While 2022 has been a sobering year for the tech sector at large, health tech is still booming, bucking the slowdown in Silicon Valley.
Health-focused tech founders and investors are always thinking ahead—and according to top VCs, transformational developments are underway inside a bevy of young companies. From new therapies to address chronic disease, to helping surgeons visualize complicated procedures, to revamping payer and insurance plans, companies in the startup stage now may play a transformational role in healthcare 5, 10 or 25 years out.
So how do venture capitalists evaluate a startup’s potential pre-revenue?
Ambar Bhattacharyya, managing director at Maverick Ventures, explained that he looks for startups that develop technology that is “some combination of better, faster, cheaper,” he said. “Ideally, it’d be all three of those, but particularly in healthcare, a lot of the technology is very legacy,” he added.
Bhattacharyya also noted he looks for teams that can set and hit achievable milestones between each early funding round. He also added that especially in its founding stages, the startup’s ability to build a strong management team is crucial. “If you can recruit great talent we think the likelihood of success either on a product basis or customer basis will increase,” he said.
Bob Kocher, partner at Venrock, says a successful startup should seek to address a large market size within the broader healthcare sector and demonstrate a huge and tangible return on investment for users. Its return on investment for users is important because a successful startup need build its user base at a lower cost than the revenue from each user.
To zero in on the most promising healthtech startups around, we started by canvassing the VCs Fortune highlighted on our recent list of power players in the space. Here are the companies they liked outside of their own portfolios (read to the end to see what companies they picked that they’ve invested in).
Westlake Village BioPartners founding partner Beth Seidenberg pointed to Capstan Therapeutics as a startup “to watch” outside of her own portfolio. The startup is working on technology that combines gene editing with precision genetics to develop treatments and therapies for diseases like cancer and fibrosis that is based on mRNA and cell therapy research from the University of Pennsylvania.
The company launched big with $165 million in financing in September 2022. While the application of the technology is far from being used in humans, Seidenberg says that she believes in the team’s ability to bring the technology to the health care market. “There are very experienced, smart, talented executives and scientific founders around this company,” Seidenberg said. “If anyone can crack the code and make this happen, it is the team behind this company.”
Oak HC/FT founder and investor Annie Lamont recommended Cadence, a platform that helps healthcare providers monitor patients with chronic conditions. Cadence was founded in 2020 by CEO and founder Chris Altchek with Thrive Capital investor Kareem Zaki. At the end of last year, the startup reached a $1 billion valuation after an $100 million Series B funding round led by Coatue Management.
“Cadence meets patients with chronic conditions where they are, providing access to care beyond the four walls of a hospital,” Lamont explained. “This expands the reach of care into rural communities and allows patients with sometimes life-long conditions consistent access to their care team from within the comfort of their home,” she added.
Bessemer Venture Partners investor Sofia Guerra recommended Flexpa, the medical data-sharing app. Flexpa’s platform enables patients to access their own health information such as clinical records and sync it to any health app they use. Guerra explained that this platform empowers by allowing them easier access to their own health data and enables easier communication across different sectors of the health care system for patients.
Flexpa was co-founded in 2020 by CEO Andrew Arruda, CTO Joshua Kelly, and COO Thomas Hamilton. In June, Flexpa raised $8.5 million in seed funding led by General Catalyst and has raised a total of $10.5 million since its founding.
Ambar Bhattacharyya pointed to Medivis as a company with breakthrough technology to watch. This New York City-based medical software startup uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to build surgical navigation and medical imaging tools. Founded by CEO Osamah Choudhry and COO Christoper Morley in 2016, Medivis has since partnered with Microsoft to build its surgical AR software “HoloLens” that helps surgeon navigate complex procedures. The startup has raised about $24.5 million so far, and its last rounding round closed at $22 million for Series A.
Bob Kocher recommended Solv from outside of his portfolio. Co-founded by Heather Fernandez and Daniele Farnedi in 2016, Solv is an app that connects healthcare providers with patients making same-day appointments, both in person and virtually. In September 2021, the startup raised $45 million in its Series C funding round led by Acrew Capital and Corner Ventures.
Bhattacharyya also recommended AmplifyMD, the telemedicine startup that helps medical institutions find missing specialty coverage. The platform works by connecting specialist doctors in critical areas, such as oncology and psychiatry, with hospitals and other medical providers who have a shortage of specialists.
Co-founded by CEO Meena Mallipeddi and CPO Anand Nathan in 2018, AmplifyMD’s software also provides the virtual care platform and integrates billing with the hospital’s pre-existing electronic records process. In March 2022, the startup announced they had raised $23 million, including a Series A round led by F-Prime Capital and a seed round led by Forerunner Ventures and Greylock.
Kocher also pointed to Color, the healthcare delivery startup, as an attractive pivot. Co-founded originally by Othman Laraki and Elad Gil in 2015, Color has shifted from operating genomic tests to working on healthcare infrastructure and selling software to public health departments that support COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Kocher. Color also helped operate COVID-19 testing; At the height of the pandemic, Color provided about two-thirds of the testing for the city of San Francisco. Color has raised over $482 million from investors such as General Catalyst ad T. Rowe Price over 8 rounds.
Obviously when it comes to venture capital, putting your money where your mouth is speaks volumes. Here are the 5 companies our VCs liked that they have invested in.
Andreesen Horowitz partner Vijay Pande and Bessemer Venture Partners investor Sofia Guerra both recommended pricing platform Turquoise Health, which aims to help patients and providers understand the upfront costs of medical care and increase transparency of pricing. “It’s the most ambitious approach we’ve seen, and one that enables more intelligent, market-driven pricing practices and lays the path to transform care navigation and health experiences for patients,” Pande said.
The company was co-founded by CEO Chris Severn and Adam Geitgey and launched in December 2020. Turquoise Health raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreesen Horowitz with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, in addition to $5 million of seed funding raised.
Artis Ventures partner Ameena El-Bibany recommended Exo Imaging, a startup that develops handheld ultrasound devices. “Most ultrasound carts are incredibly expensive and need experts to operate, so this is affordable and automated,” explained El-Bibany. Since the company was founded in 2015 by CEO Sandeep Akkaraju, CTO Yusuf Haque, and Board Chairman Janusz Bryzek, the company has raised $320 million in financing, including a $200 million Series C funding round. El-Bibany was an investor in Exo Imaging.
Bhattacharyya also recommended Maverick-backed Centivo, a health plan for self-funded employers that exists as an alternative to traditional insurance plans. Centivo aims to lower the cost of primary care for both employees and employers by aligning incentives for lower-cost healthcare with care providers.
Since the startup was co-founded in 2017 by CEO Ashok Subramanian, it has raised over $150 million in financing. The company raised $51 million in July 2021 in a round co-led by Maverick and B Capital Group, and most recently received an additional $30 million in financing from Morgan Health in July 2022.
Seidenberg recommended the startup Neuron 23, which she helped found and financed. The company develops treatments for neurological and immunological diseases. Seidenberg explained that Neuron23 stands out among technologies addressing neurological conditions because it uses a precision medicine approach. “This will ultimately allow the right patients to get the right medicines to increase response rates and treatment success,” Seidenberg explained.
Neuron23 was founded in 2018 by Seidenberg and CBO Adam Knight in partnership with German biotech company Origenis and Kleiner Perkins. In March 2022, Neruon23 closed its $100 million Series C funding round led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, bringing the company’s total financing to date $213.5 million.
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