Meet Priya Oberoi, the visionary founder behind Goddess Gaia Ventures, a venture capital firm dedicated to supporting technology that caters to the specific healthcare needs of women. Inspired by her own life-altering health journey, Oberoi’s mission is to bridge the gender gap in healthcare innovation and bring women’s unique requirements to the forefront of the tech world.
As they head towards their first close in December, TFN spoke with Oberoi to find out about her journey, why Goddess Gaia Ventures is so important, and how they will make a difference.
Specialising in finance and derivatives, she found herself working on Islamic finance. “I worked at Clifford Chance. I found it unbelievably interesting to understand how Islamic finance and derivatives blended together,” she told us. “I think at one stage, I was the only woman in the world doing this as well. So, I’m quite used to being in male dominated areas!”
However, a cancer diagnosis brought her career progress to a halt. “I had cancer in 2009 and 2010. To be struck down in the prime of going up for partnership was incredibly scary. And then you look around and ask, ‘where is your oncologist? Where are the people to help and support you? Where are the solutions?’”
Those questions continued afterwards. First, when she sought treatment for scarring — a complication of the cancer and treatment — for which the best her doctor could offer was a referral to a burns unit. Then, when she sought fertility treatment.
“The minute you hit a certain age, if you have a precondition, it’s, ‘you can’t come into our IVF treatment,’” Oberoi said. Although she eventually had successful treatment, resulting in the birth of a son, the experience was not positive. It prompted her to ask how she could make things better.
Realising that, despite many privileges, she had been unable to navigate the healthcare system easily or unscathed, she started investing in women’s health. She soon found she had not been alone. “I started to find women who had gone through the same sort of problems,” she said. “They were out there, they were innovating. But they weren’t getting funded.”
£100M pre-series A venture fund
Oberoi felt that a large part of the problem, both in healthcare and funding, was down to a lack of diversity. In VC, in particular, it can result in decisions that do not support women. You have to get more women making investment decisions,” she says. “If you don’t get women making the investment decisions, then, essentially, you have tunnel vision. People tend to invest in people who look and feel and think like them.”
And the healthcare system itself has its own well-reported structural discrimination. “We have a healthcare system made by men, for men,” Oberoi explains. The result has been that many common health issues are overlooked in women because the symptoms present differently, and medical training historically focused on the male presentations.
Oberoi launched Goddess Gaia Ventures to help redress the balance. “We are Europe’s first women-centric healthcare fund,” she told us. “We invest in growth seed. We take our companies to Series A, and then we scale them in the US.” It is a strategy designed for impact. “We looked at the data, and we realised there was a funding gap between seed and series A in healthcare. And we realise the way to make money in healthcare is to scale companies into the US; it’s 45% of the market.”
Although the first fund will not close until December, Goddess Gaia Ventures is building a £100 million pre-series A venture fund to invest in companies innovating in women’s health, wellness and femtech. They have already started building their portfolio, some of which illustrate the problem Oberoi has identified.
She gives the example of Biorithm, who developed a clinical-standard fetal heart rate monitor for use at home. By allowing accurate at-home monitoring, Oberoi says, everyone benefits. “You can actually hear your child’s heartbeat, and monitor it with the help of the doctor in a hospital. It saves the hospital money, it saves the parents worry, and it is better for the baby as well.” But, despite its value, Oberoi noted that it had taken around seven years to get from seed to Series A.The search for founders that will change the healthcare world
Goddess Gaia Ventures is already looking for startups. Those who want to be considered should be in one of the five verticals that Goddess Gaia Ventures are focusing on — female cancers, female fertility, female lifestyle diseases, female wellness, and femtech — between seed and Series A, and in the UK, Europe, or Israel.
However, perhaps most importantly, they should share Oberoi’s passion and vision. “Ultimately, we’re looking for something that is looking to be transformative in healthcare,” Oberoi says. “And it’s not just for women’s health care, it may start there but it can all translate to men’s healthcare as well.”
But behind that ambition, Oberoi reveals a moral drive. “Healthcare is a human right. We deserve the very best,” Oberoi declares. “There is enough money in this world to create positive change, and create positive impact, and create a return for investors. So why are we not doing it?”
Interview with Akansha Dimri