News Title

The first Tech Tour Mental & Brain Health is set to launch on May 2-3, 2024, at Nova Business School in Carcavelos, Portugal. Led by Marco Mohwinckel from Magnolia Health Advisors and Janke Dittmer from Gilde Healthcare Partners, the program aims to connect 30-40 innovative Mental Health & Brain tech companies with leading investors and corporate partners in the sector.  


This event is tailored for startups in the Seed to Series B phase or those seeking strategic partnerships, offering a platform for companies developing tech solutions in mental health, wellness, and various neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. The agenda includes pitches, meetings, keynotes, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, focusing on fostering growth and innovation in mental and brain health. 


We interviewed Marco and Janke to learn more about the programme.  


Marco Mohwinckel   Janke Dittmer
Magnolia Health Advisors   Gilde Healthcare Partners


Q: What would the future look like, based on rising trends and developing technologies in Mental Health?  

M: I see Mental and Brain Health as foundational to individual growth and development, but also a cornerstone of knowledge- and skill-based, democratic, stable, and prosperous societies and economies. As individuals, parents, and caregivers we should prioritize our mental and brain health by understanding, promoting, and nurturing healthy thoughts and behaviors. For sure, we should continue to invest in discovering, researching, and developing more cost-effective and personalized treatments for people who suffer from poor mental and brain health, but also dramatically step up efforts to prevent and predict the onset of mental and brain illness. 

J: As the Romans already said: mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body. This relationship runs both ways: if we find solutions for improving physical health, e.g. by improving activity levels, mental health will follow. And vice versa, addressing mental health issues is the best way to prevent and treat many physical ailments. As such talking about mental health encompasses talking about the large parts of healthcare. Mental health is thus a key to better care at lower cost, which is Gilde Healthcare’s motto. 


Q: How active are European VCs and entrepreneurs in Mental Health? 

M: I leave this to Janke :)  

J: According to a Q3 2023 PitchBook report, telehealth has been the most active category within digital health and behavioral health. Teletherapy is the second largest subcategory with cumulative investments of 3.2B $ including investments in companies such as Ginger, Lyra, Spring Health, Alma, Cerebral, and Woebot. It is also featured strongly in the digital therapeutics and digital therapy category. Out of the 168 companies in these categories, 43 were based in Europe, and 100 were based in the US. So, from an activity perspective, Europe is an important player, but when we include the amount of capital raised, the average per company is much lower in Europe than in the US. While 58% of the US companies raised more than 20M $, only 28% of the European companies reached Mindmaze, Big Health, and Ieso being European anomalies with >90M$ raised. 

So far, the digital health picture, in the Medtech and biotech space, there is less of a discrepancy between Europe and the US. When it comes to biotech companies with VC investments in neurology, 60 companies are in Europe and 195 in the US, with 50% of European and 66% of US companies having raised more than 20M$. 


Q: What challenges/opportunities do you see in the sector for the next 5 years?  

M: We still have a long way to go to understand and characterise the underlying pathophysiology and biology of many neurodegenerative, let alone neuropsychiatric conditions. What makes it particularly challenging is that many mental and brain health illnesses are the result of a complex and dynamic interplay between the brain (as a biological organ) and the mind, i.e. an expression of feelings, thoughts, and cognitive processes that drive choices, actions, and behaviours; which in turn affect the brain and other physical health conditions. It will certainly take a lot more "hard science", but also a healthy dose of "art" to understand this interplay and find new, more holistic, and cost-effective solutions. The good news is that we have ever more sophisticated tools and technologies to collect and analyse biological and behavioural data, i.e., to measure this interplay between brain and mind, and meet and engage individuals where they are. It is exciting to see that we have brilliant minds (!) and highly functioning brains (!) engaged, and extraordinary computational power at our disposal. This must be one of the most interesting fields of research out there!   

J: On the solutions side, the key challenges for the sector will be about getting reimbursement models that work for all parties involved, scaling access to solutions for better mental health, and embedding these solutions into a continuum of care that stretches from light touch digital interventions addressing mild to moderate mental health problems to remote and in-person care for severe mental health issues. During the last 5 years, we made great progress in taking mental health from a taboo topic to a more accepted topic of conversation. Building the awareness that mental health deserves as much attention and resources as physical health will be the key challenge for the next 5 years. 


Q: What is your background?  What is your motivation to become the President/ VP of the new programme - Mental & Brain Health?  

M: As an individual, I have witnessed and experienced firsthand how much suffering is related to poor mental and brain health. As a pharma, biotech, and health tech executive, advisor, and investor, I have spent a good part of my professional life trying to develop solutions for people suffering from mental and brain health conditions.  

J: I am heading Healthtech investing in Europe for Gilde Healthcare, a transatlantic healthcare investor with two fund strategies: venture & growth and private equity. I have also been a cofounder of the International Venture Club (now Tech Tour Investors Club) and have been working with Tech Tour for almost 20 years. 

Mental and brain health has been an important focus of our fund. I sit on the board of Big Health, which aims to make effective mental healthcare accessible to everyone. 


Q: Why Portugal?  

M: I love Portugal, it is my second (or third) home... My wife is Portuguese, and we spend most of our vacations there. Of course, people are welcoming, it's safe, the weather is great, it offers great surfing and many outdoor activities, it has a stunning coastline, it has some of the best seafood you can get... but it is also home to some of the greatest explorers who sailed out to sea and ventured into the unknown... a spirit that I embrace and that I share with many others that have chosen to settle here and discover Portugal.     

J: I concur with everything Marco said – Portugal is my favorite country, especially when the swell is on! 


We warmly invite you to join us in Portugal for the first-ever Tech Tour Mental & Brain Health Program. This unique event promises to be a pivotal platform for fostering innovation and partnerships in the mental and brain health tech sector. Do not miss this opportunity to connect with leading minds, explore innovative ideas, and contribute to shaping the future of mental and brain health.