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Overcoming risk aversion and making his first angel investment with Dr Andrew Choong


Dr Andrew Choong, VentureBlick medical advisor and vascular surgeon
Dr Andrew Choong, a medical advisor with the VB Advisory Network, and one of VentureBlick’s first medical investors

Doctors are a risk-averse bunch given the nature of their work. This attitude often extends to areas such as personal finance, which generally precludes angel investing given its high-risk, high-reward nature.


Indeed, vascular surgeon Dr Andrew Choong describes himself as a risk-averse investor who prefers “very safe, simple, and traditional strategies in general”. Despite this, he has recently made his first foray into angel investing through VentureBlick’s platform, as one of the investors in Singapore-based startup NousQ’s Series A fundraising round.


Dr Choong, who is currently a senior consultant vascular, endovascular and aortic surgeon at the Asian Aortic and Vascular Centre, professes to being “pretty bad” at personal financial management. “The life of a doctor is an all-consuming one because patients always come first. As a result of that, however, I found that I was becoming very remiss with how I managed my personal finances,” he shares. “It has slowly gotten better over time, but after a busy week, the last thing I want to do at the end is to sit down and figure out my expenses, let alone what kind of returns I want from my savings.”


As it turned out, several factors were collectively responsible for convincing Dr Choong, who described the opportunity as “serendipity”, to take the plunge. He shares his thoughts on this and more in the following interview.


Thanks for having me, Doc. You recently made your first angel investment via VentureBlick’s platform. What convinced you to pull the trigger?

I think what attracted me to VentureBlick was its idea to engage medical professionals early and give them investment opportunities that they normally wouldn’t get. As a doctor, it’s difficult to make contact with companies that are looking for investors, because I wouldn’t even know where to start! There’s also the issue of ticket size, which is often too big for someone like me. I like how VentureBlick fills these gaps in the market by offering starting ticket sizes that are much smaller, while also being a platform that allows these healthcare startups to engage with the medical community in a deeper, more extensive way.


CLiKX device for glue ear by NousQ
CLiKX, NousQ's smart robotic handheld device for glue ear surgery

On a related note, being able to support innovation was also important. As a vascular surgeon, my specialty does not progress if the devices don’t progress alongside me – we still need device companies to take ideas and move things forward. Having some sort of platform where doctors can invest in companies that are developing these devices – it’s almost like peer review in journals, right? If it takes off, it would be a really nice product for the market, while investors can also make money. Personally, I really liked NousQ’s idea, and when I saw where they were in their development, and how I could own a very small piece of this, I thought, “Why not?”


You’re not an ENT surgeon though. Was that ever a concern when you were considering investing into NousQ?

I think it’s helped that as doctors, we have all had such a broad range of training before we began to specialise in our respective fields. On a more personal level, I have the academic hat that I wear when I look at data, research findings, and the like, and the general surgeon’s hat that I put on when I’m looking at a medical problem and its solution. To me, it was clear that NousQ had developed a very elegant solution for glue ear surgery.

What cemented my decision was the security that VentureBlick’s platform provided, in that I could see many of my learned peers also investing into NousQ. There was almost a “safety in numbers” thing going on, because we were collectively looking at the company and coming to the same conclusion.


Let’s talk a little about innovation, especially in the medical space. Now that you’ve taken a step into angel investing, have you considered the possibility of supporting startups by being involved with them on a deeper level?

I would love to. I think I’m more confident now about what I know, understand, and do as a surgeon, which extends to the usage of medical devices and other related matters. Ultimately, we want to apply these devices for the patient’s benefit, in a safe and effective way, while ensuring that doctors like them and find them easy to use. There’s a whole lot there that I think I can help with.


Endovascular intervention performed by surgeon
Endovascular intervention, one of Dr Choong's specialties, is heavily focused on the development of medical devices

You’ve mentioned that as a vascular surgeon, your specialty does not progress unless the medical devices you use also progress along with you. What in your opinion is the limiting factor currently?

To have a medical device you first need to develop it, then assess its safety and efficacy. After that, you must prove that it doesn’t just do no harm, but also provides benefits over existing solutions. Put all these together, and what we have is an inordinately long process to take products to market. That’s the limiting factor now, and I think that’s why so many medtech innovations fail. An idea may be great, but the company may not have the resources or the know-how to take it all the way to something that goes into a patient.


I have no doubt in doctors’ ability to think outside of the box, to learn new techniques, or to adapt to improvements in treatment protocols. Right now, it’s about having significantly more coordinated effort across all the communities that are involved in this if we want to innovate at a faster pace than we currently do.


Dr Andrew Choong, VentureBlick advisor and vascular surgeon, studying medical diagram on a monitor
Dr Choong believes that doctors will always adapt to better techniques and technologies; the challenge is developing them and bringing them to market.

What do you think is the next big thing that can advance the field of medicine?

Artificial Intelligence, probably most immediately in specialties like dermatology and radiology, where a lot of work revolves around image processing and recognition. Can we pick up cancers from a picture? AIs can be trained to be very sensitive and specific for such diagnostic work. In vascular surgery, one applicable area concerns when to operate on aneurysms, which are blood vessels that have blown up like a balloon. Currently, we proceed when an aneurysm measures at least 5.5cm, but this isn’t personalised to the patient, because some aneurysms burst below 5.5cm, while others don’t until they measure 8cm or 9cm. I was researching how we can apply Computational Fluid Dynamics to simulate the behaviour of blood flow within aneurysms, to predict which ones are more at risk of rupturing. If we can combine that with AI and large datasets, then I think we’ll find ourselves moving forward in this area.


AI image of computational fluid dynamics in an aneurysm
Can AI coupled with Computational Fluid Dynamics (pictured) enable personalised treatments for aneurysms?


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