what matters to patients ahead of clinical encounters to transform the patient experience.
  • ProviderWisdom: Obtains real-world insights from clinicians and staff to enhance engagement, address burnout, and support care.
  • CommunityWisdom: Produces a deep view of the community to give health organizations clear lines-of-sight for developing or partnering with programs people will use.
  • StudentWisdom: Collects student and faculty viewpoints to improve learner well-being and the overall learning environment.

About PatientWisdom, Inc.
PatientWisdom, Inc. developed the Wisdomics® digital-health platform to improve the experience and delivery of care by listening to the people involved – individually and at scale. In 2020, PatientWisdom, Inc. was named to the Journal of mHealth’s Digital Health Global 100 companies with the greatest potential to change healthcare. The Tech Tribune named PatientWisdom, Inc. one of the Best Tech Startups in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The PatientWisdom solution won “Most-Patient Centered” and Audience Favorite at the Health Tech StandOut! Competition during the 2018 Connected Health Conference, and Technology Innovators designated Gregory Makoul one of the Top 50 Healthcare Technology CEOs for 2019.  Learn more at

About Epic Systems Corporation
Epic, App Orchard, Hyperspace, and MyChart are trademarks or registered trademarks of Epic Systems Corporation.

SOURCE PatientWisdom, Inc.

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MassChallenge HealthTech Announces 2020 Program Prize Winners

Written by Celia Fox

In the past six months, the MassChallenge HealthTech (MCHT) program experienced both unprecedented change and growth. The 2020 cohort was one of the strongest to date, earning more revenue and funding from the previous year’s cohort, creating jobs, and launching numerous pilots with our industry Champions while also providing MCHT with its highest NPS to date (88 NPS). All of this was accomplished with the added complexity of navigating a global pandemic. 

Over 350 applicants from around the world applied to the 2020 MassChallenge HealthTech (MCHT) accelerator program last fall. After a rigorous judging process, 27 of the top digital health startups joined the 2020 cohort after receiving and accepting over 100 partnership offers from MassChallenge HealthTech Champions. Throughout the six-month program, these startups would work closely with their Champion partners to accelerate their innovations and received resources, feedback, and mentorship from the MCHT team. 

Then the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States. The HealthTech team and 2020 cohort faced unprecedented adversity and demonstrated amazing resilience through the program: the HealthTech team pivoted quickly in late February through early March to design a completely virtual and equally impactful second half of the 2020 program. Continuing to work closely with their Champions in the program, many of the startups experienced huge successes both within and outside MassChallenge.

Typically, we would have celebrated the end of our program with a community-driven Finale event. While we are very sad to not be able to host Finale and celebrate our cohort in person this year, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a virtual Finale + Application Launch event on Thursday September 10th from 3:30-5:00PM EST. We hope you can attend and celebrate the success of our startups. 

On behalf of the HealthTech team, we are extremely excited and proud to announce the top three winners of the 2020 program: 

Diamond Winner Presented by Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Walk With Path (London, UK): Walk with Path acts to improve quality of life for the growing aging population and reduce healthcare costs. 

Platinum Winner Presented by WeHealth Digital Medicine

Moving Analytics (Los Angeles, CA): Moving Analytics has developed Movn, a virtual rehab service that supports patients with cardiovascular disease. 

Gold Winner Presented by Accenture

MedFlyt (Forrest Hills, NY): Medflyt offers a cloud-based, web platform and mobile app that changes the way home care agencies are matching caregivers with patients at home. 

Additionally, due to the pandemic, MCHT increased its $250K prize allocation to $300K and distributed those funds per the cohort’s request across all companies to support pilots and economic recovery. If you are interested in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, consider giving a gift of any amount to MassChallenge Healthtech or sponsoring an award at MCHT Finale 2020.

We’ll be announcing additional awards during our upcoming Finale + Launch event to learn about the Women in Digital Health, Startup’s Choice, and Champion of the Year award winners on September 10! The winners will also sit down with their Champions to discuss their progress in the program—learn why these companies were the best-in-class for 2020.

Are you curious to learn about what happened during the 2020 program in more detail? Learn more about what transpired, how we adapted our program, and what success our startups achieved!  


imgThe 2020 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort at Orientation

The 2020 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort at Orientation.

Back in January, MCHT kicked off programming both internally and externally with Orientation and Opening Night. At Orientation, the startups met their fellow cohort members and the MCHT for the first time. They learned about the resources that would be available to them throughout the program and heard from a panel of alumni on tips for how to get the most out of the experience. The panel included Amanda Bakerlee, Chief Product Officer at MedumoCaitlyn Kjolhede, Senior Director for Clinical Programs at DynamiCare Health; and Arun Buduri, founder and President at Pixm. During Orientation, each startup also met with their Champion(s) to begin to form relationships and set goals for the next six months. 

At Opening Night, the digital health community had the chance to celebrate the beginning of the program and meet the new cohort in a science-fair style showcase. MassChallenge CEO Siobhan Dullea gave opening remarks, highlighting that 48% of the cohort were female-led startups. Chris Lloyd from JP Morgan (our Opening Night host) and Mariya Filipova from Anthem, Inc also gave remarks and noted their excitement around collaborating with digital health startups through the program.

As February rolled around, MCHT hosted the first curriculum workshop for the cohort, which centered around managing partnerships. Other curriculum topics throughout the program included the AMA Digital Health ROI track, Together.Health Security Assessment Track (powered by Censinet), sales training from Nova Consulting Group, and the art of pitching from Kyle Rand of Rendever (2017 MCHT Gold Winner). The team also hosted a HealthTechies event to engage the digital health community, where attendees heard from a panel of innovators– including Tanina Cadwell and Franz Lawaetz of Vyasa AnalyticsKaran Kashyap of Posh, and moderated by Jayakanth Srinivasan of Boston University– about how AI is powering the future of healthcare. 

In March, about halfway through the program, the MCHT team, startups, and partners were on a roll. The startups were beginning to complete their first milestones with their partners, while the HealthTech team was in the thick of planning mid-year events, deciding whether to move virtual, and focusing on a strong finish to the second half of the program. COVID-19 hit, and everything changed.


imgMCHT Program Director Nick Dougherty discusses the impact of the pandemic with panelists Charlotte Yeh, Juliette Kayyem, Margaret Bordeaux, and Vanessa Kerry at the COVID-19 Innovation Summit.

MCHT Program Director Nick Dougherty discusses the impact of the pandemic with panelists Charlotte Yeh, Juliette Kayyem, Margaret Bordeaux, and Vanessa Kerry at the COVID-19 Innovation Summit.

COVID-19 disrupted programming in unprecedented ways. Suddenly everything became virtual; the startups and partners were working around the clock to adjust to the new normal, and the MCHT team was forced to completely rethink the remainder of the program on the fly. Despite this massive challenge, the MCHT team found themselves uniquely placed at the intersection of innovation and healthcare.

The MCHT team could not stand by. Their mission is to solve massive challenges through entrepreneurship and innovation around the world. Working with MCHT Champion MITRE, they launched the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition (now with over 800 member organizations), launched a COVID-19 Innovation Survey in partnership with Accenture, Microsoft, and MITRE to bring hundreds of solutions (many MassChallenge solutions included) quickly to bring to the frontlines, and convened the innovation community through a series of events.

At the end of March, MCHT hosted the COVID-19 Innovation Summit, which had over 1,000 registrants and brought together the voices of 20+ healthcare leaders and innovative entrepreneurs to discuss the pandemic response. This was the first of many virtual events centering around COVID-19 and the response of the innovation community. 

While for many industries, this period represented a time of extreme hardship. However, the MCHT 2020 cohort, as well as the overall MassChallenge community, proved to be extremely resilient and managed to exceed expectations in every way. MassChallenge entrepreneurs worked around the clock to create innovative solutions addressing challenges created by the pandemic. 


