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A physician-entrepreneur seeks out women owners

Helping women grow a business

April 2016
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Published in the April 2016 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

AS A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR, Mary Jo Gorman, MD, knows the challenges new businesses face. She also understands that women entrepreneurs face an even steeper climb when it comes to growing their business.

That’s why Dr. Gorman, a critical care physician and former president of the Society of Hospital Medicine who started her first business in 1991, helped found Prosper Women Entrepreneurs (PWE) Startup Accelerator, a venture capital firm focusing on female-owned businesses.

As lead managing partner, Dr. Gorman gives such businesses not only the capital they need to grow, but tools to increase sales and build a successful management team.

“As a group, women haven’t cracked the code yet.” 

gorman ~ Mary Jo Gorman, MD, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs 

PWE, which takes an equity stake in exchange for its services, provides 12 weeks of onsite training in St. Louis, where the company is based. After that, the firm provides other services and guidance. The end goal is the sale of the company—and a payday for investors.

What kinds of companies does PWE look for? The list includes health care technology and technology companies and consumer firms in which women have significant equity.

PWE also looks for companies that are somewhat established, not brand new start-ups. “We prefer that the companies we invest in have customers and revenue— evidence that the market has shown some interest in the concept,” Dr. Gorman explains.

Her experience as a businessperson and physician gives her insights into the companies PWE works with. “If you haven’t worked in health care, it can be hard to discern what’s a good or bad idea” she says. “You might not understand barriers to adoption or regulatory hurdles.”

PWE invests in up to 12 companies a year and, according to Dr. Gorman, fills an important need. “As a group, women haven’t cracked the code yet,” she notes. “Raising capital is a complex endeavor and without guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, it can be very tough. This results in women raising much less capital than their male counterparts.”

One company that PWE has funded is Janus Choice, which provides information to match patients who need long-term care with facilities that meet those needs.

“Janus Choice is a technology platform that supports integrated delivery networks by identifying which partner facilities can best help patients being discharged,” she notes. “Its proprietary algorithms find specific locations, like one that provides hip rehab and dementia care and takes Medicare Advantage.”

When working with companies, Dr. Gorman says she’s able to put her own experience and that of her partners to use. “We have a very practical view of what makes sense,” she says. “There’s a lot of bad advice out there.” More information about PWE is online at www.prosperstl.com.