Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurial leaders working to make this world more equitable. Today, I’m super excited to speak with Ben Freeberg, managing partner and founder at Oncology Ventures.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Ben! Tell me, what challenges are you addressing through your organization?
Ben: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. At Oncology Ventures, we invest in companies that improve the way we research and treat cancer. At the moment, cancer care is a complicated puzzle. There's not enough teamwork, we don’t use the best technology, and often people don’t get the best treatments. This means that people are unnecessarily in pain and sometimes pass away when it is preventable. Plus, treating complex cancer cases can be very costly. Even though we have great cancer treatments, not everyone who needs them gets them. By finding companies solving the puzzle, we can help people get better, faster.
Spiffy: That’s a great mission! What motivated you to do it?
Ben: A few years after I graduated from college, I was diagnosed with cancer. It had spread around my body, and I needed surgery, chemotherapy, and 40+ strong medications to treat it. I lost my hair, felt tired all the time, and was scared. After I recovered, I wanted to spend my life fixing the puzzle of cancer care so that other people had better experiences than I had. So, I have used my finance and healthcare training to support and invest in companies that are improving cancer.
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Ben: First, we are proud to support diversity in our founding teams we give money to. Second, our companies work to increase the opportunities people have to get best-in-class care through digital health. This means people who usually cannot see a doctor are able to online, and so care is more equal. Third, we are unfortunately still at a time in our society, where less than half of Americans with cancer are treated according to best practice guidelines for care. We are helping to solve that.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?
Ben: We have been lucky to build a team and to start investing in companies that are changing the way we treat cancer. We are very lucky to have partnered with the City of Hope Cancer Center and the New York Cancer and Blood Specialists. This means we can rapidly help patients by understanding what the needs of hospitals are when we are choosing which start-ups to partner with, and we can help these start-ups scale.
Spiffy: That’s amazing! Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Ben: We are proud to have invested in three start-ups that are changing the way we research, treat, and cure cancer. Gabbi is helping everyone understand their risk of getting cancer, so they can better avoid and treat it. Health Universe is helping research teams work together to cure and treat cancer. VivorCare is giving people help after they have finished cancer treatment to get their lives back on track. These will help solve the cancer puzzle.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ben—it’s been an honor!
Ben is uniquely positioned to launch this cancer-focused venture capital fund as he lived it as a cancer patient, and he is now five years cancer-free. He has invested in healthcare start-ups at two venture capital funds and helped build a value-based cancer technology company. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 31, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.