Catalytic Capital

The Digitalis Commons provides catalytic capital to support building public-interest technology solutions to complex prob­ems in health.

Our “catalytic capital” focuses on supporting early-stage efforts that are too small or too risky, in product or service markets that are too un­proven, and in capital markets that are currently too small and illiquid for traditional investors to participate. Our goal is to grow and de-risk companies such that in future rounds of financing more traditional investors will invest. “To use a bak­ing metaphor, ... cat­alyt­ic cap­i­tal is the “yeast” which needs to proof be­fore you add flour for the bread to rise.”

Public-interest technologies focus on social justice, the common good, and the public interest. Examples in the health domain in­clude open-source software and technical standards that can extend the delivery of care to underserved populations, accelerate the personalization of health, or improve our ability to impact social determinants of health.

There are many problems that while difficult are “tame” in the sense of involving engineering challenges with technical trade-offs perhaps, but basically a clear set of go/no-go priorities and issues. A tougher class of problems are referred to as “wicked”—involving interacting components without central control whose emergent behavior is more complex than can be explained or predicted from understanding the sum of the behavior of the individual components. These problems involve ethical trade-offs, murky outcomes, and unclear choices. We understand and look to solve the challenges of both types of these problems in the complex settings of health and health-care.

Through the projects and programs we invest in, and the individuals and organizations we partner with, we strive to build open, frontier-advancing, and scalable solutions that have an out­sized im­pact on health.


What was the inspiration for Digitalis Commons?

Hilbert's List — In 1900, the great mathematician David Hilbert published a paper entitled Mathematical Problems in which he set forth a list of problems that he proposed would be the most important ones for mathematicians to solve in the upcoming century.

Hilbert’s list lead to a focused response that has lasted for more than a century, and has resulted in many of the problems listed having been fully or partially solved, but perhaps more interestingly, the spill-over benefit of many other ideas and solutions being generated in adjacent and not-so-adjacent areas of mathematics.

Digitalis Commons draws inspiration from focusing on Hilbert-level problems — the hardest and most important health problems that we need to address in the next century.

What is the impact of catalytic capital?

1. Help develop blueprints for new business solutions that are still at the design stage;
2. Help validate the commercial viability and scalability of a business model by proving unit eco­nomics;
3. Help prepare a market for new product and services; and/or
4. Help scale models to larger footprints that can attract more traditional investors.

What type of projects are you looking for?

We’re seeking investments that help create public goods that benefit human health.

This means something that provides a benefit for everyone. Examples include technology standards, mechanisms for information exchange, or even cloud services. But our examples don’t matter much—we’re keenly interesed in new ideas.