“At the same time, their US colleagues frequently have a considerable experience in this area. Nevertheless, due to the high level of training for programmers and bioinformatics specialists, Russia has a lot of projects related to this sector and medical data analysis,” Elizaveta Rozhdestvenskaya, COO at Primer Capital Investment Fund, believes.
Capital will be Investment Partner of M-Health Congress, thus we have talked to Elizaveta in order to discover how the fund selects projects for investment, where it finds health startups, and how it encourages their growth.
Interviewer: M-Health Congress (MHC)
Respondent: Elizaveta Rozhdestvenskaya (ER)
MHC: Why does your investment fund focus on health projects?
ER: Dmitry Sharov, a co-owner of our fund, has been working in the clinical research area for 18 years. The interest in investments in health projects was just a matter of time.
MHC: What criteria do you follow when choosing a project for investment?
ER: We try to take a comprehensive approach to project assessment: consider technological analysis of the project, commercial potential of offered solution, and experience of keynote team members.
MHC: How do you find health startups?
ER: Specialized conferences are the key source of new projects for us, but some teams prefer to contact us directly by e-mail, without waiting for a meeting at events. Another significant project source is our partners and portfolio companies, which regularly recommend us to their colleagues and inform us of promising startups.
MHC: How can medical projects increase the chances of making you like them?
ER: First off, they should build a clear strategy for project development and intellectual property protection. Like any other investor, we need to realize how much money a company requires, for what purposes, and when we will be able to leave a project by compensating and multiplying investments. Deep understanding of goals, their costs, and implementation period is one of the important features of a successful startup.
MHC: What assistance, save for financial one, do you provide to companies you invest in?
ER: We are ready to assist portfolio companies in a wide range of issues, in particular using our network of contacts. For example, we help Russian startups at early stages to develop experiment plans, growth strategies, intellectual property protection, and even prepare applications for grant financing.
MHC: Based on your experience, startups in what sectors are most common in Russia? Why?
ER: Russia’s range of development is pretty huge and, in general, it corresponds to international trends. If choosing something one, I would like to mention a great amount of projects on bioinformatics and medical data analysis. On the one hand, it is caused by the high level of training for Russian programmers and bioinformatics specialists, on the other, by the governmental interest in healthcare digitalization and shifting to electronic health records.
MHC: What are the main differences between Russian and US health startups?
ER: The main difference is that commercialization of scientific development in the USA has been gradually evolving since the 1960s. Therefore, the country has formed an advanced infrastructure: almost all universities have their own patent offices and the so-called tech transfer offices allowing scientists to move technologies from a laboratory to a startup. Frequently, there is a range of local investors conventionally supporting solutions by certain universities.
Besides, numerous professional managers and financial experts join academic teams and help them to raise venture financing and develop the project.
Russia is just establishing this business, and its scientists often have no idea how to implement their concept into a startup and where to find a partner with business background.
MHC: Tell us about the most unusual health startup in your investment practice.
ER: We receives dozens of funding applications day by day, and many of them offer unique and smart solutions of existing medical issues. For instance, our portfolio company, MatriSys Bioscience, offers to use bacteria dwelling on skin of healthy people to combat Staphylococcus aureus that occupy skin of patients with atopic dermatitis.
Recently, the fund has reviewed the project offering a new-gen oral contraceptive for both men and women.