By: Hayley Barna
More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first started, healthcare sits at the very top of the list of transformed industries. The field is reorienting after a telehealth surge, embracing new digital relationships between providers and patients, and recognizing the gaps in technology infrastructure needed for this new paradigm. There are a record number of early-stage founders focused on healthcare, excited to tackle the challenges and opportunities in reimagining the patient and provider experience.
At First Round, we see a bright and hopeful healthcare future through the lens of over 30 healthcare companies in our community. In the past five years, healthcare companies have grown to account for over 25% of our new investments — from impactful players that have seen successful outcomes (like Flatiron Health and PatientPing), to consumer-focused disruptors (like Modern Fertility and Thirty Madison), to exciting new entrants empowering providers (like Alma and Suki). Through partnering closely with these companies in their earliest days, I’ve seen firsthand the urgency and weight of responsibility that healthcare founders face today.
This is one of many reasons we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Regina Benjamin as our new Healthcare Expert-in-Residence.
Over the past few months, she has evaluated potential healthcare investment opportunities as well as supported the First Round community with her background in patient-centric care and deep understanding of healthcare policy. She has mentored founders on topics ranging from navigating payor relationship and regulatory changes to upholding quality of care.
We connected with Dr. Benjamin via Ed Zimmerman, co-founder of Venture Crush and long-time friend of First Round. As each First Round partner met Regina, we were all incredibly inspired and instantly knew her expertise would be invaluable to our community.
Dr. Benjamin has led an extraordinary career. She was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 18th United States Surgeon General in 2009 and served a four-year term. Her journey in medicine has first and foremost been rooted in community care. Early in her career, she established a rural clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, a small town near the Gulf Coast where 80% of her patients were uninsured and lived below the poverty level. The clinic battled challenges of catastrophic fires, floods, and even Hurricane Katrina. But Dr. Benjamin always persevered. Her leadership has been driven by a remarkable blend of compassionate care and forward-thinking strategy.
Over the years, Dr. Benjamin has been internationally recognized with accolades including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and the MacArthur Genius Fellowship. Today, she serves on the board of several health organizations including Ascension, Kaiser Hospitals, HealthQuest, ConvaTec and Computer Programs & Systems, Inc to name a few.
First Round is honored to benefit from Dr. Benjamin’s profound clinical experience and unique perspective on healthcare policy and regulation. In recent weeks, Dr. Benjamin has already delivered immense value to our founders and fueled meaningful dialogue around how to support rural markets across the United States, including her home base of Alabama.
We look forward to our continued collaboration with Dr. Benjamin to accelerate the success and impact of our community.