From January to June, the 27 HealthTech startups worked closely with their Champions and saw some amazing results and successes both within and outside the program. Not all relationships can be made public, but here are a few examples:

  • DynamiCare Health deployed their remote-enabled substance abuse recovery solution by March with their Champion.
  • Health Note won a $20K grant from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and won best ROI Calculator for the American Medical Association ROI curriculum, supporting their ability to demonstrate substantial value to health systems.
  • UDoTest secured FDA clearance to provide at-home testing for COVID-19 and is now facilitating thousands of tests daily across the country.

With over 100 partnerships at MassChallenge HealthTech, these are only a small selection of the wins from this year’s program. MCHT alumni also continued relationships with their partners to make a huge impact in the fight against COVID-19. For example, Buoy Health partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital, who leveraged Buoy’s AI platform to predict disease spread. Buoy also joined forces with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to offer free COVID-19 screening to residents based on guidelines from the CDC. In addition, OSF HealthcareCareSignal, and GYANT joined forces to distribute COVID-19 guides, resources, and symptom tracking to members of the OSF Healthcare community.


imgZuby Onwuta [Founder and CEO of Think and Zoom- MCHT20 Cohort] and Allison Martin [Founder and CEO of UDoTest- MCHT20 Cohort] at Opening Night

Zuby Onwuta [Founder and CEO of Think and Zoom- MCHT20 Cohort] and Allison Martin [Founder and CEO of UDoTest- MCHT20 Cohort] at Opening Night.

June is traditionally a huge month for the MCHT program. At the beginning of the month, the startups have the chance to pitch to a panel of industry experts during Final Judging. Each company receives feedback on their solutions, business models, and traction throughout the program while the judges ultimately decide the top winners of the program awards.

Usually, the flagship Finale event occurs in June to celebrate the end of the program and announce the cash prize winners. As a result of COVID-19, the HealthTech team made the tough decision to postpone the Finale celebration to the fall and reimagine the event virtually. The 2020 Finale celebration will take place virtually on September 10th from 3:30PM- 5:00PM EDT. Don’t forget to reserve your free ticket and get ready to celebrate the award winners and kick off the 2021 application season. 

The 2020 program demonstrates that innovation can happen in a virtual world. MassChallenge HealthTech found that the community can truly address massive challenges. The team looks forward to continuing efforts to celebrate entrepreneurs and working with any innovator out there who wants to improve the world. 



Boom Time for Death Planning

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn new business to start-ups that provide end-of-life services, from estate planning to a final tweet.

By Jennifer Miller

July 16, 2020 Updated 12:32 p.m. ET

One day in April, as the coronavirus ravaged New York City, 24-year-old Isabelle Rodriguez composed a tweet she would send from the grave.

She wasn’t dying. She wasn’t even sick. In fact, her risk of contracting Covid-19 had been reduced after she was furloughed from her job at a Manhattan bookseller and retreated to her rural hometown, Callahan, Fla. But when she came across the poem “Lady Lazarus,” by Sylvia Plath, Ms. Rodriguez knew she had found the perfect words to mark her digital legacy:

Herr God, Herr Lucifer



Ms. Rodriguez logged on to Cake, a free service that catalogs users’ end-of-life wishes, instructions and documents, and specified that she wanted the verse sent from her Twitter account after her death. “Any of my friends know I’m obsessed with Sylvia Plath,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “That was the best way to put my personality out there one last time.”

Through Cake, Ms. Rodriguez also filled out a “trusted decision maker” form, appointing her younger sister to call the shots should she end up incapacitated. She was still debating other important details: Did she want to be buried or cremated? If the latter, would her ashes be scattered, pressurized into a diamond, composted into tree food? Also, how much would it annoy the guests at her funeral if she requested that her favorite album, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” be played on loop?

Ms. Rodriguez conceded that it might seem a little weird to be considering all of this in her mid-20s. On the other hand, young people around the world were getting incredibly sick, incredibly fast.

End-of-life decisions can be overwhelming, but making those choices when she was healthy gave her more control. Knowing that she’d ease the burden on her family if the worst happened also gave her peace of mind. “It would be easier for people around me to know what I want,” she said.

Before the pandemic, end-of-life start-ups — companies that help clients plan funerals, dispose of remains and process grief — had experienced steady to moderate growth. Their founders were mostly women who hoped a mix of technology, customization and fresh thinking could take on the fusty and predominantly male funeral and estate-planning industries.

Still, selling death to people in their 20s and 30s wasn’t easy. Cake’s team sometimes received emails from young adults, wondering if the site wasn’t a tad morbid. Since Covid-19, this has changed. Millennials are newly anxious about their mortality, increasingly comfortable talking about it and more likely to be grieving or know someone who is.

“The stigma and taboos around talking about death have been way reduced,” Cake’s co-founder Suelin Chen, 38, said. This has driven conversation across social media, spurred interest in deathfluencers (they will discuss how funeral homes are responding to the coronavirus but also whether your pet will eat your eyeballs) and increased traffic to end-of-life platforms. From February to June, people signed up with Cake at five times the normal rate.

Another new company, Lantern, which calls itself “the single source of guidance for navigating life before and after a death,” saw a 123 percent increase in users, most of them under 45.

Lantern’s tone is soothing and earnest, but not everyone takes that tack. Cake skews playful. It features a tombstone generatorand suggestions like “Viking funeral” and “shoot my ashes into outer space.” New Narrative, an event-planning company for funerals and memorials, introduces itself with a wink: “We’re not your grandma’s funeral (… unless it’s your grandma’s funeral).”

It’s a tricky opportunity for these start-ups to navigate. “When you have a brand that’s directly interfacing with people in the throes of loss and grief, you have to walk a fine line,” said Liz Eddy, 30, Lantern’s co-founder and chief executive.

All these founders stress they’re not trying to capitalize on the coronavirus. But this hasn’t stopped anyone from pivoting hard toward Covid-19. The companies have created new forums and content on how to plan for death, honor the newly dead and grieve virtually. They have initiatives with major health care providers to disseminate their products more widely and formed new partnerships with influencers. The start-ups have even begun to coordinate with one another, sharing tips in a cross-company Slack channel called “Death & Co.”

They are all hoping the pandemic will be the event that turns end-of-life planning — from designing a funeral to writing a will and final tweet — into a common part of adulthood.

In 2012, a friend invited Ms. Chen and her fiancé to dinner and suggested they play an unusual party game: Write and share their own obituaries. “It’ll be fun!” the friend said. “They do it at Stanford Business School.”

At first, Ms. Chen was delighted by the exercise: Both she and her fiancé wrote, in the imagined past tense, about a music album they hoped to one day record. But when Ms. Chen started reading what she had written about her career, she was seized with panic and started bawling at the table.

“I just lost it,” she recalled. “It was confusing to me, because I loved my job. I was happy in the most obvious ways, but there was part of me …” She wasn’t sure how to describe the upswell of emotion.

Around this time, Ms. Chen was advising health care companies in commercial strategy. While interviewing last-line cancer physicians, she would constantly run a calculation in the back of her head: “If this treatment extends life by three months, how much money is it worth?” And yet she’d wonder: But at what quality of life? The system of prolonging life at all costs seemed out of whack.

Ms. Chen had also recently lost her grandfather, who died at 95 after a long period of suffering. He lived in Taiwan, where death in very old age is treated as a celebration, Ms. Chen said. And yet there had been a lot of family conflict around the experience.

Amid the pain and relief of her grandfather’s being at rest and the joyful commemoration of his life, Ms. Chen understood that she needed a new path. She didn’t yet know what it would be, but a few years latershe met Mark Zhang, a palliative care physician and technologist, at an M.I.T. health care “hackathon.” The pair won first place at the event and went on to found Cake. The platform now includes resources and templates to help users write their obituaries along with guidance for how to get them published.

The venture-backed company makes money through partnerships and will eventually add fee-based services.The pandemic has been especially busy. Cake’s services, for example, soon will be integrated into the website of the British bank RBS/NatWest.

In April, Ms. Chen learned that Partners HealthCare, a large health care system in Massachusetts,was recommending Cake to all its members. Ariadne Labs, run out of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also came calling. They wanted help distributing their end-of-life conversation guide beyond a relatively small audience of doctors and patients. They also wanted real-time feedback from a young and healthy audience like Cake’s.

