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Dutch healthtech venture builder NLC accelerates fundraising

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Published: 1 March 2024

NLC Health Ventures has raised €58m since 2023, including €14m this year, to invest in bringing innovations to market that will relieve mounting pressures on healthcare systems globally, it says.

Nicolab, which has developed an AI-based decision support platform for the diagnosis of strokes in patients, is one of the companies that NLC Health Ventures has invested in | Nicolab

Amsterdam-based healthtech venture builder NLC Health Ventures (NLC) has announced it has raised €14m this year from a range of private investors and family offices.

The funding was raised through a combination of debt and through convertible notes – a hybrid of debt and equity financing often used to invest into very early stage start-ups. The investment will be used to accelerate the company’s plans for international expansion, increase the number of ventures built, and strengthen support for its existing portfolio of almost 90 ventures.

This latest fundraising brings total investments in NLC and its ventures since the start of 2023 to €58m, just under a third of the total of €180m raised since the company’s inception in 2015.

Pathways to investment

NLC, which operates in the venture-building space, helping to launch healthcare innovations onto the market, backs its investees directly or through one of its four funds, and has invested in more than 100 innovations to date in the areas of biotech, medtech, green health and digital health.

“As pressure on healthcare systems around the world continues to mount, we need to invest into the solutions that will progress humanity whilst allowing us to provide healthcare more effectively and efficiently,” Bert-Arjan Millenaar, founder and CEO of NLC, told Impact Investor.

He said investors were drawn to the company’s diversified portfolio and support systems, which gave them a “healthy” balance between risk, return and impact.  “In the end, you can want anything in life, but if you or one of your loved ones get ill, you only want one thing, to get healthy.”

Bert-Arjan Millenaar, founder and CEO of NLC

The company has also attracted investment from governmental and public sector investors, such as Bpifrance, the French public sector bank, and the NHS, the UK’s publicly funded healthcare system. Millenaar said it was also in the final due diligence stages before announcing the first two institutional investors in its funds, which it hoped to do in April this year.

Impact Investor previously reported on the launch of the NLC Health Impact Fund, which raised €20m at first close in June last year with a fundraising target of €100m. The fund is actively fundraising with plans to reach final close by the end of May 2024.

NLC also manages the NLC MSB, Momentum and Stepping Stone funds, all of which, according to Millenaar, are impact-driven, albeit not Article 9 certified funds.

Launchpad for innovations in healthcare

As well as providing pre-seed capital and access to its investor network, NLC supports its investees in their recruitment drives, including finding co-founders to lead the ventures as CEOs. It also provides legal, regulatory, product development, marketing support and as well as introductions to relevant actors in what Millenaar described as its “extensive innovation ecosystem”.

“Many funds are unable to invest in healthcare innovation because of the high-risk involved. Traditionally, this has been the domain of business angels and government subsidies, loans and grants,” said Millenaar. “We are able to operate in this space by mitigating risk through diversification and by spreading our investment across a much larger portfolio of ventures, which we ourselves have helped to build and launch onto the market.”

Once fully invested, Millenaar said the NLC Health Impact Fund would invest in between 80 and 90 ventures. The fund has made 17 investments so far, most recently into Nicolab, which has developed an AI-based decision support platform for the diagnosis of strokes in patients. It has also invested in Scinvivo, which is building an optical coherence tomography (OCT) platform, a type of a non-invasive imaging test, for faster and better diagnosis of bladder cancer, and PEP Health, which uses machine-learning technology to give healthcare organisations, regulators, and insurers real-time, actionable insights into patients’ experience of care by analysing millions of public patient comments.

Theory of change

The company has developed a theory of change which it applies across all of its investments and is focused in four areas: venture solutions that improve quality of life and advance SDG-3 Good Health and Wellbeing, reduce costs, required workforce and burden on caregivers and patients; increase satisfaction and safety for healthcare professionals; reduce workload and pressure; and decrease the environmental footprint of the healthcare system.

“Pressure on our healthcare and caregiving workforces is mounting, driven by a growing and ageing population, with more people living longer but also more people afflicted by chronic disease as well as issues such as obesity,” said Millenaar. “There are two avenues to respond to this, one is migration, which is a hot political topic and the other is to increase labour productivity through innovation. The biggest impact NLC and its funds can have at the moment is to back innovation and relieve some of this pressure.”

To qualify for NLC investment, innovations must meet three criteria. The innovation has to significantly improve upon the currently available technology and/or treatment, have the potential to have a direct, positive impact on patients, healthcare workers, society and/or environment, and have the potential to be commercially viable, according to the firm.

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