SteelSky Ventures, a U.S.-based, female-led VC fund with a thesis centered around women’s healthcare, has recently announced the relocation of its headquarters from New York to Atlanta. The firm has been around since 2017 and has since invested in more than a dozen startups all focused on different areas of human health.

With this move SteelSky Ventures now hopes to tap into and also contribute to the emerging tech ecosystem in Atlanta. And of course we wanted to learn more. In our interview we caught up with the Maria Velissaris, Founding Partner at SteelSky Ventures, who shared some insights on work in emerging tech hubs and the women’s health innovation ecosystem as well as some areas she’s watching closely in femtech and beyond right now.

Maria Velissaris, Founding Partner of SteelSky Ventures. Image: SteelSky Ventures

Can you tell us more about SteelSky Ventures? What’s the story behind the fund, what kinds of companies do you invest in and who are some of your portfolio companies?

At SteelSky, we invest in companies that improve access, care, and outcomes in women’s health. The need for innovative, personalized, and culturally competent care solutions with care models that put women’s needs first is significant and has never been more urgent. Given this context, we apply a wider lens to this mission. While we invest in femtech companies, we also invest in companies that improve healthcare infrastructure with an eye toward strengthening women’s access to care and supporting health equity.

The story behind the fund is simple: our Founding Partner, Maria Velissaris, was working as an angel investor and saw a growing pipeline of women’s health companies. She realized the space needed a dramatic increase in investment beyond what she could provide as an angel investor, so she decided to raise a $50 million fund to invest in women’s healthcare.

In the years since our founding, our portfolio has grown to include more than a dozen startups. A few of our portfolio companies innovating specifically in the femtech space are:

  • Origin, a digital-first physical therapy platform bridging the care gap for women throughout their lives. From maternity to menopause, Origin provides one-on-one in-person and telehealth physical therapy services, proprietary at-home educational content, and community-based experiences.
  • Mae, a culturally competent care marketplace with a focus on complex maternal care management, initially matching expectant mothers with doulas and other maternal health experts based on their unique needs and preferences. Mae is working to equalize maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women, who account for a disproportionate share of pregnancy-related deaths in the US each year.
  • Proov, which develops clinically proven, at-home diagnostic tests and products to support a successful pregnancy. Proov tests are a Class I FDA-registered product and are 99% accurate for measuring progesterone in urine.
  • Twentyeight Health, a comprehensive telemedicine and medication delivery platform that offers convenient, affordable access to women’s reproductive healthcare. Twentyeight Health is the only digital health platform specifically focused on the 42 million underserved women, leveraging Medicaid-enabled pharmacy partners, Medicaid-registered physicians, and Medicaid-designed operations to do so.

SteelSky Ventures recently moved its headquarters from New York to Atlanta. Can you tell us more about this move? What excited you about the innovation ecosystem in Atlanta?

We were drawn to Atlanta for several reasons, particularly the city’s incredible talent pool. In Atlanta, we’re close to healthcare innovators who are incubating the next great idea. The city is home to world-class institutions such as Morehouse Medical School; Emory University and Emory Healthcare, the second-largest employer in the state; and a network of other university hospitals that are at the forefront of healthcare technology. Georgia Tech and startup innovation hubs around the city, such as ATDC and Atlanta Tech Village, are also sources of cutting-edge technologies. Our proximity to these emerging leaders and established innovators continues to grow our pipeline of potential investments. It also provides our existing portfolio companies with access to potential new talent, as well as organizations through which to test, refine, and launch their products and services.

Equally important to us is Atlanta’s diverse community, which reflects the diversity of the populations we wish to serve and the founders in which we hope to invest. At SteelSky, we’re committed to making an impact within historically overlooked or underserved populations. Our portfolio companies – like Mae and Cayaba Care, to name just a couple – all share this mission. Women’s health is a space that deserves increased focus and investment, and true innovation requires seeking out the expertise of founders with diverse experiences and perspectives.

In a recent article on AtlantaInno, SteelSky Ventures Partner Maria Velissaria shared that she “wants SteelSky Ventures to be a part of the budding innovation ecosystem” in Atlanta. What role do you think investors have in supporting emerging innovation hubs?

Innovation in women’s health is happening nationwide, not solely within the traditional healthcare VC hubs of New York, the Bay Area, and Boston. When investors fail to look beyond the coastal cities, they may overlook founders who are uniquely equipped to address some of the biggest challenges in women’s health today, such as strengthening access to care for women in rural areas.

For example, our Atlanta-based portfolio company Motivo has developed a virtual tele-supervision platform for facilitating the therapeutic licensure process from beginning to end, bringing clinical supervision to everyone online. This technology is breaking down barriers and making it possible for more women to access the steps necessary to obtain their therapy licenses, while also contributing to the growing list of Atlanta-based tech innovations and bringing jobs to the community.

With a base in Atlanta, we’re able to stay tapped into regional networks and invest in companies like Motivo that are transforming access, care, and outcomes in women’s health in unique ways. The Atlanta community has been welcoming, open to new capital, and supportive of SteelSky’s mission, and we look forward to continuing our growth here.

SteelSky Ventures as a fund is focused on women’s health innovation. So of course you have to ask: What areas are you particularly excited about and looking to invest in this year?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the weaknesses that already existed within the US healthcare system, particularly with regards to women’s mental and physical health. The need for a new status quo has opened the door for new and creative solutions at a time of new technology and rising demand for access to quality care.

For example, we’ve seen broader societal acceptance of telehealth across a spectrum of conditions, as well as growing interest in platforms that treat the whole person rather than siloed point solutions. There is also a renewed focus on social determinants of health, health equity, and culturally competent care, all of which are deeply important to us at SteelSky.

We are particularly excited about new models of care that address these factors, including:

  • Expanded innovation in conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently, such as heart disease, hormonal health, and aging-related conditions
  • Tech-enabled, integrated care available at home, as seen in our portfolio company ConcertoCare
  • Hybrid delivery models of care that incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide more accessible, personalized solutions for women and traditionally underserved populations (e.g., our portfolio company, Bend Health, which incorporates an AI-enabled clinical decision support platform to provide family mental health care)

We’ve seen a sea change in women’s health over the past few years, but there is a pressing need for further growth and we are always looking for the next innovation that can transform access, care, and outcomes. If you’re a founder who’d like to connect with SteelSky, please complete this form found through our website.

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