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Why These VCs Focus on Innovation, Not Industries

Unlike other VC firms, the four-year-old San Francisco-based firm doesn’t focus on just one kind of business. Instead, Physic takes on companies that leverage innovative ideas in big markets, then opens its Rolodex of corporate contacts.

Physic Ventures team

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Physic Ventures is a venture capital firm that wants to change the world. Unlike other VC firms, the four-year-old San Francisco-based firm doesn’t focus on one industry (such as health care, IT, or cleantech). Instead, Physic puts its money in companies that address pressures on our social systems and natural environment. That means investing in everything from skincare company Own to materials company Novomer.

Physic (“the science of healing” in Latin) has a number of criteria for potential companies, explains co-founder William Rosenzweig, the founding CEO of the Republic of Tea. Physic looks for startups that address “really big markets that are coalescing,” leverage innovative technology, have a market-ready application, feature great leadership, and have a space where Physic can add value. If a startup meets these criteria, it will be rewarded with access to Physic’s extensive Rolodex of corporate contacts.

One prominent example: Novomer, which creates plastics from waste CO2. Physic led the startup’s series A round and introduced Novomer to people at Unilever. The corporation began working with Novomer’s material, and soon after, Novomer received an $18.4 million grant from the Department of Energy. “One of the reasons they got the grant was because of the partnership with Unilever,” Rosenzweig says. The startup’s partnership with Unilever gave it an air of credibility.

“We’re teaching entrepreneurs about partnering paths and approaches. Most of our companies have partnerships like this,” adds Rosenzweig.

Other companies in Physic’s diverse portfolio include Pharmaca (an integrative health care pharmacy), Elixir ( a biopharmaceutical firm that works on age-related diseases), and Gazelle (a recommerce site that gives consumers cash for old electronics). They all feature “innovations solving big problems,” says Rosenzweig.

And companies in Physic’s portfolio have the opportunity to work together–Own is planning a product launch at Pharmaca in the near future, for example.

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Physic has big plans for future investments, too. The firm is interested in a number of industries, including sustainable agriculture, food safety, supply chain transparency, and community health. It’s a vast investment landscape, but one that Physic seems more than willing to take on.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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