Doctor, Cancer Survivor, Investor
Dr. Jake G Prigoff

"It's important for CEOs and founders to connect with each other, to understand that there is a network and there is a community of folks that are in similar positions"

- Jake Prigoff

Jake Prigoff, M.D – Needs assesment


Jake Prigoff is a Partner at Gaingels, one of largest and most active private investors dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusion within the venture capital ecosystem. Jake is a physician, survivor, and healthcare investor. After battling Stage 4 Lymphoma, Jake quickly moved toward the healthcare sphere as a speaker, advocate, and physician. He went to medical school at Mount Sinai in New York City and then followed that with training in General Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center. Jake has since left clinical medicine in pursuit of a broader impact on the healthcare system through the healthcare industry.

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The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to supporters fund ask an investor I’m your host Jeffery Potvin let’s please welcome Jake Prigoff partner of gangels New York as our investor today welcome Jake it’s a real pleasure having you join us today.
Prigoff: Thanks for having me Jeffery I’m excited to be here.
Jeffery: Awesome I’m super excited to kind of dive into your background because while it’s very unique the background you have when it comes to the types of interviews that we get to have and so I’m excited to kind of pick it apart because I love the fact that you’re an MD and all the great things that you’ve done in your career and being able to go through all of the dissertations and papers and awards it’s pretty impressive but I think the end result for me is the detail and the level of detail you have to have in order to be a doctor but also now moving into the space that you are it’s kind of exciting because you’re bringing a whole different style of how to operate inside of this early stage space so we’re excited to dive in and the way we like to kind of jump into the show is we want you to kind of give us a bit of a background and you can go as far back as your University days but just kind of sharing all the great things that you’ve done to get to where you are today and kind of the the outfit that you’re part of and what you guys are doing and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Prigoff: Sure um so my background is is really mostly in the healthcare space as you alluded to um I got started in cancer research uh I was doing mostly clinical research and also a lot of advocacy work as well um I’m a cancer survivor and and so naturally the spaces of tremendous importance to me um and so I was working with a couple of different organizations uh the SAS foundation for medical research Memorial Sloan Kettering mostly in philanthropic endeavors um eventually I decided to take the leap to med school so I went to Mount Sinai in New York on the Upper East Side um and then I did my residency at Columbia um where most of my research was still focused within oncology mostly Surgical Oncology but I did quite a bit of Education research as well I took a year away from Clinical medicine to uh to teach at the Columbia College of Physicians and surgeons their their medical school um and so did a bunch of research there as well and I happened upon gangel’s uh The Firm that I’m at now um through a friend of a friend and he brought me to uh a pitch night when this was pre-covered where you know we used to gather in a room together and hear a couple of pitches from a early stage Founders um and decide what companies uh we wanted to invest in um and so that’s how I found gainesville’s and uh during the initial wave of covid this is kind of my transition now a little bit from Clinical medicine to venture during my time while I was teaching at Columbia the initial wave of covet hit and because I was non-clinical then I didn’t have my malpractice insurance active so it was going to take about another month to just figure that out before I can go volunteer in the hospital as a physician and so during that month I was working with my clinical knowledge and the engineers from Colombia as well as Hospital leadership to try to answer a couple of key questions right one what do clinicians need um to what can the engineers build and three what will Hospital leadership support and those three questions at the heart of it are what venture capital is about for me um it’s finding a need figuring out what you can make and and how to build a company um around that and so I got very excited about that and that was you know a couple of years ago and about a year and a half ago I decided to fully transition away from Clinical medicine and I came over to angels to lead the healthcare Investments um and so it probably makes sense for me to just kind of give you a little overview on angels and and Who We Are um we were founded about eight years ago as an LGBT Angel organization and that’s how we existed for about four years um it was LGBT investors investing into LGBT Founders very much at the angel stage and in 2018 um my business partner uh David he he tells the story much better than I do but he was at uh lunch with a friend Colin Walsh who’s the the CEO of a company called varro money um fintech company and they had just raised the large series B and they had a small bit of allocation left and so they asked Angels if we wanted to participate in it and this was pretty atypical for us as an angel group right to to invest into a true venture-led series B um and we did it and people got very excited about it and we realized that there is a need in the Venture ecosystem for diversity equity and inclusion initiatives and people who support um and really drive that mission and so in 2018 we kind of flipped our model a little bit so we kind of operate in two spaces one is to find diverse Founders um and support them because that’s important and the other is to find companies that need help in their diversity journey and to support them as well and give them the resources and the knowledge they need to improve upon their Dei initiatives um because that’s that’s important too so uh you know I think since 2018 we’ve grown pretty significantly 2018 we deployed about 5 million in capital last year we deployed over 400 million in capital um I think it’s a testament to the fact that a the industry really needed something like this they needed people to uh to kind of push this Mission and support this Mission um and and be that that they genuinely are embracing it um and they’re welcoming us and our organization and our investors with open arms um so we’re pretty excited about that and I’ll stop there because otherwise I could just talk for days.
