Brazilian pharmaceutical giant Eurofarma has launched a venture arm called Axon Ventures to invest in early-stage healthcare companies, Crunchbase News has learned exclusively.
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In a phone interview, Paulo Braga – the company’s head of corporate venture – told me that the fund will allocate up to Brazilian Real(R) $45 million (about US $12 million) “for technology projects with the potential to transform the healthcare sector.”
To give you an idea of its size, Sao Paulo-based Eurofarma recorded R $4.3 billion (about US $1.14 billion ) in “gross income” and had nearly 6,800 employees in 2018. It has 287 products, serves 30 medical specialties and covers 101 therapeutic classes across Brazil. Eurofarma has operations in 20 countries, with an industrial site in Brazil and plants in six other Latin American countries. Last year, it invested more than R$250 million (US $66.5 million) in R&D, according to Braga.
Eurofarma’s first investment out of the new fund, which launched in June, was in a Belo Horizonte-based content marketing startup called Rock Content. Overall, Braga projects the portfolio will include 8-12 companies with investments ranging from R $500,000 (US $133,000) to R $4 million (US $1.06 million) with Eurofarma joining a company’s board as part of the funding.
The new fund is focused on Brazilian startups but is open to investing in other countries, particularly the United States and Israel. But in those cases, it expects to partner with other VCs on deals, Braga said.
“In general, we are agnostic as to sector,” Braga told Crunchbase News. “We want to look at companies that are changing the healthcare ecosystem through technology over the next 10-15 years.”
In particular, Braga noted that patient management and integration systems are “fragmented.” As part of its corporate venture efforts, Eurofarma also plans to target scientific or academic initiatives “still in the embryonic phase” and help turn them into businesses. It also offers a mentoring program.
I was also curious as to why, after 47 years in existence, Eurofarma was ready to jump into the venture world. Braga’s answer was unsurprising.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been seeing a lot of healthcare startups start to emerge here in Brazil,” he said. “About five to six years ago, health tech was almost nonexistent. And now we know of at least 300 Brazilian startups focused on the space. We know there’s a lot of mechanics in the healthcare system here as a whole that need to change, and are hopefully going to change. We want to be a part of that.”
Indeed, Brazil’s startup ecosystem seems to be gaining traction as of late. As we reported in May, venture funding in Brazil exploded in 2018 to $1.3 billion, representing nearly two-thirds of all venture money raised in Latin America as a whole last year, according to LAVCA, the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America. That’s 52 percent more than the $859 million invested in 2017, and a staggering 369 percent increase from the $279 million raised in 2016, as you can see in the chart below.
Illustration: Image Credit: iStock/fotopoly.