I am not the type of person you might think of as a founder. I’m in my 30’s, a female cardiologist without formal business training, and a data science geek who doesn’t care about money or business models. I just have an itch that made me obsessed with changing the structures of medicine, and a vision of what a compelling version of patient centered health might look like. I didn’t make the choice to become an entrepreneur. I just couldn’t not be one.
There are books written about the technical aspects, but fewer about the profound personal, spiritual, mental, and emotional journey that founders go through. No one ever told me that my company would be my dream of the future manifested into reality. No one told me how tightly linked my company would be to myself, my vision, and even a piece of my soul.
It was an honor for me to learn that I was chosen to be a member for YC120, the purpose of which is:
“To find people who are talented, future Elon Musks, especially people who want to do hard tech,” Altman says. “To the degree you can create a network for people, you can 10x their potential at least.”
Half a year ago while starting Lumas Health, I would have never expected to be able to join a group that can boast that goal. But I’m excited for the ride.
In reflecting upon the experiences I’ve had as an entrepreneur, one of the most interesting insights I’ve gained is that the things I struggled with the most during some portions of my life have become my deepest sources of power.
When I first started my journey, I was asked a jarring question by a senior advisor who was unimpressed with me the minute we met. He said:
“There’s a lot of doctors trying to start a company. What makes you think that you’re any different than any of them?”
I was a bit baffled by his question, and didn’t know how to respond. In many ways I am not different than anyone else, and 99.9% similar to all other human beings (and 60% similar to a banana!). But in many ways I am completely unique as well, and these weren’t qualities that were readily and succinctly translated. As I stumbled through a half hearted answer I felt like I had already failed before I began. I didn’t seem to fit the mold of who an entrepreneur should be.
The question ate at the back of my mind, and it wasn’t until I started to unpack some of the challenges I’ve faced and times I’ve felt isolated that I realized that the source of some of my pain was also the source of my power. And the answer to his question.
I’ve have always been a bit of an insider who’s an outsider. As a female cardiologist a male dominated field (80 men/20 women), a data scientist in a field also dominated by men, and tech entrepreneur in a field domina…(well you get the picture) there were times that I felt dismissed, passed over, or discriminated against in both subtle, and not so subtle ways.
Additionally, I had the luck of being one of the few people who had domain expertise in may different spaces, which I found to be exhausting. It was clear to me that one field could benefit from the expertise of the others, but difficult to convince others of the value. There were few people to discuss broad overviews of a picture I saw, and because each person seemed so focused on their area of expertise it was isolating.
For a long period of time, I wondered why I didn’t fit in anywhere and wished I could narrow my scope of expertise and interests. I faced a lot of pressures from people who didn’t understand my path and wanted me to hone my journey. I wished I could force myself into a more narrow focus, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t.
I started Lumas Health because I saw the ways the fields could fit together. I had time to process my life and began to understand that the source of my discomfort was also the source of my strength. I lived in a space no one else did and had a unique perspective. The things that people had dismissed and couldn’t see were the things that became assets and new paradigms for understanding the world. I started to give talks focused on thought leadership about ethics, medicine, and data, and build the foundation for our company.
If I was faced with the same question again, I would say: I’m one of the handful of female cardiologists who does machine learning who is building a tech company. Because of my experience as a physician I understand that each data point is a patient’s lab value, physiology, or part of their life.
If others faced the same challenges and became the same person, they might build the same company. But because of my uniqueness, as well as the different way my brain is wired and strange connections it forms at times, my path and company reflect a totally different paradigm. Regardless of the outcome of my company, remaining consistent to my beliefs, and true to myself and values will be the most important thing I carry with me — and hopefully can shape the world with.