February 20, 2020 – Nina Capital, a European venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments in health technology companies, organized their first Technical Summit in Barcelona. The event included the founders from Nina’s portfolio companies, partners, co-investors and industry thought leaders from the US and Europe. In addition to connecting portfolio companies and networking, it was a chance to hear expert’s perspectives on the challenges that European digital health companies face when entering the US Market.
Biodesign: Investing in need-driven innovation
Six portfolio’s seed-stage startups came to Barcelona from five different countries and presented their technologies and the future impact they aim to have on the healthcare system. Nina Capital’s investment approach is informed by a Stanford-born methodology of health technology innovation known as Biodesign. The Stanford Biodesign methodology focuses on a deep understanding of healthcare needs and creating solutions to match the criteria for these needs.
Marta G. Zanchi, founder and managing director of Nina Capital and a recent guest on the Digital Health Today Podcast, explained the need-driven innovation approach.
“The Technical Summit was designed as a relationship-building half-day of technical presentations, in-depth conversations, and networking with participants from Nina Capital’s extended platform,” said Marta Zanchi. “We at Nina Capital try our best to create value for the people we serve in this venture-backed ecosystem. Sometimes the best way to do that is to bring them all in one conference room, and ignite informed discussions around the topics we all care about the most.”
Throughout the pitches by the startups, the Stanford Biodesign methodology was clearly at work.
The six companies that presented were:
Plenoptika: advanced hardware and software to provide accurate, portable, affordable, and easy measurement of a person’s refractive error and a prescription for glasses.
Elypta: on a mission to accurately and non-invasively detect the first symptoms of recurrence of renal cell carcinoma.
Contextflow: machine learning models to support radiologists’ routine workflow during the process of image interpretation in order to reduce the time required for an accurate diagnosis.
Mindpeak: deep learning algorithms to support the time-consuming, complex process of pathological diagnostics for pathology labs to ensure consistency in quality of interpretation and lower cost of interpretation per slide.
Teiacare: machine learning models to detect movement and interactions for bedridden elderly patients in nursing homes in order to improve the quality and reporting of care.
Leuko Labs: novel optical systems and artificial intelligence software to check white blood cell levels for patients receiving chemotherapy in order to monitor the risk of infections and thus decrease the number of hospitalizations.
Challenges and Opportunities for European Companies
One of the experts in attendance was Lisa Suennen, investment advisor of Nina Capital, experienced investor, leader and advisor in the healthcare sector. Lisa writes the Venture Valkyrie blog and is a host on the Tech Tonics Podcast. Lisa provided additional insights to the attendees of the event on the challenges and opportunities faced by European companies trying to enter the US market.
Entering the US Market is not easy for startups. Despite the opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act and the 21st Century Cures Act, the market has been slow to evolve. Stakeholder alignment is often hard to establish, and, in many cases, it is hard to find answers to the question: who is going to pay for a new digital health solution?
Consumers expect insurance to pay for most healthcare products and there is a lack of infrastructure to prescribe, distribute, reimburse, and provide service. Furthermore, competition is high, the regulatory framework often differs from country to country, and startups are required to include data from studies in the US to get market approval. In other words, trial data have to be generated, at least in part, in the US market.
Given these dynamics, startups are advised to work with professionals who are experienced in navigating the US market and to plan US clinical studies well in advance.
Another key recommendation for startups that want to enter the US market: have patience!
About Nina Capital
Nina Capital is a European venture capital firm established in 2019 and focused on early-stage investments in health technology companies. The firm operates its inaugural fund and has its base of operations in Barcelona, with high-profile advisors and venture partners supporting them from across Europe and the United States. Nina Capital makes investments in European companies as well as in selected US companies with significant ties to Europe. Click here to learn more about Nina Capital.