Thierry Laugel co-founded Kurma Partners in 2009. He has more than 25 years of experience in Life Sciences, both in Venture and in Industry, and is a PharmD, PhD and MBA.
Founded in July 2009, Kurma Partners is a key European player in the financing of Innovation in Healthcare and Biotechnology, from pre-seed to growth capital, Kurma Partners operates over the whole value chain.
Thierry started his career in 1992 as R&D Project Manager for Laboratoires Fournier in Tokyo.
In 1996, he joined Flamel Technologies, just after its successful listing on Nasdaq, and managed the development-stage portfolio of the company.
In 1998, he moved to investments, first at Caisse des Dépots (CDC), then at AGF Private Equity (Allianz Group) in 2005, where he supervised the healthcare investment team.
Thierry has led investments in more than 25 companies like Actelion, Arpida, Targacept, Adocia, or Erytech.
He is currently a Board Member of Alize Pharma 3, Ermium, Horama, Minoryx, Blink Biomedical, Talix, Meiogenix and Pathoquest.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Thierry says:
As always, the most important asset in a startup, including a fund, is the team. It is critical to partner with people with complementary skills, and with whom you share many important values. Regarding fundraising itself, it is critical to offer to investors the product they are ready to buy.
All LPs would like us to generate quick returns, that is difficult to deliver when you invest in early-stage biotech companies. So we need to provide a lot of explanations to our LPs to make sure they realize the signs of progress made by the companies even if it may take more time than what they expect. A biotech venture may deliver very good returns, but it can’t be quick.
Read on to know more about Thierry Laugel and his journey.
What background and domain expertise do you have?
Thierry Laugel: I have been trained in pharmacy and pharmacology (PharmD and PhD)and have an MBA from INSEAD.
I have worked in R&D in Pharma and Biotech before starting as an investor more than 20 years ago, having directly invested in approx 30 companies, mostly European companies developing novel therapeutics.
When did you first think about starting a fund?
Thierry Laugel: I started working in Venture in large groups (one bank then one insurance company). I became very obvious that for Venture investment, you need long-term focus, independence and versatility. Then I started in 2005 for the first time to raise an independent fund but failed. I started Kurma Partners in 2008 / 2009, and that time, it was a success!
What kind of startups/ sectors have you invested in till now?
Thierry Laugel: We focus our investment on innovative healthcare technologies, mostly in Europe. We invest in novel therapies and novel tools for patient diagnosis and monitoring (digital diagnostics).
What types of companies do you look to invest in? And What’s your mental model for investing?
Thierry Laugel: We are mostly early-stage investors, and build 40% of our portfolios on a project that we build ourselves, proactively sourcing early-stage opportunities in universities, and forming companies ourselves. The rest (60%) are traditional early venture investment in Biotech, focused on syndicating financing rounds to reach clinical proof of concept for novel therapeutics, or early commercial validation for new diagnostic tools.
What is your typical investment range and how many startups you invest in per year in general? Additionally, can overseas headquartered startups get funding from you?
Thierry Laugel: We can invest very small amounts in a newly formed startup or before company formation (ex: 10,000 euros). Our upper limit is 15 million euros. We invest mostly in Europe but look actively for new assets and technologies worldwide.
What would be the KPI that you usually check about the startups’ growth?
Thierry Laugel: It may be diverse in each industry like LTV, CAC, MoM, etc. but it will be helpful to understand more about your additional investment factors.
Usual KPIs in our files are IP, quality of underlying science, well-performed development process, and differentiation versus competition.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your fund’s survival in the future?
Thierry Laugel: We are relatively lucky to work in an industry that suffered relatively little compared with many others. The most critical element has been short term cash management, but more critically to make sure development operations are performed correctly (which have been very challenging).
Right after being an investor like in the early days, there must be some tough times in building up the first fund along with building up a second fund or giving back the good returns to those LPs. If there is any similar tough time like this, please tell us more about it and how you (or your team) overcome the difficult times?
Thierry Laugel: All LPs would like us to generate quick returns, that is difficult to deliver when you invest in early-stage biotech companies. So we need to provide a lot of explanations to our LPs to make sure they realize the signs of progress made by the companies even if it may take more time than what they expect. A biotech venture may deliver very good returns, but it can’t be quick.
Additionally, Do you have advice for anyone looking to start a fund?
Thierry Laugel: As always, the most important asset in a startup, including a fund, is the team. It is critical to partner with people with complementary skills, and with whom you share many important values. Regarding fundraising itself, it is critical to offer to investors the product they are ready to buy.
What mistakes do you see founders make when raising money?
Thierry Laugel: They underestimate the challenge it represents and therefore, the effort that needs to be implemented.
And you need to talk to the right persons; develop your networks.
What are the top 3 questions that you always ask the founders?
Thierry Laugel: What makes your project unique? How will you create value? Show me the team.
What’s your general thought about the term “Global” and What are the important factors (criteria) for local startups to consider for international expansion?
Thierry Laugel: « Global » is required in Biotech. Nobody can be a local champion because a drug must be global.
What kind of startup or tech industry will impact the world in the future like 2-3 years locally in your view?
Thierry Laugel: Lots of new technologies are emerging in biotherapies and will bring a lot of new drug modalities: gene therapies, oligonucleotides, antibody-drug conjugates and many more to come.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
My first book of pharmacology; started a passion for life.
Various books on neurosciences: makes human reality more understandable.
Zen Buddhism, which are the various books from Zen masters.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Thierry Laugel: Create, create, create
What are the top- three life lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
- Keep humble
- Be able to learn every day
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