Madeleine Darcy may be the new kind of investor health that consumers need

Madeleine Darcy may be the new kind of investor health that consumers need

Women’s health may be under siege in places like Alabama, thanks to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that effectively freezes IVF against the already dire backdrop of a post-Dobbs world. But more and more research dollars and investments are pouring into efforts to better understand and address women’s health.

The view of women’s health is still not broad enough for some, including Madeline Darcy, founder and managing partner of early-stage investment firm Kaya Ventures. Her firm has investments in areas such as infertility, breastfeeding, menopause and death (or end-of-life hospice care), but her sights are even wider.

“Women’s health is health, period,” Darcy said.

Darcy defines women’s health as any condition that disproportionately affects women or affects women differently, such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease or general health.

There are whole areas that Darcy feels don’t get enough attention, such as osteoporosis and osteopenia, hardly a mainstay of conversation.

More broadly, an aging population is integral to this broader definition of women’s health, according to Darcy. In addition to the many health issues women face as they age, women will also carry non-medical burdens.

“Women live longer, which means they are more likely to take care of their husbands than the other way around,” Darcy said. “They are more likely to be involved in end-of-life decisions. They are more likely to inherit financial decisions. And all of that is part of health, too.”

According to Darcy, investors have largely been left with a more limited view of women’s health, although even that represents progress.

“People have no doubt that women’s health is a big opportunity,” Darcy said. “But we need better understanding and funding to start entering these spaces in a more meaningful way, whether it’s venture, R&D, or otherwise.”

Darcy said she has seen some investors switch from some categories after a relatively small number of investments have been made.

“I’ve noticed that the investor group tends to think things are getting saturated pretty quickly,” she said. “So you might hear from a lot of investors, ‘Barrenness is saturated.’ We now have two to three startups that have reached almost that billion dollar mark. We are ready.

Darcy said the same is happening with menopause products and services, after several big-name companies have raised what she calls “a decent chunk of capital,” though not huge by venture capital standards.

She simply disagrees with the assessment some other investors are making.

“I don’t think we’ve reached saturation point in these spaces,” she said.

Different kind of investor sees different opportunities

Perhaps it’s no wonder that Darcy sees the healthcare market differently than many of his peers in the investment world. She doesn’t look much like most of these colleagues.

Born in Australia to young parents who later divorced and remarried, Darcy was raised as one of 13 children in a blended family. She moved to the US in her teens and attended the University of Texas at Austin, initially as an exchange student from Sydney and later as a transfer student. She later worked in management consulting and finance and attended Harvard Business School.

Despite her pedigree, Darcy said she didn’t always feel like she fit in. Growing up, she has no idea what venture capital is. Her parents were an interracial couple at a time that was not well supported, according to Darcy. They themselves were the children of immigrants who had met while working at Domino’s Pizza. Darcy saw them face difficulties because of who they were.

After remarrying, her parents each had more children, so Darcy has generational differences with her own siblings, the youngest of whom is 16 years her junior.

Darcy’s experience of knowing her great-grandparents also informs her prediction that 2024 will be the year of the great-grandparents.

“You’re already seeing those conversations shift away from millennials and now it’s Gen Z and Gen Alpha,” Darcy said. “But we don’t talk about what’s happening on the other side. And this to me is a more interesting story.

She believes that marketers who simply try to increase their text or decorate with ladybugs are missing the mark.

“If you think about the older generation today, it’s not what they’re looking for,” she said. “If you’re not capturing or thinking about that consumer, you’re missing out because they’re actively looking for solutions and have the ability to pay for those services.”

Likewise, her sensitivity to women’s health needs and perspectives is informed by her own mother, who faced multiple chronic illnesses and, as a young mother, mirrors the US Medicaid population

“Few of my peers in the investment world have the perspective and lived experience [like this]said Darcy. “I don’t necessarily look or sound like I’m going to have the experience of those who work in ventures, and I think that’s actually very important because that’s actually how we get different perspectives and conflicting thinking.”

Darcy doesn’t mind being an adversary from a venture capital perspective. For her, it means opportunity.

“As it relates to our investment thesis, it actually gets me pretty fired up. It’s incredibly exciting that there are so many areas that frankly seem very obvious, but yet this is the tip of the spear in terms of how we think about innovation,” said Darcy. “Within venture capital, we have the ability to fund the ideas that will change the future of how we live.”

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