How do you introduce your fund? What is your elevator pitch?
Capricorn Venture Partners is an independent European manager of venture capital and equity funds, investing in innovative European companies with technology as a competitive advantage. It is based in Leuven, Belgium. The fund I am responsible for is mainly focused on digital healthcare where we do early stage investments all over Europe. For example, we were early investors in Noona Healthcare, an innovative Finnish digital healthcare company that was successfully acquired by Varian Medical last month.
What kind of investment targets do you seek?
We are looking for companies that address a real customer need in the healthcare value chain, with technology as both an enabler and a barrier for competitors. We especially like data driven companies!
A solid business model that we understand (because who is going to pay?) is an important criterion, but also with the flexibility to pivot when required in an emerging market, such as digital healthcare.
Of course, we can’t do that without an solid and entrepreneurial management team that can get things done. Having a mixed team of techies and medically-trained people is a big plus.
How can a company best approach you?
If you can get a referral from someone in my network, that’s obviously a good entry. But it is OK to just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the highlights of what you are doing and looking for. I don’t look at blind profiles, and rarely look at LinkedIn messages.
What do you see as digital healthcare’s biggest challenges looking into 2019?
There are a number of digital healthcare companies that have now been around for a number of years and who have raised significant amounts of money. It is about time that they now prove the solidity of their business models by becoming profitable, or providing good exits for their investors. On another note, I still see many startups on the digital healthcare side that are jumping on this opportunity and the money going around, but who are basically competing in a highly crowded market where there is not always enough of a competitive edge for them to break out of their geographical home market.
What of those can be achieved/managed in 2019?
The digital healthcare environment will mature and more M&A is to be expected. I’m not sure though whether we will be ready in 2019 to switch from ‘digital healthcare’ to ‘healthcare’, as we did, for example, when we switched from ‘digital photography’ to ‘photography’.
What is the biggest change in the investment climate in digital healthcare?
Digital healthcare has gone from being a niche a few years ago to being everyone’s sweetheart at present. Many new players, both on the investment and entrepreneurial side, are leading to interesting dynamics, but the great companies still stand out.
In the tech sector we are talking a lot about AI at the moment. What is your take on its role in healthcare?
The importance of AI in healthcare cannot be overstated: it will solve a variety of problems for patients, clinicians, hospitals, insurers and the healthcare industry overall. But it will still take some time for systemic adoption. At present, we see many smart data scientists, who have access to a certain amount of data of a hospital or a university, running an algorithm on the data, from which they can do things like detect with x% certainty the likelihood of a certain disease. Between this and setting up a company that will have a true impact on our healthcare, there is still a long way to go.
The interview has been originally published on the special issue of CoFounder