Jeffery: That’s awesome uh no that’s a great story um and thank you for sharing that I do want to kind of Step a little bit back before we go through kind of everything that you’re doing at uh gangel’s and I think again amazing um but to to go back to your the clinical side of things and I think a lot of this clinical stuff kind of prepares you for what you’re doing today and I kind of like to dive into that a little bit and as I was going through some of your papers and the things that you had that written and you kind of do your research on uh maybe you can share a little bit about how that process works that once you go through and become um I guess on the surgeon side you then have to go into clinical so you start doing a lot of papers a lot of research and your papers go all the way down for many different years and you’re part of books um is that part of the whole structure for you to become a surgeon or is this the initiative you took in order to refine your skills on where you wanted to fit in once you had been fully indoctrinated I guess into the medical field.
Prigoff: Yeah it’s a great question um and something that I haven’t thought about in quite some time so I didn’t really go all the way back when I was at the University of Michigan for undergrad I was an economics major and pretty atypical for for medical students but um one of the things that I focused on during that time was labor economics and and education economics and and why people get higher education and what they hope to accomplish with that right and it kind of breaks out into I promise I’m getting to a point here um it breaks out into kind of two different things right one is practical knowledge and practical skills right because we go to school to to get that but the others as a signal um because it’s important for future employers to recognize that this person can make their way through high school or make their way through college or get a you know have a good GPA and so um really we all we all know this right but to break it down at a high level as to why we go to college why people you know get their High School degree a big part of it is to signal to Future employers that you have the capacity to accomplish something and in a way that’s what a lot of academic research is when you’re in medical school when you’re in residency um is yes naturally there is a clinical interest right or scientific interest in the subject matter but you’re also building out your resume and you’re earning you know you’re learning new skills and building out kind of your War chest if you will of of abilities um and so I started my clinical research before medical school and I continued through medical school and certainly when I was applying into residency uh it was a nice feather in my cap to say you know these are some of the things that I’ve accomplished now that’s also putting aside the actual drive to impact the Health Care system which is very Central to who I am as a human being um and the way that we advance medicine is through these research studies um it’s it’s actually an odd kind of juxtaposition to how industry uh grows and and how a lot of startups grow because in Venture right we want the we want companies to have to have the potential for Rapid scalability right we want them to grow relatively quick not too quick right but but you know kind of measured but rapid uh growth um whereas in Academia it’s very different um you want to make sure that you get it right is kind of the key um and so it takes a long time and like you said you have to be very detail-oriented and very diligent about the process um and so I actually quite enjoy the the intersection of those two things where I can see academic medicine kind of playing into some of the startups that we work with.
Jeffery: And I can totally see that and see the pattern of where this goes because if you start to look at um that rapid scalability that you talked about there’s also the detail-oriented side of where investors like yourself put a lot of focus which is on the founder to start and kind of where I was going with this level of detail and the way that you built out your CV um your CV is very impressive but as uh when you look at it from an investor standpoint it’s obviously amazing because you’ve detailed out all of the papers everything that you’re part of the awards and I think what this brings the level of value to the investor but also if you were running a company what this brings to the person is knowing that you’re going to do what it takes from a level of detail what it takes to appeal to the audience that you’re going after and that you’re going to be really thorough on how you’re approaching the market and this makes a big difference when we’re looking at CVS today of a lot of Founders where they have very minimal experience knowledge or understanding of either starting a company or two being in this space that they’re going and everybody’s like oh it doesn’t matter you can figure it out as you go sure yes to a point but it’s also very difficult to just take on something brand new and what I what I liked about going through a lot of the the papers that you had written um you’re going through the opiate crisis you were going through uh breast augmentation like different pieces that were kind of obviously related to health but there were also things that were really now that were happening that people were facing at the time and then you were doing research on it um proving out your hypothesis and coming up with an answer which I think is very valuable to again to the startup Community Learning hey if I’m going to start a company where should I go and taking how you were structuring this you were going after the Hot Topics because those hot topics are where a lot of people are putting their interest is that fair to say that maybe startups Founders need to start looking at what kind of work they’ve done what they’re trying to do beef up that presentation of themselves and start to to dabble more into proving things things in the space that they’re going after.
Prigoff: Yeah I mean I completely agree you’re never going to come up with a replacement for experience right um I I don’t have the the data on you know off the top of my head to back this up but but I would certainly argue that the uh Founders who are the most likely to succeed are ones who have previously successfully built a company right so that experience is a huge value add uh I I think what you’re what you’re getting at here um is something that I was actually talking to someone about the other day an early stage founder about the other day which is a really thorough needs assessment um and that exists in both Academia and in industry but in different ways but they very much parallel each other within Academia uh folks want to come up with something new and exciting right nobody is going to get published in the top academic journals by telling people that Ibuprofen is helpful for pain right because we all know that that knowledge already exists and So within Academia what we’re hoping to do is find and discover new and exciting um either information or Technologies or medications uh and present it to the world right and the only way that you can do that is by thoroughly understanding the atmosphere that you’re playing in and the problem that you’re going after um and that very much translates to uh the startup Community as well um what I was uh I was speaking with somebody uh yesterday this early stage founder because they’re they’re struggling a bit to find product Market fit and they’re doing a ton of customer interviews and they’re reaching out to end users and I asked them you know how many folks within the startup Community how many Founders in the space have you spoken with how you know how many of those interviews have you conducted it was relatively limited um right because in a way that that’s going to be their competition but if instead they can take that information and leverage It In a needs assessment to say okay well I know that 15 companies are struggling with this problem and none of them are addressing that problem because it’s not at the heart of what they’re trying to do but they’re all struggling with this problem and they haven’t found a solution that is is an opportunity for exploration um because if if those people who I imagine are smart and driven and accomplished um haven’t found a solution to the problem that they have then there you go that’s something that that you need to dive into.
