A Note from Our Founder: Autism Needs More Venture Capital
When my son, Duke, was diagnosed with autism in 2018, I began a relentless search to discover what I could do to help him. What therapies, treatments, and schools were available for him? What medical help was there for his symptoms?
What I found was, at best, disappointing:
- A highly fragmented and polarized community
- Antiquated and/or inadequate services that had long waitlists and hefty price tags, and
- Not a single scientific explanation for what was happening to our kids
I knew that there had to be better solutions. We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity:
- We know more about our health at an individual level than ever before
- We have access to technologies that can unravel the most complex problems, and
- We have networks and awareness that can build innovative options across the continuum of care
I was convinced that private industry had the resources we needed to find answers for autism and create better options for people like my son. We needed a better way to develop and scale for-profit, self-sustaining, companies to revolutionize the current system and democratize access to care, and I believed that venture capital was our solution.
As fate would have it, this was around the same time that Brian O’Callaghan (Co-Founder and Executive Advisor) introduced me to The Autism Impact Fund’s Organizing Team (Sean O’Sullivan, Elizabeth Horn, and Dan Feshbach). This group emerged from 2m Foundation’s long-standing work around autism. 2m’s multidisciplinary science network, COMPASS, comprised a 500+ person collective of top entrepreneurs, scientists, clinicians and philanthropists whose expertise continues to illuminate our understanding of autism. It was at a targeted COMPASS event where 12 professionals (who were also parents of kids with ASD) convened and decided that the Autism Impact Fund was what was needed to move the needle on autism investment.
The motivation for the new fund was simple: these parents, like me, believed we could do more to find answers for our kids now. In 2019, I was introduced to this group, and we quickly realized the potential of working together. After many flights and meetings, and seeing how their vision was aligned with mine, I committed myself to catalyzing change — and the Autism Impact Fund was born.
The Autism Impact Fund is unique with its singular mission-driven purpose — accelerating autism solutions. The fund will make direct investments across diverse sectors and stages of financing, and is guided by four key values:
- Invest in companies that will produce significant advancements in quality of life for the ASD community
- Provide individuals with autism access to best-in-class services, diagnostics, and therapeutics
- Apply rigorous investing criteria to deliver returns to all stakeholders, including ASD individuals, their families, and investors
- Rewrite the impact investing equation, overlaying financial discipline and proven business strategies with scientific acumen to improve the status quo for individuals with autism
AIF Co-Founder & Managing Partner