Cake also teamed up with Providence Health System, a network of 51 hospitals and 1,000 clinics in seven states, to share Cake’s “trusted decision maker” form, the document specifying an individual’s medical preferences if the person becomes incapacitated. Through Cake, individuals could submit the form to their doctor without needing a notary and two nonfamily witnesses, which are often required but difficult to get under quarantine.

The next step is offering premium services, tailored to different types of users. “Are you here because you just lost someone, or because you just had a kid, or have an aging parent, or because a celebrity just died and you had an existential crisis?” Ms. Chen said. “We’re trying to automate based on what we know about the person.”

In April, Ms. Chen learned that her head of product’s grandfather had died from Covid-19. She had heard of people texting and messaging their condolences, but even email seemed inappropriate, overly impersonal. Unsure of what to do, she turned to Cake. Following an article from the site, Ms. Chen shipped her colleague soup, rolls and cookies with a note: If and when you’re ready, I’d love to hear more about your grandfather.

“In the modern age, the norms around supporting people who are grieving are not super clear,” Ms. Chen said. “It used to be that you belonged to a religious community or lived in a small town, but now we’re far away from where we grew up. We’re more secular.”

During the pandemic, condolence-related traffic on Cake doubled.To address the need, the company started a forum where users can crowdsource their questions and concerns.

Lantern provides its own grief and condolence content, including a “pandemic-proof” guide to “inclusively addressing grief at work.” In recent months, more people are grieving on the job, where the emotional distress for people of color over high Black and Latino rates of coronavirus infection is compounded by anguish over police brutality.

“Especially during Covid, it’s how can you incorporate the grieving process into 9-to-5 and day-to-day work?” said Alica Forneret, 31, who runs grief workshops and just started a namesake consulting agency to help companies address this question. “Employers, managers and H.R. need to understand there’s an extra burden on people of color and especially Black people when they sit down at their computer in the morning and are expected to engage and perform.”

For Ms. Forneret and other millennial founders, preparing for death and navigating grief during the pandemic has become a form of self-care. That has created new opportunities and partnerships. When Ms. Eddy pitched funders, she situated Lantern’s end-of-life services as an untapped market in the $4.5 trillion global wellness industry.

“We’ve been called a niche market,” she said. “But death and dying is possibly the least niche market out there.”

Corporations are rethinking the wellness programs they’re offering employees, Ms. Eddy said. They’re no longer just gym memberships and kombucha on tap. Studies have found that being able to talk about your mortality makes you a happier person and improves your relationships. The thinking, for employers perhaps, is that access to end-of-life services can make people happier (and more productive) at work.

This market potential is also why Near, a start-up that connects users with grief and end-of-life support services, like death doulas and art, sound, music and massage therapists, recently decided to seek investment. The company also moved its debut from September to June and is expanding its offerings to even more unconventional end-care providers like end-of-life photographers.

“Before Covid, we were looking at being a smaller platform. We’d be able to keep up with need through bootstrapping,” a Near co-founder, Christy Knutson, 36, said. “But the demand is far greater.”

This spring, a beauty writer and skin-care company chief executive, Charlotte Palermino, approached Lantern about co-hosting an Instagram Live. She had been watching her friends “panic post” death rates and was feeling increasingly anxious.

“I know people who got really sick, were suddenly on ventilators in their 30s,” Ms. Palermino, 33, said. She received such an overwhelming response from her followers that in June, she filmed a similar video for her Generation Z audience on TikTok.

In May, a large senior care company asked Ms. Eddy about a partnership. Ms. Eddy, who declined to identify the company, was intrigued but skeptical. In search of guidance, she did something that would normally be unexpected. She reached out to Ms. Chen at Cake, Lantern’s closest competitor.

Ms. Chen wasn’t surprised to hear from Ms. Eddy. In fact, she said, this kind of collaboration is frequent among end-of-life chief executives. “There’s a lot of texting and calling all the time: who are the good investors, the partners, give me the lowdown on these people,” she said.

The most common means of communication among end-of-life founders — and where Ms. Eddy went to reach Ms. Chen — is the cheekily titled Death & Co. channel on Slack. It was born in December during End Well, a conference about improving the culture, products and policy around end of life.

After one of the sessions, a handful of female founders gathered for an impromptu happy hour. They bonded over the rarity of having so many women running companies in the same industry, all them, in one way or another, trying to challenge the corporate, predominantly male funeral industry.

They discussed the difficulties of securing funding as womenand the challenges of trying to make a distinctly unsexy product accessible and affordable. Ms. Chen said a male founder had told her: “No one thinks about death. I don’t. I’m immortal.” Ms. Eddy said another had told her that he thought she’d be more successful if she created the “Tesla” of end-of-life services.

The women decided to start a WhatsApp group, which one of them named “Death Chicks.” A couple of months later, with more people wanting to join, including a handful of men, Ms. Eddy moved everything to Slack and renamed it Death & Co. For some months, the group was largely dormant. That changed in March.

“At the beginning of coronavirus, we came together and said this can all be reimagined with alternative, more modern solutions,” said Christina Andreola, 31, the founder of New Narrative, who joined the Slack channel in March. “My colleagues were asking: How can we team up to be competitive?”

The channel has around 70 members. They have worked together on a white paper about the funeral industry and Covid-19, raised funds for personal protective equipment for funeral directors and created short video guides for health care workers to talk about end-of-life options with their patients. Eterneva, a company that turns ashes into diamond jewelry, used the group to start a series of Instagram Lives about collective grief. LifeWeb360, which creates multimedia memorial scrapbooks, teamed up with New Narrative to create resource guides for planning virtual memorials.

The women have also freely shared connections and leads. Ms. Knutson of Near joined Death & Co. in March. She used the group to meet end-of-life photographers, a small and elusive set, and expand her provider list of death doulas, caregivers who help dying individuals navigate the end-of-life process.

“Overnight I walked into a virtual room with loads of smart, driven leaders who are building things that it would have taken me months if not years to hear about otherwise,” she said.

Not everyone is finding what he or she needs at Death & Co. Ms. Forneret, one of the few Black members, left after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. She said that the channel had done a lot of good for the industry and that she worked closely with Ms. Eddy and other members. But at this moment, she wants to align herself with other founders of color, she said.

In mid-June, Ms. Forneret participated in a Zoom panel featuring five Black entrepreneurs. The topic: how to have a “good death” in a racist society. The event was organized by Alua Arthur, 42, who runs a death doula training company, Going With Grace.

Ms. Arthur serves as an adviser to Cake and Near and has become a de facto spokeswoman for Black-owned death care businesses, especially in the last couple of months. She has become exhausted in this role and said end-of-life start-ups should be working harder to reach communities of color, which are largely underserved in the industry.

Even so, all of these founders share a mission: to democratize end-of-life planning and care. Ms. Arthur said the searchable database and broad collection of providers on Near were a step in the right direction.

Trust and Will, a company that bills itself as Turbo Tax for estate planning, charges a small fraction of what most lawyers do. Eterneva, the company that turns your loved one’s body into bling, just rolled out financing. Cake’s and Lantern’s basic preplanning services are free. Given that the average cost of a funeral in 2019 was $7,640, this kind of foresight could reduce the cost of dying. Because maybe you don’t want to languish on a ventilator or need a fancy coffin.

At the very least, when we can personalize our deaths the way we do our weddings and our wardrobes, we can feel a little more control over life’s greatest uncertainty. It’s something of a silver lining to this very scary moment.

“We’re never going back to the way it was,” Ms. Chen said. “That’s a positive thing — to accept the reality that we’re not immortal.”

Jennifer Miller is the author most recently of the novel “Mr. Nice Guy.” Her next book follows a year in the lives of first-generation college students.

