At SOSV, one of our core missions is the advancement of human health, and over the past decade or more we’ve pursued that mission in fields as varied as cancer therapeutics, CRISPR diagnostic platforms, assistive robotics, and remote healthcare, to name a few. More than 200 companies in our 1000+ company portfolio focus on health, and recently we sat down to rank our top 100, based on current as well as expected performance. The result is our first annual SOSV Human Health 100, which is presented below.
When we think about our challenges as individuals, the greatest losses and struggles we face stem from the physical and mental ailments that strike our families and ourselves. Whether we face an unexpected battle with cancer, the onset of dementia in a parent, the lifelong struggle with autism in a child, or any of the hundreds of diseases ranging from auto-immune to heart conditions, the health of our bodies and our loved ones define us like nothing else.
For all those reasons, health is core to SOSV and the aim of SOSV Human Health 100 is to showcase all the ways that the miraculous power of technology, guided by brilliant and relentless founders, is bettering human health. In that regard, our Human Health 100 is a great companion to the SOSV Climate Tech 100, which we published last year. Together, they constitute the core of SOSV’s mission, which is the advancement of human and planetary health. More often than not, the startups we back are in the deep end of deep tech, and very risky indeed, especially for a very early stage investor like SOSV.
From our standpoint, each company on the Human Health 100 represents a unique window into the very rapid advances taking place everywhere in health and related scientific fields. As SOSV general partner Po Bronson argues in a separate post, epochal scientific breakthroughs are seeding new products and new startups at a breakneck pace even as the need for more cost-effective and scalable healthcare has never been more apparent.
The COVID crisis put that paradox on display in both miraculous and tragic ways. The world’s first mRNA vaccines took just 12 months from lab to jab and are remarkably effective; at the same time, the COVID public health crisis overwhelmed healthcare systems almost everywhere amidst tremendous loss of life. If anything, the pandemic has reminded humanity of our profound vulnerability, of how suddenly and tragically a single virus can end life and health for millions.
Many of the startups on the SOSV Human Health 100 felt the dynamics that COVID put in play. CRISPR diagnostic platform CASPR Biotech, for example, became an early acquisition target. Open-source, automated lab equipment maker Opentrons became a leading COVID testing facility provider and operator (as well as a unicorn). Automated disinfection system maker R-Zero, created during the pandemic, became an investment magnet while skyrocketing to tens of millions in revenues in months. Remote care, represented by companies like fast-growing mobile health startup Phable in India, became a powerful category on the Human Health 100.
It is important to note that many of the SOSV-backed companies that did not feature in this inaugural version of SOSV’s Human Health 100 will undoubtedly also be great successes. Our list is simply a snapshot in time. The shifting sands of technical and commercial breakthroughs, not to mention regulatory approvals, make the future impossible to predict. What the 100 shows for certain, however, is the incredible diversity of founders and approaches that are driving a healthier future for everyone.
The SOSV Human Health 100
* Companies without funding amounts are “undisclosed.” Cell left blank to allow for sorting.
SOSV starts investing at the pre-seed level, when a startup has a founder or two and an idea, and they join one of our programs. Other investors come in to lead rounds in our companies at the series seed and later rounds, and SOSV joins those rounds. In the Human Health 100 to date, we have invested $73 million, and those companies have gone on to raise more than $1 billion, with an aggregate value today of $5.65 billion. The average company age is 5.5 years.
As usual with any venture portfolio, especially in the early years, a few towering successes provide much of the aggregate valuation. Opentrons, a lab automation and testing company, and Formlabs, a 3D printing pioneer with a large business in dental products, together are worth nearly $4 billion, according to news reports. Naturally, we expect many more companies to emerge with very impressive valuations in the years to come.
Almost all of the companies started out in one of SOSV’s pre-seed development programs. Fifty-four companies are graduates of biology-centric IndieBio. Another 37 hail from hard-tech focused HAX, and 5 graduated from our growth frontier programs Chinaccelerator and MOX. The remaining four are opportunistic investments SOSV made over the years. As Po Bronson points out in his post, SOSV is like the “Shibuya Crossing of hardware, genetics, and frontier markets.” The focuses of our programs are well suited to the varied modalities of addressing human health challenges.
When startups finish SOSV startup programs, the SOSV general partners work closely with the founders to find lead investors for their series seed and other early rounds. SOSV usually joins those later rounds. Over the years, several hundred investors have joined financing rounds for the Human Health 100. Several standout as investors in three or more companies on the list, including True Ventures, Threshold Impact, Khosla Ventures, SoftBank, Particular Ventures, Founders Fund, Entrepreneur First, Berkeley Catalyst Fund, Artesian Capital, and 8VC. Government-based programs, including the SBIR-STTR in the U.S., Enterprise Ireland, the European Innovation Council, and Innovate UK, are also frequent backers.
Most of the startups in the 100 have at least two founders. Their diversity and accomplishments speak volumes about the wonderful talent and incredible commitment around the world.
More than 30% of the companies have a woman co-founder. The companies are located in 19 countries; topping the list are the US (58), Canada (8) and the UK (5), followed by China, France, India and Ireland with 3 startups each. A significant percentage of the US-based companies started outside the US and moved to the US for fundraising and market access.
On the education front, 62% of the startups have at least one PhD co-founder. Out of all 238 co-founders, 102 had a PhD and the most popular specialties were biochemistry, biomedical engineering, cell biology, electrical and computer engineering, microbiology, and neuroscience. PhDs hailed from 60 different institutions; the top 3 universities are the University of California, Berkeley (US), the University of Cambridge (UK) and — surprise! — the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Naturally, we are very proud of all the pioneering health founders and we do everything in our power to support them on their journey to make human health ever better for all of humanity.
If it’s not asking too much, please think about how you, too, can apply more energy, funding, and time to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges. If that involves working for, working with, or investment into one of these startups, please feel free to reach out directly to these startups or contact the organizer of this list, SOSV’s Ben Joffe, for more information.