From Idea to Impact

Optum Startup Studio

Optum wants to make health care work better for everyone. This depends on bringing together the best and brightest.

Through the Optum Startup Studio, we help the Carnegie Mellon University community build and grow ideas into startups through an immersive, full academic year program that puts a network of resources within your reach.

Here’s how it works:  

  1. We share challenges in areas of importance to our industry, aligned with health care’s triple aim:

    • Reduce total cost of care

    • Improve patient outcomes

    • Boost patient experience

  2. Startup teams submit their ideas in support of these challenges.

  3. Our panel of industry, academic and entrepreneur experts evaluate the submissions, and select the startup ideas that will be funded.

Startup teams work on their businesses through the full extent of the academic year, receiving a variety of resources. The experience culminates with a Demo Day.


Optum’s Startup Studio’s business sponsors, mentors, governing board and founding team come from Optum and UnitedHealthcare, two complementary business platforms that together form UnitedHealth Group.

Optum is a leading health services innovation company dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 160,000 people collaborating worldwide, we leverage technology, data and expertise to improve the delivery, quality and efficiency of health care.

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UnitedHealthcare serves nearly 50 million individuals globally, delivering valuable health benefits and services to people in all stages of life, at all income levels, through all major health benefits segments.


Paul Nielsen
Vice President, Strategic Programs & Partnerships, Optum
President, UHG Academy of Technology
Dean, Optum College of AI

 Paul Nielsen is a Global Executive with more than 25 years of experience working with technology Companies who design and develop software and hardware solutions for the Telecommunications, IT Service Provider, Healthcare and CE Industries.   Paul has held leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, Business Development and Executive Management positions.  Through his roles in these companies, Paul has driven advanced technologies into the market that generated operational savings, increased ARPU, competitive advantages and customer retention. 

 Paul earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Science and Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


Sean Ammirati
Co-Founder & Director, Carnegie Mellon Corporate Startup Lab
Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Carnegie Mellon
Partner, Birchmere Ventures

Sean Ammirati is a Venture Capitalist, Professor, and Author. He teaches numerous graduate entrepreneurship courses at Carnegie Mellon. He is also the Co-Founder and Director of the Carnegie Mellon Corporate Startup Lab (CSL) which has conducted research and developed tools to help companies better adapt and integrate entrepreneurial best practices into their own innovation processes. 

In addition to his work at CMU, Sean also joined Birchmere Ventures as a Partner in 2012.  Birchmere focuses on seed-stage SaaS and marketplace startup investments. Prior to joining Birchmere, Sean spent 12 years founding, building and selling businesses in the software and media industries. 

He recently completed his first book The Science of Growth, which was released by St Martin's Press in April 2016 and was subsequently translated and published in Korean and Mandarin.

Simone Grapini-Goodman
Vice President, Academic Partnerships, Optum  

Simone has devoted over 15 years to improving the health of Americans through access to quality health care. She has done this at both the health care services/delivery level (10-year tenure with Optum in various Integrated Marketing and Product Strategy leadership roles) and on the benefits side (6 years leading Digital & Social Strategy with UnitedHealthcare Community & State).

 She now leads Academic Partnerships for Optum’s Advanced Technology Collaborative and looks to accelerate the enterprise through her work with top universities in areas of: Data & Analytics, Generating Value in the Practice of Health Care and Health Care Workforce Development.

 Simone holds an MBA from University of Maryland and an undergraduate degree in Business and Computer Science from Texas A&M University.

Danita Kiser

Director of Product Research & Emerging Technologies, Optum

 Danita has over 20 years’ experience in advanced and emerging technology products covering areas such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Big Data technologies and analytics, gaming, Media Distribution, Cloud services and Mobile Applications in healthcare, digital services, entertainment, telephony and contact center. She has worked at Turner Broadcasting, Optum, AOL, Cox Communications and multiple first-round start-ups.

 As Director of Research at Optum, she’s responsible for connecting research and emerging technology to real-life healthcare use cases in an effort to make the healthcare system better for everyone.

 Danita earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from University of Virginia and a M.S. and PhD in Chemistry from Emory University.


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From idea to impact, from research to revenue, we’re here to help.

Our network supporting the startups includes Carnegie Mellon University academic thought leaders, investors and industry experts from across Optum, UnitedHealthcare and UnitedHealth Group. We represent a multitude of disciplines, including technology, business strategy, human capital, operations, entrepreneurship, finance. We know a diverse set of  perspectives is crucial to helping you build solutions that make the system work better for everyone.

Tell Us About Your Idea:

If you’re a Carnegie Mellon University academic community member looking for support with a startup, or have an idea that you’re looking to test and grow, Optum Startup Studio can be the place for you.

Name *
Alignment with Optum Startup Studio Mission