Jumpstart Nova’s Kathryne Cooper on Funding More Diverse Health Care Startups


On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Kathryne Cooper introduces Jumpstart Nova, a new $55 million fund investing in seed and Series A companies led by Black founders who are focused on health care innovation.

Cooper, an L.A.-native, previously managed an accelerator that made over 150 investments into medical technology companies. She’s a graduate of Stanford and went to medical school at USC. Later, she would return to the school to get her MBA while working at health tech startups.

Jumpstart’s other partner, Marcus Whutney, works out of Nashville and created the fund in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests and the discussions about racial inequities they prompted. Cooper said the events made Whutney think about health inequities “and specifically his position of power as the only Black VC in Nashville.”

The pandemic was another wakeup call about the disparities in the health care system, especially for people of color, said Cooper.

“There are disparities in our health care system, in terms of health care outcomes affecting communities of color,” Cooper said. “And data has emerged as the disparities in health care outcomes for those who had COVID-19, adversely affecting Black and brown patients—even independent of comorbidities.”

Cooper said research has found that the health care industry, like many others, chronically under-invests in Black and brown leaders.

“Because health care is here to impact and improve patient lives, […] sometimes it can get a pass for other things—like not being particularly diverse, or having a lack of executives who are women and people of color at certain levels in health care organizations,” she said.

But Jumpstart doesn’t limit its focus to companies working on health care disparities. It also invests in founders focused on a range of health issues.

“Just because you are a founder of color, or woman, or in this case, let’s say Black founders, that doesn’t mean that your solution needs to solve a health equity issue. It can also solve issues for all patients,” Cooper said.

Jumpstart Nova looks at a wide range of opportunities within health care—everything from tech enabled services, biotech, health IT to diagnostic devices.

If she comes across a promising startup, Cooper said she will often reach out to their strategic limited partners, which are made up of some of the nation’s leading health care companies, including Cardinal Health, the American Hospital Association, Atrium Health and Eli Lilly, among others.

“When we’re looking at companies to invest in, we also want to see if there’s some way that they may also fit into an ecosystem related to our strategic limited partners,” she said.

Cooper hopes that Jumpstart Nova’s focus on under-invested founders can also help spur other investors and VCs to look at the type of founders they’re investing in.

“If they all kind of over-index in one area, [then they might] ask themselves why that is. Is it a network issue? Is it that you are tending to overlook these founders? You know, I don’t know what the answer is. But I encourage people to kind of look at the data and see what it says to you,” said Cooper.

Hear the full episode by clicking on the playhead above, and listen to LA Venture on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

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