Paolo Borella: CEO & Head of Program, Vertical Accelerator, Finland

The following article is part of our Techventure 2015 series.

I, Sandhya Sriram (SS), had the pleasure of meeting Paolo Borella (PB), CEO & the Head of Program and co-founder of Vertical Accelerator, Finland.

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Paolo is the Director of AppCampus, where he is in charge of shaping and running the program. His previous work included running an online community as a Vice President at Fox Mobile Distribution in Germany, where he had the opportunity to shape and lead the relaunch of a 7 million people, 10M USD/year online business.

Earlier Paolo spent 12 years at Nokia serving as Director for the Portfolio Management for Service and Software go-to-market, spending five years in Singapore. Earlier in his career he developed his Change Management and Process Improvement skills with General Electrics, working in the ED&C Business in Italy and with a six-month rotation in the Corporate Audit Staff based in Albany, USA.

Besides his passion for helping create new business and develop existing ones. Paolo has a sweet tooth for watches and sports related business involving ski, swim, bikes and running.

SS: What do you think about the Biotech/healthcare/Medtech sector in Singapore/Asia and the rest of the world?

PB: I know very little about these sectors in Singapore as I am still learning and that is why I am here at Techventure. But in general I love the startup ecosystem in Singapore because it is very vibrant and its heavily supported by the Government and this acts as leverage; I think that is the best way to do it.

I think that there are good parallels between the startup ecosystem in Singapore and that of Finland, where I come from. Both are small countries and have a lot of competence in services, because both are tertiary economies which focus on services, so they have a lot of potentials. Finland is going through economical recession, or barely trying to get out of that one. I think Singapore is doing much better in that aspect. There is huge potential in Singapore to make it a hub to target the neighbouring markets due to its logistics, infrastructure, services, the culture etc. I think it is a very transparent, easy to work, beautiful environment, hence great for people who may not be too familiar with Asia or even Asians.

SS: What kind of startups is VerticalVC interested in?

PB: We encourage startups that are into health, well being and technology. We are not interested in pure biotech startups as we do not have the bandwidth for them.

We actually help in the crossover and collaboration between health and technology, essentially healthtech. That is where we can add the most value in terms of helping to polish the product and make it more appealing; in helping to validate with our partners. We partner with the Helsinki University, hospitals etc.

From geographical point of view, at the moment, we have started to screen mostly from the neighbouring countries only, so that we are more focussed. Our network is mostly Europe-based for now, but we wish to expand further in the future.

SS: What advice do you have for biotech/healthcare startups?

PB: Startups in the biotech and healthcare space often have founders with specific expertise and this makes a big difference. Having said that, the typical tendency of the founders and the team is actually to focus on making their product perfect which involves long cycles of waiting, as you need to have everything approved since it is related to healthcare and biology. I would advise that you can start testing the product/technology beforehand and get feedback on your solution. This helps the startup save time and start the iteration process without waiting for the 3-5+ years until you have all the certifications in hand.

Another advice I have is to form a team with different skills; the team members should complement each other. The team that has a mix of members with different expertise works the best and goes a long way.

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