Click here to watch the video version of this podcast.
Paul Ryb was a highly successful investment banker when, at age 37, he suddenly lost his central vision to dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In this unique episode of the OIS Podcast, Ryb tells host Rob Rothman, MD, that the sudden change presented a big problem for him because of his fast-paced life. “I had a lot of risk profile responsibilities, and it was life-changing for me in not just my professional career, but also my private investment career,” he says.
Upon being seen by a top eye-care professional at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital, he was told nothing could be done for his condition, which he found surprising and distressing.
However, Ryb then made contact with a charitable organization, Blind in Business, which he says was when the next chapter of his life began. “They had solutions for what I basically term affectionately as the ability to live and succeed with sight loss,” Ryb said. “And that kind of positive energy is exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.”
That positivity led him back into sports, where he succeeded to the point of becoming world champion of Visually Impaired Tennis, an activity of British Blind Sport, a national organization for the blind and visually impaired in the UK. But more importantly, he learned how to conquer challenges in his career using technologies for the visually impaired.
And now, Ryb has chosen to use his investment banking skills to help fund and develop ophthalmic innovations.
Click “play” to hear Paul Ryb talk about waking up with vision loss, his path to overcoming the challenges, and how he plans to use his experience with adversity to improve future technologies in this area.
Rob Rothman: Hello OIS podcast audience. Happy to be speaking with you again today. I don’t know how many of you out there have listened to any of my previous podcasts. I’m going to spend two minutes just introducing myself. So you know the perspective from which I am about to conduct this next interview. But my name is Rob Rothman. I am an ophthalmologist at Glaucoma specialist by training. I’ve been in practice for the last 23 or 24 years starting to lose count. And in addition to maintaining clinical practice, I am also the Co-founder and Co-managing Member of Infocus Capital Partners, which is an Ophthalmic Life Sciences focused venture capital fund. We have just about completed the investment phase or our first fund maybe making one more investment. We’re working that out right now. We have 13 ophthalmology assets. And we are currently contemplating the end of fun one in the hopeful student to be launched fun to within the near future. I have had the privilege of meeting our current podcast guests, very serendipitously and I have spent some time speaking with him over the past few months. And Craig and Maureen and the team in OIS have given me some liberty of deciding who I’d like to interview and after hearing Paul’s story, and speaking with him on multiple occasions, I thought this would be an absolutely fantastic opportunity for the listening audience to get to know somebody who I find incredibly intriguing and somewhat inspiring as well. So nope, no pressure there, Paul. But just to make the formal introduction, today, we will be talking with Paul Ryb, he is by guest by way of introduction, a long time probably 30-year veteran of the investment banking industry. He also happens to be the world visually impaired tennis champion, world’s champion. And he has now dedicated his skill set and expertise to work across all areas of a vision loss environments to try and identify promising assets within ophthalmology to help cure blindness and treat ophthalmic disease. So the perspective from which Paul comes and I’ll let him describe in a little bit greater detail later, is one of finance background, visual loss, I’ll let him explain where that came from. And now moving forward to try and help others through his diverse skill set. So I hope that was a good enough introduction, Paul, but it’s hard to put into words, everything you’ve done so far in life. So sort of leave it at that and let you sort of say hello and introduce yourself, I guess at this point.
Paul Ryb: No, thanks, Robin. I am flattered and blushing for those that can see. But I know as you say, I’ve had a fascinating few years, quite unexpectedly, I lost all of my central vision at the age of 37 to macular disease, macular dystrophy, map degeneration has many names. But the outcome is the same. You basically go from, you know, sort of usual sight, maybe some refractive errors fine. I was very short sighted. But, you know, I drove I did everything that one would do with contact lenses and correction, but literally woke up at the age of 37. And couldn’t read couldn’t see faces no longer allowed to drive. And that was a big, big problem for me, because I lived a fast-paced life as an investment banker was, you know, had a lot of risk profile responsibilities. And it was life changing for me in not just my professional career, but also my private and personal career.
