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Crista Galli Ventures outs ‘evergreen’ fund to back European health tech startups at seed and Series A

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Crista Galli Ventures, an early-stage health tech fund in Europe, is officially launching today. The firm offers “patient capital” — with only a single LP (the Danish family office IPQ Capital) — and promises to provide portfolio companies with deep healthcare expertise and the extra runway needed to get over regulatory and efficacy hurdles and to the next stage.

Companies already backed by Crista Galli Ventures (CGV) include Skin Analytics, which is using AI to improve diagnosis of skin cancer; Quibim, which is applying AI to the field of radiomics; and Ampersand Health, which is developing digital therapies for patients with inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, to name just three out of 15.

Led by consultant radiologist Dr. Fiona Pathiraja, and with offices in London and Copenhagen, CGV operates as an “evergreen” fund, meaning it doesn’t follow traditional five-year VC fundraising cycles. Initially, the VC firm has $65 million in deployable — so called — patient capital.

“We like to invest across the broad areas of deep tech, digital health and personalised healthcare,” Pathiraja tells TechCrunch. “We prefer technology solutions that make the lives of patients easier and better and, in some cases, that help support people’s health before they become patients. Part of our remit is also for tech solutions within the healthcare industry that improve efficiency and productivity of providers.”

Alongside the main fund, CGV is also unveiling Crista Galli LABS, which, in part, aims for greater diversity in health tech by backing founders from underrepresented backgrounds at the pre-seed stage. In addition to pre-seed investment, startups accepted into the program have access to mentoring and coaching from the CGV team.

“When I was in hospital, there were people from all backgrounds there and this was the norm… [but] this really wasn’t my experience when I started investing,” explains Pathiraja. “I am struck by how homogeneous both founder teams and investment teams can be. Whilst our core investment focus is seed and Series A, Crista Galli LABS invests smaller ticket sizes in outstanding pre-seed founders and ensures that at least 50% of these are from under-represented backgrounds. This means those who are female, BAME, LGBT to start with.”

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VCs have to train themselves to ‘ask the stupid questions’, says Hoxton Ventures’ Hussein Kanji

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If venture capitalists could predict the future, why wouldn’t they just start companies themselves? That’s the question Hussein Kanji, founding partner at Hoxton Ventures, asked rhetorically at Disrupt 2020.

“If anyone says that they have predictive power in this industry and says they know where the future is gonna be, I just question the wisdom of this,” he said during a session exploring how VCs seek out new markets before they even exist. “Because if you could figure it out, you could come up with the idea, you’re capable enough to be able to put all the pieces together, why would you not found the business?”

Instead, the key to betting on the future is to learn to ask the stupid questions. “I think it’s actually perfectly fine in the venture industry to not be the smart person and to kind of train yourself to be stupid and ask the stupid questions,” said Kanji. “I think a lot of people are probably too shy to do that. And a lot of people [are] probably too risk averse to then write the check when they don’t really understand exactly what it is that they’re investing into. But a lot of this stuff is a lightbulb moment”.

One of those lightbulb moments was Hoxton Ventures’ investment in Deliveroo, the takeout food delivery service that competes with UberEats and helped turn almost every restaurant into a food delivery service. However, Kanji reminded us that the European unicorn wasn’t the first company to try takeout delivery, but new technology, in the form of cheap smartphones coupled with GPS and routing algorithms, meant the timing was now right.

“People did try delivery,” he said, “they tried it back in the 90s. Everyone forgets about that. There’s a company in New York City called Cosmo that would go off and like get you a pint of ice cream on demand. You know, it never worked because they used pagers. Like, do you remember pagers? Like, that’s how they ran the fleet. They couldn’t move the fleet around. They couldn’t get the driver to the apartment and the driver to the store in any kind of efficient way… The breakthrough for delivery, and for that whole industry, was you had smartphones, you could give smartphones to the drivers, you could track what the driver was doing, which is good because then you could route logistics, you know, with a smartphone… light bulb moment”.

Kanji said that, although they are very different businesses and markets, Hoxton’s two other unicorns, Babylon and Darktrace, involved similar lightbulb moments. Yet you don’t get that light bulb moment until someone walks in the door and explains it to you. “Then your natural question is… why now… what’s actually changed? Like, what makes this so interesting? Why didn’t someone come up with this a year ago? There’s almost always usually a reason for that kind of stuff. And then then the harder part of the job is … are you really picking number one?”

Entering or helping to create new markets is often not without controversy — which both Babylon and Deliveroo has attracted for different reasons. As real disruption inevitably creates societal consequences, it often raises ethical questions that, the Hoxton co-founder argues, aren’t always possible to anticipate early on. However, as the picture becomes clearer, he says VCs should absolutely care, along with, of course, founders and CEOs.

“One of the constant criticisms in the tech industry is, I think the maturity of our industry… we behave more like teenagers. And it’s great to be libertarian, it’s great to be free markets and say markets are gonna sort it out. But you’re gonna have touch points with a lot of other places in society. You’ve got to figure out, and I think, get ahead in terms of…what the impact is going to be, and be more responsible”.



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TikTok and Oracle deal could be approved by Trump despite resistance from Republicans

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The deal would require extensive outside oversight of TikTok in the United States, including a plan for the company to go public within the next year or so to increase transparency into its operations, one of the individuals said.

