5 Things I Need To See Before I Make a VC Investment, With Elizaveta Rozhdestvenskaya

“I believe that every activity, work, science and art should save lives or help people move on. Only in this case does my work become valuable. My story of working in the venture biotech fund is about helping promising projects and talented scientists to find the way to save people’s lives.”
I had the pleasure to interview Elizaveta Rozhdestvenskaya, COO of Primer Capital — the only private biotech venture investor in Russia. The fund invested in 8 project within last year. Its’ portfolio consists of unique oncology diagnostic method, clinical decision support system based on artificial intelligence, unique configuration of microcatheters for blood vessel procedures and other promising developments. Elizaveta Rozhdestvenskaya was featured on the cover of the latest Forbes Woman magazine (Russian edition).

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

The idea was put forward by Dmitry Sharov, the president of the leading contract research organization in Eastern Europe. For many years, his company has been conducting clinical trials of any complexity in different parts of the world. One day Mr. Sharov decided to start the first Russian private biotech venture capital fund with a unique expertise and invited me to manage it.

Can you share a story of your most successful Angel or VC investment? What was its lesson?

Primer Capital doesn’t have such a success story yet. Success of a capital venture fund can be judged only once its investment projects have been successfully completed.

Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding failure of yours? What was its lesson?

There are two possible kinds of failures. The first one is a planned failure, which can be described as uncertainty about the scientific part of the project. In such cases,we ask the project team to undertake additional research activities. The second type is an unplanned failure, which is a critical situation as some vital details appear at the contract signing stage. Trusting your team is the main lesson here.

Is there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn?

There was a case when my passionate enthusiasm for the scientific part of a potential project made it extremely difficult to turn it away at the final stage of negotiations. We were almost ready to invest, but then decided we couldn’t take the risks arising out of the Fund’s exit from that project, which was still unclear when all other issues were resolved and negotiated. It’s always important to remind yourself that it’s impossible to make decisions based on several criteria and at the same time close your eyes to any of them.

Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

Évariste Galois was a brilliant mathematician who died in 1832 at the age of 20. Despite difficult political environment and many other tragic factors, he never stopped doing math, even when he was in prison. His works serve as a basis for higher algebra and theory of equations. Nevertheless, his story and path are not unique, but are still inspiring. When a person finds their true calling, there are no obstacles that would stop them from doing what they love. That’s the definition of truly being passionate about your work.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that every activity, work, science and art should save lives or help people move on. Only in this case does my work become valuable. My story of working in the venture biotech fund is about helping promising projects and talented scientists to find the way to save people’s lives.

What are your “5 things I need to see before making a VC investment” and why?

We use 5 criteria to assess each project.

1. The team. It’s important to have not only brilliant scientists, but also good managers to cope with the development process with due regard to relevant business aspects.

2. Intellectual property is the key point in biotech. We need to have a clear understanding of who is the holder of intellectual rights, as a lot of developments come from big teams with current and former members, as well as from R&D establishments. In biotech, the winner is the one who holds a patent. There can’t be secondary roles in this industry.

3. Scientific part. Our scientific advisory board, which consists of top experts in various medical, biopharmaceutical, and business fields, contributes considerably to successful project selection. They may advise on the necessity of further research in order to identify vital aspects of the development.

4. Scientific relevance. There are certainly several therapeutic areas that are the most attractive for investments at the moment. The interest is determined by the society and medical demand. That’s why recent developments in oncology, cardiology, rheumatology maintain the highest degree of relevance.

5. A project should have a clear legal structure. We need to have a definite exit strategy.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

If only it was possible, I’d probably name Dr. House, as I’m delighted at his ability to think and act logically.

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