Health Catalyst Announces Agreement to Acquire healthfinch, a Healthcare IT Company that has Helped Define the Clinical Workflow Optimization Space with its Award-Winning Software

July 9, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT

SALT LAKE CITY, July 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Health Catalyst, Inc. (“Health Catalyst,” Nasdaq: HCAT), a leading provider of data and analytics technology and services to healthcare organizations, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire healthfinch, Inc., a Madison, Wisconsin-based company that provides a workflow integration engine delivering insights and analytics into EMR workflows to automate physicians’ ability to close patient care gaps in real-time. The healthfinch acquisition, which will allow Health Catalyst’s customers to enhance clinical workflows in the EMR, further strengthens the Health Catalyst Population Health portfolio, which was bolstered by the Able Health acquisition in February 2020 and Care Management Suite launch earlier this month.

Within the Health Catalyst analytics application portfolio, healthfinch will be a new application suite category called EMR Embedded Insights and its refills, care gaps closure, and visit planning applications will continue to be available in their original configuration. Additionally, the healthfinch technology will augment workflows across Health Catalyst’s product portfolio, with data and insights powered by Health Catalyst’s cloud-based Data Operating System (DOS™), a healthcare-specific, open, flexible, and scalable data platform that provides customers with a single comprehensive environment to integrate and organize data.

healthfinch’s industry leading capabilities are already in demand from Health Catalyst customers and prospects across multiple product areas including quality measures, care management, population health, patient safety and others. Providing these capabilities will bring even greater value to Health Catalyst customers by making the critical insights and analytics from the DOS platform actionable within clinical workflows – providing more effective care for patients and saving time for both doctors and staff through automation so they can work at the top of their license. 

Health Catalyst CEO Dan Burton said, “We are thrilled to benefit from healthfinch’s decades of collective experience gained from working with customers across the United States that are using a variety of different EMRs.  And we also find deeply compelling the strong mission and cultural alignment with our respected healthfinch teammates. We are excited to have the healthfinch leadership team and their talented colleagues join Health Catalyst, and we are grateful for the tremendous insights, knowledge and perspectives they bring, which will accelerate the achievement of our mission to be the catalyst for massive, measurable, data-informed healthcare improvement.”

Burton added, “This acquisition highlights Health Catalyst’s ability to integrate and scale software applications on top of our DOS platform. The healthfinch technology will easily serve up actionable insights, derived from DOS and other Health Catalyst analytics applications into the EMR, at the point of care.”

healthfinch Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Medical Officer Lyle Berkowitz, MD said, “We started healthfinch ten years ago with a mission to build tools on EMR platforms that would simultaneously make life easier for doctors and better for patients. I’m proud to say we have fulfilled that vision as our products currently save immense amounts of physician time monthly, while also improving patient quality via closing gaps in care, minimizing refill errors and speeding up prescription refill turn-around time. We are now incredibly excited to take our company to the next level by joining with Health Catalyst to supercharge our ability to simplify, automate, and delegate clinical care via our combined data analytics, rules engines and EMR integrations. Their people, culture, vision and technology and industry success truly make them an ideal partner.”

Health Catalyst Chief Technology Officer Dale Sanders said, “Fifteen years ago at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Lyle and I formed a lasting friendship and a shared passion around making life better for clinicians and patients by using HIT to improve the value and efficiency of EMRs. While EMRs were less common and today’s software technology was unavailable to make decision support easily implementable, we worked with a lot of great people to still achieve leading-edge capability for the time. Fast forward to today and it has all come full circle. EMRs are everywhere, making decision support much easier to implement. The combined strengths of healthfinch and Health Catalyst will fulfill the vision we share of improving both quality of care for patients and quality of life for physicians.”

Health Catalyst expects to fund the transaction using a mix of stock and cash. The parties expect the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, to close in the third quarter of 2020. Further details regarding the acquisition will be reported on a Form 8-K filing that will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

About Health Catalyst
Health Catalyst is a leading provider of data and analytics technology and services to healthcare organizations committed to be the catalyst for massive, measurable, data-informed healthcare improvement. Its customers leverage the cloud-based data platform—powered by data from more than 100 million patient records and encompassing trillions of facts—as well as its analytics software and professional services expertise to make data-informed decisions and realize measurable clinical, financial, and operational improvements. Health Catalyst envisions a future in which all healthcare decisions are data informed.

About healthfinch
healthfinch has developed the healthcare industry’s most trusted, most used clinical workflow optimization solution, Charlie. Charlie’s unique combination of EMR-integrated technology and protocol content streamlines key workflows such as prescription renewal processing, visit planning, and care gap closure. With Charlie, health systems are able to deliver a better, safer patient experience, while also achieving lower rates of provider and staff burnout, increased care gap closure, improved quality metrics, and significant time and cost savings for providers and clinical staff.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements relating to expectations, plans, and prospects including expectations relating to our ability to close, and the timing of the closing of, this transaction and the benefits that will be derived from this transaction. These forward-looking statements are based upon the current expectations and beliefs of Health Catalyst’s management as of the date of this release, and are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements including, without limitation, the risk of adverse and unpredictable macro-economic conditions and risks related to closing this transaction and integration of the companies. All forward-looking statements in this press release are based on information available to the Company as of the date hereof, and Health Catalyst disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

Health Catalyst Investor Relations Contact:
Adam Brown
Senior Vice President, Investor Relations
+1 (855)-309-6800

Health Catalyst Media Contact:
Kristen Berry
Senior Vice President, Public Relations
+1 (617) 234-4123
+1 (774) 573-0455 (m)

Health Catalyst.jpg

Source: Health Catalyst, Inc.

Crain’s Chicago Business 2020 Tech 50

It started as the Tech 25 but quickly grew into the Tech 50. Each year since 2011, we’ve put the spotlight on a mostly new list of names you need to know if you care about Chicago tech—nearly 400 of them. For the 10th edition, we’ve revisited our previous lists with an eye toward those who made lasting impacts and remain in the game. It’s largely an all-star list, but there are some new faces, as well, because it wouldn’t be the Tech 50 without a few surprises. By John Pletz

Ocient raises $15 million more for ‘exabyte-scale’ database tech

@Kyle_L_Wiggers June 11, 2020 5:00 AM

Ocient, which is developing a platform that analyzes large and complex data sets, today announced it has secured a $15 million extension of the $10 million round it announced in March 2018. The startup says the funds will support continued product research and development, along with its recruiting, business, and sales efforts.

In 2018, the world was creating an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, a number that has risen exponentially in the past two years. But enterprises are struggling to harness all that data — a survey conducted by NewVantage Partners found that 52% of participants believe they’re not competing on data and analytics.

Ocient was cofounded in 2016 by Chris Gladwin, who sold his previous venture — object storage software and systems developer Cleversafe — to IBM for more than $1.3 billion in 2015. Ocient aims to wrangle large data sets for enterprises across domains, dealing in spreadsheets measured in the tens of terabytes, petabytes, or exabytes, with trillions to quadrillions of rows.

The company’s relational database and analytics software platform can ingress billions of rows per second while filtering and computing aggregate results up to trillions of rows per second. It’s designed to play nicely with industry-standard hardware and the public cloud, enabling SQL and intra-database machine learning on multi-petabyte corpora and interactive query response time with second- to sub-second data latency.

Gladwin says the platform benchmarks at five to 1,000 times faster — and typically around 50 times faster — than high-performance alternatives like Presto, and up to 1,000 times faster than leading NoSQL and Hadoop-based databases when querying a large data set with the same hardware, queries, and data. He also claims that it’s more performant than solutions from competitors like Bigstep, Cloudian, and Termaxia.

“The exponential growth of data will make today’s big data solutions woefully inadequate for organizations’ analytics needs in the not-too-distant future,” he said in a statement. “Ocient is purpose-built for gaining insights in interactive time from the data tsunami every enterprise is tackling not just now, but for many years into the future.”

OCA Ventures led the $15 million extension, with participation from In-Q-Tel, the U.S.-based not-for-profit that invests on behalf of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The new funds bring the company’s total raised to $25 million. It has also hired Kumar Abhijeet as VP of global sales and marketing, Andrew Baptist as VP of engineering, and Bill McCarthy as chief operating officer.

