Home Venture Capital How Relevance Ventures Adds Value Through Their Investments

How Relevance Ventures Adds Value Through Their Investments


Relevance Ventures is a venture capital fund that invests principally in Series A and Series B health and wellness companies. As “value add” investors, they support businesses that they believe will yield above-market returns and also positively impact the world. Talkiatry, for example, delivers insurance-covered mental health care to remote areas lacking psychiatrists. Petscreening helps people live in multi-family with their pets.

“We focus on the founders, their vision, and our ability to help them achieve it,” said Dean Newton, general partner and chairman of Relevance Ventures, in an exclusive interview with me. “Does the business make people healthier? Does it restore balance where imbalance is truly harmful? We invest when we have skills that we can add along with our cash to make that outcome more likely.”

Dean Newton cofounded Relevance along with his brother Cameron Newton. The Native siblings are driven by their sense of purpose. “There’s no question our work is a blessing. I have to be honest it can be exhausting, but when it all comes together, the work doesn’t seem so hard and the exhaustion is energizing because things are better for a lot of people. I can’t describe it. In many ways it’s the perfect job,” Dean Newton states.

“We are so lucky to have Dean and Cam at Relevance as one of our first investors,” says Betsy Scanlan, cofounder of Le Mend. Le Mend creates The Good Patch, a homeopathic transdermal wellness solution distributed through retailers nationwide, which is designed to mitigate the daily onslaught of unnatural imbalances we encounter in an industrial world.

“Our products are our best effort to help people who feel disconnected from nature, because we can’t actually put our arms around them and whisper, ‘Take a deep breath, it’s all going to be okay,’” says Scanlan. “That didn’t seem strange to the Newtons. They got it. And they backed us before women founders were on most VCs’ radar.”

Chelsie Lee is the cofounder and CEO of Caroo, a platform that supports organizations in recognizing employee achievement and human worth. Caroo’s predictive analytics help identify those at risk, and brighten their world with products supplied by companies mostly founded by members of traditionally underrepresented communities.

“I’ve had the good fortune of working with some great investors, but Relevance really leans in. They care about the things that matter,” said Lee in an exclusive interview with me. “We had some dark days after the pandemic when it wasn’t clear if Caroo would endure. In those moments, the Newtons reminded us that the mission of Caroo was worth the fight. They were the ally I needed.”

“When we first met the Relevance team, we thought they were just like any other VC,” said Leila Kashani and David Manshoory, CEO and COO of Alleyoop, a company delivering multi-use cosmetic products for a better world. “But they really cared about our mission. They introduced us to partners who lowered our costs and opened new sales channels. They engaged, and I mean engaged. They honestly worked around the clock responding to calls, emails and texts. They did more to support Alleyoop in a few weeks than other VCs had done in years.”

Bob Youakam is the cofounder and chairman of Passport Labs, one of the largest mobile payments providers in the U.S. delivering low cost payment and transit solutions to municipalities to encourage mass transit usage and adoption. “Relevance is what every founder hopes an investor will be,” he said in an exclusive interview with me. “One call ended with Cameron and Dean affirming Relevance’s commitment to us by saying if need be, they would ride into an upcoming shareholder meeting on horseback in their Native regalia. I don’t think they were joking. Every founder should know these people. I wish I had a bull horn to the world to thank them.”

Dean Newton absolutely feels that his work with Relevance is aligned with his life purpose. “In a world plagued by social media, instant gratification, shocking racial and income inequality, and constant strife, a world where self-worth is so often defined by adoration or comparative victory, I don’t claim to have discovered my life purpose. I suppose my goal is to be able to sleep soundly at night. I work to be receptive to what life is telling me, to what Mother Earth calls me to do, to help as best I can as often as I can. I get to help some founders make magic, restore balance, fulfill their dreams. I think many people never have that feeling once. I’ve had the enormous good fortune to feel it repeatedly,” Newton says.

To those looking to tap into their life purpose, Newton advises you not to follow the paths that society tells you are most attractive. “Don’t become a lawyer just because law school is there. I went to Harvard Law School and had a great career path, but the job is awful. It sucks your soul away. Everyone wants to be a rock star. Fame, fortune, glamour, a Kardashian as a dinner guest, now that’s the life. But never knowing your real friends? I grew up in an entertainment family and represented top artists as a music lawyer. Let me shatter the mirage: the job sucks.” Instead, Newton says, “be open to new perspectives, ideas, and experiences. Trust your gut. Keep your senses keen for Mother Earth’s whispers.”

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