Among the thrills I experience in working in the health science industry are the amazing changes that happen.
One of those is happening now. Let’s call it “angels on a mission”.
The Back Story
For context, innovation in the health sciences happens everywhere. Yet, a distinct gap sits before our eyes. Investment firms avoid funding solutions to female health care issues. Run predominantly by men, the firms are “uncomfortable” addressing such issues, even when they are likely to make exceptional returns on their investment.
It’s an irrational problem, especially when we consider:
- Women now own a majority of the US wealth;
- Women are the market makers for 65% of VC-backed companies;
- Only .05% of women invest and share in the rewards, as they lean more to philanthropic giving;
- There are 5 million accredited women who can be investors in the US.; and
- Capable women have solutions for women’s health issues and are certainly able to produce good returns for their work
I understand some male investors may have inhibitions about discussing female anatomy on Monday morning business meetings, but this is a huge underserved market!
In Come the Angels
A movement is happening to address this. Bands of women angel investment organizations are floating to help. Pipeline Angels, #Angels, Broadway Angels, Astia Angels and Portfolia investors are driving a major bump in angel investing by women. According to a Harvard study in 2017, 18% of angels before 2002 were women. Today, 30% are women.
Among these, Portfolia’s angels are most on a mission.
Portfolia’s angel network aims to funnel more than $1 billion into start-ups addressing women’s health issues by 2020. They plan to solve this gap by engaging at least 100,000 women investors. The aim is to invite affluent women to consider investing in start-ups that address relevant issues about which they care. More importantly, Trish Costello, founder and CEO of the investing platform Portfolia has a holistic plan. She understands women new to investing need to learn how to do well at it. Drawing from her leadership of the Kauffman Fellows career development program for venture capital investors for more than a decade, she created a method that teaches investors while investing wisely. Out goes the traditional angel network in which investors make their own decisions about pitches and write their own checks. Portfolia operates more as a micro-VC. Investors can join a fund with as little as $10,000. Each fund is lead by a small group of seasoned investors who manage deal flow and conduct the due diligence while teaching the investors during the process. Novices and veterans collaborate: angels teach angels.
This shift is important.
The many women health-related issues — too long ignored – will now get attention.
For example, vSculpt, was invented and developed by Colette Coution, a young female entrepreneur who personally suffered from pelvic floor issues. Having been turned down by several male-run investment firms, she succeeded with the support of Portfolia and other Seattle angel investors. She has built a successful, global company with a product that solves an important condition for women.
Women CEOs are addressing challenges related to risks of childbirth, urinary tract infections, vaginal atrophy, early stage cancer detection, access to health information, as a few coming to market. Companies such as Madorra.com are focused on a target market well-understood by women executives who run them.
These women CEOs — emerging as serious leaders of problem-solving, valuable enterprises — will need capable talent to bring solutions to consumers. This will take a special lens to source talent passionate about addressing this market and are more than comfortable with women’s needs and expectations. That does not imply a bias for women staff, as diversity and gender balance in business holds true as much for this industry as does for all. A balance of competent people who can address the market with solid solutions will be crucial.
Additionally, CEOs will need access to key opinion leaders and thought leaders to support their health care agenda, along with professionals who have regulatory expertise, as this industry category expands and takes on more scrutiny. Talent demands will also include experienced board directors who can support strategies for scaling and sustainable growth and investors who understand this market, its potential.
During my career, the health sciences industry has always been dynamic. While we – at CFOs2GO – are here to address the earthly talent needs for this emerging category – I am grateful the angels are with us!