After pouring billions of dollars into digital health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, venture capital is in for a painful correction in part driven by higher interest rates, ACME Capital’s general partner Aike Ho said last week.
“We’re seeing a massive normalization happening in this space,” Ho said while speaking on a panel at Fortune's Brainstorm Health event. She predicted less capital available in the coming decade as well as a shrinking number of investors and VC firms in general. It is likely companies will not be able to continue raising rounds, she added.
“We’re not sure that venture capital is an asset class that will endure,” Ho said.
Finance took center stage at Fortune's healthcare-focused event as investors and executives weighed in on evolving healthcare models and how the way we pay for health services could change going forward. Venture capitalists discussed their thoughts on the future of investing with wide-ranging views, from existential to optimistic.
Other investors and executives agreed the market is settling but maintained an overall positive outlook on the future of healthcare VC. Ann Lamont, co-founder and managing partner at Oak HC/FT, believes there is still plenty of capital to go around. “Healthcare has so many ways that it could improve,” Lamont said.
“Opportunities are endless,” echoed Thrive Capital’s general partner Kareem Zaki. Digital health has taken off, consumers have become engaged stakeholders, the payer market grows more competitive and AI is now prevalent. The sector is primed for a "gold age" of innovation, Zaki said.
Lamont was especially optimistic about the potential of AI. To date, solutions targeting providers have mostly been focused on generating more revenue, not genuine automation, Lamont noted. Now, with the entry of more serious vendors, Oak is investing in pure healthcare software companies like CareBridge. The value-based care startup’s services aim at assisting low-income seniors and others in need of long-term care.
VC has a role to play in helping move the needle on inequities, as do founders, the panelists said. Companies should go beyond serving as one point solution or as a steppingstone to a high valuation. Thrive Capital will be interrogating the scale of startups’ impact going forward. Founders must also be able to work with existing players in legacy systems to drive change inside out, investors said.
“We need to make companies that serve all of America,” Zaki said.
Ho was more hesitant about AI in healthcare, explaining she had a 15-point question list for founders seeking funding. They include where the data come from, how they are being used and if a company will run out of money before implementation while developing its model.