Episode 13

Meet the Hosts: Lynne Chou O'Keefe

with Lynne Chou O'Keefe

January 7, 2022

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Lynne Chou O'Keefe
Member, Day Zero Advisory Councils; FoUNDER and Managing Partner, Define ventures

Lynne Chou O’Keefe is the Founder and Managing Partner of Define Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on investing in digital health companies redefining healthcare. Define Ventures focuses on incubation, seed, Series A, and Series B stage digital health startups (www.definevc.com). Lynne has partnered with entrepreneurs to help them build category defining digital health companies, such as Livongo (NASDAQ:LVGO), HIMS (NASDAQ:HIMS), Unite Us etc. Previous to Define Ventures, Lynne’s experience includes both healthcare operating, investing, and finance roles. Previously, she was a Senior Partner at Kleiner Perkins focused on digital health and connected devices early stage investing. Before joining Kleiner Perkins, Lynne worked at Abbott Vascular and Guidant in multiple roles launching over ten product families in the US and internationally. Lynne was responsible for building the global commercial strategy and therapy development as well as playing a key role in the clinical, reimbursement, and operational strategy for these therapies. Earlier in her career, Lynne worked at Apax Partners with a focus on software venture capital investing. In addition, Lynne worked at Goldman Sachs in the Mergers and Acquisitions group and worked on multiple multi-billion dollar acquisitions and sell side transactions in various industries. Lynne has been named WSJ’s Women in Venture Capital to Watch in 2020. Lynne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.


As a founder, I've been there when it's hard, but you can break through to the other side. I'd like to meet those types of founders and help.



Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 0:16
Good afternoon, Lynne. And welcome.

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 0:18
Thanks, Gary, great to be with you.

Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 0:20
I should point out it’s afternoon my time, but bright and early in the morning, your time. But we’re pleased to have you at the microphone. And we’re delighted that you’ve joined the advisory committee of Day Zero, our new show where we interview founders. Certainly we would all agree that innovation and entrepreneurship is much needed these days. So the role of the advisory council is to provide guidance to the Day Zero program and to interview founders. And so before you start your interviewing process, we’d like to interview you and just get a brief sense of you. I’ll start off by asking what was life like growing up for you, Lynne?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 1:04
Oh, my goodness, well, you know, I have to say, I came from two immigrants from China. My mom and my father came over for their masters and eventually their Ph.Ds. And my mom was the kind of corporate executive. She started as a bench technician at Anheuser Busch and eventually ran the whole China business for Anheuser Busch. And so I’ve always looked up to her, obviously, as a mother, but truly what she built in her career. And then my father was a very classic small business entrepreneur in many different fields. So I always drew inspiration from both those sides of the house, if you will, into what I’m doing today.

Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 1:47
Well, where did your interest in health care and investing come from, Lynne?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 1:51
We probably don’t have time for the whole journey. But I’ll succinctly say that I think it became very clear to me early in the days is that, if I’m going to give 120% to something, I want it to drive impact. And I actually remember talking to my mother, “how did you feel about working in the beer industry?” And she said, “well, it was more about the art and science of business that I loved”. And I knew after that conversation is, I loved the art and science of business. But quite frankly, I wanted it to move the needle in some way. And that led me on to a path of many different things. I worked pro bono for a micro grant micro loan organization. I worked in politics very, very briefly, you know, trying to, if you will, step into that journey of impact. And coming from a science degree, healthcare just kind of hit me. And I remember going to Mass General, actually, seeing my first procedure, and seeing, you know, a medical device implanted in the human body. And I knew at that moment that this was my calling, this was my career, because it really meant something, A, how technology can truly help people live better lives. And when you see those families in the waiting room and you have your own personal experiences, which we’ve all had with our families and healthcare, I knew that this was a life’s work and a life’s mission.

Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 3:15
Well, I’m glad it turned out that way, for sure. So you’ve had experiences in the medical device industry, certainly in investing. At what point did you decide, gosh, I’d really like to found my own investing firm?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 3:30
It’s one of these moments. You know, I wouldn’t say I woke up saying this is what I want to do, you know, when I was younger. But I would remember very clearly, when I was working at Kleiner, I was driving down in LA meeting a portfolio company. And I literally thought, wow, I’ve dedicated my life to this. This industry is emerging and building. And I had such passion and vision for what, you know, I felt was like the right type of platform. It was like that kernel of thought. And then it was just there, and it would grow and grow. And I think every founder has that moment where it grows to the point. And so that was then two years later, after that initial kernel, that it was so big in my heart, in my mind, that I had to do this, right, that this vision was so clear in my mind of what I felt needed to be built for entrepreneurs in this industry, that there was no one but me to do it. And I in fact couldn’t do anything else at that point in time. And Gary, you know, when you have that moment of realization, it’s just completely your jumping off the cliff. And it’s incredibly scary too. I will absolutely admit that. It’s the exhilaration of, this is my life’s work, this is my mission, all coming together with just sheer “can I do it, I’m going to jump off this cliff”. I was obviously leaving Kleiner Perkins, which was a phenomenal platform. But I knew that this is what had to be done for the industry, for entrepreneurs, and ultimately then the actuation of all my life’s work, and to actuate this vision. And so that founder journey is just so clear in my mind. It has driven everything of what we’ve built at Define. And that’s why I’m so excited about Day Zero. It’s because, let’s get into the hearts and minds of founders, and that journey that they’ve been on.

Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 5:33
Well said, for sure. So how does it feel now that you’re in a couple of years managing your own firm. It’s your firm. The decisions you make affect your reputation, as well as the people that work for you, and so on, and so on. What does it feel like now?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 5:50
I mean, I will say, Gary, it is, you know, everything rests on these shoulders. We have a phenomenal team at Define and we are on a rocket ship. And every day is exhilarating because we drive impact from, you know, idea to what we can accomplish. And there’s something also about, you know, scaling in the way that we have the impact that we’re making, but really being a brand that people understand and know because we’ve all been in this space for a long time as a team. And so I think that, you know, hey, we say we earn it every day. And I think 10 years from now, I want this same attitude that we have today about how we love to build with our founders. The deep partnership that we have will be true today and it will be true 10 years from now. And I think that also is important that we have driven core values of who we are as a platform and that those are enduring throughout the life. And that’s defining healthcare, defining partnership, and defining leadership. And so you know, we come and, again, we earn it every day. And it’s the best feeling in the world to be able to hopefully impact you know, healthcare and people’s lives and really change the industry.

Gary Bisbee, Jr. 7:16
Well, you’re off to a great start doing that, Lynne, so congratulations. Would you define digital health, that term for us? Because, you know, some people are probably a little fuzzy on exactly what that means. But you’ve done such a great job in that area with Define. Could you define the term for us, please?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 7:37
Yeah, I really see it as the technology enablement of healthcare. We have a very clear view, we call it the house of healthcare. And it starts, where we find interest, is the front door of that house, so how people enter into the healthcare system is dramatically changing. We believe the foundation layer of that house is data liquidity and analytics. And some of what we see as dark data sets, or integrated data sets that we need to holistically see a whole person’s health. That could be even consumer data, as well as healthcare data and SDOH and community data. And so we’ve made partnerships in that area. And then we say the rooms of the house, how we experience healthcare, is tech enabled services and digital therapeutics, where we find great interest in kind of how healthcare is really delivered. And that goes all the way from the hospital to the home, right, and in the community. And we’ve seen a lot of those rising themes. And then lastly, we say full stack houses, new entrants here to really attack the incumbents. And we’ve seen that with full stack payers. We’ve invested in other full stack companies in the clinical trial space as an example. And so we’re really excited about all of those areas. You know, healthcare is huge. And I think that we’re going to continue to see not only the scientific development that has always existed in healthcare. We now have the technology development of, as we think about AI, ML, etc. blockchain in the future, and then we also have the what I call business development of just how, you know, healthcare is changing, for instance, from fee for service to value based. So there are all of these areas and we think companies that capture, you know, those changes is really what we’re interested in, in digital health.

Gary Bisbee, Jr. 9:32
Lynne, over the time you’ve been investing, has the supply of founders increased at all?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 9:39
Yeah, absolutely, Gary. I think, as everyone has started to see, A, how broken the healthcare system is, how we can actually create meaningfully scaled companies that are changing healthcare. And, of course, that we have multiple winners in this space. We’re seeing technology founders that, you know, maybe they were looking at enterprise software consumer, and they’re saying, wait a second, there’s so much here in healthcare, especially after COVID, that needs change. They’re seeing that they can create meaningfully scaled companies, which was harder to do, you know, let’s say, 10 years ago. And then thirdly, that they can have great outcomes just like they would in any other space. And then I think, lastly, and this is the most important thing, this is what has driven all of us to healthcare, is the desire for impact. And I think a lot of founders coming out of COVID have asked themselves, am I doing, you know, with my career, what I can? Am I moving that needle and seeing how much need there is in the world, especially in healthcare, to redesign and reconstruct and redefine another system?

Gary Bisbee, Jr. 10:48
Then how do you look at diversity of founders in particular? Is it broadening?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 10:54
Absolutely, Gary, and we are heralding that at define, you know, obviously, we have backed, you know, companies like Tia that really wrap around women. I’m very proud to say we have a mainly women leadership team, CEO, COO, we have an all female board as well. And so we talk a lot about authenticity of voice when we think about these consumers and that the leadership teams really reflect those consumers. We think it’s really important. And so we’ve also done that with the LGBTQ community. We incubated a company called Folx Health with A.G. and we’ve been really proud of our efforts there in terms of expanding access for the LGBTQ population. And so these are just a couple examples of where we have really put kind of our money where our mouth is, and that this is who we’re treating and our companies need to reflect that and have that authenticity of voice. And so we are continuing to see that. We have to do a better job as an industry. And it starts on many layers. It starts on, you know, people like myself who are founding their own firms, right, and have a diverse, you know, investing team, which we have at Define, all the way to our entrepreneurs, all the way to the consumers and patients that we serve.

Gary Bisbee, Jr. 12:18
Well, good for you, Lynne. This has been a super interview. Let me ask one final question, if I can. What advice do you have for people that might be interested in founding and they’re taking a look at it and not quite sure? What advice would you have for them?

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 12:34
Yeah, absolutely. You know, there’s nothing like being a founder. The passion and the vision and to, you know, break through those walls and to know they’re not alone. There is a lot of doubt that happens at certain moments where something’s taking longer than you thought, someone told you no, someone told you that you shouldn’t do it. The perseverance, right, I always come back to hard work, determination, right, being in those details, and just driving with passion and vision, and that you will break through if you have all of those elements. And so encouraging those founders because I’ve been there. I’ve been there when people have told me no. I’ve been there when it’s been hard. And you can break through to the other side. And we’d love to meet those types of founders and help. I know everyone on the Day Zero kind of advisory board, we think about that. But, persevere, persevere, persevere. Absolutely.

Gary Bisbee, Ph.D. 13:32
Lynne, we’re delighted to have you on the Day Zero advisory council, can’t wait for your interviews. Thank you very much.

Lynne Chou O’Keefe 13:40
Thank you Gary, can’t wait too.

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