A Pandemic Impact Fund – Why launch one now? The pandemic is the biggest problem facing the world right now. Sadly, there is an extreme shortage of venture capital or dedicated funds to support early-stage innovators in developing much-needed solutions.
One of the main criteria that we look for in companies is a good exit strategy. Specifically, we look at whether the company can fill a gap left by established incumbents. If they can do this well, it makes them an attractive acquisition target or a future IPO candidate.
The Pandemic Impact Fund was itself designed to fill a gap. As we now know, the pandemic problem is significant, complex, and wide-ranging. Our severe lack of preparedness has tragically cost both lives and livelihoods. We have serious catching up to do. It is this massive gap that the Pandemic Impact Fund intends to help fill.
Venture capital funds have not been focusing on pandemics.
So far, most of the “pandemic impact funds” are philanthropic and address critical humanitarian issues. These funds primarily aid those left in need by the health, social, and economic devastation left by the crisis. Many are focusing on PPE, employee retention, housing, and other great causes. Relief funds provide excellent and necessary short term pandemic assistance. But, they are not designed to spawn the innovation that will deliver significant long-term impact against this and future pandemics.
When we analyzed the gap for pandemics, at first, it appeared to be a very narrow thesis. The more we looked into it, pandemics are wreaking havoc because it is more than a healthcare crisis. It is a crisis in education, work, supply chains, housing, transportation, food, entertainment, and much more. Pretty much every aspect of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic.
The venture fund thesis strikes a balance between the narrow and wide views and focuses on the most critical issues we face in times of pandemic. It allows us to focus deeply on the problem yet broadly on solutions. We’ve chosen to seek opportunities that span the whole timeline from detection to mitigation, through future resilience to maximize pandemic impact. More specifically, our investment framework includes four themes.
1) Know Faster
The nature of pandemics has changed in the past few decades. With Globalization, people are traversing the globe on thousands of flights every day. The difference between just a few days in detecting the initial outbreak of a pandemic could impact thousands of lives. Surveillance, testing, analytics, population health, geographic information systems (GIS), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are all tools that help healthcare systems to communicate and spot trends early on.
2) Fix It Faster
When an epidemic is even suspected, we need to react quickly before the outbreak reaches pandemic proportions. We must contain it, mitigate the impact, stop the spread, and ultimately create vaccines and therapeutics that help to prevent or to treat the illness. Standard drug discovery timelines are currently measured in decades. A pandemic demands new technologies to identify, test, approve, manufacture, and deliver drugs rapidly. Time lost equates to lives lost. Fortunately, new AI-based platforms can help scientists weed out thousands of possibilities and home in on those with the greatest promise of success. Once the drugs are available at scale, we need more efficient and effective ways to deliver them. PharmaJet (a company our network has invested in) provides an injection solution that requires a fraction of the vaccine and half the time to deliver and requires little training. Many more people can be treated in a shorter amount of time – a “win” when vaccines are in short supply, and lives are at stake.
3) Make Work, Work
Pandemics have forced millions to stay at home. Some have been able to work from home, while others have not. Many companies will never return to the same place-based work with high-cost offices and will allow their employees to work from anywhere. New technologies are needed to manage these new ways of working (and living for that matter). We look at technologies that allow employees the freedom to work from wherever they want, and for companies to meet or exceed the productivity that came from office-based work environments.
Schools and universities have also suffered from the pandemic. Most lack tools to engage students in their education – particularly when working remotely. We look forward to investing in technologies that solve for students, their parents, and educators. We must help our students to grow intellectually with just the right balance of individual and group education supported by technology. Let’s help our teachers scale their efforts to produce the most innovative and well-equipped employees and future leaders for generations to come.
4) Do Better Next Time
Pandemics are not hundred-year events. Recent data from the World Economic Forum shows the incidence of pandemics is increasing rapidly. A World Economic Forum article entitled Coronavirus isn’t an outlier, it’s part of our interconnected viral age, updated March 2020, reported that the World Health Organization identifies 7000 signals of potential pandemics every month. It goes on to say that an infectious disease can travel from a remote village in one part of the world to a megacity on another continent in less than 36 hours. No surprise, the frequency of epidemic events has been increasing sharply over the last 30 years. With globalization, disconnected health networks, and fragile just-in-time supply chains, far more than our health is at risk. We need to build communication networks to disseminate trusted information to the public and private sectors to facilitate more rapid response. While toilet paper is essential, we need to focus on our food systems and supply chains to ensure the predictable delivery of safe foods produced using safe employment processes for field workers, processors, and retail.
We have built a team of experienced venture capital, business, healthcare, epidemiology, and technology experts with decades of experience in analyzing and solving complex problems. The team bridges the gap between science and business. We really do have the best team on board to solve big problems and provide top-level returns to our investors.
What’s Next for Pandemic Impact Fund?
The venture capital team is actively meeting with Limited Partners now across the U.S. We are meeting with family offices, foundations, corporate sponsors, high net worth individuals, fund of funds, and others who are interested in investing in this cause. If you, or someone you know, is interested in being a part of this fund, please contact any member of our team or send a request for more info to firstname.lastname@example.org.