Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions.


What types of startups does the Program look for?

SMILE Health is calling startups with solutions that improve accessibility, equity, and propel the integration between oral health and overall health. Startups do not have to be based in the United States but must have a focus on the U.S. market. The program has cross-industry representation and previous experience in oral health is not required.

CareQuest Innovation Partners and MATTER are seeking startups whose solutions may fit one or more of the following focus areas:

  • Advancing Accessible, Equitable, and Integrated Health
    • How can we make health care, including oral health, more accessible, equitable and/or integrated?
  • Reducing Disparities through Oral Health
    • How can we leverage innovative oral health solutions to better identify and/or address health disparities?
  • Connecting Chronic Care with Oral Health
    • How can we help people at risk or with chronic conditions better manage their overall health through oral health?
What is the right stage of startup for this Program? Are we too far along?

Applicants can range from research-based or pre-revenue concepts up to and including Series A funded startups. Startups must be able to demonstrate a validated hypothesis or preliminary proof-of-concept around how their solution addresses key problems.

How will the final startups be chosen?

Multi-disciplinary experts, CareQuest Innovation Partners, and MATTER leaders will review applications using a standard set of criteria to assess startups and select the top applicants for our program. Industry partners will also review applications to ensure the right match between a startup and industry partner, fostering stronger collaborations during and after the program. Some startups may be asked to participate in additional interviews and planning workshops in May and June, prior to final cohort selection. At least five startups will be selected for the SMILE Health accelerator program.

All applications will be evaluated using the following criteria (non-exhaustive):

  • How much potential value does the solution offer to customers?
  • How validated and/or mature is the solution?
  • How capable is the team to develop/execute the solution?
  • How likely is the business model to generate positive returns within 9-12 months?
  • How large is the market opportunity for the solution?
  • How aligned is the solution to CareQuest’s mission and the focus area(s)?
  • To what extent can the SMILE Health program advance the solution?
How many times can I apply?

Each application (i.e., a company, entity, or individual) may submit one submission to the program each year. If you have multiple ideas, submit the best one for submission. If you have applied unsuccessfully for SMILE in the past, you may apply again this year.

Is experience in oral health required to apply?

No. The program has cross-industry representation and previous experience in oral health is not required. You should have an oral health focus or a potential use case to advance integrated health.

Program Details

What does a typical week look like during the program?

During the 12-week semi-virtual program, each week will look a little different. We ask that you plan to commit 10-15 hours a week to get the most out of your time during SMILE. This is a unique opportunity to not only work intimately with industry leaders but also receive 1:1 mentorship. Most of the activities during the program will be facilitated through web conferencing platforms to allow for global participation. Demo Day (Chicago) and Reveal Day (at HLTH in Las Vegas) will be held in-person. Participation at in-person events is required.

Throughout the program, you will:

  • Collaboratively work with your industry partner on your validation study.
  • Connect with industry veterans who provide one-on-one personalized guidance.
  • Engage in immersive workshops and virtual discussions with industry leaders.
  • …and more!
What is a validation study?

A validation study is a key hypothesis a startup is seeking to validate in order to drive critical decisions, advance market readiness, and catalyze potential next steps including investments, pilots, and scale. Startups will have the opportunity to design a validation study that will best advance their solution.

Startups will be able to tap into curated industry data, multi-disciplinary expertise, industry partner insights, and more to strengthen your business case and solution. Depending on what a startup is looking to validate and interest from industry partners, a startup may have one or multiple matches. Past industry partners are listed at the bottom of the SMILE Health page. CareQuest Innovation Partners and MATTER will also provide support and resources throughout the program.

Validation studies vary based on startup hypothesis and industry partner match. Past validation study outcomes (and formats) include:

  • Proving efficacy of the startup’s custom solution in a new patient population by successfully enrolling hundreds of children in a national oral health program (in-market testing)
  • Determining go-to-market strategy for priority segment by surveying provider readiness, willingness to pay, and critical adoption conditions for the startup’s innovation (customer/user surveys & research)
  • Strengthening business case through determining key inputs to model including disease/condition prevalence, market size, and utilization assumptions to refine startup’s business model (claims and other data analysis)
When does the program begin and end?

Applications will be open until May 8, 2024 at 11:59pm E.T. The cohort will be announced ~June 21, 2024. The SMILE Health accelerator program will run from June 24 – September 13. Startups selected for the program will also participate in Reveal Day (October 1-2, Chicago) and Demo Day (October 20-23, Las Vegas). During these events, startups will have an opportunity to showcase their solutions, pitches, and outcomes from the program.

Who needs to participate from my startup?

The program works best when the leadership team can fully engage in the Program. We ask that at least one co-founder can dedicate the required time.

What are the terms and conditions to apply?

For additional questions, please contact us at

Thank you, and we look forward to receiving your application!