Q&A with Kurt Sheline, principal, Echo Health Ventures

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it? 

I am a principal on the investment team at Echo Health Ventures. In that role, I support all aspects of the investment process, from investment thesis creation and development, to deal sourcing or evaluation and transaction management and execution. Post-investment, I support our portfolio companies in numerous ways, from board or committee representation to driving engagement between our portfolio companies and the industry at large (both with our parent companies, and others). I currently serve as a director on the boards of Springbuk and Eleanor Health and am a board observer at Octave Bioscience, GNS Healthcare, Circulation, and Quartet Health. I have been working at Echo since March 2017, and have supported our investments in the aforementioned companies, as well as Phreesia (IPO), AccessOne, and Dispatch Health.

2. What attracted you to CVC? 

The potential power of the CVC investment and engagement model. Corporate venture holds tremendous potential to expedite the development, scaling and commercialization of innovation in numerous ways. It also affords an unrivalled professional development opportunity. In my mind, there is not another model or industry that exposes someone to so many aspects of value creation in the corporate construct, from the development of high-quality relationships to the creation and operationalization of innovative products and business models.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit? 

We are a humble organization, so this is a tough question to answer; I do not view any of our investments, exits or projects as individual accomplishments. But to be a bit more helpful in answering this, would say our investments in Circulation (sold to Logisticare), Phreesia (IPO), Springbuk, Octave Bioscience and Quartet Health have shown the promise of our model, and my early successes in helping to align our investments with our parent companies strategies and priorities.

4. What have been your biggest challenges? 

Relationship development and management is always a challenge. As well as aligning different business units across the organization when there is not a well-defined cross-functional strategy already in place.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future? 

I would love to keep doing the same work I am already doing at Echo! Growing up, I knew I wanted to be in the field of healthcare or medicine. That initially started with the goal of working in the clinical field, but over time, morphed into wanting to work on the business side of healthcare, ideally focused on helping to scale innovative products, services, and business models. Echo has afforded me the opportunity to do exactly that, and I hope I get to continue that work for a long time!

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry? 

Collaborate! And this collaboration could take any number of constructs or flavours. From working together on diligence and investments to exchanging thoughts and ideas on how to more efficiently and effectively structure partnership opportunities between portfolio companies and incumbent corporations. CVC has such tremendous potential, and we all have so much to learn from one another.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

Given our two parent companies are health insurance companies, they are very deeply involved in the pandemic, from helping to weather the immediate impacts, as well as effectively planning for the long term management of the pandemic and the post-pandemic world. Our parent companies are actively working to refine their technology capabilities to better predict the future path of the pandemic, and ensure that their customers and individual members are properly supported during this uncertain time. At the Echo Health Ventures level, we are rapidly reassessing how we conduct our business of developing relationships with and investing in the best Companies and entrepreneurs in healthcare in a rapidly changing world.

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time? 

Prior to Echo, I worked in various finance roles in healthcare. I started my career out of college at Merrill Lynch in their Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group, primarily advising biotech and pharma clients. I then worked in private equity before going to graduate school at UC Berkeley. In my free time, I am busily trying to learn to be a parent to my two daughters (ages four and two). When I have any free time outside of that activity, I like to sail, surf, and have a budding interest in mountaineering! Was able to successfully summit Mount Rainier this past summer!