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“Doing well by doing good”: Bessemer’s newest partner Andrew Hedin invests in companies that improve patients’ lives

By The Bessemer Partners 4.13.21 FIRM

Whether it’s treating devastating diseases, helping opioid users recover from addiction, or mentally ill people recover from dark places, Andrew Hedin invests in technology that meaningfully improves (and often saves) people’s lives. “I want to wake up every day feeling like I’m having some small part in improving the world,” he says.

The son of a pastor and a physical therapist, Andrew had it instilled in him from a young age to pursue excellence by helping others. “Having a positive impact on others has always been deeply important to me,” he says.

“I want to have some small part in improving the world.”

As Bessemer’s newest partner, he focuses on the healthcare ecosystem, including biotech as well as software and services sold to healthcare verticals. He’s especially passionate about companies that sit at the intersection of technology and the biopharma industry.

With an honors MBA from Wharton (where he majored in healthcare management and finance), as well as a degree in biological basis of behavior from the University of Pennsylvania, Andrew effortlessly straddles the worlds of healthcare and technology. He partners with portfolio companies like Collective Medical, Groups, and Qventus, acting as a trusted advisor on the bumpy road toward building an enduring company. We sat down with Andrew to learn more about the companies that excite him, how to inspire greater cross-pollination between the healthcare and technology industries, and his predictions for the future of the industry.

Saving patients’ lives through innovative solutions

One of the most rewarding days on the job Andrew can remember was when Kymera Therapeutics launched their first clinical trial. After many years of research and development, it was finally time to test the technology with real patients. “It’s a huge testament to a team of scientists who work tirelessly to provide new treatment options to patients in such challenging circumstances,” he says. Kymera is pioneering a new drug modality called targeted protein degradation that has the potential to treat poorly addressed or even previously untreatable diseases. The drug leverages the body’s natural processes for recycling excess proteins to target the proteins causing diseases, with potential applications in autoimmune disorders and oncology.

Another aspect of the job Andrew finds hugely rewarding is helping entrepreneurs take the seed of an idea and help ambitious founders grow it beyond what they initially imagined. “When we first invested in Bright Health in 2016, it was basically a PowerPoint deck with an idea to build a new type of health insurance company,” he says. “Today the team has rolled out nationwide in many different markets with a new type of health insurance that’s a radically better experience for patients. I’ve been so impressed by their entire team, their ingenuity, and the impact they’re making on changing the relationship between payers, providers, and patients.”

Bright Health’s mission revolves around building tightly integrated physician and payer relationships. Instead of having payers and providers fighting with one another, the company allows them to join forces to deliver better care to patients, and far more efficiently. The platform also helps people find the right doctor to treat their specific condition with a high-touch, consumer-focused experience. It allows them to access more affordable care quicker—instead of contending with today’s legacy processes that force patients to wait weeks or months before they can get care.

“I feel so honored to be a small part of the stories of some of the greatest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met,” says Andrew.

Cross-pollination between biotech and SaaS

The nexus between investing and biotech thrills Andrew endlessly. But he has one gripe: “There isn’t nearly enough overlap between the mainstream tech ecosystem and the biotech world,” says Andrew. He is on a mission to change that.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that some of the most exciting startups will emerge over the next decade to bridge this gap,” he says, “with companies like TScan and Watershed leading the way.”

Andrew regularly connects founders steeped in healthcare backgrounds with more traditional technical founders across the Bessemer portfolio. “Sometimes the most powerful insights come from the minds focusing on similar problems in different sectors. Bringing those back into the healthcare ecosystem is rocket fuel,” he says.

There are myriad opportunities for cross-pollination between healthcare and other industries.

For one, drug discovery companies and biotech companies can leverage AI and machine learning to expedite their manual processes. Five years ago, most of the teams that were focused on AI for drug discovery didn’t have biotech backgrounds. And biotech folks rarely had team members focused on AI/ML. “We’re now starting to see these ‘bilingual’ teams that have expertise in both AI/ML as well as real deep expertise on how to develop a drug that treats patients,” says Andrew. “The potential for progress this holds cannot be overstated.”

Another major trend emerging is the consumerization of healthcare. With companies like Uber, Spotify, and Netflix setting the bar for instant, personalized experiences, consumers have begun expecting all experiences to be nearly as seamless—healthcare included.

“We’re seeing a lot of technology that helps make that drug discovery process more efficient, or helps make clinical trials more efficient and engaging,” Andrew says. It’s a shift that’s been happening for a long time before, but recently accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Our ability to tap into the best-in-breed consumer minds has been immensely helpful within healthcare,” says Andrew. “Compelling consumer experiences are rarely part of the DNA of healthcare companies, but it’s now becoming an expectation.”

Traditionally, many healthcare companies haven’t been able to keep pace with more sophisticated technical verticals’ roaring pace of innovation. It’s a highly regulated industry that requires years of careful studying and rigorous ethical standards—it doesn’t exactly square with Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” ethos. But that doesn’t mean healthcare companies need to stay mired in antiquated processes and legacy technology. “Sometimes you need an injection of entrepreneurial energy,” says Andrew. “You need to be able to leverage both the deep healthcare knowledge and the Google engineer’s tech-savviness.”

The future of biotech is looking bright

“The level of scientific innovation that’s happened over the last decade has just been astounding,” says Andrew. “And there is new innovation coming out every single day. There are new therapeutic modalities evolving rapidly and I could not be more excited to watch it continue to evolve over the next three to five years, whether it’s gene or RNA editing, next-generation immunotherapy, or small molecule companies taking advantage of new knowledge to precisely target a patient’s disease.”

Andrew is excited to partner with brilliant entrepreneurs to tackle these problems in the coming years. “We want to be the first call in good times and in bad to help think through strategic questions, in-the-weeds questions, and everything in between,” he says. “And if I don’t know an answer, I will run through walls to find folks in our network who do.”

Andrew is known by those he works with as a humble, intellectually honest, thoughtful partner without an ego. “I love connecting to our founders not only on a professional level, but also deeply personal level,” he says. “I genuinely think of a lot of founders I’ve worked with as friends. This helps create a trusting relationship where we can support each other—in good times and bad.”

Andrew is deeply committed to leaving a legacy of helping entrepreneurs realize their visions of building companies that positively impact thousands or millions of lives. “Playing even a small supporting role in that would be really meaningful to me,” he says.