The I.E.C.T. – Hermann Hauser focuses especially on research-based start-ups, especially in the deep-tech sector. Which technologies do you find particularly exciting for UNIQA Ventures and also for your target group?
UNIQA Ventures is not a classic deep-tech investor, but we find the commercialisable applications of the technologies (based on them) to be highly relevant and want to get to know the relevant trends and outstanding founding teams personally at an early stage. Exciting for us, for example, is the application of AI and machine learning in the insurance sector (we invested in the Berlin startup Omni:us, which is revolutionizing the claims process) or the application of block chain technology in the area of RegTech (automation of KYC, KYB, AML and UBO discovery processes; we invested in the Vienna start-up Kompany – together with Hermann Hauser). Also exciting are applications in the field of Digital Health, where a lot is happening right now. Mental health, digital therapies, compliance and lifestyle change; here, for example, we invested in the British start-up Second Nature.
We are also very interested in further innovations in the healthcare ecosystem and, as co-initiator of the Health Hub Vienna, we have excellent access to it.
You have been working with start-ups for some time. What is your role in working with start-ups and which aspects do you find particularly exciting? Can you also learn something from young founders?
UNIQA Ventures naturally makes available their in-depth industry expertise and extensive network in the area of venture capital as well as access to UNIQA insurance companies in 18 countries to portfolio start-ups – i.e. after the investment. We always see ourselves as partners of the founders, as we are equally interested in the value enhancement of the start-up and therefore follow the same goal as the founders. In addition, we also do technology and business model scouting for the UNIQA Group. We always moderate the cooperation with portfolio start-ups in such a way that value is really generated and it is not likely to remain just a pilot project, which costs a lot of time and resources for both sides. We have developed a good sensorium through our many years of activity and also understand the needs of relevant business units. Of course, the personal approach is also decisive here.
There is always a lot to learn from start-ups and the outstanding teams of founders, both on a personal level and as a company. For example, it is fascinating to see how quickly the company reacts to new conditions in the COVID-19 crisis and how the business model can be adapted accordingly. The execution orientation is also a good example of the positive and pragmatic mindset of the founders.
UNIQA Ventures will once again be a fellow for the I.E.C.T. Summer School this year. Can you briefly describe your ideal candidate?
Yes, we are very much looking forward to supporting another outstanding candidate this year and to exchanging ideas with them. For us it is primarily about the founder’s personality and the respective background. In addition to personal motivation for entrepreneurship and professional skills, social skills and leadership are also important. After all, a great team with complementary skills must be built for success. We are rather skeptical about single founders, although there are exceptions.
For us it would be very attractive if the business idea has already been implemented to a certain extent and there are already certain indications for a product/market fit. Ideally then in one of our focus topics. In the deep-tech area this is of course to be judged somewhat differently, but we also want to offer clear added value for the Fellow and can bring in our know-how, especially in the commercialization phase, and also challenge and advise them here.
What advantages result from the cooperation between UNIQA Ventures and I.E.C.T – Hermann Hauser? How do the participants but also the entrepreneurs benefit from this connection?
I.E.C.T – Hermann Hauser is a real enrichment for the ecosystem and, just like us, has high quality standards and an international orientation with simultaneous appreciation for Austria as a business location. The European research institutions are also very powerful, but in our view there is still room for improvement in terms of successful commercialization. This is where entrepreneurship know-how plays a role, but also access to venture capital. So there is a very good intersection between I.E.C.T. and UNIQA Ventures. In concrete terms, this time our team members will also profit directly from the exciting and high-calibre programme, which will certainly result in a lively exchange with the speakers and the fellows. In addition to the learning factor, there will ideally be further business opportunities, including investment in outstanding projects.
What goals do you want to achieve together with your fellow over the next few years? Is there a Fellow from previous years whom you have supported and would like to highlight here?
As a venture capital company, we are obviously interested in access to financially attractive investments. However, experience shows that projects are often too early for us to do so, as we generally only invest from late-seed onwards. Therefore, we are happy to give Fellows feedback on the business plan and business model for the commercialization phase and discuss market specifics.
Very exciting was the collaboration last year with our Fellow Laura Ranin from Finland (HealthZilla), whose project is active in the field of mental health and burnout prevention and we were able to learn a lot from each other.
Thank you for the interview!