Jeffery: So when you’re talking about the needs assessment protocol or how you’re going to build this so can you give us a little bit of a better idea of what that looks like from a Founder’s perspective again this is I think very important for this early early stage company that is trying to find market fit they’re spending time money effort and they’re spinning their wheels or at least in their mind they feel like they’re spinning wheels and you just gave them an idea of hey maybe you’re testing on the wrong group maybe you’re not solving it for the right group how do you determine that through your needs assessment what are some of the tricks that you can look at and how level of detail do you need in order to make this get to a point where you feel like okay we’re in the right spot now let’s start driving this because we’ve burned through three months or six months of time.
Prigoff: Yeah it’s a good question and and I will uh kind of preface this by saying I am not a Founder I have never built a company and so this is certainly not my area of expertise but getting back to your earlier point I will translate my background within Academia to the space um which is to say and with it with a slight modification um within academic medicine you want to find a problem that is unsolved right and not only do you want to look at every single study that has tangentially even touched the problem that you’re looking to address but you want to thoroughly understand the problem and make sure that it actually is a problem right because the worst thing that you could do is try to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist but um to translate that over into industry uh I think makes perfect sense right um somebody for we’ll just take an example right I can very easily say Okay I want to start a company and I want to cure cancer that means nothing right it I mean it means everything but it means nothing right because I have no idea whether I’m talking about a Therapeutics company a Diagnostics company a care delivery company um and so as you slowly kind of work your way down those different decision points of okay what do I want to actually build um that’s really where you have to dig in and the level of detail is going to change at every level you know that that you need to make a decision um I would say my personal investment thesis and this is this is you know me personally not representative of really anything else um is that I always look for companies and I get excited about companies that actually have line of sight to impact patients and to impact providers somebody once said to me and I don’t agree with this but I understand where they’re coming from somebody once said to me that medicine is where Innovation goes to die and what they were really trying to get at is that there was a lot of innovation that will end up sitting on a shelf somewhere and that could be software that could be device that could be you know Therapeutics Diagnostics whatever it is that people poured time and energy and Blood Sweat and Tears into and nobody ever uses it um and so for me personally uh when somebody’s doing A needs assessment they have to thoroughly understand how am I going to actually impact patients with this how am I going to impact the health
system with this.
Jeffery: And I that’s very well said and and I think that you’re obviously to your background It lines up perfectly to how a startup works or should work so ideally it’s how can I understand what I’m trying to solve um and but defining the problem by going and looking at the existing research or data that’s out there now I’m going to say that probably in the um Academia world and medical world tie those together that it’s very thorough and there’s a lot of research because and this goes to kind of my next question is that when you start to look at and do this research and you find that Gap the thing is is that in startup World finding that Gap everybody just thinks there’s a gap everywhere but in the medical world there’s like if there’s a gap it’s a small Gap and you’re going after that Gap because you can find so much research that’s been done on so many areas of of research and medical that you can kind of refine it and go in and say okay here’s the sliver we’re going after whereas I think in a lot of the startup world you’re just making assumptions until you find out that nobody wants to buy your product then you’re re-pivoting pivoting and pivoting because there isn’t mounds of data that’s really out there but I think what you’re saying is that you can create that still you can still look at this just the way you would in medical and Academia and say find that problem and still research the hell out of it there is information out there you’re just not putting the time into getting it so you’re not going to perfect yourself you maybe you need to be a blue type personality because you need to be really data focused but this is going to change the way your business works and if you don’t do this you’re going to tend to spin your wheels more in the startup phase because you’re being too broad and you’re going after fighting cancer instead of refining that down is that a fair way of assessing what you share.
Jeffery: I I yes and no a I think you give the medical community a little too much credit um yes there is there there there are a ton of clinical trials there’s a ton of medical data and academic Publications that address a lot within medicine um but there are pretty significant gaps and people trying to address them right but also the idea that um that every medical publication or every academic publication is is right right we’re wrong about a lot of stuff you can go look at at my CV and those those papers that I published and uh you know you’ll probably find a couple of concluding statements that seem very uh very sure about whatever conclusions you know we drew in in that study um but I would almost guarantee you that you can go out and find a study that says the exact opposite right and so what the medical community is great about doing is is kind of aggregating all of that information um and I say great about doing we’re not really all that great about doing it but we try um but we recognize that there is a difference in the level of evidence offered from one study to the next right and you know at the highest and you could you could Google it there’s a pyramid of what of what they are at the bottom of it is essentially expert opinion that some random person saying well from my experience this is what we should do um and at the top of it it’s you know randomized uh blinded you know control studies um and and they offer a different level of of evidence um and so to say that the medical community has has gone about you know every little facet within medicine in a very detailed way um you know maybe it’s true maybe we’ve touched a lot a lot of things but there’s still a lot of work to be done um and then Translating that over into uh the Venture Community it’s it’s interesting right because and I I happen to be close you know naturally still with a bunch of academics it takes a really really long time for them to see clinical benefit from the studies that they run right it could be 10 years 15 years before it touches the lives of a patient that’s not what industry is about Industries you know the 80 20 rule is kind of a great model here where it’s all right we’re 80 sure that this is gonna work let’s dive in see if it’s going to work we’ll spend a month doing it and we’ll find out pretty quickly um now naturally if there’s any type of medical implication there there are regulatory uh hurdles that they need to overcome but um but but that’s what I like about industry it’s saying all right we’re not 100 sure here but we’re gonna dive in and we’re gonna give it a shot um you got to go into the level of certainty but it should never be a hundred percent.
