Kathryne Cooper

Kathryne Cooper — Jumpstart Nova

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kathryne Cooper tells us about Jumpstart Nova, a new $55M fund investing in incredible black healthcare founders at the seed and series A stage.

Jumpstart has LPs such as Meharry Medical, Eli Lilly, Cardinal Health and is part of the trend of VCs that offer strategic help from their LPs as an important value-add.

Today I am talking to, hanging out with, catching up with Kathryne Cooper, a partner at Jumpstart Nova. Jumpstart Nova is a $55 million Fund I investing in seed and Series A companies founded by black founders focused on healthcare innovation. Prior to Jumpstart Nova, Kathryne managed a pre-seed fund that made over 150 investments in medical technology companies.

Kathryne, this fund is a big deal. Congratulations. Thanks for coming on the pod.

I appreciate the sentiment and I am getting the feeling that it is a big deal, but it is interesting to be part of the fund and then recognize that it’s a big deal of the way that we are perceived and received. So the genesis of Jumpstart Nova is with my partner, Marcus Whitney, who is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m based here in Los Angeles, our fund is based in both places.  Kind of as reaction to the murder of George Floyd and June, 2020 was really made him think about the disparities within investments and specifically his position of power as the only black VC in Nashville.

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And he wrote a very pointed letter to the Nashville healthcare council about what they could be doing differently and better to fund a certain group of overlooked founders.

And let’s Just pause there. He’s the only black VC in Nashville, I think is what you just said, right?

yes. to my knowledge, that is correct.

Yeah, Nashville’s not a tiny city with no other black people. It’s kind of a remarkable statement right there.

And maybe I need to caveat that with he’s the only black healthcare VC, again, not being based in Nashville. If this stat is slightly off, the fact that we were even considering that he could be the only one is really the point.

exactly. Sorry, I wasn’t trying to like stick it to you

But yeah, go on and tell me, I mean, you know, not just in funding, but also I think there’s a lot of disparities in our health system that I think you also are at focused on.

So I would like to rephrase that. So there are disparities in our healthcare system in terms of healthcare outcomes affecting communities of color. I think the COVID-19 pandemic was a very rude awakening for that. And data has emerged as the disparities in healthcare outcomes for those who had COVID-19 adversely effecting black and brown patients, even independent of co-morbidities.

And so I think that was a to change the focus of healthcare industry leaders health equity,in terms of jumpstart. I like to emphasize that just because you are a founder of color or a 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, it can also solve issues for all patients.

Yeah, actually should have said. That some of the disparities in our health system might be a motivator for this fund as opposed to sort of eight focus

you said it


So you’re investing in black founders specifically. Do you want to talk about what you see wrong with the current system and the opportunity with black founders specifically so this is a really interesting question. I want to say on a high level there structural reasons why founders of color and women have been chronically under invested in if I were to blanket statement, I would say sexism, and racism, but that doesn’t mean, directly to your face, just systemic in the way that capital is allocated.

I believe that jumpstart Nova is one of the answers to these problems, but not all we don’t have enough. capital warn of influence is a fun one at 55 million to invest in all of the incredible black healthcare founders who are out there. So I think behooves other funds, to look at the types of founders that they have invested in.

And if they all kind of over index in one area, 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. Uh, I’ll give the example. I think in my background, You mentioned my work at CTF and med tech accelerator here in Los Angeles and investing in over 150 companies we focused on pediatric medical device and I think 60% of our founders or female founders, and about 30% were founders of color.

We were in a very, very niche subset of med tech. So if we could find a variety of founders, then I that no one has any excuse.

And do you want to talk some about the process that you’ve set up a jumpstart to be especially open and transparent?

So um, warm introductions are fantastic. They’re not necessary to get in touch with jumpstart alpha. Our website is the best place to learn about us. It is intentionally contains kind of all the information you might go over in a first meeting with a founder where you’re trying to get know a fund, you know, what do we invest in?

What is our check size? You know, do we lead, and then you can go to the connect form on our website, which takes you through kind of a series of questions. Uh, And we ask everybody for the same inputs. One is I want to make sure I’m asking founders all the same questions and also share a lot of information about ourselves upfront.

