Investing with Purpose: how mOm Incubators is saving lives
For years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for purposeful investing and it's a field of funding that I’m delighted to say is going from strength to strength. One of the main drivers is that consumers are demanding that the products they buy and the brands they remain loyal to are purposeful to their core.
Over recent years, many venture capital firms and individual investors have been increasingly focusing on companies and founders who are building businesses to solve the world’s biggest challenges. What’s exciting is that this exponential investment growth in sustainable and purposeful companies will ideally level the 'funding playing field' for diverse entrepreneurs, women and innovators who are pioneering solutions to some of the most critical problems we face today.
What I love about purposeful (especially early stage) investing is that you get to work with amazing entrepreneurs who want to build successful companies, but are mostly driven but a desire to move our world forward in a real and positive way for all stakeholders.
At Virgin, we’ve always entered markets from the point of view of the positive impact and the value we would bring to our consumers, our people, community, and the wider world. When I made my first official Impact Investment in mOm Incubators back in 2016, it was simply a more formalised way of doing just this and I’m delighted to say we’ve made many purposeful investments since.
Over the next few months, I’ll share the stories of these companies and the incredible individuals that drive them forward in a new series I’m calling 'Investing With Purpose'. I hope their stories inspire you as much as they have all of us in the Virgin Family.
I’ll start with my first impact investment: mOm Incubators.
It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch the journey of mOm Incubators over the past five years. An idea that began on paper now has the potential to save thousands of lives all around the globe.
The team at mOm have designed, developed and manufactured a compact, accessible, and portable neonatal incubator that is tackling barriers to healthcare and addressing the devastating fact that one million premature babies die needlessly every year.
From the moment I met the incredible, innovative team at mOm Incubators in 2016, I knew this was a unique, game-changing, purpose-led company that we should invest in and help grow. The mOm Incubator will make a positive impact across the world by accelerating access to care and, as my first ‘official’ impact investment, mOm Incubators will always hold a special place in my heart.
Five years on from our first meeting, I’m thrilled to say that, in the last couple of weeks, the team has reached a pivotal milestone following the first ever clinical use of a mOm Incubator in a UK hospital. Seeing footage of the first baby being sustained inside a mOm Incubator at St Peters Hospital in Chertsey left a huge impact on me. It is such an exciting signal of what is still to come. To mark this truly amazing moment, I sat down with the founder of mOm, James Roberts, and the company’s design engineer, Gemma Singer, to discuss their journey and to share, with all of you, a demonstration of this wonderful innovative medical device… which James brought in a suitcase! I spent the first few hours of my life in an incubator, and as the mum of premature twins, so I know just how critical those days in the incubator are.
It was so inspiring to hear about the impact that the clinical trial had upon the team. As James said:
“I saw the first baby inside of the incubator and all the pain, challenges and difficulties of getting a medical device to the point where you can put a patient inside just paled in significance. It was the most surreal moment of my entire life.”
As James, Gemma and I discussed, it’s also crucial to improve the availability and accessibility of incubators in remote and deprived parts of the world. In fact, James came up with the product idea when he was in university and learned about how the war in Syria was causing infant mortality rates to soar.
For such a purpose-driven idea, it’s incredible to see how the team has never wavered from its core vision throughout even with all the challenges that comes with bringing a medical device to market. In part, this was achieved by literally building purposey into the design process. As Gemma mentioned in our conversation, purpose was embedded and engineered by:
Taking critical information from healthcare professionals to understand their core needs.
Quantifying the information.
Embedding it into the product design.
Frequently running checks to ensure they have addressed the initial needs.
It’s amazing to hear about such a tangible approach to embedding purpose and it was truly an honour to see their purpose in action. Speaking with Gemma and James also reaffirmed to me just how powerful impact investing can be, and I hope my Investing With Purpose series helps more and more people realise this too.