Harlem Capital Partners
Nearing the end of his time at Harvard Business School, Henri Pierre-Jacques had an uncomfortable realization: He didn't want to work for a "non-minority-owned" firm. His background was in private equity, and minority-owned financial firms are rare. Already an active angel investor, he decided instead to start his own business. Teaming with colleagues Jarrid Tingle and Brandon Bryant, as well as entrepreneur John Henry, Pierre-Jacques founded Harlem Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in female, black, and Latinx founders. As of March 2019, Harlem Capital had closed on about $7.5 million of a proposed $25 million fund. The company now has four portfolio companies: men's skin care company Pangaea; health tech company Moving Analytics; supply chain software Sudu; and menstrual products maker Aunt Flow. The long-term goal: to raise a billion-dollar fund and invest in 1,000 diverse founders in the next 20 years.
A software platform maker that automates common care-management tasks so that care providers can better serve patients.
The year before leaving his home in Cape Town, South Africa, for Harvard, Joe Kahn got sick. "I was on my back for about a month," says Kahn, who has never been satisfactorily diagnosed. "I never really got better." He went to Harvard anyway, and found himself bounced around the U.S. health care system, unable to get answers. Feeling frustrated and isolated, Kahn realized that millions of people were even less equipped to navigate such complexity. He and Yasyf Mohamedali, an MIT student, raised $1.3 million from First Round Capital to launch Karuna Health, in San Francisco. The platform is used by patient-care managers--who may be employed by social service agencies, community-based organizations, and others that work with Medicaid recipients--to help those coping with educational, financial, social, or logistical barriers to health care. All patient communications--scheduling appointments, arranging transportation for appointments, checking on worrisome symptoms--take place through the platform. Patients can send and receive messages through any media, including SMS, email, text, phone, and WhatsApp. "For the care team, it is like a shared inbox to manage every single touch point with patients," says Kahn. "For the patient, it is like texting a friend." --Leigh Buchanan
Love Your Melon
An apparel brand that gives 50 percent of its profits to organizations helping to fight pediatric cancer.
When Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller borrowed $3,500 from family and friends to manufacture 400 hats during an entrepreneurship class in college, their professors “were a little freaked out.” But the “buy one, give one” business model was already well established, and the founders’ plan--to sell comfortable, fashionable beanies that would stand up to the Minnesota winters, and, for each hat sold, to donate one to a child fighting cancer--took off. The company enlisted an army of college students to deliver hats, and within a year had reached its goal of giving hats to all 45,000 kids with cancer in the U.S. Now, Love Your Melon also donates half its profits to cancer-related nonprofit partners. The business is inherently seasonal, so the founders are brimming with new ideas to expand their philanthropic efforts and revenue streams. The company now sells scarves, shawls, blankets, and other apparel--”anything that you think of when you want to stay warm,” says Quinn--and recently introduced a line of beanies made from recycled plastic bottles. A physical store in Minneapolis, which opened last fall, is also a studio and event space; the founders are considering pop-up locations in other cities. -- Sophie Downes
A maker of a disease-detection platform that uses gene editing-technology known as Crispr.
Diagnosing illnesses can require several tests and days of waiting for lab results--and it still isn't always accurate. In 2018, Trevor Martin and several classmates joined forces with Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna to form Mammoth Biosciences, with the goal of using the gene-editing tool Crispr, to make diagnostics faster, simpler, and more precise. Mammoth says it is developing technology that uses saliva or urine samples to nearly instantly diagnose diseases, such as malaria and HPV. Using Crispr proteins, the company creates tests that detect a virus's genetic code in a person's cells. If a disease is present in the sample, the liquid will change color, indicating a positive test. Currently, the company is pre-revenue and focused on refining its technology and earning Food and Drug Administration approval. It is also looking to integrate its product into existing lab and hospital tests to make them faster and more accurate. The long-term goal is to create tests that people would be able to perform by themselves at home. "We've assembled literally the best Crispr team that you can possibly put together," Martin says. "We want to create products that improve people's quality of life." --Kevin J. Ryan
Sells at-home blood-test kits for women to monitor their fertility.
After a stint in private equity, where she did due diligence on in vitro fertilization clinics, Afton Vechery knew why infertility rates are rising: Women are choosing to have children later. The problem, she thought, was women didn't get relevant fertility data until it was too late. So she envisioned a company that gives women a snapshot of their fertility while speaking like "an ob-gyn who also happens to be your best friend." (For that voice, she needed co-founder Carly Leahy, a branding whiz who helped launch Uber Eats.) In 2017, they launched Modern Fertility, which charges $159 for at-home blood tests that help women assess, say, how many eggs they have and how close they may be to menopause. Customers receive a full report along with a free one-on-one consultation with a nurse; similar tests at a clinic can run as high as $1,500 if they're not covered by insurance. "I wish there was a magic test to tell women exactly when they should have kids," says Vechery. Until there is, her company will democratize that data. --Lindsay Blakely