The tech industry has been attempting to help test, track, treat, and terminate COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nex.D is one such organization. To external visitors, Nex.D might look like a traditional VC, with a website full of portfolio companies. But its model is quite different.
Nex.D uses a merchant banking advisory model, which attempts to align a founder’s interests with its own via equity warrants, retainers, and business development fees. Think of it as an accelerator.
“Globally we are looking for the best companies we can find,” founder at Nex.D, Colin Brown, told me. “Ideally we find companies that are hitting $10m annual recurring revenue (ARR) and are focused on getting to $100m ARR within 2-3 years. We work with companies in the US, UK, Europe, Israel, India, and Singapore to help them accelerate.”
Headquartered in Poland, its focus is on deep tech in various fields.
“Here in Poland we are focused on companies at an earlier stage revenue wise but have deep global potential,” Brown said. “These tend to come in a number of verticals – biotech, AI and data lakes, and gaming: this part of the world excels in this.”
Most recently, Nex.D spearheaded an effort to reopen Europe through collaboration with genetic testing company GeneMe. GeneMe has developed FRANKD, a 30-minute, on-site COVID-19 testing solution.
The FRANKD test is currently being used by the cast, musicians, crew, and theater staff of “Sleepless, a Musical Romance,” which began a socially distanced indoor performances at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theater in the United Kingdom. FRANKD is also being used at the Polish resort of Zawiaty, where its test is being administered to both workers and visitors.
And London’s Heathrow Airport has just completed a successful trial of the FRANKD test as it looks to ensure passenger, staff, and UK citizen safety.
So why FRANKD, and what makes it different to other COVID-19 tests?
“When we started looking at COVID-19 tests we learned very quickly that you have to read the small print,” Brown said. “Everyone makes the case for sensitivity at A and specificity at B, time for the test at C and limit of detection at D. But when you read the small print on their websites (and some of it isn’t that small at all) you realize that all tests are certainly not equal. For example, most of them advertise a limit of detection (LOD) which sounds fantastic until you realize it’s a statistical limit, not a scientific one.”
What does that mean in practice?
“The LOD only applies when you are talking about symptomatic patients who are tested between 7-14 days after contracting the virus, tested on a Tuesday and when they were wearing a blue shoe on their left foot,” Brown said. “We came across a 90-minute test the other day that got a huge amount of press and it was actually 90 minutes only if you processed one sample and it was negative, but actually 7 hours if you processed more than one sample and one of them was positive.”
Clearly, that level of variation isn’t going to work when you’re attempting to test the masses.
“FRANKD is different,” Brown said. “We neutralize the virus in our buffer so that the testing can actually happen nearer the customer, saving time. We also use a software overlay so the results are binary (you either have COVID-19 or you don’t). We also use a completely different reagent mix so we aren’t bidding for the same chemicals as everyone else and therefore suffering the same price escalations. Last but not least the test processing time is always 30 minutes and we are working hard to automate the sample collection.”
FRANKD certainly sounds like a promising solution to the issue of mass testing at speed, and Nex.D’s intention is to accelerate its growth and scale. How? While some accelerators have a cookie cutter approach to scaling startups, Brown believes it isn’t that simple.
“Clearly there are some common factors but we take an individual approach to support the teams,” Brown said. “We both have a background in coaching teams, market entry in 50+ countries, and we’re working remotely in fast-paced environments. We try to pick companies that don’t need restructuring, already have product-market fit, have got a super talented winning team on board and now just need to clone themselves to make the jump from $10m to $100m ARR. We help with that cloning and bring the right deals to the companies so they can execute, execute, execute, and aren’t wasting their time searching for the right growth opportunities.”