Marcus Whitney is a Founding Partner of Jumpstart Health Investors (JHI), the most active early-stage health care venture capital firm in America. Of JHI’s funds, Marcus leads Jumpstart Nova, the first health care venture fund in America investing exclusively in Black founded and led startups. Marcus is also co-founder and minority owner of Major League Soccer team, Nashville Soccer Club.
Marcus is the author of the Amazon #1 best-selling book, Create and Orchestrate, about claiming your Creative Power through entrepreneurship. His work has been featured by Entrepreneur, CNBC, Inc., NPR, Fast Company, and The Atlantic.
Marcus is an Aspen Health Innovators Fellow, and a member of the board of the Healthcare Finance Management Association, Celtic Bank, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, OZ Arts, and Launch Tennessee.
You have had a remarkable career journey. Can you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are now, and what inspired you to go into health care?
I started my career as software developer at HealthStream, then at Emma email marketing in its early days. I left Emma in 2007 to begin my entrepreneurial journey which included co-founding Clariture Health (which was acquired by Trilliant), and that’s where I met my current business partner Vic Gatto (Council Fellows c/o 2016). At the time, Vic was exploring innovations in early-stage venture capital, and we ended up partnering to launch Jumpstart Foundry in 2010 at the Entrepreneur Center, which was the first tech accelerator in the Southeast.
After four years of nurturing Jumpstart Foundry as a passion project, we quit our day jobs and went all-in in 2014. Quickly we decided that, while we had successfully launched companies in all industries, health care should be our focus because of the industry’s strong presence in Nashville and the great need for innovation in the space. Since then, we’ve continued this work while also launching a full investment platform to offer various opportunities tailored to different types of investors through Jumpstart Health Investors.
In 2021, you launched Jumpstart Nova. Tell us more about the genesis for this fund, how it has been going and what the future holds.
The roots of Jumpstart Nova can be directly tied to my Nashville Health Care Council Fellows experience. From my view, Fellows offers two major benefits. First, it allows you to grow your network and relationships in a deep and broad way. Second, you’re pushed to be an innovator and a change agent.
In my Fellows class of 2019, many conversations were sparked about racial equity and corporate responsibility for social issues. Then in May of 2020, the murder of George Floyd brought these issues to the forefront in a way I hadn’t seen before. Everyone was reflecting on themselves, and it made me reflect on my own privileged place in the health care industry. At the time, I was the only Black health care venture capital partner in Nashville. I felt that I had a responsibility to use my platform to speak to inequity in our industry from a perspective only I had.
I published a letter, calling for Nashville’s health care leaders to join me in addressing systemic racism by diversifying leadership to reflect the employees and communities they serve. The response was powerful. And from this momentum came Jumpstart Nova, the first venture capital fund dedicated exclusively to investing in Black founded and led health care companies. From July 2020 through December 2021, Jumpstart Nova raised $55M with 97 limited partners, including some of the most essential health care institutions in the country.
Obviously, I’m thrilled to have reached our fundraising target, and now we are doing the really exciting work of helping our incredible portfolio companies grow and succeed.
How did the Fellows program influence your career?
My Fellows experience is woven throughout Jumpstart Nova, as many of the fund’s strongest supporters and investors are people I met in the program. It gave me a much greater understanding of the industry and how we can work together to accomplish great things.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I’m a fan of the Rich Roll podcast, and his go-to advice is “mood follows action.” If you wait for your mood to hit a certain place before you do anything, you’ll be waiting a long time. You actually have to do things in order to feel inspired, creative, accomplished, etc. I find that to be so true. My job is to take action.
Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.
When I’m not working or with my family, I’m probably training or competing in Jiu Jitsu.
What books would you recommend that have shaped your business thinking?
A great book I’m reading now to better understand our industry is “The Social Transformation of American Medicine” by Paul Starr. Very important to understand how we got to where we are with our health care system here in the US.