Rob Rothman: Let me jump in. I’m going to interrupt you a lot during this because I think there’s a lot of points that are out here. So you were basically cruising along, living a nice life doing well as an investment banker, and then you wake up one morning like, well, I can’t I see so well. So what happens you go to the eye doctor and what do they do what happens at that moment?
Paul Ryb: I drove to work, which was just typical me not understanding my problem. And I then decided I better go to Morefields. Because I was having trouble and where my offices were in the City of London was near the preeminent Eye Hospital. So I basically went to Morefield sat there for a few hours managed to arrange a private appointment with a top consultant who took some pictures of my eyes and basically said to me, You have got central vision loss. We can’t fix it. It’s dry macular disease and you We’re going to get symmetry in both of your eyes. So no more driving for you, please. And yeah, thanks very much for coming. And I was literally cast out of his office with that news, having no idea who I was going to call what I could then do, and still baffled as to how I could have been in a top eye hospital with no option for cure. And so I was very confused at that point. And I remember sitting on the steps of more fields on my own, you know, just thinking to myself, yeah, life’s gonna change here. This is gonna be a rough time. And I actually went back to my office. And I was very lucky in that I sat next to a guy called Simon Halliday in England rugby player, who had literally met a blind charitable organization in the city of London called Blind In Business who just coincidentally happened to be next door to my offices. So were Morefields were unable to offer me any advice or support or guidance as to next steps. I literally picked myself up and went into the Blind In Business offices. And there really, I would say, it was the beginning of the new chapter of my life, these guys were brilliant. They had answers, where I thought there were no opportunities or no prospects, they had solutions for what I basically term affectionately as the ability to live and succeed with sight loss. And that kind of positive energy is exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.
Rob Rothman: Okay, we’re gonna try to, we’re gonna run this like a book. So that’s the prelude to that to the next to the next two chapters. So when I write books, I like to jump around in. I’ve written so many, I’m sure you know them all. But I think that what I’d like to do is now let me take a step back and tell me about your finance background. Tell me about what you did. Previously, before this sort of happened, and how you progress through the world of finance. And were you all the way through to where you’re pretty much I guess, retired. And tell us about that. So people understand your financial background, because it’s gonna be very important when we get to the final chapters of this interview.
Paul Ryb: Absolutely. So I started life in 1993. Having finished an economics degree at Manchester University, I basically was one of the lucky graduates that want to place on the HSBC James Capel investment banking graduate program. This was 1993, that was a big deal. You know, you’re fighting against even today, you’re fighting against 1000s of people to win a spot on these graduate programs, after college. And my career, basically evolved through equity research analysis, where I effectively trained to become a financial analyst, where I, luckily in the 90s, specialized in the hottest sector on the street, which was telecoms, and I eventually evolved into a telecoms media and technology specialist, through many of the 90s biggest hottest deals because telecoms was the hot privatization sector of the moment through that era. And I was lucky enough to work for the top banks on the top deals in equity research. And as a result of that, I, my career really escalated in that I was offered many jobs at different banks, where I ultimately took the job in 99, at Lehman Brothers, where I was joined by a whole host of great talented people. We became known on the street as effectively the number one ranked team, by our peers through institutional investor for seven consecutive years in the telecom market. So we were the big guys on the street in telecoms for all that time. And I really loved it loved the team that I was working with love the success we had loved the international travel and the deals we were doing. They were really exciting times. Obviously, I knew my eyesight was troubling me getting worse. But I carried on coping with that all through the 2000s. And then something miraculous happened in 2007, I wake up and I can’t see very well. And I really as soon as we’ve discussed was obviously shocked from that point. But then I really made it my ambition to figure out how to live and succeed with that. And I went about finding all the technology that could enable me as a senior executive in banking to understand how I could still work with my team and be involved in a risk environment which is effectively where