While many venture capital firms are in triage mode, advising their portfolio companies on how to survive the coronavirus crisis, others are looking specifically for new opportunities generated by the pandemic.
On Tuesday, New Media Ventures, a 10-year-old investment fund based in San Francisco, announced that it's creating a $1-2 million Crisis Innovation Fund in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. NMV has had an early hand in companies like Upworthy (merged with Good Worldwide), CrowdTangle (acquired by Facebook), and Blavity (which Google Ventures backed in a later round) along with progressive political groups like Flippable and Swing Left. The fund will be making grants and investments between $25,000 and $250,000 on a rolling basis.
The fund will target companies and organizations serving communities directly impacted by the virus and its economic fallout. It will also seek to support groups encouraging civic engagement and rethinking how people vote, work, and relate in the post-pandemic nation. Other funds are springing up as well, including one created by former Y Combinator head Sam Altman to speed the creation of technology and medical innovations to fight the outbreak.
"In the last four weeks there has been an enormous wellspring of entrepreneurial innovation," says Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, newly-installed president of NMV. "In a moment like this, you have to respond to the new rather than sticking to your existing plan. And in this case, our job is to fund the most important progressive innovations this year that work."
That means, per the fund's release, seeking out and supporting "founders with direct experience in the problems facing their communities -- especially people of color, LGBTQ, poor, and vulnerable communities -- who will be hardest hit by the pandemic."
Stinebrickner-Kauffman is hopeful that entrepreneurs will play a major role in helping people during this crisis as well as rebuilding the economy in the coming years. "The kinds of innovations that individuals are launching in their homes right now are going to save hundreds, thousands, and, in some cases, tens of thousands of lives," she says. "Everybody in the world right now should be reevaluating their strategy in every form. Whether that's your business, your revenue strategy, or your impact strategy."