‘Adapt to the rapidly changing environment.’ In conversation with Digital Health VC, Vishal Gulati

‘Adapt to the rapidly changing environment.’ In conversation with Digital Health VC, Vishal Gulati

02-Aug-2016 by Harsha Jagasia

Dr. Vishal Gulati is one of the Europe’s leading digital healthcare investors. Vishal is a qualified physician and chairman of the Digital Health Forum & a Partner at Draper Esprit. Over the last decade, he has championed deals across areas including diagnostics, devices & biotech. He is currently on the boards of Horizon Discovery PLC and EcoEos. His investments include Napo Pharmaceuticals, Glenmark, Renovo, Phagenesis. He has also held board positions at Psynova Neurotech, Bioscale and Enigma Diagnostics. Previously, Vishal worked at Atlas Venture, The Wellcome Trust and Radiant Capital.

And he is a valuable mentor supporting Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin.

To help Digital Health startups gain VC perspective, we decided to have a little chat with him. Here are some insights into his world.

1. ​Please tell us a little about you and Draper Esprit.

I am a venture capital investor and I started investing in digital health in Europe in around 2012 before there was a strong belief in the sector.  As a result of my early focus I now have one of the largest and most diverse digital health portfolio. I consider myself a ‘full stack’ digital health VC and you can see that my portfolio companies range from precision medicine to consumer health.

Draper Esprit is a leading digital technology VC in Europe which is a part of Silicon Valley based Draper Venture Network. I invest from Draper Esprit funds (we invest over £30m a year in leading European digital businesses) and also via independent syndicates under the umbrella of Future of Health Ventures.

​2. ​What are the main challenges you think Digital Health startups face?

All startups face similar challenges such as identifying big markets, making products that fit the market, price products appropriately etc but many of the same problems are amplified many times when you start to address healthcare challenges due to how healthcare markets operate.

There is often less transparency, higher regulation and reluctance to accept every new idea without testing it fully. All these challenges are usually surmountable but it needs a strong focus and DNA that is able to take on these tasks. There are now many good examples of companies that have successfully navigated through these challenges. The other specific challenge this startup landscape faces is direct clinical expertise. Few companies are started by doctors who are digitally savvy, although this is changing.

​3. ​What are your core areas of expertise that you will mentor budding startups in?

Before becoming a VC, I trained as a medical doctor and the combination of my medical training and over decade of VC experience gives me a relatively unique perspective of not only the business challenge the company will face but also how robust the medical basis of their company is. It is not uncommon in my journey as a mentor to meet companies and help them identify a new application of their technology when they may not have thought of before.

​4. ​What are the focus areas in Digital Health in 2016-2018 to invest in and why?

In 2016/18 I expect to see more mature companies to raise Series B and C rounds. This would validate the sector thesis and allow leading VCs to support likely winners of the future. I recently invested in a Swedish startup called LifeSum which is Europe’s fastest growing health app which is in the process of going global.

As sub-sectors, I am keen to invest more into precision medicine, digital therapeutics and neurostimulation sectors. These sectors are emerging rapidly and offer an opportunity to identify deep technology platforms which can address more than one clinical market and address niches where there is a lot of unmet need.

​5. ​Which are the ‘golden rules’ when evaluating a potential investment in a young startup? On what KPI’s do you focus in particular.

There are no golden rules in investing other than the obvious “buy low, sell high” :-). When it comes to early stage companies often the decision is made very much on how credible and versatile the founding team is. Versatility is often overlooked as a key attribute of founders. I think early stage companies need founders to be flexible and nimble to try and find the best fit for their product and to adapt to the rapidly changing external environment.

​6. ​What’s your general advice for startups who like to apply for the Startupbootcamp Digital Health accelerator?

My general advice to digital health companies is to focus on quality of outcomes, experience of patients, and access to quality healthcare. These are the key areas where there is so much opportunity.

More from Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin

Applications are now open for Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin

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To apply for the Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin 2016 program, click here.

Harsha Jagasia