Jeffery: And I think that shares well that you’re using the number 80 and I think this would be very it becomes very helpful for a startup to say that if I have a target of going out and pitching a problem and getting investors to want to come and invest in me I have to be 80 sure of the direction I’m going or the problem I’m solving and I’m gonna probably I’m using that as kind of The Benchmark because I think if you can build enough of that research to get you to that 80 maybe that’s what’s going to get investment coming quicker into the company which then lets them scale faster they still got 20 wiggle room of proving themselves right or wrong in there but at least they’re further along than typically when you’re getting a company coming to you and say I’m solving this problem they’re at 20 um and they’re like banging their head against the walls saying why won’t anybody invest in me this is the best solution known to man but they haven’t really defined what the problem is they haven’t really focused in on it uh they haven’t and maybe it’s not always creating the papers but I think it really comes down to understanding what you’re trying to solve and I I could kind of take it from all the things that we talked about that a lot of this comes down to understanding the data researching and coming up with a a product fit or a building a product that’s going to fit to the problem and utilizing all the resources people and data around you to make that decision quicker and if it takes you two years to do that at the beginning then you’re going to save yourself uh time ramping up and moving quickly into the space and raising faster dollars and becoming that so-called unicorn.
Prigoff:  Yeah it reminds me of a quote that one of the senior surgeons uh used to say that I worked with it was uh plan plan your act act your plan but don’t be afraid to be flexible um right have an idea of what what you’re going to do have a plan for how you’re going to do it and if you realize somewhere along the way that it’s not working call an audible.
Jeffery: I like that little football in there as well.
Prigoff: yeah
Jeffery: Yeah now that’s great um so now taking that kind of model that you’re you’re helping companies realize and and I’m going to say this has to be valuable for where you guys are at and how you’re helping new Founders better understand what they’re going after but also where you’re going to slot in to invest you’re not just investing in every single person that shows up at the front door you kind of have to figure out okay you’re doing your own research so you’re coming up with the questions that are going to be pushing back against their problem and helping them find that market fit along the way um is there anything that helps tweak your interest in it like because you’ve done so many Publications you’ve done so many papers you understand this space of of getting out there and putting everything out in front of the the world to kind of hack against it because when you write a paper there’s a million other people in um Academia that are like nope Jake this is wrong this is wrong this is wrong I don’t like this you’re wrong you don’t know what you’re talking about you’ve actually had to fight against that as well so now you’ve kind of bring even more to this uh call it the early stage game which is not only once you prove it and start solving the problem you’re gonna have a lot of naysayers out there how do you get around all of that and how do you help those startups realize like hey when you’re solving problem you’re going to get pushed back against everything everybody’s going to come at you full Blaze and they’re not going to let you move forward that’s when you know you’re solving a problem and a good problem how do you kind of Coach people through that.
Prigoff: Um well I think my background really gives me a unique lens within the venture or ecosystem right there are not a lot of I like to call myself a recovering surgeon um out in in the Venture world and it gives you a unique perspective right because I think that uh clinical Physicians don’t really know what’s going on out in Industry even if it’s within their specific field of interest um and so being in that space but with the clinical lens I tend to just kind of push back a little bit harder from the clinical perspective but it’s not even I don’t see it as I shouldn’t say pushing back I should say I see it as a resource um because I understand what they’re trying to do but uh but with the clinical background that I have I will often offer unsolicited clinical feedback for these companies and say you know your uh the the folks that are coming in to lead your rounds the VCS that you’re going to talk with they’re going to go out and reach out to clinicians and if that and if they were approaching me this is the first thing that I would look at this is the first thing that I would be concerned about um I will say that gangel’s as an organization uh we don’t lead rounds we do not set terms we’re very much a strategic follow-on investor so when these companies are building out kind of their go-to-market strategies um and their product Market fit uh we certainly offer them a variety of resources to help but we’re not usually the folks that are in the board boardrooms with them to figure out those specific strategies.
