Innovation in some ways requires that a confluence of factors and forces flow together at the right place, right time, and with the right people. This is not easy to simply engineer, especially for big companies, as they often struggle to identify, develop, and implement disruptive change leading to transformative benefits for patients, shareholders, and employees. Beholden to a weighty legacy of the existing culture—which gobbles up strategy—the very processes and procedures, division of labor and often layers of candidly, overpaid management ensure, often inadvertently, that positive disruptive transformation never occurs. Of course, patients and shareholders suffer. Enter the corporate “intrapreneur,” and in the case of this story, Swiss multinational Roche. With a focus on pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, Roche has made a number of big bets on “digital healthcare” acquisitions and partnerships. The requisite requires more than buying up technology and people. The bigger corporate culture must open up, tap into and incorporate continuous entrepreneurial inputs in the form of transformative energies, helping the company lead the market, rather than follow it. Hence, Roche now seeks to position itself to not only better explore the depths of innovation opportunity in one of the world’s most notable startup factories—Israel, but also seize on such findings in a “first of its kind” bid to advance its life science-based diagnostic technology position. By partnering up with a Israeli-based life science and tech venture capital firm, the Swiss multinational will identify those early-stage, fresh, novel and exciting approaches, ahead of the competitive pack, invest and, over time, reap the benefits. Their partner in this endeavor called “StarFinder Lab,” is Ra’anana-based aMoon.
TrialSite offers a brief breakdown for the network.
Why does Roche and aMoon consider this partnership known as “StarFinder Lab,” a “First of its Kind?
Entrepreneurs with big ideas are going to benefit from the deep experience and expertise, not to mention the money of aMoon along with Roche’s monumental market access, expertise and understanding of how solutions should be tailored to imminent market requirements. The statement above represents the “to be” state once the “StarFinder Lab” is launched in October.
But on to the “as is” situation where in the world of startups, especially in the knowledge and capital-intensive, complex, scientific-based world of life sciences (including drugs, diagnostics, devices), where the demands for high quality, regulatory compliance, and rigorous scientific evidence equate to an exceedingly high price tag.
Many startups get going with friends and family money but to develop further, most of these upstarts run into trouble, known as the “chasm,” as it’s difficult to attract venture capital funding until certain milestones are met. Hence, many a “diamond in the rough” startup—on to incredibly important ideas but not considered venture capital “investment grade” as they are too early, immature and not well enough represented in the venture capital community, languish and most often die. Larger companies overwhelmingly don’t even play in this space typically unless they have specialized corporate development funds with some form of charter and mandate to do so and even then, it’s mostly with more mature startups and conventional venture capital firms. Well, the Roche and aMoon deal in Ra’anana seeks to shake all this up.
How will the Roche and aMoon partnership operate?
The multinational pharma and diagnostics company combined with the connected, directed and focused Israeli venture capital firm will aim at the bullseye on “identifying and cultivating disruptive AI-driven data as well as digital healthcare solutions” from the “agile and highly skilled” Israeli health tech ecosystem the partners declared in a joint statement.
What is the “StarFinder Lab” program?
Led by well-connected, highly knowledgeable players such as Dr. Yair Schindel, co-founder and managing partner of aMoon, teams brainstorm with industry leaders, as well as get the opportunity to interact and engage with investors, markets, data, and intelligence as well as physical office space within aMoon headquarters in Ra’anana.
The Entrepreneur & The “Intrapreneur”
Michele Pedrocchi, head of Global Strategy and Business Development at Roche Diagnostics, knows a thing or two about life science diagnostic markets. Based at Roche headquarters in Basel, this 26-year vet at Roche first earned not only a master’s in molecular biology from University of Zurich but also a PhD from ETH Zurich.
Put another way: in the real world today, few startup founders would ever have their phone or email replied to by Pedrocchi. Not because he doesn’t care, in fact he does, but rather because his role in a place such as Roche will involve large amounts of work with no time for chatter with strangers.
But imagine a program that picks up Michele Pedrocchi and sits him right down with a group of entrepreneurs in Ra’anana (virtually in the world of COVID), bringing together the best of two very different but synergistic worlds. This is how actionable innovation manifests from the human collaborative experience.
In the “innovation” lifecycle, Mr. Pedrocchi plays a pivotal role as “intrapreneur”; that is, those individuals working in large, often bureaucratic-leaning organizations that behave like entrepreneurs, identifying key disruptive trends and novel opportunities combining with risk taking and execution approaches acceptable to the larger partner, in this case Roche.
On the promise of the StarFinder Lab endeavor, Mr. Pedrocchi commented, “Healthtech and AI are transforming the healthcare industry as we know it, and we see great value in working with Israeli healthcare innovators, as they build their companies.” The intrapreneur continued, “This program will allow us to build exceptional relationships with Israel’s brightest entrepreneurs, as well as take an active and strategic role in building disruptive start-ups together with Israel’s leading life sciences and health tech fund.”
Based in Ra’anana ,Israel, just 20 minutes up the road from Tel Aviv, aMoon brings together top venture investors and operators passionate about building successful businesses that help biopharma, digital health, and medical technology firms realize their true potential. With three (3) funds, the aMoon Velocity fund focuses on early-stage highly disruptive healthcare technologies and likely will be harnessed for the Roche-partnered StarFinder Lab.
Yail Schindel is an MD as well as co-founder and managing partner of this dynamic venture capital firm.
Call to Action: Applications to participate in the StarFinder Lab, the accelerator program, open up in October 2020. Check out aMoon’s website.