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YouAreUnltd | How Telus Ventures is Transforming Canada's Medical Landscape

Originally published in YouAreUnltd on February 22, 2019 by Chris Powell

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As managing partner of TELUS’s corporate venture capital fund TELUS Ventures, Rich Osborn is at the forefront of how Canadians will come to use digital technology to access and manage their healthcare.

TELUS Ventures has grown to become one of the world’s top 100 corporate venture capital firms, having invested in more than 100 “promising start-ups” across a broad swathe of industries since its 2001 formation.

Osborn believes “social impact investing” has the potential to create significant change in Canadian healthcare, particularly as many digital health innovators are frequently hamstrung by an inability to scale their solutions.

“What we need to solve for is the scale problem, which is the biggest objective we’re looking for as venture capitalists,” says Osborn. “A lot of times the management is there, the interest is there and the usage and customer value are there, but we run into this complex political and regulatory structure that prevents them from scaling.”

As part of a mandate to support healthy aging, TELUS is also actively involved with the technology and aging network AGE-WELL. It’s part of a larger effort by the company to help commercialize interesting and innovative technological ideas coming out of universities, research centres and other institutions. Osborn is on AGE-WELL’s Board of Directors where he brings his considerable experience to bear on Canada’s burgeoning technology and aging sector. AGE-WELL teams are developing more than 75 different types of technology-based products and the network currently supports 19 start-ups.  

TELUS Ventures makes six to 10 deals a year – each with an average investment of $4 million to $5 million – and currently manages an active portfolio of nearly 30 companies. Its most recent investment is a series A funding round for Beacon, which provides cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) via computer, smartphone or tablet using registered mental health professionals.

“It’s the difference between chatting with a professional therapist or psychiatrist versus chatting with an untrained professional or a friend,” says Osborn. “Both may be helpful, but one is a clinically proven option.”

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