Erin Harkless Moore was always interested in math. So she headed to Wall Street. “It was intoxicating in some ways and incredibly fast-paced,” she recalls. She apparently enjoyed that life, too, given that she worked there for about five years before becoming an investment advisor at Cambridge Associates.
Then, three years ago, Melinda French Gates’ Pivotal Ventures called, wanting Harkless Moore to drive the firm’s investment strategy. “I literally pinched myself,” Harkless Moore told TechCrunch. “I had been looking for an opportunity that would bring together investing in fund managers, women-led funds, diverse-led funds at the early stage, and align with that mission of impact.”
Part-venture fund, part-philanthropic organization, Pivotal Ventures launched in 2015 and uses grants, partnerships, advocacy strategies and investing to support founders and nonprofits. With a $1 billion commitment from French Gates, the firm has employed a data-focused approach to investing, with the primary aim of positioning more women, especially those of color, in decision-making roles. That includes investing in caregiving to allow women to achieve a better work-life balance, advocating for federal paid family leave, encouraging more women to study entrepreneurship, and supporting women in public offices.
So far, it has backed investment platform Ellevest, care service company OndeCare and health advisory platform Tia, according to PitchBook. Harkless Moore said the care economy is a big focus for Pivotal. “It’s a $648 billion market, and it’s ripe for innovation.” Pivotal is also a limited partner in funds such as Magnify Ventures and Leadout Capital, and provides support to help these emerging funds scale.
To get a deeper look at Pivotal’s long-term strategy, we recently sat down with Harkless Moore to talk more about its goals, how data can improve social impact investing, and how she expects technology to help where the government fails.