December 22, 2021
Carina Clawson 0:22
From the Steve Jobs to the Oprah Winfreys, people find entrepreneurs fascinating. There is a constant stream of media, from movies to books, about the stories of founders. This is because, in hindsight, innovation can seem both inevitable and unpredictable. People want to know how entrepreneurs came to their vision. How did they see what others couldn’t? And why did they take the risk? For this episode, we’ll hear stories from three founders and explore why they chose to take the leap. To begin, we will hear from Ivelyse Andino, the founder and CEO of Radical Health. Next, we will listen to Carolyn Witte, the co-founder and CEO of Tia. And to wrap up, we will turn to Solomé Tibebu. She’s the founder and host of Going Digital, behavioral health tech, as well as the founder and CEO of Cognific. Let’s hear from Ivelyse about what she was looking for in the community based conversations that inspired her to found Radical Health.
Ivelyse Andino 1:16
I think I was looking for solidarity or I was looking maybe to be heard myself. So I talk about, you know, I worked in health tech. I worked in oncology with biotech. And my mom had cancer at the time. While I was working in the middle of this industry, she got diagnosed with cancer. And it was just so hard to like be in the middle. Like literally in the middle of this system, seeing drugs that came through from the FDA, being rolled out and hearing all these success stories of people choosing elective treatment options. And then seeing my mom in a Bronx hospital without any of those options. I never even met her attending. And it’s one of those things that, to be in the middle of that and to feel so alone, but then go to work every day and be at the forefront of innovation, and tech, and “I’m changing this”, you know, and “we’re doing all these great things”. But knowing that,no, no, that’s never reaching me. One, it just felt really lonely. And it felt really isolated. I was only imagining, if it’s so hard for me and I’m quick witted, and I’m smart, and I have resources, I can’t be alone in this. And I think the contrast was also that everyone at work was like, “this is great. It’s working so well. Hooray, let’s keep going.” And so I think in those initial conversations, I was really looking to be heard, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining something like this. It wasn’t just like a unique experience to me that navigating the healthcare system was hard. And it was difficult. And even though I had all the tips and tricks and tools, it still was unfair and unjust. So I think in those conversations, I wanted people, I wanted to be heard. And what I found, which was like the magic, was that, in looking for my own kind of, just a kind of fact check or double check my own feelings, so many other people felt that way. And it wasn’t just community members. I already anticipated that maybe there’d be people, you know, maybe they’re parents themselves, they live that. But then I started hearing from folks who were in healthcare or in kind of kind of side industries saying, “oh, no, it’s just as bad from the inside and the outside. And you’re not alone in this.”
Carina Clawson 3:24
Ivelyse saw the vast innovation in the biotech industry, but found that those innovations weren’t reaching members of her community, including her mother. Next, we’ll hear from Carolyn Witte about the decision path that led to Tia.
Carolyn Witte 3:37
While on that journey, went through my own set of women’s health care challenges in my early 20s, living in New York City working at, at the time, Google’s Creative Lab there. And it was a three year long PCOS diagnosis process. So PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects one in 10 women. It’s a leading cause of infertility, diabetes, heart disease, a lot of chronic conditions that impact women disproportionately. And it’s one of those classic chronic conditions that are really hard to diagnose, that is like a hodgepodge set of symptoms that constantly get, let’s say, stuck between the cracks of traditional healthcare. It’s sort of an OBGYN issue, but it’s sort of a fertility issue. It’s sort of an endocrine, primary care, like where is it, and so you kind of get stuck. Anyone who’s been through a diagnosis process or treatment for a disease or a chronic issue understands those challenges of feeling like a number, like trying to, you know, navigate the system. And there I was, you know, in my early 20s trying to do this with, I often say, Google health insurance, which is the best health insurance you can really get, and couldn’t figure it out, like I couldn’t do it. Then finally, I diagnosed myself and kind of got through this. And after all that, asked myself, if I can’t navigate healthcare, how does any other woman navigate this? This was clearly not designed for women. I felt like a number. It’s so fragmented. There’s no soul. There’s no brand or trust. This is a very intimate part of my life and it felt highly transactional. After this whole, diagnosis saga, then there was no real action plan on what to do about it and no focus on prevention. And so I got asked myself, well, what if I took this playbook around user centered design, building brands that are rooted in humanity, and trust, and relationships, and applied that to the most important things in people’s lives, their health, and specifically women’s health?
Carina Clawson 5:41
Carolyn’s experience was dehumanizing and frustrating. She knew that there was a better, patient centered way to deliver women’s healthcare. To wrap up, we will turn to Solomé Tibebu to learn about her first entrepreneurial endeavor as a teenager.
Solomé Tibebu 5:57
How did it start? So I had really bad anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder issues when I was younger, as an adolescent. The anxiety was just so overwhelming, panic attacks on a regular basis in middle school, running to the counseling office several times a day. And then the OCD was really challenging. Because still, today, OCD is so misunderstood. And even at the time, I didn’t know what I was experiencing. So you can imagine how challenging that was for me to even share that with parents or other people who could help me. So, it was challenging to manage it and it was a really impactful part of my life. So, that’s when, later, in high school, as I was trying to figure out resources online just to find other teens like me who were going through what I was going through, I wasn’t able to find much, so I decided to create that resource myself, which I creatively named anxietyinteens.org.
Carina Clawson 7:01
Solomé lacked the resources she needed as a teenager, and so became the change she wanted to see. Each of these women were at different ages and different points of their life and career. And on their journey, each founder faced unique challenges and uncertainties. However, they were all certain that an element of our healthcare system was broken and needed to be fixed. Their vision was driven by a need to fill an unfilled niche in the ecosystem. These founders are not women with superhuman abilities. They’re people dedicated to enacting change. We hope this episode left you with an appreciation for a founder’s vision, and maybe even the inspiration to be a founder yourself. Follow Her Story to hear more conversations with female leaders and expand the vision for what is possible in healthcare. Season three of Her Story launches on January 5th. And if you want to hear more stories from founders, Think Medium launched a new show called Day Zero which features the engaging voices of entrepreneurs and their ambition, goals, and dreams for healthcare.