Ocient says it has already hired 15 employees and nine interns in 2020, bringing its employee count to over 50. And the Chicago-based company plans to more than double its headcount over the next year.

The best budgeting apps to use right now

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • Top budgeting app overall: Mint
  • Best checking account with built-in budgeting app: Simple
  • Best budgeting app for couples: Zeta
  • Best budgeting app for reducing bill payments: Trim
  • Best for learning more about money: Charlie
  • Need more information? Scroll down to read about these apps and how we chose them.

Budgeting looks different for each person.

Maybe you want to track your spending habits, or find ways to spend less and save more, or budget effectively as a couple — or you might have multiple budgeting goals.

Regardless of what you’re hoping to accomplish, finding the right app can make the process easier and more effective.

In our search for the best budgeting apps, we considered what might be important to different people when sticking to a budget. Budgeting can already feel difficult, so above all else, we made sure our top picks are easy to use. The easier the process, the likelier you are to keep engaging with your money. 

Check out our picks for best budgeting apps, and scroll to the bottom to read more about how we chose the winners.

Mint: Best budgeting app overall

Why it stands out: The Mint app is owned by Intuit, the financial software company that also owns TurboTax and Quickbooks. Link your bank accounts to Mint for the app to create a budget based on your past spending habits. The app splits your expenses into categories such as shopping, bills, and transportation. If you think Mint allotted too much or too little money for one category, you can easily change the settings yourself or create a new category — so Mint does all the hard work for you, but you still have some control. 

Mint makes it easy to save for multiple goals. Create a goal, including your estimated costs and timeline, and Mint factors the plan into your budget.

Mint is easy to use and helpful for understanding your finances on a large scale. In addition to showing your income, expenses, and savings goals, it also displays factors like your credit score, investments, and net worth.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: Categorization mistakes. Occasionally, Mint will place a transaction in one category (like transportation) when it should actually be in a different category (like bills). You do have the ability to reassign the transaction to another category within the app, or create your own category.

Simple: Best checking account with a built-in budgeting app

Why it stands out: Simple is primarily a bank account, and its online checking account comes with budgeting features. Instead of having two apps for your bank and your budget, you can keep it all in one place.

Set up recurring monthly payments, such as groceries or rent, and Simple will automatically store the money in the “Expenses” section. To save for a goal, set up automatic savings or enter your target date and amount for Simple to regularly set aside money for you.

With its Safe-to-Spend feature, Simple tells you how much you can spend on non-essentials without going over budget. The app also shows how much you’ve spent in different categories each month so you can see where you have more wiggle room or where you need to cut back.

When you set up a Simple online checking account, you can also sign up for a partner Protected Goals Account to save for big expenses and earn 1.40% APY toward savings goals. This app is great for setting and working toward financial objectives, so it could be a good fit for goal-oriented people.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: Setting up the app may feel complicated. Because Simple is primarily a bank account, creating an account takes more time and effort than the other apps on our list.

Zeta: Best for couples

Why it stands out: Zeta is a budgeting app designed specifically for couples. Zeta displays all your individual and shared finances in one place, and it gives you the option to hide certain financial information from your partner. It’s a good option for couples who have combined their finances or for those who prefer to bank separately.

With Zeta, you can set personal and combined financial goals. The app sends you both monthly reminders to set “money dates,” making it a good tool for learning to communicate about your finances.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: The website. The Zeta mobile app has an easy-to-use interface, but its website is outdated and difficult to navigate.

Trim: Best for automatically reducing bill payments

Why it stands out: Trim analyzes your bills and spending habits and reveals where in your budget you can save money. Trim’s most unique feature is Bill Negotiation — the app analyzes your internet, phone, cable, and wireless bills and determines whether you can get the same service with the company for a lower price. This feature could potentially save you hundreds of dollars in a year, which you can then put toward other expenses, save, or invest.

Pricing: It’s free to sign up for Trim. If you agree to Trim’s proposed bill negotiations, you’ll pay a 33% of what Trim saves you in a year in one lump sum.

You may choose to pay $99 per year for Trim Premium, which includes features such as medical bill negotiation, credit card rate negotiation, and unlimited access to a financial coach via email. Bill Negotiation is included in a Trim Premium membership, so you won’t have to pay 33% on top of the annual membership fee.

Look out for: How long you plan to pay a bill. When Trim negotiates a bill, you pay 33% of whatever it will save you for the year in one lump sum. If you plan to change your internet, cable, phone, or wireless provider in the next year, you could actually end up losing money.

Also, note that Trim is not downloadable as an app on the Apple or Google Play store. Instead, it’s available through Facebook Messenger, or you can sign up via email.

Charlie: Best for learning more about money

Why it stands out: Charlie is a budgeting app with an intuitive design, easy-to-use interface, and friendly penguin mascot (aka Charlie). It’s a good app for beginners who want to learn more about how to budget because it provides information in an unintimidating way.

Charlie the penguin is a chatbot, so you can text it questions about your finances. The app also sends you push notifications every day about ways to budget and save, which provide regular opportunities to learn about money. Setting up a budget with the app is easy, and Charlie’s approachability can help you build the habit of thinking about and engaging with your money.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: Push notifications and ads. While the push notifications can be helpful, they’re also persistent, which may become annoying. Some of these push notifications are ads for other financial products and services, which you may or may not find useful. Note that you can choose to disable the push notifications.

Others we considered and why they didn’t make the cut:

  • You Need a Budget: This app is designed to help you get out of debt and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck — but it takes a long time to set up, has an elaborate interface, and costs $11.99 per month.
  • Clarity Money: This is a good option for people who want to see their income, spending, credit score, account balances, and debt all in one place, but its features aren’t as robust as what you get with Mint.
  • Wally: Wally helps you track your spending by taking pictures of receipts, but it isn’t available in the Google Play store.
  • PocketGuard: It’s easy to visualize your spending with this app, but the charts and graphs aren’t always accurate if PocketGuard doesn’t categorize your transactions correctly.
  • MVelopes: When you link your bank account to MVelopes, it provides a digital version of the “envelope method” in which you track your spending by keeping money for in separate envelopes based on the category — but you’ll spend at least $6 per month for the most basic version.
  • GoodBudget: GoodBudget offers a free version of the “envelope method,” but it doesn’t link to your bank account, so you have to be disciplined enough to enter every transaction manually.
  • Personal Capital: Personal Capital includes spending and net-worth tracking features, but it’s primarily an investment tool.
  • EveryDollar: EveryDollar’s free version helps you track expenses and set goals, but it doesn’t monitor your net worth or credit score like Mint does.
  • Albert: This free app tracks your spending and alerts you if you’re at risk of overdrafting, but it isn’t as strong as our top picks.
  • CountAbout: One feature of CountAbout is that you can import data from Mint — but considering Mint is free and CountAbout costs $9.99 per year, you’re better off just downloading Mint.
  • PocketSmith: PocketSmith requires you to enter all your transactions manually, and its features aren’t intuitive.
  • Wismo: Wismo is a hybrid social media platform and budgeting app, so you won’t get the full experience unless your friends and family also use the app.

Frequently asked questions:

Why trust our recommendations?

Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product, we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours testing budgeting apps, and we compared and contrasted the features  of various apps so you don’t have to.

How did we chose the best budgeting apps?

If you care about tracking your expenses, you probably don’t want to pay a lot of money to create a budget. For this reason, cost was a huge factor in determining our list. 

We compared over a dozen budgeting apps, honing in on their features, ease of use, and availability for multiple devices. Our editorial team tested and evaluated our potential top choices.

Finally, we cross-referenced our research against popular comparison sites like Investopedia, The Balance, and NerdWallet to make sure we didn’t miss a thing. 

What is the best budgeting app for beginners?

In most cases, the best budgeting app for beginners will be one that makes budgeting easy — this means it has an easy-to-use interface and links to your accounts so you don’t have to enter every transaction manually. It can also be good to have an app that teaches you about money. For these reasons, the best budgeting apps for beginners right now are MintCharlie, and Clarity Money.

