Navigating the Health Tech Investments for a Sustainable and Equitable Future with Rachna Dayal

Rachna Dayal

Step into the dynamic realm of Health Tech as industry experts Rachna Dayal, a seasoned venture capitalist from California, USA and Mahima Sharma, Founder & Editor, The Think Pot engage  in a riveting conversation at Visionary Voices. Explore the intricate landscape of startup sustainability, groundbreaking innovations, successful investments, and the pivotal role of data privacy in the ever-evolving healthcare sector. Join us for an insightful journey into the future of Health Tech, especially if you are aiming at either upscaling your existing startup or launching a new one.

The Health Tech sector is characterized by rapid evolution. How do you assess the scalability and long-term sustainability of startups in this dynamic industry?

In healthcare IP is super critical. If a startup is doing something that can be easily replicated and launched quickly, then that could be a red flag. Healthcare industry is used to working with a high barrier for entry. That is now decreasing with greater technology integration but it is still high compared to a traditional SaaS business. In many cases, understanding of regulations, data privacy and device or technology safety is not something that you can build overnight or within a week or month. 

Another critical aspect for success in Health Tech is the network that the startup has access to. Sometimes your partnerships can be more critical to success than the novelty of the solution itself. Access to a deep network that spans across the Healthcare Value Chain can provide access to insights, funding, talent as well as product market fit verification. 

What specific trends or innovations in the Health Tech sector have caught your attention as a venture capitalist, and why do you believe they have significant potential for disruption?

In the MedTech sector, there is a lot of innovation in Tissue engineering and regeneration being driven by material science. This is leading to some very interesting startups and in my opinion, this trend will continue for a decade or so if not more. 

Obviously, another space is that of AI and GenAI in health tech solutions. I care particularly about the innovations here that reduce the burden on healthcare providers and help to make them more efficient and profitable.  AI in Health Tech can also bridge the access gap, it can help reduce mistakes and predict challenges like drug-to-drug interaction. All of these lead to better outcomes for the patient. 

Could you share examples of successful Health Tech investments you’ve been involved in, highlighting what made those companies stand out in a competitive market?

A couple of companies that I have invested in are:

  1. Solenic Medical (https://solenic.com): Solenic is a Medical Device startup that uses alternating magnetic fields to treat infection in implants. Treating infected implants represents a key unmet need in Orthopedic surgery space and this solution has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the health system per patient and for worst case infection, saves limbs and lives. 
  2. Oatmeal Health (https://oatmealhealth.com): Oatmeal health leverages AI to enhance cancer screening for marginalized communities hence increasing their chances of getting timely cancer detection hence outcomes. 

Data privacy and security are paramount in healthcare. What due diligence measures do you take when considering investments in companies dealing with sensitive health data?

When I am evaluating a startup that is dealing with patient information and identifiable data, the first check is to see if they have implemented protocols for data protection as regulation requires. If they are leaving that “for later” that’s a huge red flag and a sign of almost incompetence in this field. If a startup is projecting a global business plan, then they should be already implementing data privacy protocols as needed by global markets. The US can look very different from Europe in this field, and they are both different from what is needed in India for example. 

Health disparities are a significant concern. How do you prioritize investments that aim to address healthcare accessibility and equity, especially in underserved communities?

I look at the investments that address health equity from a lens of broad applicability. If you look at the challenges that underserved communities face in healthcare, it is related to information, access (both monetary and physical proximity of healthcare providers) and lack of trust in the healthcare system. This lack of trust is based on biases for example: Studies have shown that pain and discomfort for black patients is less recognized and hence they receive lower care or lower quality of care due to this bias.  To me, a health equity solution has to solve access, information and trust issues for the communities they serve. It also has to be scalable and reimbursable easily. If not, then it will fail to help the most vulnerable population due to economic challenges.  So, in short: solve a real problem, demystify healthcare for vulnerable populations and have a viable and scalable economic model. 

In your role as a venture capitalist, what is your advice for entrepreneurs and startups looking to secure funding and make an impact in the Health Tech sector?

A couple of critical pieces of advice for entrepreneurs in the health Tech space are:

  1. First and foremost, ensure you validate a product/market fit very early on in the journey of your startup. Technical and business model verification is not a linear activity, both can be done in parallel. 
  2. Secondly, in Health Tech it is important to have a diverse team that consists of experts in technology as well as healthcare. Healthcare is a nuanced field including regulations, reimbursements etc that need experience to understand and implement. Your chances of success are much higher if you do that : both for funding and for sales. 

India is still unable to keep pace with the basic needs in its remote regions. Where do you think we lag and how can this gap be filled?

For a country like India where lack of doctors and hospitals in remote regions translates to lack of timely diagnosis of diseases that can be easily treated is the first roadblock to population health. Currently there are devices, technologies and services that can serve those needs easily in rural India through Public Private partnership. Creating simple remote patient monitoring kits that can be operated by nurses or health workers that can capture patient vitals data that can be uploaded through the cloud for a doctor to view who might be sitting in a distant city or another town can be a game changer. This can ensure easy diagnosis of many diseases and the patient needs to travel to a hospital location only if it is needed for further testing or treatment. 

Other solutions like those of a bandage that can detect bacterial infection in wounds can be instrumental in saving lives and thousands of rupees per patient. Similarly, gels that can treat chronic diabetes wounds as well as blood pressure measurement wearables could be highly subsidized in India where 11% of the population is diabetic and ~27% of the population has hypertension. 

About Rachna Dayal: She is the Founder & Managaing Partner, Sugati Ventures California USA. She has a global experience in leading teams, global commercial and supply chain strategy and business operations for big corporations. Her experiences includes managing complex P&L’s of hundreds of million dollars and leading & positioning disruptive technologies and products for launch. Founded and managed a technology startup in her early years of career. Key skill sets include a solutions mindset, learning agility & ability to influence and perform in complex environments, matrix structures and ambiguity.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above interview are the personal opinions of the protagonist/protagonists for which The Think Pot is not liable in any manner. To share your views on an apolitical and intense subject like this you can reach out to us at mahimaasharma@thethinkpot.in