Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic sent countless businesses and entire industries around the world into a death spiral, scrambling to keep their heads above water—but, apparently, nobody told the medtech industry.
In 2020, medtech companies raked in $6.4 billion in venture funding, quite a bit above the $5.7 billion investors poured into the sector in 2019 and about equal to the amount raised in 2018, as measured by Evaluate Medtech.
The year’s 170 funding rounds proved themselves to be pandemic-agnostic in another way, too: They took place all year long, with no one quarter jumping too far ahead or falling behind the others. The first and third quarters registered 55 and 50 deals, respectively, while the second and fourth clocked 35 and 30 financing rounds.
And though 2020’s funding total fell short of the all-time high of $7 billion set in 2017, it did break new ground in terms of the average size of each deal.
Over the course of the last decade, as total funding has crept further into the billions each quarter, the number of deals completed has trended downward. So, while medtech startups closed only 170 VC funding rounds last year—the first time that number has fallen below 200 in at least the last five years—each of those deals was, on average, significantly more valuable than those of years past.
The average size of a medtech funding round in 2020 was $37.4 million, leaps and bounds ahead of the previous record-holder, with 2019’s $25.1 million.
2020’s biggest targets for VC cash raked in much more than that average, with each of the year’s top 10 funding rounds (and the next four behind them) clocking in solidly within the nine-figure region. That matches the record set in 2018, which also had 14 funding rounds in the hundreds of millions.
These funding magnets have a lot more in common with each other than just an uncanny ability to thrive through a global health crisis while other industries floundered—many of them are also working toward similar goals.
Eight of 2020’s biggest VC earners are companies that dabble in diagnostics, a field that became significantly more crowded as the year went on, in direct correlation with the rising demand for fast and accurate COVID-19 tests. A handful of these companies rose to the challenge and soon found themselves rewarded for the quick pivot.
Oxford Nanopore Technologies, for example, closed the ninth-highest funding round of the year barely 48 hours into 2020, reporting a $144.5 million intake on January 2. But as the months went on, and as the company scaled up production of its coronavirus diagnostic test, Oxford Nanopore found itself the lucky recipient of about $170 million more spread across two additional financing rounds.
Interestingly, the year’s biggest fundraiser by far was one of only two outliers from the cohort more focused on test development: Verily, Google's sister company and developer of data-driven technology for biopharmas, academic researchers and hospitals.
Verily raked in a whopping $700 million in December, nearly double the amount of the year’s next-highest fundraising—though that’s par for the course for the Alphabet subsidiary, which previously scored a jaw-dropping $1 billion in early 2019.
All together, Verily and its nine compatriots in 2020’s top 10 claimed about 40% of the more than $6 billion in medtech venture funding over the entire year. Here’s how they split the pot—and what each company is doing now to top an already record-setting year. — Andrea Park