Startups founded by women or people of color often don’t raise as much capital from investors. For example, companies founded by women received just 2.4% of all capital invested in venture-backed startups in the US last year, and black founders raised only 1.4% of all 2021 funding.
Recognizing these statistics as unacceptable, Julien Pham founded the Boston-based venture capital firm Third Capital of Culture (3CC) with the mission of promoting more equity and diversity in health technology innovation.
“Having been in health care for several decades, I can tell you that some of the most talented people are actually founders who are women, people of color and immigrants,” Pham said last week in HLTH in Las Vegas. “And the challenge is that these people tend to be underfunded and overlooked because they haven’t necessarily been exposed to the right universities, programs, etc. So we’re trying to counter that by investing and over-indexing these individuals just so they can have fair access to capital.”
3CC intentionally connects to the “unique experiences” of the founders it invests in, according to Pham. With this approach, the venture firm ensures that it doesn’t just check its diversity boxes.
He pointed to Robbie Felton, CEO of Intus Care, as an example of a founder who stood out to 3CC. Intus Care, a predictive analytics platform designed to improve care outcomes among geriatric patients, was founded in 2019 by three students at Brown University. Felton created the startup with his classmates because of the experiences he had with his mother growing up—she was a geriatric social worker in Detroit and often took him with her on home visits to see her elderly and disabled patients.
“If you hear Robbie’s story, you know he’s uniquely qualified to do what he does because of the work he’s done with his mother. You can try to say he hasn’t worked in this industry, but he’s heard the stories and understands the pain points,” Pham said. “That’s what we care about. We want to understand what drives founders.”
When 3CC evaluates startups and decides how to deploy its capital, the firm is not necessarily focused on technology. Rather, 3CC is interested in finding out how the founders plan to use this technology to make a difference, according to Pham. He said startups are needed to answer the question, “How do you bring outside-the-box thinking to care delivery so you can really innovate?”
The startups 3CC supports should focus on the quadruple aim of healthcare, Pham said. The quadruple aim refers to the ability to improve health outcomes, reduce the cost of care, and improve the care experience for both patients and providers.
If startups want to prove to 3CC that they are making progress on the quadruple aim, they need to collect data. If a startup isn’t advanced enough to create its own data, Pham said they can make a case using proxy data from surveys and reports.
“At the end of the day, you have to highlight the change you’re making and you have to demonstrate that you’re building a group of stakeholders who want to partner with you,” he said.
Photo: Irina Devaeva, Getty Images