The Journey Disrupts with Diversity in Venture Funding

by RaeAnne Marsh

The Journey is a mission-driven venture studio building disruptive healthcare companies in partnership with the next generation of diverse founders. Unlike an accelerator or incubator, a venture studio doesn’t fund existing startups but rather is a company that creates multiple startups in-house and then partners with entrepreneurs who take over to launch and scale them. “Our mission is to close the racial and gender opportunity gap by empowering diverse founders to pursue entrepreneurship while providing resources and support to increase their odds of success,” says Mark Moeremans, managing director of the nonprofit that launched in January of this year.

“There is a massive gender and racial opportunity gap in the venture world that continues to go unresolved,” Moeremans explains. “Entrepreneurship is meant to be a merit-based pathway for success in this country, yet less than 2% of all venture funding goes toward women or minorities. We wanted to launch a studio that removed the systemic barriers that prevent talented diverse leaders from pursuing entrepreneurship, while providing the tools and support to improve their odds of success.”

After extensively researching what programs and resources already existed, so as to not duplicate or take away from the efforts of others, The Journey Venture Studio founders combined the most impactful pieces of different models (a traditional venture studio, leadership development and business acumen training) to create something new and differentiated. That was the first challenge. The second stemmed from succeeding at the first. “Any time you create something new, you must spend time educating the community about what exactly you have to offer, and so we have spent a lot of time working with partners to establish community support and understanding,” Moeremans says.

Citing the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Moeremans says, “Phoenix, and Arizona more broadly, has such a strong business community and an incredibly generous and supportive startup ecosystem. We are trying to tackle big problems, not only as they relate to equity in entrepreneurship but also in creating disruptive innovations in healthcare, and we know we can’t do that alone.”

The Journey’s funding goal over the next three years is $12 million, and Moeremans reports The Journey has already received commitment for $3 million from philanthropists. ““We are lucky that Phoenix is home to a thriving healthcare and bio-science hub, a city with a maturing investor community and a network of entrepreneurial support organizations and service providers,” says Moeremans. “We know we want to ‘go far’ as an organization and we are ready and excited to ‘go together’ with like-minded individuals and organizations across the state.”

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