Series Sponsor: Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab

This case study series was made possible by the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL). Their in-house startup accelerator promotes financial inclusion and provides access to capital for early-stage technology and technology-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. Apply to join their next accelerator cohort, open through September 16, 2021.

The Plug spoke with Chris Gay, a 2019 participant in Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and CEO of CareAdvisors. Gay’s company enables access to government benefits and community-based social services.

Founded in 2018, Chicago-based CareAdvisors offers a software platform that's integrated with live expert assistance. They contract with hospitals, health plans and community-based organizations to build out an ecosystem to help address unmet social needs for vulnerable populations.

“What really makes us unique in this space is how we're able to build a bridge from social service providers and healthcare providers through our value-based social care framework which [creates] an impact on the individual health of a patient or member in a plan,” Gay told The Plug.

It was relationships with other founders focused on advancing equity that first led Gay to apply for the MCIL.

I had a couple of contacts who had been through the first class of the program. They talked about the value of it, how it was really particular, really unique in the accelerator space since they focus on equity issues,” Gay said.

Funding diverse founders, a key component of the accelerator, was also a major value add for Gay to apply. The emphasis on working with an organization that understood his company’s enterprise focus further set the program apart.

A lot of the accelerator programs you see today focus on the consumer. There's a different process for an enterprise software company.”

The company had a hard sell to investors who were not as well-versed about the issues surrounding Medicaid, but the program helped Gay create a framework for pitching investors and scaling a business with less capital.

Morgan Stanley mapped out processes for sales, capital raising, relationships and infrastructure, according to Gay.

“What was really different from other accelerator programs was their willingness to talk about unique issues out loud and teach us how to get over a hump or manage and deal with challenges,” he said. “As you might imagine, a diverse founder generally doesn't raise a lot of money, and, on top of that, when you talk to well-heeled venture capitalists about Medicaid and the underserved community, it’s easy for them to overlook the business opportunity behind that.”

As a former investment banker, being a part of an accelerator led by an investment bank gave Gay a new mindset for understanding his business.

“Everything in the startup world can be looked at through the lens of a deal, whether it's hiring, fundraising, or sales. If you dissolve it down to deal management, it's really easy to grade yourself on whether you're successful or not and iterate so you can get deals done.”

After the program, the company raised a seed round and is focused on its expansion across the country. CareAdvisors’ success is also exemplified through their growth – the company has expanded to five cities and has plans of adding another 15 cities throughout the country. Since the accelerator, CareAdvisors has also tripled its number of employees to 22 team members.

From the lessons Gay learned during his time in the MCIL he imparts wisdom that will serve diverse founders.

You can't be scared of being different. Women and diverse founders live in a different world and face different problems, he said. ”You're not going to have a lot of precedents that you get to rely on for pattern matching. If you only follow mainstream TechCrunch culture, you're not going to get there,” he continued. “It’s going to require a certain bold spirit because you're not going to get a lot of initial support, and you're going to have to have faith in that path.”

Series Sponsor: Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab

This case study series was made possible by the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab. Their in-house startup accelerator promotes financial inclusion and provides access to capital for early-stage technology and technology-enabled companies led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs. Apply to join their next accelerator cohort, open through September 16, 2021.