BHH Interviews

Marta G. Zanchi , Founder and Managing Partner at Nina Capital

Marta G. Zanchi , Founder and Managing Partner at Nina Capital

Marta G. Zanchi graduated Politecnico di Milano as an engineer eager to create technologies that improve health care and immigrated to the United States to continue her technical studies. During her 12 years at Stanford University, first as a doctoral student then as a faculty member and founding director of digital health at Stanford Biodesign, her efforts turned from designing devices to walking the full process of health technology innovation. Trained in management and in regulatory affairs, including at the Food & Drug Administration, she found in Biodesign her toolkit and philosophy, and built on it. Stanford afforded her the opportunity to help advance innovation not just within academia but also outside, as founding CEO of one startup, advisor to numerous others, instructor on the regulatory framework for digital health at UCSF, equity partner for VC firm Data Collective in Silicon Valley, and most recently, founding managing partner of microVC Nina Capital in Europe. In any and all her endeavors, she is an advocate for responsible and collaborative health technology innovation grounded on the understanding of true needs.

What is Nina Capital?

Nina Capital is a micro venture capital fund investing in European entrepreneurs creating technology solutions to health care needs. We believe we can add the most value to founders building health technology companies with international ambitions, by leveraging our knowledge of healthcare, of enabling technologies, and of the sector that is formed at the intersection of these two. Add to that our strong networks in both Europe and the United States, we know how to help companies navigate the complex system of stakeholders that is health care.

In particular, we follow the life cycle of data and look for teams addressing well-understood needs in oncology, cardiovascular and aging, with technology solutions that may leverage novel connected sensors, unique data assets, computing, and IoT, or a combination of these.

Who does Nina Capital serve?

The creation of new businesses is built on in-depth understanding of the complex network of healthcare system participants. We are marrying that with advanced data science and IT-enabled products and services. We look for and support European founders determined to effectively and efficiently serve them on this continent and internationally. We see our sweet spot at seeding founders and helping them ready for series A, as well as supporting the early growth of Series A companies into international markets, co-investing alongside other firms.

Gone are the days when founders had no choice but to take capital from anyone who’d be willing to provide it. Venture capital is in transformation. Make no mistake, venture capital’s own existence continues to be based entirely on its ability to generate high returns for its limited partners; what has changed in the industry is a new awareness that the highest returns are made when alignment between founders and their investors is high. Entrepreneurs, intuitively or by experience, know it too. Increasingly, founders want investors who share in their values, believe in their mission, are excited about their technology solutions, and can help them achieve their next milestones in a meaningful, supportive role. If that sounds like you, then it’s you we want to work with.

How do you manage to reconcile professional and private/family life?

Ask any other entrepreneur in Barcelona Health Hub and I believe you will find very similar answers. The key answer for me is, by not doing it alone. I have a team whom I can rely on when family needs me; and I have loved ones who understand, support, and cheer me when the team does. It helps a lot that the values I bring to both are the same and foundational.

Why Nina Capital is leaving California for Barcelona?

I decided to move to California in 2005, and it was one of the greatest decisions and leaps of faith I ever made. I love California. A piece of my heart was built there, and my brain is wired in ways that are uniquely the result of having spent almost a decade and a half in Silicon Valley. In a significant way, it has made me.

But I always thought that one day I would be finding my path back to Europe (I am originally from Italy). Two years ago, I saw a need that I could help fill, that of a growing European community of health technology makers with increasing global impact potential. Nina Capital has never left California: Nina Capital was born in Europe, as the solution to this need.

I chose Barcelona as Nina’s ground zero to invest in European entrepreneurs, after months of research and interviews convinced me that this city has an extremely high potential in the sector. I knew I could both attract a strong team here, build a relevant network and find founders to support; and I hoped over time to become a good contributor and participant in its great ecosystem of health tech associations, universities, investors, and more. Logistically, I also find it uniquely well connected to both Silicon Valley and the East Coast in the United States, and to all other major health technology hubs of Europe.

I am grateful every day for the warm welcome I have received.

How did you know Barcelona Health Hub and why did you choose to be based in Barcelona Health Hub?

I have known Mediktor’s Cristian and Josep, the minds behind the Barcelona Health Hub project, since 2016. I knew them thanks to Carlos Gallardo, who in turn was an introduction by friends in San Francisco who are investors in Launchpad Digital Health. It was Aline Noizet however who first told me about the project when it was still at its infancy, and who “re-introduced” me to Cristian and Josep. No wonder her title back then was Chief Connector. As soon as I learned more about it, I knew I wanted the project to be successful and I was among the first to sign up to become a member. Innovation ecosystems are built on principles of shared learning and collaboration, and with very porous walls; Barcelona Health Hub, to me, embodies both principles.

The best thing of Barcelona Health Hub

Well, I don’t know how to pick one thing and call it “the best” but I will tell you the one that warms my heart every morning when I walk into the building. Several months ago, we had a guest in the office who pointed us to the exact location of the building where his child was born. Imagine that. Here we are, in a building where people are working together to create new businesses and new technology solutions that improve health, diagnose and treat diseases, and ultimately save lives. In the same place, not too long ago new life was created. How beautiful is that. The walls of our spaces remind me every day of why we are in this particular industry. To protect health, to serve patients.

Why to accelerate digital transformation in health?

We are here to accelerate more health. The digital transformation is a tool to do just that. They are many other tools to achieve similar impact (education is one, for example); this is the one we have because we believe in its potential. And it helps that we understand it so well.

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