Insights from a venture capitalist investor

Florian Ludwig is an investment manager with Thuja, a venture capital firm that invests in healthcare products addressing unmet clinical needs. Equipped with a physics degree (focus biophysics, and in particular molecular interactions), he worked 15 years in the medical device industry, both in start-up companies and in large international corporates. This has created a firm basis for selecting and investing in medical device innovations with the highest potential to improve patient care and create a financial return for investors. 

Florian choses investments based on expected impact and financial return perspective. Specifically, he looks for product concepts that address a clearly defined unmet clinical need and improve the quality of patient care. With healthcare systems under increasing cost pressure, it is also important that selected start-ups provide cost-effective solutions to patients and healthcare providers, aiming to enable better care at lower cost. The end goal is to invest in companies that are providing products that will help to improve patient health and patient care by bringing innovation to patients worldwide. 

Venture capitalist investors typically take a board seat in the companies they invest in, to provide oversight and support the management team in development and execution of a winning strategy. By joining the boards of portfolio companies, Thuja investment managers serve as a guide and partner to management teams, making their physician and expert network (including scientific, legal and financial experts) available to entrepreneurs. Hence, they help start-ups to meet their milestones and ultimately be successful.

This partnership is intended to last until an exit, either by sale of the start-up company to a larger corporate or by listing the company on a public exchange. In order to achieve an exit, investors work with management to increase the value of the company by de-risking and validating the start-up’s technology – first pre-clinically, then clinically and ultimately commercially. As an early investor, Thuja frequently supports management on its way to and into the clinic. Regardless of the company’s stage and whether an exit happens along the way, the overarching goal of these efforts is to positively impact patients’ lives and improve care by translating scientific innovation into novel healthcare products.

Healthcare is about improving lives. So are the UN sustainability goals. It is therefore important to Thuja that new developments are both sustainable and in alignment with the UN sustainability goals. As society operates with limited resources, it is important to deploy these resources to those areas where they can have the biggest impact. As a venture capitalist investor, Thuja plays a critical role in directing limited resources to innovation with the biggest and most sustainable impact potential. Especially now, as we face COVID, it is important that businesses in the sector can provide solutions to the medical community quickly and continue to innovate both in anticipation of future needs and to address existing shortcomings. The COVID pandemic serves as a reminder that society has to find ways to adapt quickly and be prepared for future pandemics and other healthcare challenges. With possible future pandemics being unpredictable in nature and timing, society is well served by maintaining an innovation culture that is capable of shifting focus and responding to new challenges swiftly. 

The medical field thrives on innovation. Quite a few previously untreatable conditions can now be addressed in minimally invasive procedures. Many patients who would have died or been left disabled for lack of treatment options only a few years ago can now be treated effectively, sometimes even in outpatient procedures. In other areas, medical technology has transformed treatment interventions from open, invasive surgery to minimally invasive porthole procedures. For example, cardiac and cardiovascular disease which previously required open-heart surgery can now be treated through a small access pinhole in the femoral artery, thanks to modern life-saving medical technology. Improvements like this are life-changing for both the patient and the physician, and advance the entire medical field. The COVID pandemic has highlighted the incredible capabilities of modern medicine as well as the importance of continuous and relentless innovation for the benefit of patients around the world, but the need for healthcare innovation both pre-dates and will outlast the COVID crisis. At Thuja, Florian helps daring entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions for unmet clinical needs, with the goal of improving patient care and allowing patients to live better and longer lives.

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