So founders can see if they think that we might be a fit And that is to reduce bias. If you kind of have a very consistent process and you do that same process for everyone, you know, whether many you introduced the founder to me, like this person knows my mom.

I met them at a conference. Everyone kind of gets funneled through the same process.

And then your next step in your process is a 15 minute meeting. I’m not sure if that’s like a brilliant life hack, if that’s just, when you’re meeting with me, if that’s just like a weird tangent I’m taking us on. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that it’s a tangent necessarily. I do have a default of scheduling my meetings in 15 minute blocks, which may seem aggressively shorts. I think on both sides, it creates a sense of urgency and we do a little bit of less chit-chat and a little bit more businessIt does when you do a lot of check-ins with folks allow you to do a little more in a day

I actually really love it. I would make all my meetings 15 minutes and skip the chit-chat, Okay. So within health tech, remind me of the sectors stage metrics that you’re looking for when you’re making an investment.

So in terms of sectors, we’re looking at tech enabled services, biotech, diagnostic devices, health, it, digital health, and consumer health and wellness at both the seed and series a levelSo depending on the sector they’re probably different. Metrics traction progress that we’re looking for

But the other thing that’s very important to us at Gemstar Nova is being able to leverage our strategic limited partners So our strategic weapon partners are some of the nation’s leading healthcare companies, they’re also committed to supporting the next generation of black founded and led companies.

of these include like Cardinal health, the American hospital association, atrium health, Eli Lilly, hairy medical college, which produces one in five black doctors in the U S the Henry Ford health care system. So it’s like a little bit of secret sauce 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. Any ecosystem related to our strategic limited partners, And are there particular problems or trends that you and your LPs are particularly focused on?

It’s interesting because I think it’s kind of an evolving process right , the problems that let’s say, hospitals and health systems are having right now And then they’re the problems that they’re trying to anticipate that they might have a year and a half, two years from now, So, you know, we may see things around, for example time management and meaning how are employees spending their time. You know, in a hospital, if clinician’s time is mostly not actually spent with patients, perhaps as an issue but even getting the data on what folks in the hospital are spending their time on.

But I want to see all types of companies within healthcare, within the sectors that we look at, because I think all are important. And we really do look at everything for jumpstart Nova to try to figure out the best fit.

How about I pick on medical devices? Because I know, you know, that space very well.

How should a venture investor think about timelines and risks investing in that category? Interesting question. I think the average medical device takes, you know, five to seven years to commercialize and I forgot the millions of dollars in mound. So we’re probably looking more at your class one class, two medical devices unless like your pacemaker’s implantables class three devices, because those timeline horizons are simply too long.

So I think for us, we’re looking at you know, for the seed stage into be at least advanced prototype, on the cusp of some sort of FDA regulatory decision being able to utilize the device in patient populations, which is then again, how we can kind of leverage our strategic LPs that our hospital and healthcare systems to see if there are pilots we can approach or ways to kind of get the device to market, at least from the pilot stage a little bit faster.

Does that help?

Yeah. So for the class one and class two devices, those are not the, what did you say? Sort of five to seven year processes, right? Those might be a couple of years, half that time.

I wouldn’t necessarily see half that time. So I can’t remember allergy, it makes an epi pen auto-injector and they’re one of our portfolio companies. I would say they’ve been working on the device for a number of years and they still might fit into that five to seven year timeline.

If you go from kind of company creation to them actually being on the market, , but we’re not investing in them at the necessarily company creation stage C temp, for example, our accelerator might, but jumpstart Nova would be in like year two or three of that. Five to seven.

I’m just a venture fund and I’m looking at these devices, these startups that come across my desk, if they need regulatory approval, you know, I often just balk at it because worry about the timelines mostly.