we were in terms of trading and investing and advising within the telecoms market. And I was amazed that actually there was solutions out there, ZoomText, magic software, which was overlay software, which allowed me to basically magnify, and color invert everything I was doing on my computers. And there’s some lovely pictures of me sitting with six very large screens with lots of magnification technology, allowing me to do the job I continued to do. But something very strange then happened in that Lehman Brothers, as people will be aware of blew up in 2008. And I, at that point, I understood that I was privy to permanent health insurance, which meant that if my eyesight continued to degenerate, I would be, I would qualify for, effectively an insurance policy, which would just retire me on the basis of disability. But when Lehman Brothers disappeared, I lost my right to that insurance policy, which meant I had to start all over again. And I was lucky to lean on my financial career and my success to then be headhunted, ultimately to go and lead a team at the Royal Bank of Scotland, who wanted to establish a telecoms team. And coincidentally, they actually had the permanent health insurance policy at that bank as well. So I was able to go and work at RBS in the knowledge and comfort but in the event that my eyesight would render me incapable of working, that the bank and myself would be adequately insured. So today, I spent a lot of my time recommending and advising people, both able bodied and disabled people to genuinely look at their HR policies and see if their companies have things like the abundant health insurance or group income protection scheme, because it’s such a powerful policy, particularly when you understand that 85% of people in the disabled market have become disabled, rather than were born disabled, like myself. So I must thank at this point, a man called Dennis Lewis, Dennis Lewis was the man at the macula society who told me about this insurance policy. And that knowing that that policy existed really empowered me to continue with my career, and I would say that I was more successful in investment banking, even after losing my Central’s vision. And I got promoted to managing director was still handsomely paid, we’re still working on big deals, etc. So I still think that if you’re guided correctly by the peer support early enough, and ask the right questions, as I was doing, because I was ambitious to carry on rather than quit. You know, you can find a way to carry on living and succeeding in doing what you’re doing, despite the challenges that you’re faced with not actually seeing that that’s really what I would say as a strong message, ask the questions and go for peer support.
Rob Rothman: So you powered through this. So you, you have this visual loss, you continue to work and excel through the finance role, eventually moving from Lehman to RBS, and stay there until when?
Paul Ryb: So officially, I left RBS in 2016. And, you know, we had some good years and RBS ultimately RBS, wound down their investment banking operations, they were 83% owned by the government. So we’re always on always on a sticky wicket when it came to risk management and trading and investment banking. So with that in mind, I, you know, was always looking for a new avenue to channel my knowledge and experience. And in 2016, I went to ultimately, I went to work for a private family office where I ran a long, short absolute return portfolio. So I was effectively trading long short ideas on the basis of my TMT experience.
Rob Rothman: So more typical, hedge fund type, investing.
Paul Ryb: Exactly. And in 2018, had my most successful year ever, basically, in terms of trading. So, you know, that was the culmination of all of my knowledge experience, really concentrating in one great trade. It was a US UK trade, Beast IB, which was ultimately taken out by Comcast and Fox Disney transaction, which was just a wonderful experience to be involved in. But after all of that, I was really looking for other avenues and other opportunities. And I started to get I was already heavily involved in the charity sector. So I was on the board of a number of sightless charities even at that stage. I had been a trustee for the Royal National Institute of the Blind for six,
Rob Rothman: Hold on, I’m interrupting you, I want you to stop. I want to go back to this. Okay, I want to get to all this stuff afterwards, because I think that leads into what you’re going to do later on, but fine, so I’m stopping you. Sorry, I know that’s probably I’m pretty rude but too bad to my interview. And I want to talk for a few minutes about tennis because this is one of the most fascinating aspects of you. And it’s not I don’t think an easy thing to become the world visually impaired tennis champion, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have been very good at tennis who’ve had visual impairment and are not the world champion. So I’m assuming you play tennis throughout your life. And this is an extension of that. Not that you learned how to play tennis after you became visually impaired. Correct?
