A new venture fund amid a pandemic? In the Nordics? Eir Ventures brings it on with €76M first close
From Pharmacia and Lundbeck to Novo Nordisk and AstraZeneca, the Nordic countries have been the birthplace for some legacy pharma companies. But for all that history and reputation, Stephan Christgau counts only five specialized life science investors backing biotechs today.
That leaves plenty of room for Eir Ventures, a brand new venture fund Christgau — one of the founders of Novo Seeds — is launching with three other veteran VCs.
Speaking to Endpoints News from Copenhagen with fellow managing partner Andreas Segerros, he spoke
“You have a number of good clusters in the Nordic,” he said, pointing to the southern Sweden / eastern Denmark area known as the Medicon Valley, places like Gothenburg, Stockholm and even Oslo, Norway. “I would say the Nordic region and the hotspots here are top three in Europe. That may be a big word. But yes we have Oxford/Cambridge, and we maybe have the Paris area, but what we see here are some emerging big listed companies like Genmab and Sobi and so on.”
The increasing costs of doing business in the US hubs, Segerros added, are starting to get prohibitive. Be it real estate, salary or drug development, you can do more with your dime in the areas Eir Ventures will be operating.
As a result, the firm expects to take a “very meaningful role and an active ownership position” by putting in between €5 million and €7 million, giving them a range of 12 to 16 portfolio companies. The ideal candidate will be a little beyond discovery stage, though Eir Ventures does want to include a few later-stage projects in the mix.
Around 5% of the fund — which might balloon into €100 million later — will go to around 15 ultra early-stage opportunities they call “seedlings.”
“So it will be a convertible loan, a few hundred thousand dollars, but will be created to fund sort of critical killer experiments or other critical activities that will make the company fundable,” Christgau said.
Magnus Persson, who built up Sweden’s HealthCap to be one of the rare specialist life science VC players in the Nordics before getting recruited to The Column Group’s San Francisco office, is joining Christgau and Segerros as managing partner. The trio has also wooed Amanda Hayward to be a special partner out of Connecticut while continuing her day job scouting new rare disease drugs for Rallybio.
Although Covid-19 has complicated and delayed things, causing some believers to withdraw, the four anchor investors are weathering the storm, the team said. They are Saminvest, a venture capital company founded by the Swedish Government, Vækstfonden, the Danish state’s investment fund, Novo Holdings, as well as the European Investment Fund.
“Copenhagen or Stockholm is not Boston, and may never be that,” Christgau allowed. “But if you go back 20 years, I was — maybe 30 years back. I was at Kendall Square and at that point in time, there was really not [much] to write home about with regard to life science. So regions can develop. I’m not sitting here saying that we believe that we’ll reproduce Kendall Square, but we see a good trajectory of the life science industry here and we believe this is the right place to be for a new venture fund.”