Seae Ventures acquires Unseen Capital after founder death

Seae Ventures is acquiring Unseen Capital after the death of founder Kayode Owens in 2021. The combined firm will continue to invest in healthcare for minorities and underserved populations.

Owens, an investor and entrepreneur, launched Unseen Capital to focus on early-stage healthcare companies started by underrepresented founders, in 2020. He raised $30 million but unfortunately died from cancer in August 2021.

Over time, Eli Lilly, Unseen's key limited partner, realized that the firm wouldn't survive without Owens' leadership.

While it's rare for one venture firm to buy another, Eli Lilly set out to find a new home for Unseen. It looked at a few candidates, but Seae Ventures, another diversity-focused VC firm backed by the giant pharmaceutical company, stood out as a perfect acquirer.

On Tuesday, Boston-based Seae announced that it has acquired Unseen Capital, bringing its total assets under management to $200 million.

When Ely Lilly approached Seae co-founders Jason Robart and Tuoyo Louis about stepping into the general partner role at Unseen, they couldn't say "no" to the opportunity.

"Our mission is serving traditionally underserved and vulnerable populations, with a particular focus on women and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] founders, and that was also the mission for Unseen," Robart told TechCrunch. "Bringing the two together means we could continue to honor and seek to achieve Kayode's vision, our vision, and do that really from our combined strength."

Robart and Tuoyo started Seae in 2019 after running Zaffre Investments, the corporate ventures arm of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, for more than five years.

"We knew based on our experience at Blue Cross that there were some really attractive companies producing strong returns, who were addressing traditionally underserved or vulnerable populations," Robart said. "The healthcare system really needed a boost in those areas. And we thought we could make a difference."

Seae Ventures was founded in 2019 and closed its first $107 million fund in early 2022. The firm is currently raising a second $150 million vehicle, according to an SEC filing.

Its portfolio companies include Tia, a digital tech company serving women, which has morphed into in-person clinics, and Needed, a provider of dietary supplements and other natural nourishments for women before, during and after pregnancy.

While Seae and Unseen serve similar populations, they invest in companies at slightly different stages of development. Robart and Tuoyo leverage their experience with a major health system to help startups secure contracts with large medical organizations and hospitals. That means that Seae invests in startups that already have a product and are raising a Series A or a large seed round.

Unseen, however, focuses on pre-seed and early-seed companies that are not yet ready to sell to health systems, Robart said.

While the surviving team at "Unseen did a great job at continuing with Kayode's vision," they moved on to different opportunities since Owens' death, Robart said. Seae is bringing in Erica Murdock, an experienced healthcare operator and prior founder, to lead Unseen strategy, which includes investing in pre-seed and very early-stage companies and managing Unseen's existing portfolio companies.

Seae Ventures will continue to honor Owens' vision not only by backing young healthcare companies founded by minorities but also through a fellowship in his name and a scholarship fund for Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students.