Paul Ryb: So I played a lot of sport. I raced cars; I was very competitive guy. And losing my edge or my ability to see meant that I couldn’t play with what I consider the big boys I couldn’t play with my friends couldn’t play competitively in football, soccer, as you guys know it. But I was never, you know, in any national or, you know, sort of county teams. I just enjoy the competent, competitive and friendly community aspect of playing sport. Unsure as a kid I played for teams and the like, when I was announced as visually impaired, and I got involved with some of the charity community peer support aspects of learning about how to live with sight loss, I was introduced to the idea that to live and succeed with a disability, you need to you need to add some extra things to your bow, which is you need to get fit, because your body is going to be exhausted trying to live in the mainstream world, whether you’re working or whether you’re doing anything, you need to adjust your fitness levels and your concentration levels. And I was very early on through the macula society group meetings that I went to, was introduced to visually impaired sport, which again, these are foreign worlds to me, I had no idea these levels existed, I knew of the Paralympics, but I didn’t know that there was a beautiful and competitive landscape in disability sport. So one of the sports was blind football, I went along. That was a lot of ex-army guys, very aggressive. And I thought this is not for me. You’re gonna get your nose broken, lay enjoy hitting you, right. So and you know, I figured this is not for me. But then I was introduced to blind tennis. And I thought, well, how does blind tennis work, we’re all visually impaired, we’re not going to be able to see the ball. And very quickly, I was shown what it was, it was played down in Wimbledon, which is the home of British tennis, obviously. And I traveled down there. And I saw that this was brilliant. They were playing in sports halls at the time with an adaptive ball, which was basically a sponge ball with a bell in it and you get two bounces. If you’re partially sighted, you get three with a blindfold if you’re blind and you’re on smaller court. When I say blind 100% blind versus the grades of competitive sport, right, so your B1, B2, B3 is the different levels of site that you’re graded to compete. And I thought now this is a gentleman sport, I could really get involved in this. And I started playing it. And I was blown off the court by the younger kids and some of the more experienced players. And I thought, you know, how am I going to win this, I need to get fitter. So at that point, a leaflet dropped through my door on kickboxing at my home in London and I thought well, maybe a bit of hand eye coordination might be good. But I was advised that I can’t take a hit to the head. So I can’t do any contact fighting. But I could do choreographed fighting, which is effectively what kickboxing is you just learn, you know, strong core and balance and strength and all that goes with kickboxing. So I literally threw myself into kickboxing got to black belt and gave that up because that was really all you could do with kickboxing was just get a black belt as a result of getting fit with kickboxing. And like I say what I mean getting fit, I mean, doing 200 pushups and, you know, 100 kicks and all this kind of stuff. It’s like revolutionary, I was transforming my body. I was never getting into that kind of shape if I wasn’t going down that path. That led me to being super fit when it came to the competitive VI tennis, and I started to really win and I became British champion 3 times in a row. And then after 2012, you could see that the Paralympics in 2012 really set the world alight for disability sport that then created the international arena for cricket football tennis on the visually impaired circuits. And in 2018 we got invited when the GB team got invited to play in the world championships in Ireland. We had 30 countries turn up and it was a brilliant event and I’m proud to say that I want my site category against a Very, very good Mexican kid who has now gone on in 2019, he went on to win the title against, not against me, I got knocked out in the 70s. But the beauty of it is, today I’m well, I’m ex World Champion, and still world number two. And we await after COVID the reestablishment of the competitive circuit, for which my first tournament is next weekend in South Wales.
Rob Rothman: That’s fantastic. I mean, that’s unbelievable. I mean, you, you know, sort of take his skill set, adapted to your impairment and then sort of excel to become World Champion, you know, we’re not that dissimilar in that regard, I actually am told that I’m in pretty good shape to become the world champion, competitive eater, which is something that I’ve been working very hard on cultivating.
