An emergency room physician for the past 12 years, Dr. Robert Mittendorff joined Norwest Venture Partners eight years ago as a healthcare investor; the firm invests in a number of healthcare startups, including Talkspace, which raised a $50 million Series D last year, and TigerConnect.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, Mittendorff is spending his weekdays with portfolio companies and weekends working with Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. While he notes that his medical colleagues are “bearing the brunt” of the pandemic by working full time, we wanted to hear from someone who has a foot in both the investing and the healthcare world right now.
In this interview, he discusses what he’s learned from both roles, how it has influenced his healthcare investments, and offers his predictions regarding which companies will fare the best in the future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TechCrunch: How did you get to where you are today?
Dr. Robert Mittendorff: So, my journey to being a venture capitalist at Norwest and investing in healthcare companies as well as an emergency physician was really a parallel set of paths that overlapped and that cross every once in a while and now usually on a daily basis.
I started off life as a biomedical engineer really focused on wanting to be on the side of innovation and on the development of technologies to help human health. I knew early on that I wanted to be on the business side [of that], but it was important for me to understand and really be deeply in touch with what it was like to be a provider.
The journey started out going to engineering school, medical school, and then business school in the middle of medical school. I trained at Stanford, which really exposed me to county hospitals, which are probably going to be the more challenging situations as the weeks go on here, and then to Kaiser Permanente. And then, of course, Stanford, I was exposed to San Francisco General and then the Santa Clara Valley Hospital. I always practice part-time following up so it’s been 12 years as an attending, practicing part-time as an emergency physician.
In the venture space I saw an opportunity to really help select entrepreneurs and markets to grow them to a higher impact state.