Jeffery: Well it makes sense and again this is all uh all valuable in the mindset of an early stage company as they start to progress through and learning how to get into the market and how they’re going to go to market and being able to have a resource like yourself that has the experience the know-how and has gone through uh the clinical side and understands that I think that’s super valuable um now taking that that same experience and working with these companies you guys bring as a as a business you bring a lot more to the table than I’ll say every other Angel group because now you’re bringing diversity in which is something that the world is I will say battling with because they’re now having to adapt which is very weird to say that they have to adapt to diversity when uh the world should be 100 diverse already and understanding it and I can say that even from this was oh man years ago and this isn’t even this is about inclusion I guess but uh when I was working at La bless 20 years ago um we had to stop using the word Merry Christmas and we had to change everything to happy holidays and but they never explained why they just said do it and then uh everything was changing up the photos the photos had to be making sure that you had diversity across family photos and everything and this was probably 20 25 years ago and I thought it was brilliant like this is great yes why are we just posting white people everywhere that’s ridiculous and then we changed it and then the whole culture and the business changed that way but it’s kind of weird that now there’s a position that we’re not doing it it’s not being done and it’s so openly out there that it’s not being done at the right the right way of making everybody feel included it’s starting to change a lot today how are are you guys changing this inside of the startup Community because the startup Community is the perfect spot to kind of educate learn and have people say wait a second I need to change the way I’m actually building this and I’m going to do it today because I’m a new company versus I’m a 400 year old company and I don’t know how to change.
Prigoff: It’s a great point and thank you for for raising it um I’ll add to that really by saying you know the the underlying premise of of what you were just talking about is that diversity is the right thing to do and obviously I agree with that but I think we need to move beyond that and really make the argument that diversity is the smart thing to do right um and don’t take my word for it McKinsey has come out with studies over the past couple of years multiple studies that show that teams with diverse leadership fiscally outperform teams without it right and so it’s no longer just the right thing to do it is the smart thing to do from a company’s perspective right and so the way that we help our portfolio companies really breaks down into kind of three major buckets um the first is through participation we are not only offering uh Venture investment to you know this asset class to a group of diverse investors who classically have been shut out Adventure right but we’re we’re offering uh mentorship programs and scholarship programs and fellowship programs to underrepresented youth we have a board inclusion program and over the past two years have uh gotten 20 offers from portfolio companies to diverse uh recruits to come sit on their board of directors and and now to put this in context right through the lifetime of a company it’s exceedingly rare for them to add somebody to their board of directors right and it’s even more unusual for them to add someone to their Board of director is that’s not coming from one of the VCS that is leading the round right because most of these rounds Elite comes in they put in 10 million bucks they get a board seat right we’re not doing that we’re offering this as a resource to portfolio companies to help them find folks uh that align with their mission and have the relevant experience and come from diverse backgrounds to sit on their board because it would be helpful for that company um the the second kind of bucket that we look at is thought leadership we work with a whole host of organizations out leadership out bio Ramba um to not only bring thought leaders to our portfolio companies and help them improve upon their Dei initiatives but we also provide a platform for portfolio CEOs who are succeeding in these initiatives to be the future thought leaders right it’s participating in conversations like this that allow us to expand the reach and the footprint of uh of our mission and then the last is purchasing to actually close the generational wealth Gap that exists amongst minorities uh we need to provide a space for portfolio companies and others uh to find source and purchase from minority-owned businesses and so that’s something that we’re actively working on as well and so um the value that we really hope to drive within the ecosystem is to promote diversity equity and inclusion right and the hope is is that someday um you know everyone whether it’s companies that have a hundred CIS straight white men or companies where every single person is diverse right helps everyone move along the spectrum of Dei and in five ten years you know hopefully the world will be in a better place.
Jeffery: I love it it’s awesome uh and every company should take this up and if not I don’t know if you guys have put a paper together or put some of this metrics on your site so that everybody can go look at this but I think it’s uh it’s a great position paper or position for businesses in general to read up on this
to learn about it and figure out how they can make changes because the faster they make changes the better off the business is going to be in the short and the long term because being able to offer and bring all cultures into your business and being able to look at it through different lenses I think is going to open up everybody in Innovation.
Prigoff: Um yeah if anybody’s if anybody’s interested there feel free to go to to we have a letter there that we ask all of our portfolio companies to sign and it outlines a bunch of strategic initiatives that companies can take to be more inclusive.
Jeffery: Ah that’s awesome perfect well we’ll get those and add that to the show notes after but great uh well said that’s uh that’s awesome it reminds me of one time I was in uh a meeting at one of 20 years ago when I was working in the startup world and we were making it they were making some decisions and um I remember saying it was a female based uh product decision and it was all white dudes in the room and I remember saying this doesn’t really make any sense shouldn’t we have any females in this oh yeah that’s a good idea and it just blew my mind that even at any point in time that we tried to make decisions or try to do things on behalf of other people or other cultures or other groups and I think that that’s 10 steps backwards and I I think to your whole point it’s all about including people inclusion and across all uh sectors all groups all cultures and I think that makes the place the world a better place so you guys are doing awesome in that and I love it and glad that you were able to share that appreciate it now I’m taking that same kind of um Mantra that you guys in the mission that you guys have put together and the companies that you’re investing in maybe you can share a little bit about more about where the areas are that you heavily focus in medical is obviously a massive area um I’m assuming you can’t be investing in every sector but there are certain pieces that really kind of you focus in on and what is that focus is it the hardware side is it clinical like where is it that you guys really bring uh the value to the market to help Founders out.