Paul Ryb: You gotta work on what you love. I wanted to make my kids proud, you know, because I didn’t want to be this guide and adjust. You know, I’ve been told, well, you’re not going to see so well again, and you’re not going to be able to drive, you’re not going to do this. And I thought, well, how can I still succeed and win. And so I was always looking for the angles and the edges. That’s what I’ve always done in life. And I thought, well, the VI game can’t be any different once you’ve once you get the edge once you understand the tech, the sport, that you know what’s available. And that all comes through the community and the peer support. And I was quite shy at the beginning. But once you start asking the questions and meeting likeminded people in the VI world, there’s so there’s a solution for everything you might want to do.
Rob Rothman: Yeah, it’s amazing. It seems like you’ve impressed your kids too. I mean, you have how many children, two?
Paul Ryb: I got two girls. Yeah.
Rob Rothman: And I’ve read some interesting, I’ve read a couple of very, very inspiring little pieces, I guess your daughters are one of your daughters wrote about you as a father, and how old were your kids when you first had significant visual loss?
Paul Ryb: So I was, well, it was 2007, when it really happened. Fast. And I basically had when my oldest was seven, one in 2000. And my youngest boy in 2002. So seven and five was when I really had a sea change in my behavior. But I like to think that I didn’t miss a step. And we carry on today, we’ve got a great relationship. They’re 21 and 19. Now finding their own ways in life. But yeah, we’ve learned a lot to go on overcoming challenges.
Rob Rothman: There. Well, it’s nice to see they’re pretty impressed by their dad. So you know, obviously you’ve had that impression on a lot of people. So you are working in the world of finance, you are learning to play competitive, visually impaired tennis, and yet you still have time somehow to become involved with pretty much every significant visual impaired, charitable organization. In England, you’ve been involved with the Royal National Institute of Blind, Macula Society, you’ve had a position with the National Health Service. So why don’t you go into a little bit about that and tell people the things that you’ve done outside of your investment activities to try and help the visual impaired population?
Paul Ryb: No, thanks, Robbie. First off, I took a selfish channel on all of this originally, which was, I need to figure out how I’m going to live with this condition. And it was clear to me there was no one stop shop. So I aligned myself early to the charities because, you know, they’re there to help. And, you know, people given donate to charities, because they think it’s the right thing to do. And it’s good thing to do, but when you actually need to call on them. And not only call on them, but that they help you and they really help you in terms of transforming your life and getting on the right path. It’s so important. And to me, I’ve never forgotten two or three key people that have been most influential in those early calls. Dennis Lewis, as I mentioned, he’s now retired, but he was a retired banker and counselor at the Macula Society, Blind In Business, Michael Kenny and Dan Mitchell in particular, really helped me and influenced me on those early choices about how I was going to get myself focused and not be depressed because so many, there’s so many opportunities for you to wallow in self-pity and be depressed and I was really lucky that these people, you know, helped me find solutions to those channels. So at that point, I thought well, the only places then to give something back and bearing in mind that a lot of these charities were very wealthy charities, you know, the RNIB, 100 million pound a year balance sheet charity was that they want your time, and they want your experience rather than your money necessarily, obviously they want your money, but they also want people to work with them to help others. So I thought, well I’ve got to help others because I was helped. So I got involved in joined the board of the RNIB as a trustee, and that was a very rewarding experience. I’m still very close with them as an organization and just recorded some podcasts for them, actually, which seems to be published. And I’m good friends with the chair. He’s a lovely lady called Anna Tyler who herself is also visually impaired, as are many involved with the society that the blind societies and the vice chairman of the Macula Society, they also were one of the very first organizations to help me greatly. And they’re one of the most active membership organizations for a community of visually impaired people. And through that, I obviously needed to understand technology and access technology. And so I was introduced to the best blind access technology company in the UK called Sight and Sound technology and they incident are coincident