This year was the fourth in JJIV's growing partnership with Village Capital, which supports impact-driven, early-stage startups through sector-specific accelerators. Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures (JJIV) is an impact investment fund within the Johnson & Johnson Foundation.
Our work together, focused on health equity, emerged from deep alignment around their vision of “a future where business builds equity and long-term prosperity.” Over time, it has become one of our most critical mechanisms for improving the ecosystem of healthcare innovation—not only through the accelerators we’ve funded, but Village Capital’s own work to “flip the scripts” of inequitable power dynamics in venture capital more broadly. Our partnership has even led some accelerator alumni to readiness for direct investment in our own portfolio, including Clinify Health and Certintell.
This year, we launched the U.S. Health Equity Alumni program to further deepen our support for founders we’ve already supported through Village Capital programs—and all of whom have been dedicated to advance solutions for health equity. All alumni were invited to participate in expert-led workshops about business growth and health equity, with six companies selected through an application process—CliniSpan Health, KovaDx, PharmD Live, SageSurfer, SpeechMED and Viora Health—to gain specialized technical and communications resources.
In honor of all alumni and the progress we’ve made with Village Capital to date, we also hosted an all-alumni community event at Johnson & Johnson’s world headquarters in New Jersey. Entrepreneurs gathered for mental health sessions, opportunities to practice business pitches and networking meetings with J&J staff and stakeholders.
We asked the six alumni companies mentioned above how these programs and the final event strengthened their readiness for investment and achievement of key growth milestones.
CliniSpan Health (Durham, NC) operates a software platform that aims to increase access to clinical trials among communities and patients of color.
Dezbee McDaniel, CEO and Co-Founder of CliniSpan Health: "The Village Capital and JJIV teams were instrumental in helping us understand what investors are looking for at each stage, particularly the seed stage. We knew very well by the time we were done with the program.
Our team was drawn to think even more ambitiously about our approach to innovation and technology as we learned about others’ impactful health innovations. Hearing their stories of risk and creativity to bring innovations to life inspired us to think about how we can emulate some of that in our own stories."
KovaDx (New Haven, CT) is helping to bridge gaps in health access through optics and machine learning-based monitoring solutions to support drug discovery and development and remote patient monitoring for rare blood diseases, starting with Sickle Cell Disease.
Song Kim, CEO of KovaDx: "The program gave us practical help, like getting support for our tools through partnerships with Emerging Venture Capitalists Association fellows and an audit of our website that positioned us to better tell our story.
The mentors that spent time with us through the program were phenomenal. It was clear that they are invested in using innovation and tech to improve health equity and reduce disparities. They gave us not just very frank and valuable advice, but went above and beyond their official time commitments to follow up, do research and provide us with information most helpful and relevant to us.
Our team's biggest takeaway from the event was that there is a strong and diverse community of founders, operators, investors and industry ecosystem builders all driving towards the same vision of a more equitable healthcare system together."
PharmD Live (Washington, D.C.) offers a virtual pharmacist solution that provides medication, disease management and clinic partnerships to help prevent adverse drug events and patient deaths.
Cynthia Chioma Nwaubani, CEO and Founder of PharmD Live: "The program elevated our preparedness for engaging with potential investors. We acquired a nuanced understanding of investors' specific criteria, enabling us to align our business strategy more effectively with their expectations. This newfound knowledge empowered us to articulate our value proposition with greater precision, ultimately boosting our appeal and credibility in the eyes of potential backers.
Through the program, we were able to optimize our product offerings, which subsequently prompted us to undertake strategic refinements aimed at enhancing our patient capture rate. Additionally, the program facilitated the development of outcome-focused KPIs that are closely aligned with the evolving needs and preferences of our customer base.
Our team's most profound takeaway from the program revolved around the comprehensive exploration of impact categories we operate within. This exercise not only deepened our understanding of our own mission, but enabled us to strategically narrow down our investor target audience, ensuring alignment with our core values and impact objectives. Furthermore, the communications guidance and assistance was transformative. Their provision of an exemplary communications framework allowed us to craft a more compelling and effective narrative for our business. Altogether, the insights from the collection of advisors who supported us have proven to be a pivotal asset, offering a deeper understanding of our path forward.
Lastly, the opportunity to cross-pollinate with other founders has set the stage for potential synergistic collaborations."
SageSurfer (Sunnyvale, CA) is an omnichannel, behavioral health coordination platform designed to smoothly manage care for diverse populations with mild to severe mental illness.
Anupam Khandelwal, CEO and Co-Founder of SageSurfer: "The Village Capital & JJIV teams provided us with a platform to receive candid feedback from investors, specifically at the seed stage, to improve our pitch and be ready for fundraising. We also met with amazing advisors, specifically in our domain, who provided remarkable feedback and connected us with prospective customers to scale our business further.
We had an opportunity to learn from several founders and industry evangelists on how to build scalable solutions to address health inequities at scale. These were timely for us, and we have already started working with our customers and partners to build additional technology capabilities in our solution offering to further reduce health inequities."
SpeechMED (Miami, FL) offers an award-winning voice and language platform designed and built for immigrant households, the elderly and socioeconomically vulnerable populations to track, understand and monitor their health.
Susan Perry, CEO and Founder of SpeechMED: "Participation in the Village Capital and JJIV acceleration program significantly enhanced our investment-readiness. In addition to providing insights into market trends, valuations and what investors are looking for, we were mentored and networked with companies and executives of a caliber that we would normally not have access to. The invaluable insights from all consulting partners involved in the program equipped our team with industry-specific knowledge and strategies that are critical to attracting potential investors and managing our businesses and ourselves. Meeting with upper management of J&J provided us with a clear direction for achieving our milestones and understanding the nuances of the health startup ecosystem.
The program underscored the importance of leveraging innovation and technology to bridge health inequities. Being at J&J’s corporate hub exposed us to cutting-edge technologies and the vision of continued excellence. We were deeply inspired by the legacy and commitment of Johnson & Johnson employees to healthcare innovations and equity which serves as a beacon for companies like ours. This has galvanized our team to integrate these learnings into our offerings, ensuring that we are at the forefront of democratizing health solutions for all.
Our most significant takeaway from the event was the vast potential of collaborations and partnerships in driving impactful health solutions. The network and connections we made during the event have already opened doors to new opportunities, and we're excited about the path ahead.
This experience has been transformative for our team, and we're eager to continue this journey to bring equitable healthcare to those who are frequently forgotten and left behind."
Viora Health (Philadelphia, PA) offers a personalized engagement platform that boosts and scales existing healthcare workflows to help reduce costs of care, improve quality and access to care and empower patients with social needs.
Deboleena Dutta, CEO and Founder of Viora Health: "Participation in the program allowed us access to expertise on three key areas: impact measurement, marketing and fundraising. As a result, we walked away at the end of the program with tangible action items, some of which we have already implemented as we prepare for our fundraise in Q4 2023.
This program enabled us to get direct feedback from industry veterans and health equity experts so that we are now able to communicate much more clearly our differentiated technology innovation and the positive outcomes we have already achieved.
Our team’s biggest takeaway was to clarify the message on our website and presentations to be clear, concise and consistent. Based on specific feedback from marketing experts who conducted a website audit, we implemented changes to our website and our pitch deck to clarify our value proposition to investors and target customers. Now, we are testing this message and iterating as we pitch.
We are thankful for the timely opportunity, including resources, time and support from Village Capital and JJIV. Tangible services in our key areas of need, on top of access to a top-tier network of experts, accelerated our learning and fundraising ability."
We are proud to support these entrepreneurs with companies improving health equity around the world. Congratulations again to all!