Investor Perspectives: Ling Wong of Sea Lane Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners

Investors and health startups are at the center of the annual INVEST conference in Chicago from March 28 to 30, 2022. Ahead of the conference, we are conducting a series of interviews with investors on their approach to startups through four tracks of the pitch competition, INVEST Pitch Perfect: pharmaceutical technology; Diagnostic; coordination of care and values-based care; and remote patient monitoring and smart devices.

The finalists for each of the tracks will be reviewed by judges who will also ask questions about the startup’s activities. The prize for the winner of each track is a profile in MedCity News.

The deadline for Pitch Perfect submissions is January 15th. To apply, Click here.

Ling wong is a general partner at Sea Lane Ventures and senior advisor to Lightspeed Venture Partners. In response to emailed questions, she shared her take on startups in the diagnostic and remote patient monitoring industries.

Which companies have impressed you in these spaces in recent years and why?

We are living a watershed moment in digital healthcare access solutions, driven in large part by the next generation of diagnostics and new solutions for remote patient monitoring and interaction. While there are many impressive players in this space, there are two that stand out particularly in my mind – both of which are companies that Lightspeed Venture Partners has invested in. One of these companies, Health guardian, focuses on developing breakthrough diagnostic technologies that can turn cancer from a silent killer into a manageable disease. Using a simple blood test, their product enables rapid analysis of a patient’s current cancer genomics to better inform treatment decisions. In a relatively short period of time, this company has grown into one of the established leaders in the field of liquid biopsy. The other is Wheel, who created a virtual care platform that enables the delivery of the highest quality care in an affordable and sustainable way. Wheel’s commitment to moving the healthcare industry forward with clinicians, organizations and patients all playing a vital role is fundamentally changing the way healthcare works, enabling any provider to become a telemedicine provider. I think Wheel is a great example of a company providing a digital solution that solves issues of access – and, ultimately, equity – by lowering some important barriers to care.

What are some exciting developments you’ve seen in this industry over the past 18 months in terms of technology development, implementation, clinical study data?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had such a dramatic effect on countless areas of our society, and access to healthcare is no exception. Against this backdrop, over the past 18 months we have witnessed a huge acceleration in the adoption of digital solutions such as virtual care, which in turn have significantly enabled new models of care. While this shift in use was driven by the needs of a public health emergency, the promise of digital solutions (such as Wheel) is now wider than it even has been, and now we see how. they can be the key to improving health. equity and accessibility – in particular, meeting the diverse needs of a range of patient populations by potentially reducing or eliminating barriers to care based on location. The defining characteristic of a growing set of digital health solutions and therapies is the power to personalize care and services to meet the health needs of diverse populations and improve access. I love this idea and am passionate about the goal.

How do you support small startups upstream? Have / would you ever have made smaller pre-seed and seed relationship investments, just to be on the cap table and not run out later?

My philosophy is that if I see an inspiring solution to a pervasive societal problem in healthcare, I want to build those mission-driven relationships that take those early ideas to the finish line – and if that actually provides a solution that benefits the company in a big way, you are going to see returns. An example of how the Lightspeed team approaches small upstream startups is illustrated by our investment in Health Soda. Soda is a company that faces long-standing challenges in securing reimbursement for goods and services essential to achieving and maintaining good health, but which are not supported by traditional medical claims. Because we saw the huge need and potential for Soda’s healthcare-centric payment and related solutions, Lightspeed co-led the $ 6 million round of funding, and we continue to provide close support. at Soda Health today. The compassion, industry experience and innovative spirit of the founding team were certainly key reasons to support their ambitious mission. But most importantly, it’s the impact of what they do – allowing consumers to have easier access to their benefits, giving health plans a technological platform that can administer those benefits cost-effectively, and throw away the foundations for improving overall health in all communities – which further validates our decision to invest until the end. Yes, it is important to invest early in companies that promise returns later. However, the early recognition of ideas that address fundamental issues and inequalities in health care is arguably even more crucial. Social good is good business.

How do you rate the founders?

In short, I’m inspired by founders with a vision to bring customization and scale to solve the problems that exist in healthcare today. So many of the barriers we see have everything to do with unmet challenges in diversity and access. This focus, which is reflected in my approach to investing, resonates throughout the healthcare ecosystem, from therapeutics to healthcare delivery. When you meet founders who see these issues, who recognize these societal inequalities, and who understand how these needs can be a common thread for investing in health, it’s easy to see how much their missions deserve to be supported. I want to be part of this solution because I look forward to a world where our technology, both digital and therapeutic, can ensure the best possible level of health for everyone.

To apply for the Pitch Perfect INVEST and know the criteria, Click here.

Photo: sdecoret, Getty Images

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