- Impact-investing firm Sorenson Impact Group just launched a new investing arm, Enable Ventures.
- The fund will invest in startups that make workplaces more accessible for people with disabilities.
- The disability community to date, has received less venture capital attention.
A new impact fund is focusing on supporting people with disabilities and working to ensure that fewer people are shut out of the workforce due to accessibility issues.
Sorenson Impact Group, a Utah-based impact-investing organization, just launched Enable Ventures. The new venture capital firm, which lives within Sorenson’s newly-launched asset management arm, will invest in startups that make the workplace more accessible for people with disabilities, as well as in founders who have disabilities themselves.
Both groups of people have been chronically underserved in the venture community, according to Enable Ventures founder Regina Kline.
“Disability is our latest Civil Rights movement and the newest crown jewel in the canon of civil rights,” Kline told Insider.
Kline, a civil rights attorney, was formerly a partner at the law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, as well as a lawyer for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division. She worked to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C, a Supreme Court case that found separating people with mental disabilities in the workplace constituted discrimination.
But after nearly a decade of practicing law, Kline said that she wasn’t seeing progress quickly enough — and that equality in the eyes of the law didn’t necessarily translate to equity among workers with and without disabilities.
“I was frustrated by that gap and by seeing people who expected more from their life after leaving the education system but still have fewer opportunities than their non-disabled peers,” she said.
Kline said she’s found a better solution in the venture-capital world, specifically, in partnership with Sorenson Impact Group and its founder, Jim Sorenson, who has been investing in disability innovations for more than 20 years. A career entrepreneur, in 2000 he founded Sorenson Communications, which provides communication tools for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
In recent years, there’s been a push to bring more diversity to the investing world — namely via funds like Valor Ventures and Chloe Capital, which focus on women-led startups, and Cleo Capital and Harlem Capital, which focus on Black founders.
Though, the vast majority of venture cash is still going to white male founders, while minorities are overlooked. According to data from Crunchbase, only 9% of venture funds went to women-founded startups, while only 1% of venture-backed founders in 2019 were Black.
The disability community, on the other hand, has to date received less VC attention than other marginalized groups — despite the fact that it can impact people across race and gender.
“Disability touches everyone, and it’s currently an indicator of being underrepresented in the economy,” Kline said. “Every single metric on the poverty dashboard is deepened and enhanced by disability, and we haven’t yet awakened to this large opportunity in the capital markets.”
That’s where Enable Ventures comes in. The impact firm will focus its investments in four buckets: startups that up-skill, re-skill, and future-proof work; startups that are creating work-related technologies for people with disabilities; next-generation assistive technologies; and founders with disabilities.
“It’s a huge market, with a convergence of technologies that are really creating great companies that have solutions that make the space really ripe for investments,” Sorenson told Insider.