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Black-Led VC Fund for Black-Owned Health-Tech Startups Gets $55 Million Investment Boost

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, HCA Healthcare and Bank of America have teamed up to invest $55 million in the Jumpstart Nova fund launched in 2021, to invest exclusively in Black health-tech firms.

This comes at a time that the nation sees a scarcity in Black-run venture capital funds. In 2020, nearly eight out of 10 VC investment partners in 2020, were white, and just 3 percent were Black, according to the VC Human Capital Survey conducted by Deloitte, in conjunction with the National Venture Capital Association and Venture Forward.

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Marcus Whitney, founder the Jumpstart Nova Fund (Photo from www.marcuswhitney.com)

Marcus Whitney is one of a slim number of African-American venture partners. The co-founder of Jumpstart Health in Nashville, he recently launched the Jumpstart Nova fund to invest exclusively in Black-led health founders.

The Jumpstart Nova Fund now has $55 million investments from backers, including Eli Lilly, HCA Healthcare and Bank of America. This year, Whitney plans to back 20 start-ups, but he’s already identified more than 150 prospects.

“We think we can catalyze more capital going to these founders beyond what we can do from an investment perspective,” Whitney told CNBC.  

One of Whitney’s first investments was Cellevolve. He also has a seat on the company’s board.

“Without Marcus … taking the bet on Cellevolve and me personally, I mean, we never might have gotten a company off the ground,” said Cellevolve founder Dr. Derrell Porter.  

Cellevolve makes it easier for researchers to connect with biotech companies by providing a platform to help researchers develop and commercialize gene and cell therapies.

Porter knew he had a good idea, but he needed funding. That was where Jumpstart Nova came in.

“They’re really making a bet on you as the entrepreneur, and therefore it’s a profoundly personal decision,” Porter told CNBC. He noted, “Being different or in the situation where the investor may not see themselves in you, or may not find a way to connect, that makes it harder to find capital.” He holds a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and an MBA from The Wharton School.

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