Home Venture Capital RH Capital Invests In 90% Women, BIPOC Founders In Women’s Health

RH Capital Invests In 90% Women, BIPOC Founders In Women’s Health

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In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the crucial importance of investing in women’s health initiatives. Yet, despite significant progress in healthcare and gender equality, women continue to face disparities in access to quality healthcare, particularly in areas such as reproductive health, maternal care and addressing conditions specific to women. Women’s health funding by the NIH was around $4.6 billion during fiscal year 2022. This year, it’s supposed to reach $4.9 billion.

RH Capital, a female-led venture fund, is known for pioneering women’s health investments, specifically in reproductive and maternal health equity. Over 90% of their investments have backed women and BIPOC founders. In 2022, the company closed its second fund, bringing total assets under management to $43.5 million, with a significant portion raised post the overturn of Roe v. Wade. This funding led to investments in six new companies and five follow-on investments. The founders have invested in 20 women’s health startups.

“We were supposed to close our fund four days or a week after the Dobbs decision,” states Stasia Obremskey, cofounder and managing director of RH Capital, during an interview. “We had reached our goal of $30 million or slightly below. But the week after the Dobbs decision, we had more inbound interest in the fund than we had in the previous six months. In fact, we ended up extending the close of the fund until the end of October and raised about 25% of our capital in the last four months. People were just outraged and upset. Our thesis had always been around contraceptive prevention, access and improving maternal health outcome.”

Before RH Capital, Obremskey worked the traditional CFO Wall Street positions. For over 25 years, she built her reputation as a trusted advisor to non-profit organizations and startups. As an investor and a philanthropist in the space learning the landscape of global health, Obremskey became convinced that the two most important things you could do for the world are to educate women and to give them the tools to manage their fertility.

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In 2018, Obremskey met Ruth Shaber, a philanthropist deploying grant money for women’s health initiatives. Shaber asked her to be on the team. They both knew the underlying women’s health funding issue needed more than grant money; they needed equity dollars. That became the genesis of RH Capital, which invests in early-stage startups promising to revolutionize women’s health and improve health equity in the US.

She met Elizabeth Bailey, cofounder and managing director of RH Capital during this time. Before joining Obremskey, she worked in venture capital, setting up one of the first impact venture capital funds and managing its healthcare portfolio. Bailey has over 20 years of experience in VC and supporting early-stage health technology companies.

“More of a legitimate concern is investors were asking where the success stories in women’s health were,” Bailey shares. “That certainly came up. Show me all the startups that have been built and then exited, generating great financial returns for investors. That was probably one of the most legitimate points of pushback because there weren’t a lot. And, of course, you can create a more virtuous cycle with investment flows. Then you build companies, and some of the bigger strategics acquire these companies. So, there was no virtuous loop. It was this vicious cycle and nobody talked about it. Nobody invested in it.”

Dr. Alice Zheng, a principal at RH Capital, leads investments in innovative women’s health companies across the life sciences, digital health and consumer health. Zheng saw Obremskey at an event and messaged her. Having worked in global health, clinical medicine and the private sector, Zheng felt a synergy with Obremskey. They stayed in touch and when the Fund launched, Zheng joined the team.

“Things are changing,” Zheng comments. “In the past four or five years, there has been an increase in dialogue, an increased number of companies, increased investments as well, and funds like ours. We’ve been pushing for the cause. It’s been fun to be part of the conversation. It’s wonderful to see this ecosystem grow and be part of that growth.”

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Launching the company, Obremskey, Bailey and Zheng focused on assembling a pipeline of companies looking for capital. They then sifted through a series of questions to narrow down potential investments. A significant question was, “If we were going to be looking for both mission and money in terms of our returns, what were our impact criteria? How are we going to measure impact?”

As they built out the Fund, they connected with other investors wanting to move the needle in women’s health. RH Capital has invested in progressive and innovative companies, including Bloomlife, Eli, and Seven Starling.

As they continue to expand the Fund, they focus on the following essential steps:

  • Lean into the collective wisdom and knowledge of your support team and partners; you’ll go further as a unit versus trying to do everything independently.
  • Elevate the conversation. Ask your team the tough questions. Through that exercise, you’ll know what will propel the team forward.
  • Changing a societal conversation takes perseverance and grit. Don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers.

“Women’s health isn’t just about health outcomes and the clinical part of it,” Zheng concludes. “It’s about gender equity, women having the care they deserve, having a voice. And we also know it’s good for society as a whole.”

Updated February 2024: Shaver; Shaber

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