Ex-Medicare chief Slavitt adds partners to venture firm, which will invest in the 'most vulnerable Americans'

Key Points
  • Town Hall Ventures' partners include former Medicare chief Andy Slavitt and Oxeon's Trevor Price and David Whelan.
  • The firm will invest in start-ups focused on the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.
  • Venture capitalist John Doerr is an adviser to the firm.
From left to right, David Miskhin (director), Lauren Robb (senior associate), David Whelan (general partner), Andy Slavitt (general partner), Natalie Davis (director) and Trevor Price (general partner)
Source: Town Hall Ventures

Former Medicare chief Andy Slavitt has added two partners to his new venture capital firm, which aims to find profits in serving the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable Americans.

Slavitt's Town Hall Ventures is officially launching this week at HLTH, a health-care conference in Las Vegas. Joining Slavitt are Trevor Price and David Whelan from Oxeon Partners, a New York-based company with an executive search and investment arm.

Town Hall got its name from a series of visits Slavitt made to town halls across the country to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act, as President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans aimed to repeal and replace it last year. Slavitt, who ran Medicare under President Barack Obama and helped implement the ACA, was a vocal advocate of upholding the legislation, known as Obamacare.

Slavitt, who lives outside of Minneapolis, has no interest in jumping into the fray of Silicon Valley health-tech investors, who have sought outsized returns in wellness apps, tools for urban professionals and technologies that provide an alternative to seeing a doctor in person.

"We're looking to get away from the 35-year-old white guy theory of investing," Slavitt told CNBC.

Rather, Slavitt said he's looking for investments in companies that are trying to improve lives for the most at-risk populations. That includes entrepreneurs seeking solutions to end the opioid epidemic and those targeting mental health, loneliness, maternity, kidney dialysis and care to people in the earliest and latest stages of life.

Senior vice president of CGI Federal Cheryl Campbell (L) talks to group executive vice president for Optum/QSSI Andrew Slavitt prior to a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act before the House Energy and Commerce Committe
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Veteran venture capitalist John Doerr, who made high-profile bets on Amazon and Google, is advising the team. Slavitt said Doerr told the partners he wanted to get involved because the firm is going after the most underinvested part of health care. Longtime health investor Ann Lamont is also serving as an advisor.

Town Hall has already invested in four companies:

  • Cityblock, which was built in partnership with Alphabet to provide services to poor, urban populations.
  • WelbeHealth, a start-up serving the frail elderly.
  • Aetion, which is gathering real-world evidence around drug pricing.
  • Somatus, which is developing technologies for people with chronic kidney disease.

The firm plans to write checks that range from $1 million to $5 million but doesn't intend to lead financing rounds. Slavitt declined to comment on the size of the fund or provide names of its limited partners.

Finding the under-invested parts of health care

Price and Whelan bring with them a track record of investing in so-called tech-enabled services, including companies that are building new models of delivering care. Examples include Landmark Health, which provides medical care in the home to the very sick, and VillageMD, a primary care physician group.

Slavitt said he'll avoid software-based products that are designed to make health less personal. But he does think that technology can create better experiences and "close some of the gaps" when it comes to accessing care, such as in rural areas where the nearest doctor is miles away. Cityblock, which is composed of former Google employees, doctors and policy experts, was the firm's first investment.

Iyah Romm, CityBlock's CEO, is planning to use the funds to create neighborhood health hubs for low-income Americans, which would allow members to access a care team of doctors, coaches and mobile apps.

Romm said in an interview that the Town Hall team stands out in the world of venture because the partners are "in the trenches."

"Health care is broken and I believe Town Hall can help bring us all together to fix it," he said.

First US drug priced at more than $1 million may be on the horizon
First US drug priced at more than $1 million may be on the horizon