Prigoff: Sure um so I guess kind of two questions one is the value that we bring to the market to help Founders out I think a lot of it really centers around the Dei uh Mission and resources that that we offer um whether it’s you know board recruitment c-suite director level recruitment educational initiatives um thought leader uh event thought leadership events um you know so that that’s kind of the the piece in terms of our unique value proposition um where we focus as an organization is pretty broad so we’re industry agnostic um I say that we’re stage agnostic although that’s a little bit of a lie we don’t do early early like friends and family rounds or or pure Angel rounds um we do require that there is institutional Capital uh coming into a company I mean we invest alongside institutional Venture Capital firms um so you know relatively Broad in terms of our investment mandate uh but but for us we’re about to launch a health care fund um in the near future that is going to focus on the health and well-being of the LGBT community um and so that’s of particular interest to me um and the companies that will support our companies whose success could impact our community um and that could mean that it’s a a biotech company that is addressing one of the many diseases that uh that impact the LGBT community more so than than other communities and and we naturally always kind of think about HIV or mental health or substance use disorders as those uh those diseases but what a lot of people don’t realize is that obesity is over indexed in the LGBT community as is uh cervical cancer um and and a host of other conditions that um you know that that impact our community more so than the average population and then there are the social determinants of Health as well um right there’s a large portion of LGBT youth that suffer from homelessness that suffer from uh you know um uh Financial issues um or socioeconomic and in general just social issues uh and so impacting those social determinants of health will have an impact on their General Health um and so those are the companies that were really uh looking at for for this fund.
Jeffery: That’s brilliant and I think a lot of that um on the impact side to health I think even in the the community you’re also looking at mental health which I think is probably a really strong component uh because I think when you have what the community decide to go through there’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of anybody in the LGBT community and I think they have a lot of where do I go how do I get help who do I talk to and I see a lot of products and startups coming out on that space too so absolutely this space is getting exposure absolutely.
Prigoff: Yeah one of the things that I’m really excited about is not only the direct impact on men you know for mental health companies and companies that are directly addressing mental health issues for our community but also the companies that are tangentially involved right there are companies that are addressing uh competency within clinical care settings so that LGBT people feel welcome when they go to a hospital and that they feel like they’re not being you know studied or taken advantage of because of who they are there are companies who help with the financial stability uh for the LGBT community specifically right I think we can all agree that if you’re more financially stable your mental health will likely improve right and so there are plenty of companies that might be you know fintech company and we don’t necessarily see the direct impact on Mental Health but it’s certainly there and so that’s a space that I’m excited about.
Jeffery: Well that’s great awesome um and and one last kind of um inquiry or question around the position of how you’re helping on the c-suite and with the board side um have you built up over time are you going out and looking for people that are specific to the industry so that you can drive them in or of you do you have them coming in as investors how do you kind of work inside that space because again it’s pretty broad but at the same time it’s so needed so how are you guys doing a lot of Outreach to kind of figure out who positionally can we start to bring in educate on boards because maybe they’re new they haven’t been on the board side so how do you kind of work that side because I think this is actually not only critical to the business and the model that you’re going after but I think for all startups I generally need the same type of help so how have you kind of tackled that um.
Prigoff: Yeah it’s a great question so we have an internal team that is free for all of our portfolio companies um to help them recruit qualified board members and so we’re not uh necessarily in the business of educating new board members what we do is we is we help our portfolio companies uh Source candidates from diverse communities that bring tremendous strategic value to these companies [Music] um independent of of their background right these are these are folks that you want on your board because they’re smart and they’re driven and they’re accomplished and they happen to be from a diverse background um and so that that’s kind of really the space that we’re in in terms of board recruitment um in terms of General recruitment we’ve got the largest jobs board in the world dedicated to Dei with inventure last month alone we had over 10 000 unique visitors um and again people could find that if they’re interested in connecting with any of our portfolio companies they can go to jobs um and uh we’re also the co-founders of a company called Matheson which is a diversity recruitment platform and we work with a variety of different recruitment uh platforms to help our portfolio companies Source diverse Talent um it’s important and it’s difficult uh I think one of the things that often kind of goes unnoticed or maybe undervalued is also just the ability to
congregate as an organization we this year I think are going to probably throw about 200 events and that gives Founders and investors the opportunity to come and meet people uh from you know from all over the place from background from from diverse backgrounds right naturally when a company wants to hire a new CFO or a new you know head of marketing or a new whatever you recruit from your network and if your network looks like you and acts like you and comes from where you come from it’s not wrong to tap into that Network right but then all of a sudden you look around and you have a bunch of straight white guys sitting at the table and so we help people diversify their Network by also uh bringing folks together um and so that that’s something that really drew me and and like I said before that’s actually how I met Angels was that one of those events.
