Resilience

Plum Alley Invests in Problem-Solving Companies

Overview The co-founder and president of Plum Alley, a venture firm that invests in technology and health care firms founded by women, thinks of their investments through the lens of how they’re solving problems in the world.

From climate to the future of food, and resiliency to education, Plum Alley Co-Founder and President Andrea Turner Moffitt focuses on investments in technologies that bring value to not only investors but also humanity and the planet.

At CES® 2021, Turner Moffitt shared how Plum Alley is investing in a brighter future in a conversation with Ice Mobility co-founder and chairman Denise Gibson during “Investing in Resilience: How Startups and VCs Can Help Rebuild.”

Hear how Plum Alley’s mission has become more relevant with the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care and resilience companies they’re investing in, and Turner Moffitt’s take on innovation and investment trends for the year ahead.

 

How has — or hasn't — Plum Alley pivoted its investment thesis and strategy during the pandemic?

Most important, we did see that companies with at least one woman founder were negatively impacted by the pandemic in terms of getting access to venture funding. In our view, that further underpins and makes our focus even more relevant.

We're very focused on how we can get more capital to women founders in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and that’s part of why we've launched our Plum Alley venture fund.

From when we founded Plum Alley over five years ago, we've always focused on investing in advanced technologies and medical breakthroughs, and in companies that are using technology to drive value, not only for returns for investors in the markets but also for humanity and the planet.

We're really thinking about how we're investing our dollars to solve problems in the world, whether it's the pandemic, resiliency, climate, education or even the future of food.

We've actually seen our investment thesis become more relevant than ever. We've had our most active year: We've invested in eight companies this year, bringing us to a total of $32 million invested across 23 companies.


I think this pandemic has made all of us realize that technology can really help us solve some of our greatest challenges.

Andrea Turner Moffitt
Co-Founder and President, Plum Alley

Can you give some examples of technologies and companies you've invested in?

I do want to acknowledge the entire Mammoth Biosciences team. They have done just a tremendous job during the pandemic in terms of accelerating the important work that they're doing, particularly bringing the CRISPR detection platform to COVID-19 detection and the need for accelerating throughput around testing.

Beyond Mammoth, we have a number of companies doing important work on the health care front.
A company called Vive Technologies, formerly known as Vital Bio, developed an LED lighting technology that kills bacteria. They were on stage at CES in 2020 and launched their partnership with Delta at CES. They have now been outfitted in the majority of Delta planes.

They're in everything from food production plans to ambulances and, increasing, corporations in terms of being able to do continuous disinfecting. This technology is relevant for how we think about getting people back to work next year.

I do want to mention a digital health company called Shine. I know we all watch, and see in the press, the toll that this pandemic is taking on mental health of all Americans, and in a lot of our employees and our companies.

Shine has an app focused on mental wellness. They have done great work, and they were just announced by Apple as one of the top 20 apps of 2020.

They have some exciting partnerships with corporations, Fortune 500 companies, starting early this year. And I'm looking at how, particularly for minority employees and the BIPOC population, we can better address mental wellness within our companies.

Finally, I want to acknowledge one of our portfolio companies, One Concern, which is truly a resilience technology platform. They've developed technology to prepare enterprises for natural disasters.

They've just released a new COVID-19 calculator to support organizations, companies, governments and anyone looking at assessing the risk and policies for workers coming back to workspaces, but also other safety policies within companies.

That’s a flavor of the companies and how they're using essential technologies to look toward more resiliency in 2021.

 

What new trends have you have seen in the last year and how do you think those will carry forward into 2021 and beyond?

I think this pandemic has made all of us realize that technology can really help us solve some of our greatest challenges. I think there’s absolutely a ton of activity in the biotech space and, beyond that, new materials.

We recently invested in a company in the alternative protein space, and they're using a revolutionary technology to grow new proteins with many and different applications.

We've been very active in the environmental intelligence space, and many of those companies have also accelerated.

We are believers, obviously, in using CRISPR as a diagnostics tool. That's another space I think we're going to see more evolution and how we disrupt our diagnostics system.

I think that you will see greater adoption of technologies and rapid acceleration, not just of the innovation but of the adoption and scaling of that adoption. Because I think that's the key question.

I think there are many systems that have not used technology in an intelligent and efficient way to address and make them more sustainable and scalable for the decades to come. Those are definitely areas of interest that we are focused on at Plum Alley.

 

Learn more about how Plum Alley, including how it’s trying to achieve more equitable distribution of capital to diverse founding teams, in the full CES 2021 session “Investing in Resilience: How Startups and VCs Can Help Rebuild.”

 

Responses were edited for brevity and clarity.

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