Silicon Valley Barcelona Marta-Gaia Zanchi adventure that made her decide leave Stanford to launch an investment fund in health startups in Spain - "Commitment to health." This is how Marta-Gaia Zanchi, founder of health technology investment fund manager Nina Capital, defines the guiding thread that has guided her entire professional career.
And it is not easy to label the work of this Italian engineer who ended up becoming one of the most influential women in health innovation in Silicon Valley. In 2016, Silicon Valley Business Journal listed her as one of Silicon Valley's Top 40 professionals under 40 (Silicon Valley 40 Under 40).
He has worked with entrepreneurs, investors, universities and businesses in Silicon Valley, where he founded and directed Digital Health at the Stanford Byers Center of Biodesign.
"Health was the area where I wanted to make a positive change," says Zanchi. "The vehicle for me to get involved in this industry has always been innovation. This has been the case for the last 15 years, I was always looking for ways to achieve that impact, " he says.
Some of her activities during this period include the founding and sale of the startup RenovoRx, coaching startups, her work at the Data Collective Investment Fund and her role as an advisor in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Finally, Zanchi was convinced that the best way was Venture capital and chose Barcelona as the venue for his new venture: the launch of the manager Nina Capital that created its first fund of 18 million euros in 2019.
During his years in Silicon Valley, Zanchi worked academically and in consulting "the best companies, both large and small." By 2017, the engineer had already made it clear that she wanted to engage professionally with the investment fund sector and considered the possibility of creating a fund in parallel with her usual work.
Silicon Valley Barcelona Marta-Gaia Zanchi adventure
"What was clear was that there was a huge abundance of opportunities for Silicon Valley companies and not many available to companies that contacted me from Europe," he notes.
"Companies from southern Europe were getting in touch with me every time, and they had a very common complaint that in Europe they could find large investors who understood the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector and had made large investments in such innovations but did not really understand the technology," he says.
The expert notes that this problem was leaving without investment companies trying to innovate in health through wearables, semiconductors or computer technology, for example.
"And on the other hand, technology investors in Europe, for the most part, are shying away from the healthcare industry," says Zanchi.
For the founder of Nina Capital it became clear that in Europe there was a huge opportunity for investors at the intersection of technology and health.
"I thought it would have a greater impact and provide a greater service in a growing and dissatisfied market for funded initiative if I set up a fund on this continent," he concludes.
For a continent that views Silicon Valley as the Mecca of innovation, it can be difficult to understand why Nina Capital was born right in Barcelona. Zanchi acknowledges that she has been considering other options, but that the Catalan city ended up meeting all the requirements to become what the founder calls her "Zero Zone".
"There were some things that are really important to me," he notes. "First of all, I wanted it to be in a place in Europe where there was the fewest amount of funding at the intersection of Health and technology," he explains.
"Second, it was imperative for me that this be built in a place recognized for their excellence in life sciences, research, clinical care, where I knew they knew they would be able to connect to a base of doctors and scientists and researchers of international quality. And Barcelona has that reputation internationally known, not only at European level," says Zanchi, who points out that the city has an excellent ecosystem of hospitals, universities, talent and research.
"When we know a company, what matters most is that there is a well-defined problem that is relevant to the health industry and that the company is focused on solving it," Zanchi sums up.
"So the challenge for us is to become really good at understanding needs and a variety of clinical specialties," recognizes the founder.
Zanchi insists that the focus should be the need for the industry that the company is trying to solve, which makes them spend a lot of time trying to understand the problem, all the actors involved and how to solve it from a clinical and economic point of view.
"Ideally, we find the capabilities to both increase clinical outcomes and reduce the cost of care," he says. The founder of Nina Capital boasts of porfolio and assures that in its investment portfolio there are companies with a "great economic incentive and generating great benefits for patients".
Zanchi says that all this is possible thanks to the huge diversity of disciplines of the team at Nina Capital and working closely with the clinical community to know "what are the problems they have and should get a company to make their lives easier".
In total, in less than a year, Nina Capital has invested in 13 startups, among them and, with pandemic by means included, Zanchi says that the first year of life has gone "better than expected" and that the fund had almost completely completed the 18 million euros planned.
However, the founder acknowledges that this has not been the case for all funds and says that investment has slowed in Europe. Zanchi attributes it to the fact that large investors have large portfolios that now have to spend time "rescuing", while the youth of his fund played in their favor.
If he looks to the future, Zanchi says he can see several scenarios. He acknowledges that the pandemic may have made the health industry an area of interest for some investors, "so they could divert capital into this sector," he reflects.
However, the expert believes that the industry will continue to have problems finding investment, especially in the early stages, although she says it will be one of the fastest to recover "in terms of innovation".
Overall, for the next few years, Zanchi believes there are grounds for optimism about the trends being seen in the global health market and how the venture capital community has responded.
Despite everything, the founder of Nina Capital warns against new trends and assures that her fund will not invest (for now) in telemedicine.
"There has been a boom, but it will be reabsorbed after the pandemic," says Zanchi, who believes that face-to-face care will regain the relevance it once had.
For Zanchi, the real gold mine will be the solutions to the structural problems of the industry and " we especially look at all the ways in which information and data are accessed," he warns.
"There is a whole series of technological innovations that address operational and infrastructure needs that, if successful, then will have a tremendous impact, as they will allow startups to bring their products to market faster in higher volumes at a lower cost and more safely. And that's why this is the area we're looking at with great interest, " he admits.
As for the future of Nina Capital, Zanchi says that "the idea is not to foster innovation that is only relevant to the European landscape".
"I deeply believe that this type of technology can and should have an international playing field," he says.
Silicon Valley Barcelona Marta-Gaia Zanchi adventure