What is the best free budgeting app?

Mint is completely free to download and use, and there are no paid membership options. Mint links to your bank account and monitors multiple aspects of your finances, including your income, spending, investments, credit score, and net worth.

The QL Gaming Group, Parent Company of BetQL, Acquires Accuscore and Raises Additional $1.1 Million

NEW YORK, May 6, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — The QL Gaming Group (QLGG), a leading direct to consumer sports data and iGaming affiliate platform, today announced an additional $1.1 million in funding, as well as the acquisition of Finnish sports simulation company, Accuscore. The combined announcement will expand the capabilities of BetQL, QLGG’s sports betting analytics platform for casual bettors and will accelerate the launch of BetQL’s player prop and in-game predictions and more sports like International pro soccer, tennis, golf and eSports.

The round was led by Tim and Todd McSweeney, with participation by Boston Seed Capital, Karlani Capital, Subversive Capital, Rob Seaver and Jere Doyle. QL Gaming, formerly known as RotoQL, has now raised $8.3 million from investors that have also included the late David Stern, former commissioner of the NBA, John Kosner, Stern’s former partner at Micromanagement Ventures and former William Hill chief Ralph Topping.

“Our thesis is betting properties with the best data and analytics will win, and our acquisition of Accuscore vastly increases our IP, grows our marketplace position and puts us in a very strong place as the sports world returns to active play in the near future,” said Justin Park, QL Gaming CEO. “Our new and long term investors are very bullish on the casual gaming and sports betting market, and we are now poised to emerge stronger.”

“We are thrilled to join QL Gaming,” Accuscore CEO Tuomas Kanervala, added. “Their expertise around customer facing sports data products is unrivaled and will help both our B2C and B2B businesses. The latter will serve as the foundation for soon to be launched BetQL B2B that will help sportsbook operators and media companies acquire and retain bettors.”

The injection of capital will be used to further accelerate BetQL’s growth, which boasted a 200% increase in subscription sales from 2018 to 2019. In just 18 months of launch, BetQL has acquired over 300,000 free users, 10,000 paying customers and is already a seven figure business. Funds will also supercharge BetQL’s burgeoning affiliate marketing business which has partnered with ten operators in Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

QL Gaming initially launched in September 2015 as RotoQL to provide data and analytics to daily fantasy sports (DFS). “DraftKings and FanDuel’s dominance of the regulated betting market in NJ can be attributed to their pole position in DFS,” added Peter Blacklow, Managing Partner at Boston Seed Capital, who led the seed rounds for both QLGG and DraftKings. “The same is going to be true of QL Gaming and the media opportunity around betting. The team’s mastery of engaging DFS players through data is carrying over seamlessly to sports betting audiences.”

The QL Gaming Group, based in New York City, is a direct to consumer sports data and iGaming affiliate platform. QLGG’s mission is to educate sports fans and ultimately increase betting’s entertainment per dollar ratio through data-driven products like BetQL. The company was founded in 2015 by Justin Park and Mike Shiekman. Learn more about QL Gaming Group: Learn more about BetQL:

Accuscore has developed and refined models to accurately predict the outcome of sporting events. More specifically, the algorithms simulate the outcome of games approximately 10,000 times and takes into account past player performance, team composition, weather, coaching staff and more. Accuscore covers all major US sports and 13 global soccer leagues. The company licenses their predictive data directly to consumers and to media companies and sportsbook operators. Learn more about Accuscore:

Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.

By Gene Park April 17, 2020 at 1:19 p.m. CDT

The next version of the Internet is often described as the Metaverse, a term borne from science fiction, describing a shared, virtual space that’s persistently online and active, even without people logging in. It will have its own economy, complete with jobs, shopping areas and media to consume. The Metaverse is inevitable, many believe, and the Silicon Valley C-suite has been obsessed with the idea — as has a video game company in Cary, North Carolina.

In recent years, there’s been serious talk about how to build the Metaverse, and who will build it first. One only needs to witness Facebook and Google’s Internet success today, given how both companies dominate digital business, to understand the eagerness with which companies hurry to populate this next frontier. In observing that pursuit, there’s the very real possibility that Fortnite, the video game that became a global phenomenon that turned celebrities into players and players into celebrities, has been building the foundations of the Internet’s future right before our glazed eyes.

Fortnite’s creators at Epic Games have not been shy about this ambition. Its CEO, Tim Sweeney, wants this conversation in public, and has made overt references in the last few years in establishing Fortnite as something more than a game. He’s even hinted that this transformation could begin by the end of this year.

Fortnite is a game,” Sweeney tweeted in December 2019. “But ask that question again in 12 months.”

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Conversation around a more tangible, actualized Internet seems only more pointed in light of our current shelter-in-place reality in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the past month, office culture has coalesced around video chat platforms like Zoom, while personal cultural milestones like weddings and graduations are being conducted in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Metaverse not only seems realistic — it would probably be pretty useful right about now.

Why the Metaverse befits Fortnite

The Metaverse reality is still years, possibly decades, away. But Sweeney has been publicly pushing for its creation, and he isn’t alone in his desire to push for the Metaverse, where the online world echoes and fulfills real-world needs and activities. Constructing the virtual Internet space is Silicon Valley’s macro goal, many of whom are obsessed with Neal Stephenson’s 1992 book, “Snow Crash,” which defined the term.

In recent years, Facebook, Google and Samsung have all made heavy investments in cloud computing and virtual reality companies in anticipation of a Metaverse. Facebook Horizon, announced in 2019, is a virtual reality social space intended to serve as a Metaverse. Google’s shared workspace tools, powered by its cloud computing investments over the years, were all small but significant steps to institutionalize work culture online.

But it’s Epic Games, with Fortnite, that has the most viable path forward in terms of creating the Metaverse, according to an essay by venture capitalist and former Amazon executive Matthew Ball. And if today’s Internet dystopia scares you, the Metaverse will only make things more complicated. Although Fortnite’s entry into the Metaverse race was all by accident, the gaming industry has been tackling the possibility of creating it for years.

“We’re seeing this advancement of technology and Internet interaction and the Metaverse coming from gaming because it tends to be at the forefront of something designed for many, and who have the highest [technological] needs,” Ball told The Washington Post in an interview.

Gamers, he said, tend to own the most powerful computer processors available to consumers. There’s a reason Saddam Hussein famously hoarded PlayStation 2 consoles 20 years ago, and the U.S. military has experimented with creating supercomputers with clusters of PlayStation 3 units.

The most widely agreed core attributes of a Metaverse include always being live and persistent — with both planned and spontaneous events always occurring — while at the same time providing an experience that spans and operates across platforms and the real world. A Metaverse must also have no real cap on audience, and have its own fully functioning economy.

Gamers, he said, tend to own the most powerful computer processors available to consumers. There’s a reason Saddam Hussein famously hoarded PlayStation 2 consoles 20 years ago, and the U.S. military has experimented with creating supercomputers with clusters of PlayStation 3 units.

The most widely agreed core attributes of a Metaverse include always being live and persistent — with both planned and spontaneous events always occurring — while at the same time providing an experience that spans and operates across platforms and the real world. A Metaverse must also have no real cap on audience, and have its own fully functioning economy.

In 2017, Fortnite was created to be a four-player cooperative game about defending a base, a classic popular game type. The Battle Royale mode, which brought the game global success, was grafted on later, after the genre gained ground in the PC market. Through 2018, Fortnite developed a reputation as less of a video game, and more as a Gen Z’s preferred social platform.

It has featured live events that have sparked intrigue both in-game (as when cataclysmic events altered the game’s map) and in the real world (when the game made headlines by disappearing into a black hole for two days in October to reset its servers for its second chapter). And all of those elements have prompted players to drop hundreds of millions on V-Bucks, Fortnite’s in-game currency, which in turn brought Epic hundreds of millions in real-world revenue.

Epic Games never planned for Fortnite to become such a cultural touchstone, not to the point that it inspired everything from World Cup celebrations to Netflix considering the game, not HBO, its biggest competitor.

