We spoke to Priya Oberoi-Cattai, founder of femtech angel investor Goddess Gaia Ventures and an entrepreneur in residence with our P4 and P4SY precision medicine programmes. 

CE: Tell me about your background and how you came to found Goddess Gaia Ventures.

POC: I studied law at Oxford, then worked as a derivatives lawyer with a specialism in Islamic finance. I speak seven different languages, worked in five different countries, had a tremendous career, and then I got cancer. I was doing 70 hours a week working for other people, and my cancer diagnosis made me step back and reevaluate whether I wanted to continue in the corporate world.

I looked at my skill set and thought, what can I do? A friend told me about private placement, which is a type of boutique investment advisor connecting high net worth individuals and institutions with private investment opportunities. I thought to myself, I know a lot of people, I know a lot of rich people. And so I decided to build my own company, which became Oberoi Capital Partners.

We have lots of connections to the Middle East, with royal families, institutional investors, family offices and so on. What started out as a lifestyle company at the beginning turned into a really serious business and I was flying back and forth to the Middle East all the time, meeting these investors. 

In the background, I’d gotten married and had a child, which made me more interested in women’s health. I also developed an autoimmune disease, which made me realise how underfunded women’s health really is, especially for women of colour. It’s very difficult to go through these things, you’re researching the best doctors and wondering, why are there not specific solutions for women? With my investment hat on, it makes no sense at all. 

When lockdown started in 2020, it put some of our business on hold because these relationships have to be built face-to-face. By that time, I’d realised there was a funding gap for femtech startups at the growth seed stage, and I thought why shouldn’t we build an angel fund with a femtech focus? That’s how Goddess Gaia Ventures was born.  

CE: You’re an Entrepreneur in Residence with the P4 and P4SY programmes. What does this involve?

POC: That’s right, I work closely with Nathan [McNally, Capital Enterprise Health and Life Science Director] on both P4 in London and P4SY in South Yorkshire. 

All the founders in the programme have access to me to ask any sort of question. They can range from “Do I need a cofounder?” to “Can you help me understand this term sheet?” And that’s where my background as a lawyer really helps!

One of the companies I’ve been supporting just got a term sheet from a VC and I feel very proud of them, like a proud mamma.

You speak to them every few weeks, and then they get this term sheet and you’re helping them decide whether to accept it and saying things like “Nope, you won’t accept this bit,” and they go back to renegotiate. There’s a lot of pride in that. 

CE: What have some of the highlights been of working with the P4 programme?

POC: There are so many different types of founders on P4 and it’s great to see the positive changes they are effecting. Things like making clinical trials more inclusive, for example. Making money is good, but you can also bring a positive change and make money, and that’s even better.

Working with P4 has definitely proved that joining an accelerator programme is a huge value-add for a startup. Early stage founders need technical support, legal support, regulatory support. If you can get them on an accelerator and point them in the right direction, it’s really helpful.  

My own experience has shown that building a company is a lonely journey, and having a cohort of founders to talk to really helps. It’s free advice, and it’s so worth it. I wish I had gone through an accelerator!

CE: What type of companies and founders catch your eye these days? What tips would you give to a startup looking to pitch you?

POC: My investment thesis is very broad, everything from mental wellbeing to reproductive health and parenting and so much more. 

I have a special place in my heart for cancer tech. Anything that can detect female cancers quickly, whether it’s preventative or using new therapies in immunotherapy and genomics to improve patient outcomes

President Biden just announced that the US is going to be investing more into cancer tech going forward, which is something we definitely align with. It also aligns with another Capital Enterprise programme Nathan is running, the Cancer Tech Accelerator. You know, one in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime. That is going to be a huge investment vertical. 

Something I’m less interested in is more communities. I see the value, of course, but I also want to see the needle move. Goddess Gaia Ventures is about that intersection of science, healthcare, and tech to really change outcomes for people. 

Thanks to Priya for taking time to speak with us and you can follow her on LinkedIn