Jeffery: That’s brilliant man and and I love uh everything you’ve shared I think it’s uh It’s a great story and I love how you’ve transitioned into working in this space the startup world needs you they need people that understand the the clinical medical side but also being able to understand how to build inclusion in and help them grow their business but taking that detail-oriented side uh that you’ve learned throughout your schooling and through your uh your practice so I think all these things are super valuable and uh I can say that the startup world is appreciative and glad that you joined it because uh you’re breaking a big impact and that’s awesome so now I’m taking all that that learning that we’ve uh just kind of talked about we’re going to transition ourselves now into kind of call it the case study um but I’m sure you’ve worked with so many different Founders there’s got to be a lot of great stories that you can share just looking for one story that you can share that really kind of denotes what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Prigoff: Well you know I I won’t claim to know what it takes to be an entrepreneur um I have never been one I have never started a company I have never personally built a company um one of my partners uh often reminds us of the fact that being the CEO uh you know and founder of a company can oftentimes be the loneliest place in the world um and the reason is because there’s nobody at your level right there is nobody there who is doing exactly what you’re doing and you’re usually the busiest person in in the company uh but oftentimes it’s it’s difficult uh to manage from a professional but also from a personal standpoint how to grow a company and have and have people depend on you um you know for for their career for their job to pay the bills right um and so what I would say uh is it’s important to find Community it’s important for uh for CEOs for Founders to connect with each other um to understand that there is a network and that there is a community of folks that are in similar positions and opportunity to learn from them um we’ve leveraged this you know internally to connect uh CEOs and and Founders into small pods where they can connect with each other but um you know I think it has kind of broader implications on the Venture community in general which is to say reach out and find people that are in similar positions um because those are the people that you’re going to connect with and learn from.
Jeffery: Now well said love it and it’s so true that when you when you build something or you work on something and you can be around like-minded people it builds the energy up you’re kind of all striving for that same goal the same way of hitting the market even if you’re in two separate verticals or again total different space it’s the fact that you’re able to do that with somebody else and I know when I started my first company um her name is Andrea we met every single day at the coffee shop and she was starting what she was going to do she left her role and I was working on a company and we just bounced ideas and it was you know 20 years ago but the point was that you were trying to figure out what you were trying to do but it was someone that was doing it at the same time and it kind of made it easier even though it was hard or harder it was just having somebody that had the same mindset of where they wanted to go even though they were two separate businesses it was trying to drive somewhere in a direction that you both could leverage and help each other and I think if you like you created the pods those are great ways to keep people interacting work working together and moving forward and there’s also the the great thing is that you’re networking and if something goes wrong you know you have a group of people that are going to jump in to help you out.
Prigoff: Exactly couldn’t have said it better myself.
Jeffery: I love it all right we’re gonna go into the rapid fire questions let’s do it we’re ready for it okay we’re gonna start with the business questions first so uh it’s pick one or the other and again it’s coming from you as an investor so you’re just gonna pick the one that fits best uh on how you would invest and then we’ll go into the personal side.
Prigoff: Okay
Jeffery: All right first question founder or co-founder
Prigoff: For me personally
Jeffery: Uh for the business as you guys make investments
Prigoff: Founder
Jeffery: Unicorn or a four-year 10x exit
Prigoff: Uh the latter okay
Jeffery: Tech or cpg
Prigoff: Tech
Jeffery: Nft or web 3.0
Prigoff: web 3.0
Jeffery: AI or blockchain
Prigoff: AI
Jeffery: First time founder or a second third time founder
Prigoff: Second third
Jeffery: First money in or series a
Prigoff: Series A
Jeffery: Angel or VC
Prigoff: VC
Jeffery: Board seat or Observer
Prigoff: Observer
Jeffery: Safe or convertible note
Prigoff: Convertible note
Jeffery: Lead or follow
Prigoff: Follow
Jeffery: Equity or interest payments
Prigoff: Equity
Jeffery: Favorite part of investing
Prigoff: Meeting people
Jeffery: Number number of companies invested per year
Prigoff: Um let’s say 500 but to be honest I don’t know the exact number
Jeffery: You guys have to be the number one Investment Group of the uh out there that’s awesome
Prigoff: Crunchbase and Pitch book uh last year and the first two quarters of this year I think ranked us number one or number two.
Jeffery: Ah that’s brilliant
Prigoff: Thanks
Jeffery: Uh any preferred terms
Prigoff: Uh we strictly follow VCS um so we don’t negotiate terms
Jeffery: Okay uh and just to reiterate vertical as a focus
Prigoff: Totally agnostic
Jeffery: Two qualities of startup needs in order to stand out to you
Prigoff: Um innovation you need to truly have an Innovative approach to a problem um and I would say commitment um the folks that get me excited about whatever it is that they’re building are the ones that are already excited about what they’re building.
Jeffery: I love it okay we’re going to do the personal side now
Prigoff: Sure
Jeffery: Book or movie
Prigoff: Book
Jeffery: Restaurant or picnic
Prigoff: Restaurant
Jeffery: Five minutes with Bezos or Oprah
Prigoff: Oprah
Jeffery: Mountain or beach
Prigoff: Beach
Jeffery: Batman or Robin
Prigoff: Batman
Jeffery: Big Mac or chicken McNuggets
Prigoff: Neither
Jeffery: Fair enough uh beer or wine
Prigoff: Wine
Jeffery: Trophy or money
Prigoff: Uh money
Jeffery: Camera or mobile phone
Prigoff: Mobile phone
Jeffery: King queen or Rich
Prigoff: Queen
Jeffery: Concert or amusement park
Prigoff: Concert
Jeffery: Fortune cookie or birthday cake
Prigoff: Uh birthday cake for sure
Jeffery: Ted talk or book reading
Prigoff: TED Talk
Jeffery: Tick Tock or Instagram
Prigoff: Instagram
Jeffery: Facebook or LinkedIn
Prigoff: LinkedIn
Jeffery: Most famous person that pops in your mind
Prigoff: Oprah
Jeffery: I think I staged that one a little bit favorite movie and what character would you play.