Fortnite hasn’t reached Metaverse status yet. But Fortnite as a social network and impossible-to-ignore cultural phenomenon, Ball says, provides Epic Games a key advantage for leading in the Metaverse race. Fortnite draws a massive, willing and excited audience online to engage with chaotically clashing intellectual properties. For now, it’s the only legal place on the Internet where a Netflix-approved avatar of Hopper from “Stranger Things” can twerk on a Disney-approved avatar of Rey Skywalker from Star Wars.

“This organic evolution can’t be overemphasized,” Ball writes in his essay. “If you ‘declared’ your intent to start a Metaverse, these parties would never embrace interoperability or entrust their IP. But Fortnite has become so popular and so unique that most counterparties have no choice but to participate. … Fortnite is too valuable a platform.”

Of course, Fortnite isn’t the only instance of a game displaying key traits of the Metaverse. Some investors believe Roblox, which allows users to create their own games, will build the Metaverse, as evidenced by a recent $4 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reports. Most recently, the game Minecraft showcased a great example of the online world’s flexibility when it comes to intellectual property. International nonprofit Reporters Without Borders chose Minecraft as its venue for millions of publicly-censored documents, all archived in a massive 12-million block library built inside the game over the course of three months.

Signs of the future in the present

The Metaverse is not likely to happen anytime soon. Although Fortnite can draw 10 million people to log on to see DJ Marshmello put on a virtual concert in the game, players would only see 99 other people online. Fortnite matches are limited to only 100 people, so events are populated the same way. The technology to gather millions in one virtual space is not yet here.

But Fortnite has the capacity to rally and unite millions regardless. For its 10th season finale of Fortnite, Epic Games manufactured a narrative around pulling the game offline for maintenance. And the best preview of what a Metaverse might seem like was not the actual in-game event itself, but the millions of people excited and confused by it, says Jacob Navok, CEO of Genvid Technologies, a former Square Enix executive who works in cloud computing.

“When 2 million people watch the exact same event together, not in one room or a slightly different synchronized version but the same exact version of that event, that is the closest you can get to, in my opinion, the definition of the Metaverse,” Navok told The Post. “If you think about where these worlds are going, where the earliest formats of content are going to be, this is it. … It’s going to be a mix of game engines, interactivity and video.”

The Metaverse must be built by something and someone, and the games industry has a significant skill advantage in leading the way. For years, game engines, the tools developers use to make games, have been used for more than just games. Game engines build the settings and backdrop for big budget Hollywood productions, most recently and notably “The Mandalorian,” Disney’s flagship TV show for its streaming service. The backdrops of “The Mandalorian” were built by the same tools Sweeney built in 1998: the Unreal Engine. In its fourth incarnation, the Unreal Engine powers hundreds of video games and media properties — including Fortnite.

Navok believes that the Metaverse will need a centralization of resources in a single server to combat current issues like latency and speed. But he agrees with Ball that game engines like Sweeney’s Unreal will fuel the Internet’s future.

“Client side processing will grow, therefore game engines will be the primary way in which people will have interfaces with content,” Navok said. Unreal and another engine, Unity, have a huge upper hand because of the familiarity and accessibility of their development interfaces, according to Navok. Easier, familiar tools makes for easier building. Navok said his former employer Square Enix, makers of the celebrated Final Fantasy franchise, was among the first to sign on for Unreal Engine 3 back in 2007. Executives, as many other developers have in the past, cited it as a way to expedite development and save on time and resources.

But there’s still an open debate about what the Metaverse infrastructure is going to look like, says Jason Rubin, Facebook’s vice president of special gaming initiatives.

“There’s going to be a Metaverse, and it’s not clear whether it’s going to be an open platform, or even one platform,” Rubin said at the DICE Summit in February, where gaming executives gather to chart the industry’s future. He added the ongoing debate about open or closed platforms is about the choice between more creativity or more control.

“Both sides are probably right,” Rubin said. “The arguments we should be having are, should we be more open than we are now, or should we be more closed than we are now? That would lead to a more rational discussion.”

Another discussion that needs to be had, according to Ball, is one around security. Ball says the time to worry and think about the Metaverse is now, given how the Internet disrupted the world’s economies, ushering in epochal change along with a host of new problems, like misinformation, harassment and the ease for extremist groups to organize online.

“It has the potential to make all of today’s problems much, much worse,” Ball said. “Think about how ISIS recruits. Their whole thing is they radicalize and brainwash through digital propaganda like beheadings on YouTube, and then bringing you to a site and then radicalizing you by preaching, training and poisoning your views of the West. In the ultimate version of the Metaverse, you don’t have to sneak into Syria and you no longer need your passport. And this would be a thing that’s going 24/7.”

Covid-19 could shape the Metaverse

The current pandemic may inspire more ideas contributing to the Metaverse, Ball said. Already, the crisis has drawn attention to gated off attempts to create smaller, focused Metaverse communities. A virtual reality church driven by a megachurch pastor in Pennysylvania has been in service for some years now, but has recently gained media attention due to the coronavirus crisis.

“This, whether in direct articulation or not, will drive a lot more funding [for the Metaverse], and thinking most of all,” Ball said.

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The current swarm to an online-only social and capitalist economy has only highlighted the current Internet’s failings, and what the Metaverse needs to do, Ball said. Big sites like Facebook, Google and Amazon continue to dominate online activity, as do larger streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. But each location requires its own membership and has separate ecosystems.

“Right now, the digital world basically operates as though every restaurant and bar you go to requires a different ID card, has a different currency, requires their own dress codes and has their own units [of service and measurement],” Ball said. “It is clear that this really advantages the biggest services. People are just sticking to the big games, really. However there’s a clear argument that reducing network lock-in can really raise all boats here.”

Sweeney said as much in his DICE Summit keynote speech February. If the game industry wants to reshape the Internet and move away from Silicon Valley’s walled gardens, Sweeney stressed that publishers need to rethink economies in the same way email was standardized. In email’s early days, different companies would have proprietary messaging systems that only worked for internal communication.

“Somebody introduced the @ sign in email addresses, so now I can be Tim@Epic and I could talk to Tim@Microsoft or Tim@Sony,” Sweeney said. “That involved everybody with their own proprietary systems agreeing to connect to everybody else’s systems. … This critically needs to happen in gaming. … We need to give up our attempts to each create our own private walled gardens and private monopoly and agree to work together and recognize we’re all far better off if we connect our systems and grow our social graphs together.”

The Metaverse will also need a democratization of creativity, says Frederic Descamps, CEO of Manticore Games, a company that’s created its own virtual space for creating and publishing games called Core. Like society, it will be built by people contributing their own ideas and skills to it.

“Everybody is looking at the Metaverse as something to experiment with and be in, but they never talk about the creation,” said Descamps, the former general manager for Zynga, the company best known for its viral Facebook hit game, FarmVille. “Even in [the film] ‘Ready, Player, One,’ who actually made the Metaverse there? It will be all about the act of creation.”

Descamps calls himself a pragmatist, but is also excited about the construction of the next Internet.

“It’s bigger than all of us,” he said. “Maybe it’s the next hundred big opportunities moving forward.”

The Metaverse may be decades away from being built. But as the world waits at home, quietly but slowly realizing the potential of a more robust, engaging online experience, Fortnite continues to lay the foundations of one, slowly but surely.

Artists have used Grand Theft Auto V as a canvas for years. Now, protesters are doing the same.

In the midst of the pandemic, April saw the launch of a new streaming service, Quibi, backed by investments from Disney, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS. The company’s marketing strategy included streaming its reboot of “Punk’d” starring Chance the Rapper to Fortnite players at the Risky Reels venue.

As players logged on to watch the show inside the game, other players started to build their forts to block the screen. Any openings left were pelted by tomatoes. It was a stark reminder that even though the Metaverse may evolve the Internet, the way we behave on it may not be so easily changed.

