Nordic Life Science asked Fredrik Dahl, co-founder at Colibri 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.
Fredrik Dahl is one of four founders behind the Swedish investment company Colibri Ventures. Colibri invests in early stage life science companies and supports its startups with access to a life science incubator, including attractive laboratory spaces, located at Karolinska Campus in Solna.
What kind of companies are you and your colleagues focusing your investments on, and at what stages?
“Colibri Ventures invests in early stage life science companies and helps accelerate their innovations into commercial products. In addition to office and lab space, we provide all the necessary support for young biotech start-ups, including business advice, financial and legal support. Our scientific background is in molecular tools and diagnostics and this is the primary focus for our investments as well.”
What are some of your basic criteria for investing in a company? What factors do you consider especially important?
“The company needs to have a product vision, based on a unique technology proposal or invention, that can scale world-wide and compete globally. We are looking for talented entrepreneurs who are willing to commit “all-in” to their company and have the potential to build tomorrow’s world-class life science companies. We are looking carefully at the IP, business model and what the product proposal looks like.”
“We like to see that the founders have a very good understanding of the competitive landscape globally.”
Could you give me an example of a common mistake among startups?
“The early stage companies we meet, including the founders, are typically spun-out from academia. The focus in academia is often on the invention and science, and a common mistake is to start the company based on a “cool scientific idea”, and not how to solve a problem for a customer or patient. We typically challenge this and like the companies to first define and quantify the problem that needs to be solved, and then describe their solution. Another common problem is when companies are built to solve a problem only valid for the Swedish market and not scalable globally. We like to see that the founders have a very good understanding of the competitive landscape globally.”
“We have a good track record in bringing molecular tools companies to global market, often through partnerships, like the recent acquisition of Cartana by US-based 10xGenomics, that our Colibri partners Simon Fredriksson and Andreas Nordström were involved with through their board attendance.”
Could you mention a current strength or trend among Nordic life science companies?
“Overall there is a trend in starting companies and becoming entrepreneurs – which is great! We meet plenty of App-development companies and pharma projects that we believe have some potential but often do not have unique ideas or technologies behind them. We have a good track record in bringing molecular tools companies to global market, often through partnerships, like the recent acquisition of Cartana by US-based 10xGenomics, that our Colibri partners Simon Fredriksson and Andreas Nordström were involved with through their board attendance. We would like to see more technology-based projects like Cartana.”
What effects has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your activities and abilities to invest in Nordic life science companies?
“Not much. We are meeting companies on-line and that has been working fine.”
What advice do you have for small and mid-sized life science companies looking to raise capital?
“Start by asking what the problem is that you are trying to solve and develop the technology, team, and plan to solve that problem – not what you can do with the technology.”
The above photo: Fredrik Dahl, Simon Fredriksson, Anders Nordström and Sara Mindus, the four founders of Colibri Ventures.