Marcus Whitney aims to jumpstart Black-owned health care in Nashville – Nashville Business Journal – Nashville Business Journal


Despite creating more wealth in Nashville than any of the city’s other industries, Black people have largely been excluded from health care’s wealth generation.
For Marcus Whitney, Jumpstart Nova is the first step in changing that.
Last month, Jumpstart Nova announced its first venture fund, with $55 million to invest exclusively in Black founder-led health care companies. 
The fund is oversubscribed $25 million from its original $30 million goal.
Jumpstart Nova’s investors and strategic partners include some of the biggest names in U.S. health care and banking, including Eli Lilly and Co., Cardinal Health, Atrium Health, Henry Ford Health System, LHC Group, American Hospital Association and Bank of America. 
Local partners or investors include HCA Healthcare Inc., Meharry Medical College, Pinnacle Financial Partners, FirstBank, Ingram Industries, Vanderbilt University and Truxton Trust. 
Jumpstart Nova aims to address inequities in the number of health care companies owned by Black founders by maintaining Black-owned general partners, growing the number of Black venture capital partners and venture capital professionals, generating good returns and investing in innovative Black founders. 
Whitney —  one of Nashville’s most prominent entrepreneurs — said Jumpstart Nova has already made four investments, ranging from biotech startups to a food allergy management tech startup. 
We sat down with Whitney to learn how he’s connecting with Black-founded health care companies across the country and what role the fund’s big name partners will play in helping portfolio companies succeed.
How did you go about raising funds for Jumpstart Nova? The money-raising process took a year-and-a-half. We had our first close in December 2020, and we closed $10 million, all from individuals. We’ve had a close each quarter of 2021, basically $10 million per close, but then in the fourth quarter our demand increased and we added a $15 million close. It was a lot of conversations. Our messaging was very, very clear, if you had a copy of our [pitch] deck — the first Black health care venture fund in America. So, we felt like it was a big qualifier right out of the gate, as to whether this was something that was going to resonate with [an investor] or not. 
How many investors did the fund attract? Almost 100 partners. that’s a pretty big number of limited partners for a $55 million fund but I think, in our case, it’s great to have volume. A big part of what is going to make this fund successful is the assistance that the companies can get. We have so many experienced, successful health care executives, founders and investors and having a lot of people on board makes it more like a movement, to the benefit of the portfolio. 
Are most of your investors from Nashville, or did you reach out nationally? We do have reach across the United States, but Nashville showed up big time, no question about it, especially in the first close. I think that was super helpful as we started to go out of the city. It’s helpful that Nashville has such a strong health care ecosystem, that not only did we have local people who had invested, but when you look at the names they are very respected names.
What role are you hoping those large institutions play in the portfolio, outside of their financial commitment? They can help us, as fund managers, to validate or invalidate some of the opportunities that we see. It would be foolish of me when I see an opportunity that relates to a particular segment that we’ve got a strong partner, to not go to them before we make an investment to get their thoughts. I believe we have a very strong financial case, but there is no question that in many of these cases, this investment helped organizations walk down the path to achieving their own diversity, equity and inclusion goals. 
You said you have more than 100 startups in your pipeline that are looking for investments. How are you finding these companies and entrepreneurs? Word travels. … Just through networking, through our email inbox. Through the process of fundraising, people are hearing the story and saying, “You should talk to [whomever].” That was great for getting the word out to Black founders in this space that we were in market. We didn’t wait till we launched to make our first four investments. 
How many investments are you hoping to make each year and how much do you think the average investment will be? I can’t say an average yet. … We’re literally aggregating the first data that anyone has ever aggregated on the Black health care ecosystem. … We do think that we’ll do 20 deals over the course of the investment period for fund one. … We believe that we can build an incredible community of founders that can help each other, if only in swapping stories and supporting each other as they go through their journeys in building great companies. 
Is there a particular sector of health care Jumpstart Nova is targeting for investment, or does making an investment depend more on the founders and the startups? It depends more on the founders and more on the startup. Health care innovation and venture capital have probably never been this exciting. … Covid has absolutely changed health care for good. … I think the changes have been so severe, specifically to the labor base, that the way that health care is delivered and the way we operate just has to change. That brings a lot of opportunity [to bring] innovators into this space that frankly haven’t been there in previous years.
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