in my core sponsor for my tennis, Pickering. But, again, Glenn Tookey, who is the investor and owner of Sight and Sound, a brilliant man. Again, he took on the idea of investing in visually impaired technology and is now one of the biggest access technology companies in the UK, brilliant man. And I’d like to think of friends as well insofar as what he’s achieved. So I aligned myself with areas that could help me from a selfish perspective, but also where I could help them. And access tech and charity seem to be the best place to be to really channel peer support in the VI community. From there, I was then invited to be an annual lecturer at the City University for optometry students. So as part of their training that three-to-five-year training, they don’t really get to meet visually impaired people along the way, we’re still a bit of a minority when it comes to the idea of a visual impairment and an eye disease, which is obviously beyond just simple refractive error process. So I went along three or four years ago now to deliver a lecture on living and succeeding with sight loss to the City University of London. And I’ve gone back every year. And last year was my biggest actually even on zoom, we ended up with I think, 85 delegates signed into to listen to that lecture, which was very rewarding as well. So I like to think I’m giving back and taking in equal measure. But and as we’ll probably get on to in our discussion, that’s really still not enough for me, because I got to a point now where I’m 50 years old thinking, well, this is all very exciting. But there’s more to this sector than just the access technology in the charities, there’s the desire and will to really think about how are we going to find cures for the various conditions that we’re all inflicted with. And I was shocked and staggered still to this day that I found myself in more fields in 2007, where the doctor the world leading doctor in macular disease would say to me, well, there’s no medicine, there’s no registered treatment, in anywhere in the world for dry macular disease. And I said, well, that’s got to be one of the largest unmet needs in, you know, sort of biotech and that always got me thinking that, you know, really, there’s either a dearth or a glut of investment or opportunity in ophthalmic biotech. And that’s always bugged me. And all I can say, Rob, is I’m gonna make you blush is that, you know, last year, purely whether it’s serendipitous or not, I was looking, as I always am for opportunities and solutions to my own condition, knowing that the clock’s ticking, so maybe in 10-15 years, I may get another step change with this macular disease where it gets another grade worse. And I then saw obviously, the announcement in November from Lineage Cell Therapeutics, which announced that a patient had a reversal or an improvement in dry macular, the world’s first-rate registered example of an improvement in my own condition. And you yourself were on the panel on the platform presenting at one of their web forums. And you talked about the ophthalmic market as a whole and the ophthalmic venture capital market, and that really captured my imagination. And I thought to myself, well, here I am with 30 years investment banking experience. I know everybody from all the top guys in the main hospitals. In eye research in the UK, I know all the charities, I know the communities, I know the access tech, the diagnostics, and I should really get involved in ophthalmic venture capital. This is my time to think about doing something like this. This is a bringing together of all that I’ve learned and all that I know in terms of both my network and knowledge and do something good. And I’ve started small insofar as I signed some NDA with some companies that were pioneering with some solutions for various countries. In eye disease, I started to do some research in the global eye disease market opportunity. And it’s an extraordinary market in terms of growth. Sadly, as we’re all getting older, and we’re all using computer screens, and there’s so many reasons why eye diseases becoming ever more prevalent at all different age groups, but obviously largely more so in the older age people. And I got excited that I should therefore get involved. And as a result, I’ve thought about setting up my own venture capital fund, as we talked about all inspired really from what you’ve achieved with Infocus. And as a result of that, I’ve literally got meetings and calls to embark on now, in July and August with a view to raising capital specifically for the ambition is investing in innovative biotech startups dedicated towards larger.
Rob Rothman: So that really, so the next I would imagine, stage of your life, as you’ve just alluded to, is going to be to try and identify promising companies, promising technologies, promising opportunities, and potentially develop your own financial vehicle with which to invest in those companies, is that a fair statement?
