Episode 61

Going All In

with Chris Severn; Kian Raiszadeh, M.D; and Nina Tandon, Ph.D.
Episode hosted by: Casey Pratt

March 21, 2023

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Chris Severn; Kian Raiszadeh, M.D; and Nina Tandon, Ph.D.

Chris Severn is the CEO and Co-founder of Turquoise Health. Kian Raiszadeh, M.D., is Founder and CEO, SpineZone; Nina Tandon, Ph.D., is CEO and co-founder, EpiBone.



The mere fact that you've made this decision, regardless of the outcome—the impact on your life will be extremely positive.

Chris Severn; Kian Raiszadeh, M.D; and Nina Tandon, Ph.D. Tweet



Casey Pratt:  Our vision with Day Zero interviews has been to share founders’ stories, their experience, and wisdom, so that we can all learn from their insights.

In this episode, we will consider the crucial question of how to recognize when, in the trajectory of founding a company, it’s the right time to go all-in, to stop working full-time, and to commit entirely to the start-up project.

The phrase “Day Zero” refers to the day a founder decides to take the plunge, to commit to pursuing their vision, but it’s important to remember how much work and assessment it takes just to arrive at that decision point. Spencer Hutchins, Co-founder of Concert Health, jokes that “Day 1 and Day 0 are pretty similar: Big vision, emerging legal bill, spouse and family convinced you’re unemployed versus ‘starting something.’”

Today, we will hear from Chris Severn, CEO and co-founder, Turquoise Health; Kian Raiszadeh, M.D., Founder and CEO, SpineZone; and Nina Tandon, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder, EpiBone.

To begin, let’s listen as Chris Severn describes how he and his co-founder arrived at the crucial moment of decision:

Chris Severn:  Adam and I had that comfort working together before we started working on our cost, or former company. And there was this moment where, you know, Adam’s so prolific at building software that we had some value in our initial price transparency play last year, helping hospitals comply with the rule, the public Turquoise Health website, where it crossed our mind, like, hey, there’s a small version of this where we build a bit of the infrastructure of price transparency, and maybe we hire a few employees, have some fun, and maybe we get acquired, is, you know, everybody’s like, end all be all at that stage. So the first pitch was always Adam. It was like, Adam, you know, he’s a little bit older than me. So I’m, like, young, ready to just really push here. And he’s had a career, a really successful career. And so my first pitch was, hey, can I convince you that there’s enough opportunity here, and enough good to be done here, that this is worth doubling down on. And so about a year ago, we were having those conversations. Life was pretty simple when it was just the two of us and a few other folks at the consulting company, I think, ultimately, you just started having so much fun. And then you start realizing that we really chose good timing for this price transparency business, and a lot of the legislation is going our way that, you know, either I eventually weathered him down, or he saw that, hey, this is really fun. We have some potential here. Let’s see where it goes [When the Time is Right]. So eventually, I think he was the first person that convinced and then we really went for it.

Casey Pratt:  The image of doubling-down is instructive, as it indicates that the decision to commit to the project raises the stakes for all involved. Next, let’s listen to Kian Raiszadeh, who uses the same idea in a slightly different, but equally important context.

Kian Raiszadeh:  I think I would go back to that my younger self when I’m I jumped out of health care. And really, there was an advisor that told me this. And so I didn’t actually take this advice fully. But I would go back and reiterate that advice, which is the mere fact that you’ve made this decision, regardless of the outcome, the impact on your life will be extremely positive. So extract yourself from the outcome, but you’ve made a decision, a growth decision, a personal decision that will transform your life in ways that will either be evident in the short term or the long term, but trust that and I think if I really would have stayed in that, I think the stress the anxiety of being an entrepreneur and a start up would have been significantly less than I would have enjoyed it more. I think there’s always times in life, whether it’s small decisions, big decisions, where it’s either kind of, I’m gonna choose the more let’s say, fear ridden safe decision or the growth decision. And I was fortunate enough to to make that decision, which is all about, I’m going to double down on myself on on growth and let go of the sense of stability and security. And it always works out. And I think in every way it I’ve, in my narrow experience in my short life, it has worked on those people who I trust who have great advice, also, I think, I think that is where I really want to stay, which is if you’re taking the growth path, you can’t control anything. But let it all play itself out. It’s the right choice. Don’t sweat it, don’t question it. Just put your head down. Enjoy the process. You made that decision. [Trusting Your Decision]

Casey Pratt:  Dr. Raiszadeh suggests that the decision to invest full-time in a start-up must be matched by an intensified commitment to one’s own growth. At these heights, business decisions are also decisions about one’s path in life.

Next, let’s hear from Nina Tandon, as she describes her decision to leave academia in order to commit to building a successful company.

Nina Tandon:  I think the academic setting for because you can start to apply for translational grants that might be appropriate to take into an academic setting, in our case, our city there, the New York City bio accelerate program. So it was a grant to allow us to do the experiments that served as the kind of go no go decision around starting the company, we were able to do that if academics, and generate IP that we later license. Getting back to your did we know that it was the right time to leave, I talked about it being rather slow. But on the other end, as we got our first funding, we knew that we had to, you know, fire ourselves and hire ourselves to the company because teenth of that year, we had money, we were working for the company. So that was a very clear decision [On Leaving Academia for Entrepreneurialism]. You know, we got so for great, I think that’s similar for a lot of really deep tech companies that are coming out of academia. SBIR grants are a great way to transition because I’m familiar with writing grants at NSF grants. So you write a grant, you get money into the company, and that’s a de risking to go out to friends, family, whatever that first round comes together for from an IDA and say, Look, you know, it’s been de risked, to a certain extent do you want to match some of this grant funding so that we can, you know, do more than than what we’ve said in this proposal,

Casey Pratt:  Each of these founders took a different route to bring themselves to the inflection point where they left their former plans behind and committed all of their energy to the mission of building a successful and profitable company. Congratulations to all three of them for their courage—and on their success!

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