I Think that makes total sense. Like I can understand why you’ll see a lot of healthcare funds. That’ll say, you know, we will do everything except for things that require after your approval, because there all the FDA approval process is step wise. There is no guarantee about how fast or slow that will go

You’ve worked closely with the FDA. How would you characterize the organization and how it functions? I guess kind of broad strokes I would describe the FDA as a slow, but intentional their job is to make sure that regulated products that are on the market. Work for patients and there are no issues. And so sometimes folks want that process to go faster. You know, for example, if you’re a company you want regulatory approval, you want to be out there, you want to commercialize, of course you would want to go.

This is fast as it can go. And the FDA process intentionally slows that down, but that’s out of the interest of safety and the patient community at large,

do you think the United States regulatory process and the FDA, compares favorably to what other countries have? Occasionally, I hear startups saying, well, we’re gonna, you know, start this in, some other country and then bring it to the U S

I think we’re similar uh, more to the UK and Australia uh, than other countries, but in terms of, because at least for jumpstart Nova, we focused on US-based companies with US-based solutions. I did not know that. so tell me more about jumpstart Nova. And tell me a little bit about your partner Marcus. So Marcus is a serial entrepreneur. He started jumpstart health investors, we have a family of funds, all of the jumpstarts about seven years ago with his partner, Vick got out. And this actually gives me a little bit to explain jumpstart as a whole. And then I’ll go back to Marcus. So jumpstart health investors is kind of our, platform for all of the funds.

The first fund out of jumpstart health investors is jumpstart Foundry, is our pre-seed fund. I mean, pre-seed investments, a set amount. They invest twice a year in batches of companies. And then jumpstart capital was the next fund, which Gato is the managing director of And in jumpstart, Nova is the most recent in our fund family and series a focused on black founders play nice together. It’s fun to have. Other funds and managing partners in our ecosystem. Ella runs jumps our Foundry Marcus and I run jumpstart Nova and Vic runs jumpstart capital.

Uh, We also share some of the same and a back office resources for jumpstart health investors. We have a CEO of jumpstart, health investors, Doug

So it allows us to punch a little bit bigger than our weight in terms of fund size, So I’ll bring it back to Marcus.

I’ll just serve some fun facts. I don’t know how much he wants to, or not wants to share, but I mean, if you Google him, he’s like all over the internet and we got a lot of press for dumpster Nova. So there probably is a fantastic amount of fun facts you can find out about Marcus. We were introduced to each other through team mutual connections in 2020.

So I like to say Marcus was a random, like, I didn’t know him know him. I knew people that did and then uh, told me what he was building and jumpstart Nova. And we continued that series of conversations for kind of almost a year before I joined the fund as a partner. And I was coming off a project with the California healthcare foundations investment fund around strategies that they could use to invest in more black, Latin, X, and female founders.

And the answer to that was you should invest in those groups and that capital allocation from the LP to the DP, to the startup level, It’s one of the most important ways to kind of move the needle in terms of chronic underinvestment in certain groups. in Morgan said he was starting a fund to do exactly that.

I was like, this is great. I’m glad our mutual contacts introduced us. Let’s kind of see where it goes. It’s also fun to get to know someone during the pandemic. A fun fact. I never met him in person until we were well on her way for jumpstart Nova,

Great. Um, I mean, I’ll stop saying it’s such a great role for you. Um, What has been different than you expected moving into this role? Sort of a slightly more traditional VC.

I suppose I expected this, but it’s different to experience it. Accelerator, we were able to support a lot of companies with very small checks and a multitude of resources that was outside of capital when I say small checks, $50,000 and less.

Now I jumped start Nova. I’m looking at much later stage companies compared to , but still early stage in VC terms. So I am saying no more than yes. And try and to get to that note for founders. As quickly as possible, because I think an answer is better than kind of an endless nothing.

It’s also really important to us, which I’m starting over because we’re focused on black founders for us to figure out ways to support the black healthcare innovation ecosystem outside of direct capital investment. And that’s something that we’re actively working on. have all of the answers to that, but I’m hoping by the end of 2020 two, we’ll have new initiatives in place to support that.

That’s great. Do you have advice like you’re having to say no a lot more. Let’s say someone is having a meeting with you, you know, are there things that you see come up again and again, or just common mistakes, you know, You find yourself giving.

