In Conversation With
What initially attracted you to the world of VC?
My journey into the world of VC was anything but linear! I discovered what inspired me by trying out a large variety of different roles. Starting out as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co in Mumbai, I found that I thrived in an innovative environment and enjoyed the intellectual challenge it provided. This only grew when I joined a leading newspaper in India, contributing to in-house strategy as part of the transformation team. I very quickly developed an appreciation of how exciting and humbling it is to watch something being truly built from scratch. There was no doubt in my mind from then on that I wanted to be a part of the early tech ecosystem in some way, shape or form. Reflecting on this while studying at London Business School, I realised that I wanted to be part of as many entrepreneurial journeys as possible. And that’s what ultimately drew me to VC. Being able to support such a diverse range of entrepreneurs is extremely rewarding and exciting.
What drove your interest in healthcare?
I’m certainly not a clinician – but every single one of us has our own experiences of healthcare, whether that’s through receiving treatment ourselves, or through witnessing the challenges faced by our loved ones. Growing up in India, I became aware that in many places, the healthcare system can be extremely fragmented, making it difficult for people to access care. The potential to change this has therefore always inspired me. Even the smallest changes made within the healthcare sector can have huge, swift impacts on patients. It is a sector that can truly transform human lives and it’s fundamentally global. While each part of the world will face it’s own unique challenges, we all share common issues when it comes to healthcare; so, innovation in the sector holds the potential to improve lives on a global scale. And that’s incredibly exciting! I personally spent a lot of time working in different healthcare and science-based organisations in order to really understand exactly how they work, and the way they approach innovation. Having the opportunity to now stand at the forefront of innovation within the sector is immensely rewarding.
What are you looking for in founders? What qualities or experiences are most important?
First and foremost, the most inspiring founders tend to be those solving a problem that they’ve personally witnessed themselves. Having first-hand experience of what the challenge in question is really like can completely elevate the way in which a solution is formed. That’s why, if a founder doesn’t already have their own experience, it’s essential that they actively spend time within the ecosystem to gain an understanding for themselves.
Self-awareness is equally important. Founders must acknowledge that the healthcare sector is complicated, and at times incredibly difficult; and, as a result, must be realistic about how their solution might be implemented within the healthcare ecosystem. Ambition is crucial, of course, but it’s nothing if you’re not also aware of the realities of a sector which has an extremely real impact on people’s lives. Long timelines, tight regulatory systems and complex value chains are all part and parcel of delivering a healthcare solution.
Above all, a founder must be patient-centric. Even if you’re solving a problem for providers or clinicians, the effects on patients must remain foremost in your mind. Because ultimately, in healthcare, it will always boil down to the patient.
Which areas of health and biotech are you most excited about right now?
We’ve seen incredible and inspiring changes in healthcare across the world in the past few months. But there are a number of areas that I’m particularly excited about.
A focus on patients gaining greater control over their own healthcare journeys – for example, through increased control over their data, or the power to make more decisions regarding their treatment – is one that I hope to see continue within the sector. People have become much more aware of the importance of their health and want more control and visibility in the process of care delivery.
As a VC fund, we have always invested in early diagnostic solutions. From imaging based biomarkers to technology that delivers at-home diagnostics, their ability to reduce the burden of disease by identifying it earlier is truly life-changing.
Additionally, women’s health is a huge priority for me. For too long, women’s health and bodies have been deprioritised in healthcare. Now, important conversations are beginning to bring it more firmly onto the sector’s radar. I’m really excited by the solutions working to improve women’s health and address the unique challenges being faced by women in the best and most sustainable ways possible.
What separates start-ups with good ideas and those with good ideas that can become great companies?
This is such an important distinction in healthcare because while all of us have accessed care and noticed where things could be improved, not all of us fully understand the complexity of the system. Obviously, having a good idea for a healthcare solution is vital, but to make it great you must find the most optimal way of solving the problem, find regulatory bodies that will support it and also make sure you generate the right data. This is as important, if not more so, than the idea itself.
Those who spend time embedding themselves in the healthcare ecosystem to truly understand how these organisations work, what their incentives are, and who their stakeholders are, will be at a huge advantage. This experience provides the necessary knowledge to successfully access and work with the system in order to effectively solve a problem.
Unlike in other industries, it’s not something that you can fully appreciate from just reading up on the internet. It’s truly a challenge to understand every interconnecting element of the healthcare system, but it’s absolutely necessary. Great startups will focus on the understanding first, spend time drawing out the entire map and carefully think about how they will be able to deliver their solution.
What should a good VC bring to the table?
Above all else, a VC should have faith in their entrepreneurs. Do your due diligence, and inspire confidence in the person in whom you’re investing. Most importantly, trust them to go on their own journey. As a VC it’s crucial to remember that you’re not in the driver’s seat; it is the founder’s journey, not yours. So while you’re an extremely important part of the project, you shouldn’t be at the centre of the picture.
Providing entrepreneurs with access to networks is another, equally important, part of a VC’s role. Removing the opaqueness of the healthcare system by connecting your founders with the people and resources that can help them understand it may prove vital to their success. Introductions to those who may become their future collaborators, or even customers, can also be transformational. And you mustn’t forget the power of your own portfolio, either! Connecting founders and entrepreneurs from different projects with one another can lead to fantastic new opportunities and success.
Finally, and something that should never be underestimated, is patience. Innovation within the healthcare sector is hard and it takes time. VCs who understand this are more likely to help their entrepreneurs succeed.
This conversation was first published in August 2021
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