Cancer patient engagement platform Ankr crowned winner of Ion’s Houston Startup Showcase

Four finalists in The Ion's Houston Startup Showcase pitched their companies Nov. 17. Ankr, a cancer education and navigation platform, won the competition. (Courtesy The Ion)
Four finalists in The Ion's Houston Startup Showcase pitched their companies Nov. 17. Ankr, a cancer education and navigation platform, won the competition. (Courtesy The Ion)

Four finalists in The Ion's Houston Startup Showcase pitched their companies Nov. 17. Ankr, a cancer education and navigation platform, won the competition. (Courtesy The Ion)

Ankr, a Houston-based cancer education and navigation platform, has been named the winner of The Ion’s Houston Startup Showcase.

With a $10,000 prize and $10,000 in legal support from law firm Baker Botts, Ankr beat three other finalists, including CaseCTRL, Studio Pod and Cemvita Factory, in a matchup that had the companies pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

For Ankr, winning the competition was more than just winning a paycheck; the yearlong competition validated the direction the company had been taking when it launched in January, oncologist and founder Dr. Arpit Rao said.

“We knew that we were on the right track,” Rao said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper. “But when you get in front of that audience of investors, industry insiders, these guys that spend all their lives building businesses like ours, and patients, you get validation.”

Currently, Ankr provides its platform through its website, through its mobile app on iOS to about 50,000 individuals with 16,000 registered active users, Rao said. Ankr also has future plans to expand to Android.


The patient engagement platform has garnered its success by not only centralizing a patient’s cancer information in one place, but also detailing important clinic information and valuable resources, according to the Ankr website. The 11-person Ankr team also designed the platform to be seamless with a doctor’s office to keep doctors more informed of a patient’s condition and streamline the information-gathering process through its symptom support services, Rao said.

“The Ankr platform, with artificial intelligence with a bunch of really smart algorithms that drive it, automatically gives you the most likely risk of side effects that you're going to ask today,” Rao said.

As Ankr moves forward, it looks to grow to a 20-person operation in its Houston office by the end of 2022 and serve more Houstonians not only directly through its product, but also through integration with Houston’s Texas Medical Center institutions, Rao said.

The past year’s Ion’s Houston Startup Showcase, meanwhile, which started with 24 startups at the beginning of the year and was narrowed down to the final four, represented the largest attended platform for The Ion, The Ion Executive Director Jan Odegard said.

“That means we actually have a megaphone to communicate to the community about these exciting startups, and we can be that platform for the startups that don’t fit in a particular accelerator or incubator,” Odegard said.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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