Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp share career updates since their 2017 cover story and how they’re pursuing gender equity as venture capitalists.
Photo by Jessie Lyle
This month, like countless other small businesses and local companies, Austin Woman was faced with the financial ripples of COVID-19. A May issue was no longer a guarantee—without some help. Our founder, Melinda Garvey, turned to the women who have always been our loudest and best cheerleaders: our former cover women. She asked if they would lean in and support us, so in turn we can continue to support all Austin women. The responses were immediate and humbling.
Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp, general partners of True Wealth Ventures and 2017 cover women, were among the many women who leaned in. We’re so grateful for their support and we hope as they supported us, you will support them. We asked Brand and Rupp what they’ve been doing since their cover story and how they’re pursuing gender equity as venture capitalists.
Austin Woman: Your Austin Woman cover story followed your founder story of creating venture-capital firm True Wealth Ventures to invest in women. What have been some career highlights since your 2017 cover story?
Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp: In January 2019, we successfully closed our first fund at $20 million, making us the largest venture-capital fund with a proactive gender diversity strategy at that time! Since then, we have been focusing on our primary job now, which is to invest in about a dozen early-stage companies (out of this first fund) with high growth potential and to help them prepare for an exit (usually an acquisition). We have made eight investments so far and are in the middle of making another. This is the most rewarding part of the job and we are so proud of all of our companies and the impact they are poised to make—both financially as well as improving environmental and human health.
AW: How have your clients pivoted during this unprecedented time?
SB and KR: Austin-based UnaliWear has launched its next-generation watch and is targeting vulnerable but independent populations to provide fall detection and medication reminders. This is more critically important than ever with many of these populations being isolated for the foreseeable future.
BrainCheck, whose product team is based in Austin, is a cognitive-testing platform focused on seniors. The company has adapted to new regulations facilitating telemedicine use. Cognitive change can indicate a variety of health issues, and it’s also a reimbursable preventative telemedicine service for doctors.
reBlend is creating care packages of their superfood pops that can be shipped to anyone struggling to get fresh produce and desire something in a safe package.
Vidafuel, a maker of dietitian-developed medical nutrition products, remains focused on dialysis patients who are extremely vulnerable during this time and in need of optimal nutrition. Its products are also available for direct-to-consumer purchase for not only kidney-disease patients, but anyone who is in need of adequate protein intake to boost their immune systems and increase strength to ward off infection and viruses.
AW: How can Austinites support you and the women in your community right now?
SB and KR: If you have an older/vulnerable loved one at home, you can now buy them a UnaliWear watch so you don’t need to worry about them falling undetected or taking their medications on time. You can also inform your older loved one’s doctor about BrainCheck to catch changes in cognition remotely versus waiting for the next face-to-face doctor’s appointment. Our company, Atlantic Sea Farms, farms the only fresh kelp—a superfood—in the U.S. and has ready-made seaweed salad, kimchi and kraut products that can be delivered to your home.
We also have two companies leveraging the microbiome. Dermala offers a skin-care kit that fights acne by using your microbiome. It doesn’t use antibiotics, doesn’t require a prescription and is available for home delivery. Oralucent is using blue light in a toothbrush to not only gently whiten teeth but kill the bad bacteria which lead to gingivitis and gum disease. Its toothbrush isn’t available for purchase yet, but will be released as soon as possible, as there are studies showing it also has anti-viral benefits.
WHAT IS MAKING YOU SMILE RIGHT NOW?
Sara Brand: Well, I am starting to enjoy having my two boys at home all day. We have gotten into a schedule where they now understand what it means when my office door is closed (please don’t interrupt unless it’s urgent), when there’s a snowflake hanging on my door (severe medical emergencies only) or if it’s just cracked (happy to help if you knock versus shouting “Mom!” from across the house). I am taking the online course The Science of Well-Being through Yale and trying to exercise every day with online classes from local instructors to stay positive. I also hope that this massive pause on travelling and reduced manufacturing may give the planet a much-needed breather, and we as a human race have a better chance of obtaining our climate goals.
Read more stories of our former cover women who joined our Lean In campaign.