Investing in early-stage life science and clean tech startups has become a top priority for Public Ventures, a pioneering impact fund. With a mission to improve health equity and support climate preparedness for underserved communities, Public Ventures has launched a $100 million fund aimed at addressing the interconnection between gender inequality, climate change, and access to technological advancements. Led by Zoey Dash McKenzie, the founding partner, the fund seeks to accelerate the growth of nascent startups in Canada, leveraging the country’s strong research infrastructure and innovative ecosystem.
Climate change disproportionately affects women and communities of color, exacerbating existing inequalities. More than 1.3 billion people in low- and middle-income countries live below the poverty line, with 70% of them being female. These vulnerable populations face increased exposure to heat, poor air quality, flooding, and wildfires, leading to health problems such as anemia, malnutrition, and pregnancy complications. Additionally, women and girls are at a higher risk of physical, sexual, and domestic violence following climate disasters.
Recognizing the urgent need to address these challenges, Public Ventures aims to bridge the gap between government grants and traditional venture capital by providing early-stage funding to startups focused on improving health equity and climate preparedness for underserved communities.
Public Ventures is not just an impact fund; it is redefining the investment landscape by breaking away from conventional structures. The fund employs a waterfall structuring, making assessments on a deal-by-deal basis and returning funds back to its Limited Partners (LPs) earlier on. This approach accelerates capital velocity at the early stage when it is needed most, positioning Public Ventures as a key player in the intersection of government grants and traditional venture capital.
“We’re accelerating capital velocity at the early stage, when it’s needed most, so we really sit right in the middle of government grants and traditional venture capital,” says Zoey Dash McKenzie.
In recent years, impact funds have gained traction among venture capital firms, driven by a growing understanding of the importance of social and environmental impact. Public Ventures joins the ranks of notable impact funds such as Planeteer, Salesforce Ventures, Positive Ventures, and Envisioning Partners, all aimed at making a positive impact on the world. The convergence of financial returns and social impact has become a driving force for investors seeking to align their capital with their values.
For Zoey Dash McKenzie, launching the impact fund is a personal journey that brings her career full circle. Having studied health and environmental sciences in college, she pursued a career in modeling before venturing into the entrepreneurial world. Her diverse background provides a unique perspective on the intersection of health, climate change, and technology.
The fund, although domiciled in the U.S., will primarily focus on investments in Canada. Dash McKenzie highlights Canada’s abundance of research funding and its world-renowned hospitals and universities as key factors that make it an ideal hub for impact investing. By concentrating on Canada, Public Ventures aims to address the challenge of scaling up innovation in the country.
“We will be very thoughtful in terms of the types of investments that we make as opposed to sprinkling it across various verticals,” says Dash McKenzie. “We aim to kind of stack our investments so that they have an amplified impact in the real world.”
Public Ventures intends to go beyond traditional investment practices by creating a venture studio-like experience for startups. The fund aims to provide not only financial support but also a network of experts in both business and scientific fields. This approach ensures that startups, particularly those led by female scientists and people of color, have access to the resources and mentorship necessary to build commercially viable projects.
“In some ways, that breaks down the barriers in terms of accessing capital, accelerating their innovation, and then also broadening their networks,” explains Dash McKenzie. By assembling a roundtable of experts, Public Ventures aims to foster collaboration and amplify the impact of innovative projects in the real world.
While Public Ventures is still in the early stages of the process and has not yet raised the targeted $100 million, Dash McKenzie has expressed optimism about the interest in the fund. She has been invited to participate in a government program that has allocated over $50 million for emerging fund managers, potentially serving as an anchor limited partnership for the fund.
The fund plans to conduct an open call for startups in the fall, seeking to identify promising ventures outside of their current pipelines. Public Ventures aims to invest in startups before the end of the year, providing crucial early-stage funding to drive innovation and address the pressing challenges of health equity and climate preparedness.
In conclusion, Public Ventures’ $100 million impact fund represents a significant step towards addressing the interconnection between gender inequality, climate change, and access to technological advancements. By investing in early-stage life science and clean tech startups, Public Ventures aims to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities while fostering climate preparedness. Through its unique approach to investment and commitment to creating a venture studio-like experience, Public Ventures seeks to amplify the impact of startups and drive positive change in the world.
First reported by TechCrunch.