Paul Ryb: That’s the first statement, I think, again, it was a slide you put up Rob, which was that, in the year 2000, there were no drugs or treatments for macular disease of any kind. And then there started to be treatments for the wet macular disease market. And here we are 20 years later, with a 10-$15 billion a year revenue market for the wet AMD market. And I thought, wow, that’s amazing. But meanwhile, 90% of the macular disease market is the dry kind, which is what I’ve got. And I’m thinking, well, that’s 10 times bigger, a market but yet here we are in 2021, with no treatments for this condition. And I thought to myself, well, if I don’t do anything, where I don’t try and work with all the likeminded people that I’ve met, then I’m going to get to 60 years old, and I’m going to lose the rest of my useful sight. And I will have done nothing to try and avert that. So I figured I’ve got 10 good years left of trying my damnedest to fix this situation for not just for me from a selfish perspective, but for the global market of dry macular disease, which just so happens to be the biggest market of unmet need in the world of ophthalmology.
Rob Rothman: Yeah, it’s, you know what we’ll have to next time you’re in New York we have to have to go out to dinner with Steve Saltzstein and Steve Saltzstein runs a Force Family network, which is a Family Office Services network. And we have a personal connection to long story, but he was actually my wife’s first boyfriend, don’t ask. And I’ve known him for a long time. And we got acquainted, and he asked me to host that interview with Lineage, you know, based on my expertise, as an ophthalmologist, and also as a venture capitalist specializing in ophthalmology and lineage is very exciting company, and they’ve just had some very positive data and, you know, very, very excited to continue to watch them develop their technology we’ve in Infocus have come across, you know, we’ve evaluated hundreds of companies over the last two years, focusing on all areas of eye disease, but, you know, dry macular degeneration is, is sort of the Holy Grail. And there are some promising things hopefully out there. And I think from a selfish perspective, you know, I think one of the differentiators of what we do is that we are run by ophthalmologists with finance experience, and we’re motivated to find better treatments, because we see what happens to patients now when we think that medicine can do better. And we’re going to go out there and find those things. You have the same motivation, from the perspective of actually having that disease. And you just happen to have a finance background. I think that it’s unfortunate that you’ve been afflicted this way. But there’s an opportunity here for this to be really meaningful because you’re motivated to find the answer.
Paul Ryb: Yeah, you know what, Rob, though, one thing that I’ve always modeled, and I use this a lot is that technology cured blindness five years ago, by embedding at source what Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google have done for accessibility is incredible and transformational. And I mean that in terms of the financial impact, it’s free at the point of source. I was lucky I was at an investment bank, which meant that any of the software or hardware that was available, I could purchase right through my employment. But that didn’t mean that there was accessibility in though, you know, 5-10 years ago, there wasn’t that level of accessibility available to the masses to live a seamless or equally opportunistic life. Today, technology is embedded at source and available. In the mainstream. Some of the most prolific products were origin out of blindness. So audio books, for example, it’s one of the most mainstream considerations or podcasts that beautiful products that the blind and visually impaired can truly access and benefit information form from. And I was always struck with the fact that technology has evolved very rapidly, as we know. But yet on the medical front, we’ve not really seen the breakthroughs in so many of the eye disease conditions that one would hope for. But there is some super exciting stuff in the AI and diagnostics stuff, way over and above the drug and device level areas investments, so access tech, AI and diagnostics, I thought were particularly interesting and powerful. And that’s largely why I was very excited about the idea or the dynamic idea of a venture capital fund that would therefore encapsulate those five themes across ophthalmology. So not just drugs and devices, obviously, as important as they are, obviously include those but adding in the access tech, the AI and the diagnostic elements in ophthalmology. There’s some exciting things right here and right now that need funding. And for early-stage seed funding is it’s not called the valley of death for no reason; it is the toughest and hardest area to raise finance. And that’s where I thought I could really channel some of my knowledge and experience in helping some of these exciting projects, get off the ground and give them a chance to really catch up with the market need.
