Startups founded by women or people of color often don’t raise 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 just 1.4% of all funding in 2021.
Recognizing that these statistics are unacceptable, Julian Pham founded Third Culture Capital (3CC), a Boston-based venture capital firm with a mission to promote more equality and diversity in health technology innovation.
“I’ve been in healthcare for decades and I can tell you that some of the most talented people are actually founders, that’s women, people of color and immigrants,” Pham said last week. ht at Vegas. “And the challenge is that these individuals are underfunded and overlooked, not necessarily because they’ve been exposed to the right universities, programs, etc. individuals just to get good access to capital.
According to Pham, 3CC is consciously about connecting to the founders’ “unique lived experiences” in which it invests. With this approach, the venture firm ensures that it is not just ticking its diversity boxes.
He pointed to Robbie Felton, CEO of Intus Care, as an example of a founder who stood out for 3CC. Intus Care, a predictive analytics platform designed to improve care outcomes for geriatric patients, was founded in 2019 by three graduate students at Brown University. Felton built the startup with her classmates because of her mother’s experiences growing up — she was a geriatric social worker in Detroit, and she often took them on home visits to see her elderly and disabled patients. Used to be
“When you listen to Robbie’s story, you know that he is uniquely qualified because of the work he has done with his mother. You can try to say she shouldn’t have worked in that industry. But he’s heard the stories and he understands the pain points,’ Pham said. “That’s what matters to us. We want to understand what motivates founders.”
When 3CC evaluates startups and decides how to allocate capital, the company doesn’t necessarily focus on technology. Instead, 3CC is interested in how founders plan to use that technology to drive change, Pham said. He said he needed startups to answer the question, “How do you bring out-of-the-box thinking into healthcare so you can really innovate?”
Pham stated that the startups supporting 3CC should focus on the quadruple goal of healthcare. The quadruple goal refers to the potential to improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare costs and improve the healthcare experience for both patients and providers.
If startups want to prove to 3CC that they are making progress towards the quadruple goal, they need to collect data. If a startup isn’t smart enough to produce its own data, Pham said they can make a case using proxy data from studies and reports.
“Ultimately, you have to make a point about the change you’re trying to make, and you have to prove that you’re building a pipeline of interested parties willing to work with you,” he said.
Photo: Irina Devaeva, Getty Images