Eir Ventures launches to unlock the potential of the Nordics

Allie Nawrat 10 July 2020 (Last Updated July 10th, 2020 10:09)

Supported by three prestigious investment companies and the EU's EIF, Eir Ventures is a Nordic-based venture company with €76m to invest in promising ideas from regional universities and incubators. How will Eir Ventures help to tap into the largely overlooked potential of the Nordic countries in life sciences?

Eir Ventures launches to unlock the potential of the Nordics
The Nordic countries include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Credit: Shutterstock.

Around 18 months ago, four experienced life science investors, Dr Magnus Persson, Stephan Christgau, Andreas Segerros and Amanda Hayward, came together and discussed, in Segerros’s words, the “void in the Nordics for life science venture capital”. The group exchanged ideas on how to run a fund based in the Nordics, but still with a global perspective to attract investment from and invest in Europe and the US.

This led to the founding of Eir Ventures, which has two offices in Copenhagen and Stockholm where the three managing partners – Persson, Christgau and Segerros – are based; Hayward is based in the US to facilitate those global connections.

Backing of major investors

What enabled the launch of Eir Ventures was the support of three well-known Nordic-based investors – Saminvest, Vækstfonden and Novo Holdings – as well as the European Union’s European Investment Fund (EIF).

“We are very happy with the roster of investors that we’ve got,” notes Segerros. He adds that as well as a validation of the partners’ Nordic-focused idea, this is a vote of confidence for the four founders themselves, as all of these investors had worked with them in their previous roles at corporate and private ventures.

Founded by the Swedish Government four years ago, Saminvest is a venture capital (VC) company that focuses on establishing new funds with the ability to further develop the Swedish VC market and support the country’s innovative companies.

Vaekstfonden is a syndicate of Danish banks and domestic investors, as well as international firms, which focuses on helping innovative companies grow. To date, Vaekstfonden has co-financed 8,500 companies and spent just over DKK 27.3bn (€3.66bn).

Finally, Novo Holdings is a private investor owned by the Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk’s foundation. It invests in five main areas: seed financing, ventures in Europe and the US, the growth of life science companies, principal investment into leading companies and asset management.

Segerros notes that the Covid-19 pandemic did not interrupt the launch of Eir Ventures since it happened at “the back of end of our process [so] we had all of the general meetings

with the investors done” and the team was able to complete the few remaining meetings over video calls with ease.

Closing of €76m fund

As a result of its founding and the support of these four high-profile investors, Eir Ventures was able to announce the close of its first €76m fund.

Currently, Eir Ventures is keeping its investment approach quite general. However, Segerros explains that since “the majority of our investment is going to be in Scandinavia” – particularly in local universities and incubators – the fund will be focused on areas of strength in the region, such as platform technologies like peptide-based drugs and oligonucleotides.

Although Eir Ventures plans to be agnostic about therapeutic areas within these technologies, Segerros notes it is going to avoid oncology initially and move into it once the VC company matures. This is because there is too much uncertainty in this incredibly crowded area.

He sees one of the main differentiating features of the four founders of Eir Ventures is to be less over-analytical and invest wherever they can see there is real promise. “It is better to start and then correct over time; there are always going to be unknowns,” he says.

The investment period of this fund is four years. Meaning that “within three years, we will start raising the next fund, if the parameters allow”, concludes Segerros.

Promise of the Nordics

“The Nordic region is ranked year after year as one of the most innovative areas in Europe, with a stable business environment and a successful track record of medical innovation and world-class science,” explained Segerros in a statement. “However, the region is severely underserved with professional venture capital. Eir Ventures sees this as a unique opportunity that it will leverage.”

He adds the reason for the lack of investment is that “an international investor needs a Scandinavian investor to hold their hand when they go into this and I don’t think there’s been enough large European and American groups reaching out”.

This is what Eir Ventures is hoping to change with its Nordic-based VC company but with a global perspective. “We hope to use our network to locate very interesting projects and then bring in our friends from the US and Central Europe,” says Segerros.

Saminvest CEO Peder Hasslev commented: “We are very pleased to see a new life science fund that focuses on early stage companies in the Swedish ecosystem, in close contact with the university sector. We firmly believe Eir Ventures is well positioned to take advantage of investment opportunities in the innovative life science sector in Scandinavia.”

Eir Ventures’ work will build on the changing Nordic investment landscape and attitudes from international investors. Recently, universities, such as the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Copenhagen University, have been able to attract more international investment themselves. Also, Segerros notes that a big boost has come from Novo Nordisk’s BioInnovation Institute, a €300m incubator based in Copenhagen and launched in 2018.