Northwestern Mutual VC Fund Leader Discusses Investment Approach

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burden they face as financial responsibility shifts from institutions to individuals. The way that the competitive market is looking to solve these needs for consumers is leading to growing financial insecurity. This is an opportunity for us to see companies and partner with them to grab [their] ideas and bring in some of that external perspective.

X: It seems like it’s pretty easy to draw a direct line from Northwestern Mutual’s core business to three of the fund’s focus areas (“changing consumer preferences,” “re-imagining customer experience,” and “transformational analytics and technologies”). But it’s not quite as straightforward with the fourth focus area, “digital health revolution.” In what ways does healthcare technology intrigue you and others at the fund?

RP: Really, physical health and financial health go hand-in-hand. For us at Northwestern Mutual, financial security is about protecting what matters most and growing your wealth to be able to achieve your aspirations. The best way to protect your loved ones and your financial future … your physical health and being there for them is a big piece of that. And then clearly as a company and with our [insurance] products, we’re there for when that health fails.

So when I think about physical health for people, there is a lot of innovation going on in that space to be able to help a consumer be more aware of their own condition.

X: With digital health, for instance, do you expect that you’ll invest in mostly consumer-facing technologies or would startups with a business-to-business sales focus be in play as well?

RP: I would say our overall focus is to be able to deliver value to consumers. That, I think, is broad in terms of how other companies are solving for that. They may be solving [problems] for institutions rather than individuals. But we may be able to leverage what they’re learning to be able to take that and add value, from a client perspective. So I wouldn’t rule out [investing in] companies that are addressing needs in other spaces.

X: Do you think it’s possible that the four focus areas could shift over time?

RP: I think as consumers shift, as their needs change, and as emerging companies look to solve needs in different ways, then our focus areas could evolve. But these are really core to what’s important to us and to our clients.

X: According to the Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures website, the fund will mostly be looking to co-invest alongside other venture groups and individuals. How do you go about finding folks to team up with?

RP: We have been building strong relationships over last the several years. It’s going to be continuing to do that and looking at [potential] co-investors, but then doing our own sourcing as well. I would say it’s really open-ended in terms of who we would partner with. But they have to be strong companies that are going to help us deliver that value to our clients.

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