Last week we made two somewhat related announcements, both of which look to further deepen the Flare Capital bench.
Parth Desai, who joined us as a Senior Associate in March 2019, was promoted to Principal, largely in recognition of his tremendous contributions to the investment activities of the firm. Parth has identified a number of compelling new investment opportunities, and more importantly, has introduced us to extraordinary entrepreneurial talent. Venture capital is all about working with the best entrepreneurs and Parth has made a significant impact there. It was quickly evident to us that his industry insights and strength of network were viewed as real assets by many people we wanted to back. In addition to terrific investment judgement and being a lightning rod for great people, he is an absolute delight to have around.
Notably, Parth has also taken on the oversight of the Flare Scholars program, which is a five-year old initiative offering professional development for people who are earlier in their careers, excited about healthcare technology innovation and want to learn about venture capital. With the Class of 2020, which will be announced shortly, there are nearly 150 current and former Flare Scholars. Many of them have gone on to either start exciting new companies, join leading healthcare technology companies, or join other healthcare investment firms. Scholars either come from leading schools around the country or innovative healthcare companies. Parth was a Scholar himself.
Concurrent with the new Scholar class, we are excited to announce the formation of Flare Scholar Ventures, whereby we have allocated a portion of our newest fund to invest in Scholar-backed opportunities. Many of our Scholars are looking to start companies and only need a small amount of capital to knock down early technical or commercial milestones. Our hope is that Scholar Ventures may help stand up as many as a few dozen companies backed by what we have come to believe are some of the most compelling young entrepreneurs in the healthcare technology sector.
According to Rock Health, $7.4 billion was invested in the digital health sector in 2019, which while modestly down from the $8.2 billion invested in 2018, still suggests that there is plenty of capital available but much of it was for more mature companies (average deal size in 2019 was $19.8 million). Working with many of our Scholars, we determined that the market opportunity was to provide “pre-seed” financing to get them started. As roughly half the Scholar classes are academics, we expect to see a number of very novel, super technical projects where we would look to connect them with strong commercial and product leaders from our network. Conversely, the other half of the Scholar classes are from industry and see firsthand where the healthcare system needs to be re-invented.
If Parth’s trajectory is any indication, we have plenty of reasons to be excited about what Scholar Ventures spins up.