 I most wouldn’t frame it as. These are mistakes, right? It’s not like a founder made a mistake and that’s what made us pass. I think that’s probably a very basic way to think about the VC founder relationship, is, you know how many, there are probably lots of reasons why you would have passed.

And it’s not necessarily because the founder made a mistake. Maybe you’ve seen a lot of other companies in the space and it doesn’t seem as competitive as you know, other companies that have come along. Perhaps you already have another company in your portfolio that does the same thing. Perhaps it’s really just not a fit for us.

Check size wise, the allocation that’s left in the round devaluation, you know, there can be like lots of things. So our founders, I would encourage you not to think like this happened because you made a mistake. If there’s some sort of direct feedback you can always ask for it, you know, sometimes you see as well, sometimes they won’t usually I say that this is more like, it’s not you it’s me.

And that’s actually true. Yeah. I actually really liked the point about, you can ask for feedback. I do feel like I give better feedback when people seem like they really want it

Yeah. I take the standpoint that, like, I don’t give feedback if you want to ask something directly fine, but you know, like, I wouldn’t want someone to give me feedback if I didn’t ask for it. And so I think it seems. Kind of strange and also, you know, the VC founder power dynamic is already sometimes a little bit uncomfortable.

So,, feedback is feedback, right? Like my opinion, your opinion, maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re not.

I totally agree, but I do think it’s a little bit of a minority opinion. Like I think VCs feel like they need to give feedback and like,

Oh, no.

Um, I’m with you on that. I’m with you

I don’t think so. Really fairly different from what I hear from most VCs. Um, anything else to highlight about jumpstart Nova? I guess I like to keep it simple, like jumpstart Nova, you know, we’re real fund I mean, . There are two real people who work here, , Morgans, Winnie, and Catherine Cooper. We like to get it back to everybody personally, even if it does take us a little bit of time, I believe that that’s really important.

 Hmm. Good stuff.So Katherine Cooper, tell me more about you. And let’s also talk some about some of the work outside of jumpstart that is, I know really important to you.

it’s certainly a nice question. Thank you. So I started my career at Stanford as an undergrad. I majored in human biology and I was pre-med I’m from LA originally, like, you know and I came back home to LA and I did three years of medical school at USC before deciding being a practicing clinician wasn’t for me.

So what do you do with a Stanford degree? In three quarters of med school? I started working at health tech startups Um, I’m a sucker for school. So I went back to USC, did a MBA part-time while I was working. And that was around the time I got introduced to. C tip in terms of.

Career stuff of what I’m most proud of. Definitely helping to build out CTA with the team Dr. and Dr. Espinosa in addition to really doing the work and research on the intersection of venture capital investments, health tech, and Dai, and specifically groups of over let’s founders. So black, Latin X, and female founders.

 And then from that doctor, as when I was, I found it a health tech DEI, which is to work with the investment community of the value of DEI strategy in terms of investments.

So we’ll work with foundations, capital, allocators other groups specifically in healthcare who just want to understand, how. To start and what to do.

And were there particular things that really stood out for you that your research brought to light? I think what stuck out in our research was, you know, healthcare wasn’t actually any different than other areas of tech in terms of chronic under investment in certain groups. And in some ways it actually was. Worse in the sense that I did a lot of key informant interviews

And he got the impression that because healthcare is here to, impact and improve patient lives, that sometimes it can get a pass for other things like not being particularly diverse or, you know, having a lack of executives who are women and people of color and certain levels of health care organizations, because the work itself is overall very positive, right?

So because like the end is great. We’re not really looking at who’s doing what. hadn’t thought about that dynamic. about your own experience? Just looking like everyone else in the room. I mean, venture capital is still woefully non diverse, you know, how have you approached that?

This is a really interesting question. I don’t know if I would describe it as how have I approached it, you know, like I’m a black woman, who’s a partner in a VCE. So if anything, I think I was both acutely aware at times, and then not paying attention to other times that in most situations I’m in, I am the only person who looks like me in a professional environment.

 of those things that if you.

