One of the most pressing issues the U.S. has to prepare for, perhaps, is the future it faces after the toppling of Roe v. Wade.
Come the midterm elections, voters will weigh in on candidates and, consequently, measures that will dictate abortion access and other human rights issues. The role venture capital must play in all of this is becoming clearer: There has been a push to fund more reproductive health companies, include healthcare access in ESG investments and reevaluate the safest places to open a business for women employees.
To get a clearer picture of what lies ahead, TechCrunch+ surveyed eight investors and learned what they think venture’s role should be in a post-Roe world. McKeever Conwell, the founder of RareBreed Ventures, noted the tenuous relationship between venture money and ethics. He said although there are some who might not care about human rights issues in relation to investing, he wants to double down on funding startups focused on reproductive health.
Theodora Lau, the founder of Unconventional Ventures, said she believes more venture investors should take political stances on issues. “Access to healthcare is a right; it’s not politics,” she said. “These are existential issues that should concern all of us, regardless of our role.”
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“Where legislation continues to lag, it’s important for technology to take a proactive stance to bring transparency to current and future innovations and mitigate the kinds of risks we see today.” Hessie Jones, partner, MATR Ventures
Meanwhile, Hessie Jones, a partner at MATR Ventures, said the due diligence process needs to go deeper to identify the risks of developing new technology. “Due diligence needs to expand past the point of founder ‘intentions.’ We have to ask ourselves: What is the potential that this technology can be used for other use cases beyond its current intention? What is the impending risk to people or groups?”
Finally, nearly everyone we spoke to is keeping an eye out for change that could come in November. “Vote,” Lau said. “With your voice, with your action and with your wallet.”
We spoke with:
- Hessie Jones, partner, MATR Ventures
- Lisa Calhoun, Gary Peat and William Leonard, Valor Ventures
- Mecca Tartt, executive director, Startup Runway
- Ed Zimmerman, founding partner, First Close Partners
- Theodora Lau, founder, Unconventional Ventures
- McKeever Conwell, founder, RareBreed Ventures
Hessie Jones, partner, MATR Ventures
What was your initial response to the overturn of Roe? What are other impacts the overturn of Roe has had on your firm and investment strategy?
I grew up in the Catholic system, which vehemently opposed abortion and the right of women to decide what to do with their own body. I am also a Canadian, and our laws regarding abortion and the rights of the mother are very different than the U.S.
The Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health decision implies the rights referenced under the 14th Amendment — specifically, a woman’s right to privacy under the “due process clause,” which affirmed her right to choose whether to have an abortion — leaves all civil right precedents vulnerable to being overturned.
The assumed misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment in this opinion turns back the clock when it comes to the rights women have been fighting for years.
Where legislation continues to lag, it’s important for technology to take a proactive stance to bring transparency to current and future innovations and mitigate the kinds of risks we see today: Exposure of personal information, data surveillance and the use of personal information that will ultimately inflict harm on individuals and groups.
This is already happening, and now it has found its way into communities where reproductive data is leveraged against the data subjects.
Will the Dobbs decision affect the criteria you use to conduct due diligence?
Absolutely! Apps that have been used to help women, like Flow, Glowing and Cue, can be weaponized with warrants to identify those who are or may be seeking abortions. The data collected by these apps and Big Tech can be sold, breached or acquired via government warrants without taking into consideration the rights of the subject.
Due diligence needs to expand past the point of founder “intentions.” We have to ask ourselves: What is the potential that this technology can be used for other use cases beyond its current intention? What is the impending risk to people or groups? As well, we must, at the very least, demand privacy-by-design standards and the security of the infrastructure acquiring any personal data.
We must scrutinize founders’ intentions, how the data will be used, who the partners are, to what extent data will be shared and for what purposes. We’ve come to a perilous crossroads where technology has contributed to harms, and we now must put the onus on founders to be more accountable for what they’re building.