How A Female Finance Pro Became A Pioneer In Healthcare Innovation

EDITORS’ PICK|653 views|Apr 10, 2020, 07:00am EDT

With the COVID-19 crisis disrupting the entire world, the need for rapid innovation in healthcare has never been clearer. But beyond this terrible virus, there remain many afflictions that impact the weakest and most disadvantaged population the most, due to a lack of funding for accessible and affordable treatments. Tammi Jantzen is a lifelong finance professional who, after embracing the world of venture capital, committed herself to making a difference in the lives of women and children through healthcare innovation. She is the cofounder and CFO of Astarte Medical, a precision medicine company using software and predictive analytics to improve pre-term infant outcomes.

But Tammi offers valuable insights beyond the topics of healthcare innovation and running a company, for she is also a successful entrepreneur who struggled to succeed in a male-dominated industry, while focusing on the most vulnerable people among us. In an inspiring Q&A, we discussed her life story, how to build a great finance team, the importance of continuous upskilling and tech savviness and the unique challenges facing women in the finance profession.

Jeff Thomson: Venture capital is considered a male-dominated field. Yet you were highly successful working as a CFO for Astarte Venture. Later, you secured funding for your own start-up, Astarte Medical. What advice would you give to women who are working in predominantly male fields? What do you do when you encounter gender bias?  

Tammi Jantzen: Perseverance is key. The road to accomplishing whatever it is that gets you up in the morning will be hard – most of the time. Personally, I never want people to invest in my firm because they are trying to fulfill a quota and they feel it’s a requirement. On the other hand, I would like to get the same access to investors as other male-led companies. Even in 2020, gender bias still exists, but it isn’t always because of outright discrimination. Venture capitalists, predominantly men, tend to back serial entrepreneurs who have been successful in the past, also mostly men. They are comfortable investing their money with entrepreneurs with vetted track records. It’s understandable that we are all more comfortable with the familiar; however, because many women haven’t had the opportunity to prove themselves as entrepreneurs, they remain unproven, which further exacerbates the problem. 

Astarte Medical successfully raised a Series A financing last year. However, the fundraising journey was not what we expected it to be. As former venture investors, my co-founder Tracy Warren and I thought we knew exactly who our investors would be and how long it would take; we were wrong on both counts. My advice to female founders is to stay focused on your goals, continue to knock on those doors, and never give up. To make the venture capital world more female-friendly, women need to assert themselves until their presence at the table is no longer a novelty, but routine.   

Thomson: Astarte Medical uses software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes of pre-term infants. Why did you shift focus mid-career to work exclusively on women’s and children’s health? Did you feel that there was a market that was being under-served and had potential?

Jantzen: After working together for almost 15 years in venture capital, Tracy and I set out to blaze a path investing in companies we were most passionate about: those with technologies focused on women’s and children’s health and well-being. We saw an enormous opportunity to add value to an under-served and underfunded market. In fact, the term “FemTech” had yet to be coined. We put our own money to work investing under Astarte Ventures with the intent to build a track record in the space, and then raise a larger fund around our successful thesis.

In an attempt to gain insights into clinical needs and pain points, we visited women’s and children’s hospitals across the country, talking to innovation groups and researchers. It was during a visit to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that we met our scientific cofounder, Katherine Gregory, RN, Ph.D. Kate had a unique background with hands-on clinical experience alongside academic and research credentials. She started her career as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse, received her Ph.D. and had been doing research in her lab at Harvard on pre-term infant microbiome and gut health, long before microbiome was a buzzword. In that initial meeting, Kate opened our eyes to the challenges of pre-term infants and early life nutrition, and we were immediately hooked. Kate’s passion quickly became our passion. We didn’t want to just invest in her idea; we wanted to build the company ourselves. Astarte Medical is a precision nutrition company using software and predictive analytics to improve outcomes for pre-term infants, with a suite of digital tools and diagnostics designed to standardize feeding, optimize nutrition, and quantify gut health. It was that initial meeting with Kate that prompted our entrepreneurial shift.

Thomson: As a platform so heavily reliant on automation, artificial intelligence and data analytics, what did you do to upskill yourself in these technologies to prepare for Astarte Medical’s launch? What should all finance professionals be doing to stay relevant in the digital age?

Jantzen: The upskilling was not trivial. I read – and read some more – anything and everything I could find. There are so many different technologies at play for Astarte Medical. We are a software and data analytics company, so learning about software development, data science and machine learning was certainly in order. Moreover, our software and data analytics are focused on feeding, nutrition and gut health, so understanding microbiome sequencing was also necessary. For example, strange as it may sound for a CPA, I took an online course entitled “Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome” to expand my knowledge in this area.

Another way to upskill our entire team at Astarte Medical was by implementing “Lunch and Learns” so that each team member could showcase and share what they were working on. We also brought in subject matter experts to really deepen the knowledge transfer. We exposed the team to topics like the infant microbiome, shotgun sequencing, bioinformatics, machine learning techniques, software development, fundraising, neonatal nutrition, feeding protocols and outcomes metrics. It was an incredibly efficient way for the whole team to learn about all aspects of the business and provide the forum to ask questions and absorb new information.     

Thomson: On Astarte’s website, you describe yourself as a “classic utility infielder,” someone who has the versatility to cover the basics, but also to quickly transition to cover more complex tasks. How do you cultivate agility in yourself and in your staff? When hiring what qualities do you look for in staff?

Jantzen: The start-up environment demands versatility and creativity from basic execution to complex strategy. An agile attitude is essential for real, fast-paced and effective decision-making and execution. It’s what makes a start-up both exciting and frustrating at the same time. Most days it feels like a sprint. You have to be willing to contribute wherever you are needed. Although I am the CFO, I spend less than a third of my time on finance and accounting matters. I also currently act as head of marketing as well as head of human resources. Having the ability to do whatever it takes to make the company succeed is crucial and we are continually fostering that attitude amongst our team.

In the last three months, we have doubled the size of our team at Astarte Medical, which is both exciting and terrifying. Outside of the specific technical requirements of any position, some of the other qualities we look for are curiosity, creativity, positivity, integrity, good communication skills and attention to detail. Maintaining our culture and preserving the passion for our mission is an integral part of our hiring process. We invest time in finding the right hires to make sure the cultural fit is right. A bad fit can create negative energy and can bring the whole team down.   We operate as a team and attitude is everything.

Thomson: You are a Kauffman Fellow – part of a Silicon Valley based program focused on accelerating innovation, supported by the global venture community. What did you learn from that two-year experience? How were you able to apply it to founding Astarte Medical?

Jantzen: Kauffman Fellows is a leadership program for the venture capital industry to develop talented innovation leaders to support entrepreneurs in their mission to change the world. The two-year structured curriculum consisted of quarterly in-person modules, each tackling a theme or aspect of innovation investing from fund management and deal terms to building boards and optimizing human talent to social responsibility and ethics. Following the completion of the program, I have now graduated into the Kauffman Fellows Network, a global connected network with access to more than 500 leaders in the venture and innovation community.

During the program, I was challenged to create and execute on a personal development plan and was continually pushed to think outside the box. I was introduced to incredible speakers and thought leaders in our modules, including numerous icons from the venture world with different points of view, which resulted in many moments of surprising clarity. The session that stuck in my mind the most was a deep dive into the characteristics of a visionary entrepreneur: radical self-belief, willingness to go against the grain to follow your passion even when others think you are crazy, and being able to build a stellar team of talented and diverse individuals who also believe in that passion. 

This session still resonates with me today. Tracy and I founded Astarte Medical based on the belief that we could not only build a company with a sustainable business model that would provide sizable returns to our investors, but also one that would develop solutions that would have a meaningful and measurable impact on the lives of the tiniest, most vulnerable patients. It was extremely validating to raise $8.5M last year from an incredibly supportive group of investors who share the same vision. In addition, we are deliberately working to build a strong, diverse team of individuals who also share our passion. Passion makes you believe, at the deepest level, that what you are doing matters. This conviction is evident at Astarte Medical whether you work in Sales, Dev Ops or Finance.

This article has been edited and condensed.