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“Build the best possible and truly diverse team”

Inka Mero

Nordic Life Science asked Inka Mero, Founder and Managing Partner at Voima Ventures, what Nordic venture capitalists are looking for today within life sciences and what current opportunities and challenges Nordic life science companies facing when it comes to raising capital.

The Nordic deep tech fund Voima Ventures is based in Finland. They invest in startups from Finland, the Baltics and the Nordics. Some of the companies they have invested in are Finadvance, Monidor, Genomill Health, MVision, Desentum and Combinostics.

What kind of companies are you and your colleagues focusing your investments on, and at what stages?

“Voima Ventures focuses on science-based deep technology startups. Our investments vary from pre-seed stage and technology spin-offs to us leading a series A (and even series B). We are multi-industry, investing across optics and photonics, new materials and industrial innovations, biotech, medtech and life sciences, IoT, HW, SW and AI. However, we don’t invest in preclinical pharma/drug development.”

“Depending on the case, we also look closely at the team and valuation of the company.”

What are some of your basic criteria for investing in a company? What factors do you consider especially important?

“The company has to aim to solve a BIG global problem – the ambition has to be high and the innovation/technology novel. We invest in science-based deep tech startups and that is always a criterion for us. Other factors that we always consider are the impact aspect of the company, as while we are not an impact fund we want to make sure we are contributing to a positive impact on SDGs. Depending on the case, we also look closely at the team and valuation of the company.”

“Another very typical mistake is to fail in value creation, from proof of concept stage to growth and scaling.”

Could you give an example of a common mistake among startups?

“One common mistake that startups with generic technologies or novel life science innovation make is not being able to focus their operations and ending up doing almost everything for everyone. Despite having multiple options to develop various applications and solutions, a startup should focus on one or few use-cases at any one time, with highest customer value and fastest time to market. Another very typical mistake is to fail in value creation, from proof of concept stage to growth and scaling.”

Could you mention a current strength or trend among Finland’s life science companies?

“Finland has a really strong university and research base and it is also present in the life sciences field. This gives many opportunities for true innovation coming from the latest research – currently we see quite a few startup companies in the field of the next generation of genome research, nano medicine, medical diagnostics devices (enabled by bioelectronics, optics and photonics) and artificial intelligence solutions.”

What effects has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your activities and abilities to invest in Nordic life science companies?

“We have continued to invest full speed and now have 10 investments in the new fund, and we are just closing two new ones. The greatest effect COVID-19 has had on our investing activities is not being able to meet people face-to-face. All the best events and other “physical” chances to meet potential co-investors and startups are at the moment minimal compared to what they would be without COVID-19. Of course there are online events but they are not the same in terms of networking.”

“Know your story and how your solution or product is remarkably better than anything now on the market and how you can gain traction fast.”

What advice do you have for small and mid-sized life science companies looking to raise capital?

“Build the best possible and truly diverse team, and acquire the leading experts and advisors globally early on. Know your story and how your solution or product is remarkably better than anything now on the market and how you can gain traction fast. Be ready to provide scientific and business expert backing and have a plan for market entry/selling your product.”

Photo of Inka Mero: Voima Ventures