A new accelerator launched by Johnson & Johnson and Village Capital is focusing on health equity by focusing on startups delivering culturally competent care.

A dozen startups will join the program, with each taking its own approach to connecting patients to providers and solutions that consider their cultural context.

“Coronavirus has further exacerbated and really called attention to health inequities that we see in the U.S.,” said Heather Matranga, Village Capital’s senior director of strategic innovation in a Zoom interview. “So much of that is around structural issues within the healthcare system as well as the ability to really connect patients with culturally competent healthcare providers that meet their needs and understand their needs.”

Each of the startups approaches the problem from a different perspective. For example, one focuses on matching people with mental health providers who meet their values, while another is building an app to help people understand their rights as a patient.

They also represent a diverse group of founders. Half of them have a female founder or co-founder, 83% are led by Black and/or Latinx founders, and more than half are based outside of venture-capital hubs New York, Boston and San Francisco.

This year’s cohort includes:

  • Ayana Therapy (Los Angeles, California), a mental health startup focused on removing stigmas related to marginalized communities accessing care by matching clients with providers who fit their values such as, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and gender.
  • Grapevine Health (Washington, D.C.), a startup that educates and engages people in underserved communities about their health through relatable, culturally appropriate, and data informed video content.
  •  K’ept Health (Washington, D.C.), a woman-focused digital dermatology clinic using AI/ML to provide holistic, culturally competent care.
  • knowRX (Austin, Texas), a cloud-based digital healthcare platform that addresses various encounters important to proper therapeutic care.
  •  Lucia Health Guidelines (San Francisco, California), an AI-based clinical decision support tool that provides diagnosis and guideline treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib) at the point of care.
  • Omaiven (Austin, Texas), a startup that automates the business of healthcare, to help lower the barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need.
  • Patient Orator (New York City, New York), a HIPAA compliant app helping chronically ill patients document changes in their health to bridge existing communication gaps between healthcare professionals and underserved communities.
  • Provider Pool (St. Louis, Missouri) a career building community of temporary healthcare workers. Its workforce management tool allows healthcare organizations to hire these workers on-demand.
  • Radical Health (New York City, New York), a minority women-owned social enterprise that works at the intersection of community health and AI enabled tech to help people understand their health care rights, build trust, and develop self advocacy.
  • TQIntelligence (Atlanta, Georgia), a startup whose Clarity AI talk therapy software extracts voice biomarkers to measure emotional distress of at-risk youth to improve treatment outcome.
  • Violet (New York City, New York), a startup that helps the healthcare industry identify and reward culturally competent clinicians.
  • Viora Health (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), a personalized engagement solution to address social and behavioral determinants of health by disease state.

The startups were picked from a total of 70 applicants, based on their team, business model and product-market fit. Two winners selected by their peers will get $100,000 each in grant funding.

J&J Impact Ventures launched two years ago with healthcare impact investments in low- and middle-income countries. In this most recent cohort, it has turned its focus toward U.S. entrepreneurs that serve low-income and diverse populations.

“As we turned toward growing our portfolio of entrepreneurs that we work with in the U.S., we really felt the ecosystem was different but also quite nascent in health relative to other sectors, such as microfinance or inclusive economy, particularly for minority and female founders, and particularly for solutions that aren’t just wellness, but for things that are really at the heart of healthcare and health equity,” said Alice Lin Fabiano, global director of social innovation & investment for J&J. “That’s what led to not just picking one or two companies that we might invest in, but supporting an ecosystem of entrepreneurs.”

This isn’t the first team-up between Village Capital and J&J Impact Ventures. Last year, they launched another cohort of startups focused on supporting and meeting the future needs of U.S. healthcare workers.