A new venture company focused on health care, Pier 70 companies, is growing on the Seattle waterfront. Its managing partners have a wealth of experience fostering start-ups and an emphasis on funding diverse teams and women entrepreneurs.
“We are a different type of background and a different type of team,” he said. R. Miller Adamsformer Boeing executive and managing partner of Pier 70.
The firm launched in 2020 and is aiming to raise $100 million for its first fund.
“We are going to generate financial returns and we want to have an impact,” said the managing partner shaun hawkin, who previously ran the venture capital arm of Eli Lilly. “What are the ways to reduce the gaps of economic inequality? The best way to do that is through entrepreneurship.”
Pier 70 views diversity as a business asset. Adams points to data demonstration that private equity firms with diverse leadership on average outperform other firms, despite controlling only a small fraction of the total assets of the investment industry.
Adams is a former vice president of global R&D strategy at Boeing. The other managing partners of the firm are Robert (Bob) Black, an athlete who medaled for the USA at the Paralympics and has an interest in wearable devices and adaptive technologies; and chemical preetha ramfounder and CEO of a social learning startup acquired by Brainly in 2016.
The team’s combination of aerospace and bioscience expertise is a blessing, Adams said. At Boeing, Adams formed an internal business incubator and launched the company’s first venture capital investment program. Balk then ran that show, turning it into a $250 million portfolio.
At Boeing, Adams and Balk dove into remote sensing and communication technology used to monitor pilots, soldiers, or the space station. “There is a natural overlap” with health technology such as fitness tracking and telehealth, Hawkins said.
Pier 70’s investment areas include digital health, medical technology, diagnostics and health services.
In May 2021, Pier 70 launched its first fund, called INpact, where “innovation meets impact,” Hawkins said. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is among the fund’s investors.
Connecting startups with the team’s extensive network in healthcare and biopharmaceuticals and linking them with corporate investors is a major focus of the company, Adams said.
Pier 70 partnered with Johnson & Johnson’s venture division to lead $10 million Series B rounds in its first investment, based in Silicon Valley DocSperaa surgical coordination platform to help manage patient care.
Pier 70 also invested in tilt, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company that helps biopharmaceutical companies and research organizations increase diversity in clinical trials. Pier 70 is nearing a third investment, Adams said.
Both Docspera and Accline have black founders and diverse management teams.
Such diverse teams are neither a prerequisite nor a requirement for Pier 70. “We start with the technology and the opportunity,” Hawkins said. “We are not saying sacrifice quality. This is absolutely a business-driven initiative.”
But creating impact by investing in traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs will be a “significant and probably overweight part of our portfolio,” said Hawkins, who was a diversity officer at Eli Lilly before running its venture capital arm.
aiming for impact
The company invests in companies based anywhere in the US, while eyeing opportunities in the middle of the country and startups that other companies might miss. Hawkins is based in Indianapolis, and that’s “an advantage,” said Adams, who was also previously an executive at Integral Systems, a public satellite company that was acquired in 2011.
Pier 70 also has a presence in San Francisco and New York.
The broader economic downturn has made fundraising more difficult, Adams said. But he said it’s also an opportune time to invest in venture capital because of falling company valuations.
Ultimately, Pier 70 aims to invest in 16 to 22 seed-stage companies through Series B. Initial investments will range from $250,000 to $2 million, with a follow-up amount of $2 million to $5 million.