Rob Rothman: Yeah, I think it’s fascinating. I think that one of the one of the things that was sort of motivating for both, you know, my partner, Ron Weiss, who’s my partner on a venture fund, and I was that as we started to move, you know, more and more into the world of venture capital financing of early technology was that we heard continuously over and over again, that there’s a severe paucity of high-quality capital for early investment. And unfortunately, that’s when the quality of the capital needs to be the highest. Because it’s the quality of that capital, that increases the probability of success of these companies. And I think that’s why, what you eventually do in this space will be somewhat transformative. Because if you know, there’s enough high-quality capital out there, funding early investments, we will see success, that there is technology that will succeed out there. And what we need is to make sure that the right companies are funded, who have the greatest potential to move forward. And it’s just there’s not enough money, there just isn’t enough money. And risk profiles have changed and investment horizons for you know, larger VCs tend to be somewhat unattainable for early companies. And some of these companies just need you know, a little bit of tender loving care and enough capital move to an inflection point where they can really just explode. And, and, you know, we hope we have those in our portfolio. And we think that there’s a lot more of those companies out there as well. So,
Paul Ryb: I mean, I also would say that eye disease, it comes a poor, second really or poor comes really low down the list on the public’s consciousness for major problems. So cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, all of those concentrated conditions, obviously have a lot more traction, capital and press in a consolidated way than eye disease. And, you know, my understanding is that there’s just too much fragmentation in the way in which the world looks at visually impaired or eye disease or refractive error problems. They don’t consider it as one problem. It’s that is largely why there isn’t the same amount of effort that goes into the eye disease market. But yet, all the data that I’ve looked at shows that eye disease and vision loss which ultimately leads to greater problems, but eye disease itself is actually the largest one of the largest and fastest growing problems of disability in the in the world today. And figures from the WHO, UN etc. Put it as you know, really accelerating that growth and doubling over the next 10-15 years. So it’s a really serious problem. Both in the developed and in the underdeveloped world. Many cases of blindness are unnecessary and could be prevented. And many cases of visual impairment and eye disease can be helped and improved. With the right care and the right attention, the right obviously supports and therefore the whole living and succeeding with a disability, but then investing in the future, cures and generations for finding solutions really brings together the whole ethos of event. Capital Fund was you’re able to have an impact a day, on people’s lives with certain conditions. So through access tech, or through AI and diagnostics, as well as investing in the drugs and devices for tomorrow, which really yield a return. So that’s why I’m very excited in this space right now because I think we will have a chance to bring it together.
Rob Rothman: That well, I hate to, you know, be done with interviews at any point, but I’m sure we could go on for about another 10 hours, you know, having so much commonality here. But I think that I will sort of summarize this with this simple statement that I am fairly confident that your past history of success and your current motivation, from the personal perspective that you’ve unfortunately been placed into that you will succeed. And you will be somehow responsible for helping to solve some of these problems. One way or the other, using, you know, the skill sets that you have, as far as I can tell, I’m not sure you really know how to fail. So good for you. And, and I’m looking forward personally to working with you. So that we can both sort of align ourselves in a way that will achieve, you know, common goals, which is ultimately to, you know, help people and I think we’ll I think we’ll do it.
Paul Ryb: I think we will, we’ll certainly be the ones that are going to try.
Rob Rothman: So Paul Ryb, thank you so much for taking time with us today. Thank you to OIS for allowing me to have this conversation. And hopefully people will listen to this, be inspired. And obviously seek you out and, you know, hopefully help you in ways that you might need to be helped. But again, thank you again, Paul. And thanks again to the OIS listening audience. I am looking forward to future podcasts down the road. Thanks again, Paul.
Paul Ryb: Thanks, Rob. It’s been a pleasure.
Meet Our Hosts
STAY UP TO DATE WITH OIS
Get the Latest News, Podcasts and Videos.