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Meet a VC: Lisa Suennen

Lisa Suennen, Senior Managing Director, Healthcare, GE Ventures

Lisa served as a successful healthcare entrepreneur and venture capitalist before joining GE Ventures. She has had a 20-year career focused on early-to late-stage healthcare investments across health IT, health services, and medical devices. She also leads Venture Valkyrie, a publishing firm with blog and podcast; she has published a book on health IT and entrepreneurship. Lisa co-hosts a podcast with David Shaywitz, MD, focused on the intersection of healthcare and technology. Last year, she founded CSweetener, a not-for-profit focused on matching women in and near the C-suite with mentors.

How did get your start in the venture capital community?

I got started in VC as part of a new venture fund in the late 1990s, after 11 years working in tech and healthcare startups. I felt that there was so much opportunity to create change in healthcare, and that emerging companies had the best chance to make it happen.

What’s a day in your life as a VC like?

It’s a crazy combination of seeing new companies, working with portfolio companies, and engaging in the venture and startup community as mentor/writer/speaker. It completely appeals to my Type A personality, as there is always something new to learn and do. If you like predictability and stability, this job is not for you. But for me it’s a great ride and my job description includes meeting unbelievably smart, fascinating people who aren’t limited by the idea that things have always been done a certain way. It’s invigorating.

How many companies have you invested in and what is your overall investment?

I have led investments in something like 15 companies over the years and participated in dozens of new investments, all in healthcare. While I have never really added it up, I have probably personally been responsible for the deployment of around $100 million or more and many hundreds of millions more if you count the amounts I have helped portfolio companies raise in syndicates. From a strategy standpoint, my team at GE Ventures looks for things that improve patient and provider experience, deliver better outcomes through new (especially digital and non-invasive) approaches to diagnostics and treatment, enhance the efficiency and quality of healthcare company operations and advance the industry towards value-based health and financial alignment.

What stage do you focus on and how much capital do you look to deploy for each portfolio addition?

In healthcare, by and large we are looking for companies that are revenue stage, even if still early in their development. We do not do seed stage investing on the healthcare side but will participate in Series A through late stage growth rounds. The ideal investment has a great in-place team, a launchable or launched product, ramping revenue and the ability for us to invest at least $4mm initially, and up to $15mm to work, over time.

What matters to you most when evaluating a company as a potential fit for your firm and how does that relate to the ambitious companies that you have worked with in the past?

What matters most is the quality (intellect, drive, efficacy, ethics, transparency) of management, quality of idea and evidence that the product/service creates real, measurable value. Things that feature cool technology but don’t demonstrate enhanced quality and reduced cost are not that interesting. We want to invest in those who want our help to accelerate success. We like to be active partners with our portfolio companies and we are not interested in drive-by relationships. My experience is that the better the partnership between entrepreneurs and investors, the better the outcome. Venture capital is definitely a team sport.

What advice do you offer to a first time founder?

Brace yourself. It always takes longer than you expect to get where you want to go, and there is a fine line between optimism and fantastical thinking. It’s essential to be both an optimist and a realist, especially when it comes to cash. I also tell them to hold off raising venture capital as long as they can. It’s always better for management to get as far as they can on their own power.

What is the one common denominator that stands out to you across all great investments your firm has made during its history?

In my experience, every great company that makes it to a strong financial exit almost dies along the way – there is no straight line from startup to successful outcome. Even the best ideas and leaders have to surf a very bumpy sea, so always wear your water wings. Keep one eye forward and the other scanning for sharks. It’s the companies that manage to overcome tidal waves that get better and better. Resilience is just as, if not more important than speed.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.