Thursday, February 20, 2020

Snail Mail: Stigmatized Spaces

Slow Ventures Snail Mail

Stigmatized Spaces

Thursday, February 20, 2019

Happy New Year 🥳! It's been a while. This week, we're diving into why we're so strong on stigmatized companies & industries.

Also, consider this your formal invite to our Social 2030 event in SF next Wednesday (more info directly below).

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🎟 Social 2030
Next Wednesday, February 26th, Slow Ventures, Lightspeed and The Information are hosting a discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities facing social media in the next decade.

To register, visit our website and use the Snail Mail code "Social2030" at checkout for free tickets. More information below! 

Social 2030:
  • When: Wednesday 02/19 from 12:30pm - 5pm PST
  • Where: The Pearl SF @ 601 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94107 
  • Audience: About 200 people actively building, interested in or investing in Social. 
  • Event Format: 30 minute group discussions featuring 2-3 panelists followed by drinks
  • Click here to register!
*Can't make it, but know someone who would be a good fit? Please pass on the event info, or reach out to to make sure they get on the list.*
Stigmatized Spaces 😒
by Jill Carlson & Adam Heerwagen

This week, we thought it'd be interesting to dive into stigmatized companies & industries. We're bullish on these spaces not only because they represent huge, often untapped financial opportunities, but also because there's tremendous social good to be gained by de-stigmatizing these topics. Our culture is in the process of reframing these "taboo" subjects, and we are grateful to work with so many leaders in this growing conversation.

The mental health space is an arena that has seen dramatic shifts in public attitudes in just a few years. Until not long ago, mental health issues were largely deemed private matters to be dealt with behind closed doors, within families (if acknowledged at all). The rise of scientific research initiatives, media attention, and medical treatment options over the course of the 1980's and 1990's have advanced a new era of comfort and innovation around mental health. Now as everyone from celebrities to private companies join the conversation, emotional wellbeing and treatment has entered the mainstream.

Innovators in the wellness space are opening previously closed-door conversations about mental health across the board. Most directly, technology has begun to provide both services to better enable the patient-therapist relationship. From services improving the patient/therapist experience like *Brightside to software for ensuring secure payment to therapists like *Kip, innovators are enabling patients and doctors alike to access and provide care more seamlessly.  While cannabis used to be perceived as a recreational substance, it's now increasingly being viewed as a safer alternative to many other prescription pharmaceuticals for pain and depression. A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that cannabis can effectively treat everything from physical ailments like pain and inflammation to mental health issues like PTSD and depression. 

By no coincidence, the last five years have seen alcohol consumption rates decline as millennials become more conscious of the negative physical and emotional effects of excess drinking. In the last two decades, the number of drinkers worldwide has dropped by 5%. Low and no-alcohol drinks brands are increasingly cropping up. Players like *Tempest are creating the tools to support this new and growing population of non-drinkers, particularly targeting younger generations who seek community in their lifestyle choices. We look forward to finding more companies tapping into this shift in relationships with alcohol, substance use and abuse, and addiction.

Mental and emotional health are often tied to other areas of wellness, including sex. The last decade has seen major shifts in attitudes toward everything from pre-marital sex to relationships between same-sex couples. We've seen companies and brands encourage and lead this newly open conversation. Brands like *Unbound & *O.School are offering women an empowered experience engaging with their sexuality and sexual wellness. Sexual and reproductive health issues from erectile dysfunction to fertility have long been stigmatized and associated with shame, but companies like *Ro and *Stork Club are creating new avenues for individuals and couples to address these areas. Creators like *Mariposa are even breaking down barriers for trans-healthcare by enabling quality hormonal therapy to communities without access. We've seen a rapid evolution in public dialogue around sexual wellness, consent, pleasure, and expression and anticipate this will only continue to grow.


Every generation ushers in a shift in what is considered the norm. From preferences around money to discussion of mental health, the last few years has seen its share of change, only accelerated by social media and the internet. For the first time in history, we are able to connect instantly and globally with others who share our views, however niche they may seem to us in our own neighborhoods. Never before have we been able to engage anonymously, en masse, to share the interests and experiences we may otherwise have been ashamed to disclose. We understand that it's our job to pay close attention to the trends that emerge out of these changes and align our investments with the future, no matter the stigma that might surround them today. It is our hope that with these investments, a more open discourse around these areas will continue to unfold.

(* indicates Slow Portfolio company)

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