Mnuchin called senior Defense Department officials Wednesday and briefed them on the deal but told them it was going to get done regardless, according to some of the people familiar with the talks.

His message was, “Give me your concerns and I will try to address them, but we are doing this,” said one former U.S. official briefed on the call who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Oracle chief executive Safra Catz has developed a close relationship with the White House, including serving on Trump’s transition team as he took office. Nonetheless, Trump met with Oracle on Wednesday and expressed concerns with the deal, a senior administration official said.

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he would not be happy if ByteDance maintained its majority stake in the business.

“Conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” Trump said. “If that’s the case, I’m not going to be happy with that.”

Mnuchin will have to overcome Trump’s reluctance. “I don’t think anybody has the ability to push something through if the president is opposed to it,” said a senior administration official.

TikTok confirmed this week that it has chosen Oracle as its “trusted technology partner” after two months of confusion and harried dealmaking, as Trump moved to ban the short-form video app in the country, citing national security concerns. Suitors including Microsoft, Walmart and Oracle were interested bidders, but as government requirements conflicted in Washington and Beijing, TikTok eventually presented a deal that marked a significant step back from a full sale.

Instead, the proposed deal would make TikTok’s U.S. user data entrusted “exclusively” to Oracle and give Oracle oversight over all TikTok’s technical operations in the country, according to the person familiar with the talks. The entire deal is designed to quell officials’ fears that TikTok poses a national security threat because of its Chinese parent company. TikTok has said repeatedly it does not share U.S. customer information with the Chinese government.

U.S. officials say, however, Chinese laws require Chinese companies to share data with the government if directed and give the companies no discretion to refuse.

The Treasury Department sent the proposal back to the companies Wednesday with revisions on how the security structure would work, and ByteDance accepted the changes, one of the people said.

Under the proposed deal, the U.S. government would be able to approve the board members of the new TikTok entity, which would probably include Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon. Walmart would invest in the company, one of the people said.

TikTok would also prepare for a U.S. public offering in the next year. And it would allow a third-party organization to conduct audits and oversight of its operations.

Oracle, Walmart and TikTok did not comment beyond previous public statements earlier this week.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell had no comment.

TikTok’s saga with the U.S. government heated up this summer when Trump threatened to ban the app and eventually issued an order that takes effect Sunday, though the government hasn’t said exactly what that ban would look like. The Commerce Department will issue an order Friday spelling out what transactions will be subject to the ban.

“We are focused on the corporate level transactions, the business-to-business relationships,” the senior administration official said. “We’re not interested in going after the college kid in his dorm room taking videos. If people have TikTok on their phones, they’re not going to find themselves before a judge.”

Trump issued a second order that would require ByteDance to essentially divest from TikTok in the U.S. under a process by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency organization that oversees mergers with foreign companies for national security risks.

Longtime CFIUS staff are upset about how the deal is being handled and have expressed concerns that what is supposed to be a walled-off national security process is being increasingly politicized, according to a former CFIUS official.

By law, the Treasury Department “is the chair of CFIUS and therefore the ‘first among equals,’” said another former official, “but it does not grant them authority to blatantly steamroll other CFIUS member agencies and ignore legitimate national security concerns. Unfortunately, the system has drifted off course.”

The companies and government have been working to finish the deal before the ban is set to take place in just a few days. Mnuchin previously said on CNBC that the deal would also require TikTok to establish a U.S. headquarters for the newly created company and hire an additional 20,000 people here. Currently, TikTok runs its U.S. operations from Culver City, Calif.

Oracle was a somewhat surprising choice to win the TikTok deal after weeks of speculation that Microsoft was the front-runner in the bidding process.

Oracle, which provides database and other services to large companies, does not have a consumer business. But its executives have close ties to Trump, and TikTok is probably an attractive target to boost Oracle’s cloud technology business, which has failed to break into the top of the pack.

TikTok could also bolster Oracle’s data brokerage business, which collects detailed information on consumers to sell to advertisers. TikTok has a growing U.S. base of about 100 million users quarterly.

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One lucky winner of this reality TV show will win a trip to the ISS

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International Space Station

Is The International Space Station your dream vacation destination? You may be in luck.


NASA/Roscosmos

One reality TV show aims to give its winning contestant an out-of-this-world prize (sorry, I had to). Production company Space Hero has reportedly said it plans to send the champion of a new show to the International Space Station for 10 days. The mission is slated for 2023.

The reality show, also called Space Hero, will be produced by Propagate, according to a Thursday story by Deadline. Startup Axiom Space is reportedly in charge of training the aspiring astronauts and managing the mission. 

The contestants will go through rigorous training and be tested for their physical, mental and emotional strength, according to Deadline. The competition is rumored to culminate in a live episode that’s broadcast around the world so viewers can vote for who they want to win. The show will then document the winner’s journey during takeoff and at the ISS, concluding with their return home.  

It’s not clear how much it costs to send someone privately to the ISS, but it’s likely to be more than $50 million per person, CNBC speculates. Additionally, the publication notes, spending 10 days at the ISS would bring an additional $350,000 charge from NASA, as the space agency would get $35,000 a night per person to compensate for services needed while aboard the ISS, according to NASA’s cost structure revealed last year.

Space Hero and Axiom Space didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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