Investing in Healthcare Founders of Color with Marcus Whitney and Kathryne Cooper

Twende: Rethinking Entrepreneurship is a production of the EC, and it’s all about engaging in open and honest conversations with incredible Black and LatinX business experts, investors, and founders. Twende is Kiswahili for “let’s go!” It’s our rally cry here at the EC and represents the vibrant passion to level the playing field for entrepreneurs of color. Join us in Episode 5 where we hear from Marcus Whitney and Kathryne Cooper, founder and partner of the first black founded healthcare venture fund in America: Jumpstart Nova.

Growing Up

This partnership is truly serendipitous as these two grew up on opposite sides of the U.S. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Marcus lived with his mother, who was a credit manager, and his father who was a corrections officer and then a postal worker. Marcus fondly recalls his mom as being a working woman in New York City. 

Kathryne jokingly refers to her childhood home life as the “Black Beverly Hills” and seeing her parents successfully work together in partnership. Her father was a pediatric physician and her mother managed his business affairs. She looked up to her parents and appreciated how they always made the time to take her to her sports games and extracurricular activities. Her life drastically changed in college when her father died of lung cancer, causing her to look at medicine through a different lens. 

Discovering a Unique Entrepreneurial Path

Kathryne and Marcus discovered each other serendipitously during the pandemic. Kathryne jokingly refers to Marcus as a “random” because he came into the picture during a very pivotal time of her life. She sent over the “secret sauce” of a short email, and the two became partners of a shared passion. 

Marcus recognized a problem within his industry. Marcus knew that a solution could be found by people who were not being invited to the table. He channeled this energy to begin a healthcare venture fund entitled Jumpstart Nova. He knew that this would be a massive undertaking and was led by fate to his future partner, Kathryne Cooper. 

Kathryne and Marcus had a goal of raising $30M in order to run a successful fund, and they ended up raising $55M. They use this financial backing in order to support and advise healthcare companies that are black founded and led. When in the process of finding new companies in which to invest, Kathryne makes it clear that she does not want to set criteria. She says this is because setting criteria is what caused these business leaders to get excluded in the first place, and one can miss out on an interesting business due to this filtration process. 

Meet the Companies in the Portfolio 

Jumpstart Nova currently has five companies within their portfolio. The first is DrugViu, which is a platform for patients with an autoimmune disease to help collect their records from all of the providers they have worked with. Cellevolve, a cell and gene therapy commercial company, is included as well. The next company is Teamwork Healthcare, a tech enabled service for families with children with autism, helping them get the necessary applied behavior analysis help that they need. Allergy, a platform involving innovative therapeutics for patients with allergies. And finally, Intus Care, which is a big data analysis company, for providers that are serving dual eligible populations.

Jumpstart Nova continues to assist black founded and led healthcare venture companies and are continuing to expand their portfolio.

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