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VC Partner Profile: Interview with Ingrid Kelly Spillmann - IST Cube

As a venture capital fund, we are aiming for a significant return on investment, which means we only invest in startups that are scalable and can grow quickly. We are deep tech investors, meaning the companies in our portfolio have leading science and technology at their core. Our sweet spot is helping these highly technology-focused founding teams transition from academia to the real world.

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Dr. Ingrid Kelly Spillmann joined the IST Tech Transfer Team in 2018 after spending several years at the University of Vienna, where she was responsible for managing the life sciences technology portfolio and supporting spin-out companies. Ingrid Spillmann worked for more than a decade as a patent attorney in and for the pharmaceutical industry in various countries before moving into technology transfer. At IST cube she mainly deals with biotech, pharma and chemical startups, with a particular focus on intellectual property and legal issues. Ingrid holds a PhD in molecular biology from the College of Cambridge.

Hello Ingrid, first of all. I would like to thank you for participating in this interview! We are honored to have you on board. How long have you been investing in early-stage companies and how did you get started?

IST cube made its first investments in 2018 and to date, we have 13 companies in our portfolio, with plans to grow the current fund to a total of 30-40 companies.

What are you most looking forward to in early-stage investments in biotech, pharma, and chemicals? What keeps you up at night?

Innovation in these areas is advancing at a very fast pace - platform technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 and nanopore sequencing have already begun to transform industries and lives. I follow with particular interest advances in areas such as genomics, personalized medicine, and neuroscience/neurotechnology. I am also very excited to see how medicine evolves in the areas of cancer diagnosis and treatment, although I must admit that oncology is a very complex area to invest in unless you have excellent experts as advisors.

Are there certain types of startups you stay away from?

As a venture capital fund, we are aiming for a significant return on investment, which means we only invest in startups that are scalable and can grow quickly. We are deep tech investors, meaning the companies in our portfolio have leading science and technology at their core. Our sweet spot is helping these highly technology-focused founding teams transition from academia to the real world.

What are the most common challenges that the startups in your investment thesis face?

Most of the companies we see have very long development times because they are working on new and uncertain technologies. Success depends on a compelling, long-term vision and an excellent team. Since most of our startups emerge from academic institutions, it can be very difficult for them to build balanced teams early on, and especially to find experienced co-founders with relevant business experience.

Where does your best deal flow come from? Are you actively working with investors in the region?

IST cube's first fund is firmly focused on Austria, and we invest in startups that have an academic connection. We are usually the first investor and main investor in a startup, but rarely invest alone - we believe it is positive to syndicate.

IST Cube has invested twice in Brainhero, a company with an active investment opportunity on SeedBlink. What were your main reasons for this decision?

I met Christof, the CEO, at a pitching event in 2018. He impressed me with his drive and vision. In just a few years, he has taken the company from the prototype stage to two medically certified products ready for launch. The first-generation neurofeedback therapy system for autism and ADHD is sure to generate a lot of interest among affected populations who currently have very few therapeutic options available to them. We also look forward to future developments as the personalized therapy system can be extended to a whole range of brain-related disorders such as dementia, anxiety, and depression. Beyond therapy, there is great potential in applying artificial intelligence to EEG data collected from patients to improve the diagnosis of conditions such as autism, which is not a single disorder but a bundle of related disorders. And then there's the EEG device itself - existing medical EEG devices cost tens of thousands of dollars, making them prohibitively expensive for most doctors. The Brain hero EEG is just as powerful as these devices, but costs a fraction and is lightweight and portable.

You have met many founders on your investment journey. Why did you choose Christof? What is it like working with him?

Unlike many of our founders, Christof is not a first-time entrepreneur, so he already had a good sense of what it takes to start a business, manage a team, and so on. One of his biggest strengths is in project management. Just like us, he's excited about Brainhero technology and its potential, so it's great that we are embarking on this journey together!

What potential growth opportunities do you see for Brainhero? How do you plan to support the achievement of those goals?

I believe Brainhero will first establish itself in the European autism and ADHD communities as an attractive and effective therapeutic approach. The second generation of Brainhero, tailored to each individual patient, will fundamentally change psychological/neurological therapy so that any person with problems can be treated, regardless of their diagnosis. One area where we can offer a lot of support is in business development, using our network to explore new opportunities.

If you could give entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?

Your investors are your allies! Tap into their expertise and network.

Thank you for sharing your views with us. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

If you believe in technology for good, consider investing in Brainhero!

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More than 90 SeedBlink investors have already shown their trust in Brainhero by MyMind vision, investing along with IST cube and primeCROWD in the technology solution with social impact and a broad spectrum of applications, from autism and ADHD to depression, anxiety, burnout, and dementia.

The investment opportunity is open until the maximum amount of € 1,650,000 is reached or until Friday, April 15 at the latest. Learn more here.

By Bianca Iulia Simion

PublishedApril 05, 2022


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