Prigoff: oh boy um to be honest I’m not the biggest movie buff um yeah I I on I couldn’t even give you a favorite and mostly because most of the movies that I like don’t end particularly well so I wouldn’t want to be a character in any of them.
Jeffery: Fair enough yeah that makes sense all right favorite book
Prigoff: Um I would say uh in our Prime by Susan Douglas.
Jeffery: Have to write that down I haven’t heard that one so that’s what I’m gonna have to check out first brand that pops in your mind.
Prigoff: Apple
Jeffery: Up there you know that I’m gonna say that if we go through every single one of these that I’ve done Apple has to be at least 70 of choice now well I’m sure you know why we’re looking at the screen but there I do think that outside that they just do one hell of a job on their marketing side so I’m I’m uh I know products were on them but still no one’s picking Microsoft even if they’re using a Microsoft laptop.
Prigoff: Interesting yeah I just happened to be looking at an Apple computer
Jeffery: So same um favorite sports team
Prigoff: Uh Yankees
Jeffery: Nice all right we’re almost there uh what is the meaning of success to you
Prigoff: Finding impact and changing lives and actually changing lives of people
Jeffery: I like it and only because we uh we didn’t hit it on the first way through one thing about you that nobody would know.
Prigoff: That I once sang at the Super Bowl
Jeffery: what
Prigoff: Yeah
Jeffery: Oh that’s incredible I didn’t see that anywhere where is this
Prigoff: Yeah I uh I used to be in an acapella group out of based out of New York City they still exist I’m not in it anymore once I went into residency I had to leave but um but yeah they we one year sang at the Super Bowl in the Meadowlands.
Jeffery: Yeah
Prigoff: Uh at like the NFL pre-game a couple minutes before John Legend went on.
Jeffery: Ah that’s incredible then that’s cool I’m assuming you got to stay and watch the game and everything else like that too.
Prigoff: No we didn’t
Jeffery: Really
Prigoff: I know the ticket the tickets are you know gajillions of dollars and
Jeffery: Totally but you guys got to perform there ou’d think that they’d let you hang out but either way that’s still a cool story man.
Prigoff: You’d think but yeah it was a lot of fun.
Jeffery: I bet that’s so cool um all right what last question what is your superpower.
Prigoff: Um empathy
Jeffery: I can uh I can attest that I think uh you’ve done a lot of great things I think that you’re uh a Visionary and you’ve also been able to break into an area based on all your learnings and open up a whole new world which I think is all part of that empathy it’s seeing and believing and diving into something great and you’re doing a lot of great things I enjoyed diving into in your entire background it was incredible so uh thank you for sharing all that thank you for sharing everything you have with us today um and yeah just thanks for for being here it’s been uh it’s been awesome.
Prigoff: Thanks for having me JefferyI appreciate it.
Jeffery: Well the way we like to end our show is we like to give you the last word Jake so anything that uh you want to share to the investor or to the startup Community I turn it over to you but again thank you for sharing I’ve got so many notes it’s crazy um but uh it’s awesome you’re uh you’re a good man thank you.
Prigoff: Um oh God last last words I would say um in the current political climate we’re seeing a lot of uh aggression towards underserved communities um and trying to limit the uh the rights and privileges that some of those communities have and the people in uh the Venture and startup ecosystem are quite literally building the infrastructure and the future of health and Tech and consumer and blockchain and and finance um and it’s important to remember that those communities uh exist and that they deserve a fair representation and that um and that it’s important to build a world in which they are equal.
Jeffery: I love it very well said very well shared Jake thank you again awesome
Prigoff: Thanks Jeffery
Jeffery: Oh that was great Jake it was fantastic the um loved really diving into so many good things that uh Jake and team have been able to put together and I’ll share that some of the things that he talked about especially going into um building the community side uh connecting with and making sure that teams are diverse I love the concept around creating pods so that Founders can work together and finding similarities and and finding ways to help each other and support each other as they grow I think all of these really make and help support startups in that early space and diversity and inclusion and it’s so key to any business today and making sure that all of these pieces all come together enabling a company to have a different view of the world a different culture I think all of these little pieces are really what are going to help a company survive and go the the time and build a great scalable business and of course um doing that from the board perspective is also a a huge part and I love the fact that um they also work and focus on that participation side which was the mentorship and coaching and then his two points which was fully committed in Innovation uh great two ideas there are great two pieces that you got to stick behind in order to make a company investable is that they’re they have a strong Innovation but they’re also committed strongly into their business so love it Jake great sharing great to connect um very well done thank you for joining us today if you’ve enjoyed this conversation please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel follow us on Spotify Apple podcast and or Stitcher feel free to share an audio or video clip around our show and we may include it in one of our future podcasts find us at marketing at your support and comments are truly appreciated you can always check us out at or for startup events visit thank you and have a fantastic day.
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