Constantly kept recognizing it. Like, you might just be upset all the time, so sometimes you need to keep it moving. Sometimes you got to keep it moving. it would just be exhausting seeing him like, sure. They’re like, no there’s weirdness or micro Russians might be at a med tech conference. Someone asked me if I was an intern or something. And I was like, okay, no, but I mean, maybe this is a compliment and you think look young. So there are moments like that where you’re like, does this just happen to me? Or this happened to other people? And sometimes you think about it, sometimes you don’t, I don’t want to make this seem like it doesn’t matter.

I actually think it matters a lot. And I also don’t want to say like, everything is rosy and you should just be super, super positive. Sometimes it can be extremely frustrating. It’s also both nice. And it makes you think when you are the one individual or individuals who are representative of an entire group in an organization or a conference or a meeting or something like that, I thought about this a lot.

When you actually read about this right. College essay at Stanford, it’s completely not. Yes. Related to being a black woman, but actually in the context of I golf, I was in the golf team in high school. a lot of times when I was golfing with my dad here in LA, I’d be like, I, dad and I, as a twosome and like usually two other guys, probably about the same age as my dad, something like that.

And I would tee up and the same thing would happen all the time. One, they would think my dad was teaching me how to golf and like, I’ve been golfing longer than him. It was better I felt like sometimes when I was teeing off at the first tee, like every first drive was a test and the test was not like, if you were going to hit a good shot or not, but at that point they were either going to think like, oh, cool, this black woman can play golf or she can’t.

And I want to say like, yo, we played at public courses here in LA. Like sometimes like not to say people would crowd around, but like people would pop up and like, look to be like, Ooh, let’s check out this little girl’s tee shot. And so I became acutely aware, very young sometimes how you can stick out. So my reaction to that was like, you know, I always wanted to have a really good first drive or I felt like I didn’t let myself down, but like groups of people like me down

Oh, I know that feeling. and you went on to be a D one athlete at Stanford.

Oh, I mean, you guess, but let’s walk that back a little. I D , yes, I was on a division one team. I was on the lightweight women’s crew team. I was a Cox in, it was like the largest Cox in of all time. And I did not golf. There was not a good enough to play in the women’s golf team in Stanford. But I did do crew for freshmen and sophomore year, I like new things. It was very fun to learn. we wrote at the head of the Charles in Boston, which was amazing.

Head races are long. They’re like three miles. So they’re very much a cocksense race. Like you can around boats and underneath bridges and how you steer it actually matters because the race is like 20 minutes long.

So I remember studying, like I was listening to. Audio recordings of other famous Carson’s studying the head of the Charles. I had like the maps of this. I like had it memorized my mind because I’m at the end of the day, I’m competitive. So like, I like winning. I may not be actually rolling, but like we’re gonna win.

So that was really fun. And I don’t know how I got on this tangent. I think you asked me about being a D one athlete. I would say like that, like asterix, you know, Stanford has producing Olympians. That

was not me.

well, okay. But, but I’ll use that part you talked about, which is like, what do you take with that, that you, you know, is still part of your sort of personality, like wanting to win. Do you still have that, like, when you think about your career and your life today,

Oh, for sure. I think, as it applies to a professional career, for me, wanting to win is becoming the best at what I’m doing at the time.

And really narrowing down on a fit between my interests skillsets and the market. I’m still competitive. And the competition is mostly with myself. The reason I don’t like saying like, do you like winning? Like of course I like winning. Like winning in sports or like there’s a goal or there is, know, a number of strokes or it’s very binary.

If you win or lose for careers, I think they evolve and winning to me is continually getting better.

Well, this instance, Catherine, I hope that you win at supporting black founders who are building amazing companies in


That would be great. I hope I wanted that too.

Great. Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast. There’s so much interesting stuff to talk to you about. And congratulations. I’m excited for, jumpstart Nova.

Thank you so much for having me. This was a pleasure. Thanks for going on all these tangents with me. I encourage incredible black founded and led healthcare companies to reach out to us a jumpstart nova.com. I will personally respond to you and I can’t wait to learn about your company’s.