Catharine Dockery is the founder of Vice Ventures, a venture capital fund that specializes in harm reduction in vice products. She has raised over 25 million dollars, investing in companies that operate in “bad” industries that are often starved of access to capital. In this episode Adii and Catharine discuss harm reduction; the mission, vision, and values of Vice Ventures; standing up for your beliefs; overcoming stigma through conversation; and where passion fits into creating something meaningful.
Vices, Values, and Ethics
Catharine introduces herself as founder of Vice Ventures, but that is not the only label she holds. She defines herself as incredibly loyal, taking phone calls at all hours of the day and night. She defines herself as creative, a dabbler in the arts. As a quick learner. And as an investor in harm reduction.
Vice Ventures invests in “good” companies in what many consider to be “bad” industries in an effort to perpetuate both conversational and actionable harm reduction in vice products. The vice industry can be defined in areas from pornography and sexual health, to CBD and vaporizers. These are industries that are often stigmatized as inherently taboo. This causes a lack in conversation about reducing harm in these highly consumed, but socially proscribed, areas.
Catharine firmly believes in reducing harm in any way possible, and correspondingly does not invest in violence or any product or byproduct that is meant to harm or take advantage of someone else. For example, she would not invest in tobacco, which she sees as inherently harmful.
Hammering Home Harm Reduction
Everyone has vices, but it is important that people are educated about what these vices are and how to reduce the harmful nature of them. The concept behind harm reduction is exactly what it sounds like: reducing the potentially harmful effects or byproducts of a vice. For example, investing in a vape pen that monitors the consumption of the user is an example of the kind of harm reduction that Vice Ventures is interested in.
Catharine would be honored to be considered the person who made the words “harm reduction” famous and become the “voice of vice,” she says. It is her absolute goal that other companies pursue the same thesis that Vice Ventures has—focusing on destigmatization and reducing harm.
Catharine identifies Vice Ventures as a social impact fund. They are investing in less harmful versions of vices. By talking about these vices that have become taboo, it is possible to normalize them and create a safe space to talk about them. Once this openness is established, it is possible to create a conversation about making these “bad” vices safer.
“America in general is looking for a harm reduction agent in everything that they’re doing because people are becoming more and more aware of wellness and self-care.”
A Recipe for Conquering Stigma
Creating a community is step one of conquering stigma, Catharine says. Community is key for bringing people with like interests, like vices, together to have a conversation about how these vices affect them, what harm they may be causing, and ultimately how to reduce that harm.