A decade ago, three healthcare executives in Boston started working together and quickly recognized a troubling trend – the lack of diversity in venture capital within health care. With 90 percent of VC dollars allocated to companies that don’t have diversity at the leadership level, they saw an opportunity and eventually started their own firm Seae Ventures.
Seae Ventures is dedicated to building and investing in early-stage healthcare technology and services companies primarily founded by women and people who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color. The co-founders have had proven success in venture, corporate strategy, innovation, and human capital. Their tenure within the healthcare industry led them to start Zaffre Investments, the venture arm of a Boston based non-for-profit health plan, and then Seae Ventures in 2019 to balance the needs of patients, providers, and payers by investing in diverse entrepreneurs with high growth potential.
“We observed common stereotypes in the VC community. The startups that were receiving funding were mostly white and male. Funding only 2 percent of startups founded by women or people of color ignores the diversity of the nation, and will not bring the greatest innovation to health care, or any industry for that matter, but health care historically lags behind others industries,” said Tuoyo Louis, managing partner of Seae Ventures. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequities in underserved and marginalized communities” he continued. “This is not surprising. By finding and investing in startups with leadership that reflects and understand these communities, we can close the gap in these inequities.”
The expert knowledge of the healthcare industry and passion to seek new solutions for previously ignored populations has become the mission of co-managing partners Louis, Jason Robart and Pete Sally. Their vision is what caught the eye of Blue Shield of California, which has decided to invest.
“Blue Shield of California is committed to providing all Californians with access to high-quality health care at an affordable price," said Sandra Clarke, CFO, Blue Shield of California. "To achieve our vision, we know that we need to overcome access and equity roadblocks that currently exist within the healthcare system.
“Partnering with Seae, experienced healthcare investors focused on funding women and diverse entrepreneurs, will bring valuable new approaches, perspective and ideas to our members and communities, with the ultimate goal of realizing a healthcare system that is worthy of our family and friends.”
Seae Ventures is dedicated to seeking out diverse founders who are exploring health care technology and service solutions within mental health, women’s health, personalized health and finance categories.
For Blue Shield, the nonprofit health plan is also focused on addressing needs within these areas as it seeks to bring broader transformation to the healthcare system as a whole to improve the health, wellness and lives of individuals, families and communities.
This investment is an early step in Blue Shield’s efforts to reimagine health that brings diversity, equity and inclusion when providing everyone with access to quality care.