Piloting Your Life: In-Flight Entertainment (MedTech Hackathon) (Sept 11, 2018)

Welcome Back My Inventive Passengers:

Me with Tyler Lynch after very little sleep

I met this guy, pictured with me here, in a bar last year at the Hotel Zetta in San Francisco. It was my daughter’s birthday and we were celebrating by spending the night in SF. Rachel was on hour three of playing Tilt Brush in the VR cube and Tyler and I struck up a conversation while his boyfriend Jeff and Rachel rolled their eyes at us (we are both pretty chatty).

We continued to stay in contact (you may recognize him from Piloting Your Life episode 2) and about two weeks ago he invited me to be a mentor/advisor at a medtech hackathon (MedHacks 2018) in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins. Following my gut, I said yes and headed to Baltimore on Friday.

Departing Chicago for BWI

What was supposed to be a five hour, direct flight into Baltimore, turned into an 10 hour adventure with a diversion to Chicago O’Hare due to thunderstorms in Baltimore that shut down the airport (this was after a one hour maintenance delay at SFO).

Fortunately, it was a brief stop in Chicago to pick up a new plane and crew to get into Baltimore by 10:30 p.m.. I missed opening ceremonies but jumped right into working with the teams on refining their ideas before they started developing software and devices to meet the objectives of one of the three tracks — patient safety/quality, community health, and open science.

Me and Tyler leaving at 5 AM for a few hours of sleep

We coached the teams until 5 a.m. at which point we headed to the Hotel Monaco (I love Kimpton Hotels) for some sleep and some real food and we were back to coaching around noon. Tyler helped the teams that needed technical assistance while I continued to provide guidance on market feasibility, functionality, and ultimately their pitches. There were a number of other advisors helping out but we got the award for staying until the wee hours!

At around 3:30 a.m. we called it a night (early morning?) after Tyler triumphantly helped one particular team finally solve an irksome technical issue and I successfully got one guy to finally realize what a good pitch is all about. Teams were still hard at work with team members taking turns napping in the sleeping bags throughout the facility. 
 We were called back for judging at 9:30 a.m. and were both happy to see the results of those that we had helped through the hackathon. Tyler had to head back to Philly by train around 3 p.m. and I decided to leave early to head to see one of my besties in Boyds, MD so neither of us got to see who won the competition. But it doesn’t really matter.

I had one guy, Jasen, a 31 year-old doctor from New Jersey, ask me why I was there, and why I was so committed to staying so late to help the teams. He wanted to know what I was getting out of it. I am still thinking about the question. I told him that I was there to learn and to see what this group of 700 participants (about 100+ teams) from all over the world thought were the problems that needed to be solved in the healthcare space. I’d never been to a hackathon and decided that if I was going to get the most out of it and help the most people, that I could sleep later. It didn’t occur to me that this was in any way a sacrifice. Yes, I paid my own way. Yes, I was away from my family. Yes, I was sleep deprived. But I met some amazing people and was able to bring a little Silicon Valley to Baltimore to support my belief that innovation happens everywhere.

And if these kids could be so committed that they were napping on the floor near the women’s restroom, I could be there when they woke up to help them out.

In-Flight Entertainment: Fran Dunaway
 Speaking of innovation happening anywhere, this week’s guest, Fran Dunaway, hails from Seattle, WA. She is the CEO/Co-Founder of TomboyX, a company making comfortable underwear for unapologetic people. I first met Fran when she pitched to Sand Hill Angels in early 2016 and I decided that not only did their product need to exist in the world, but Fran and her wife and co-founder Naomi needed to be the ones to bring it to market. They have had quite the struggle to get to where they are, and Fran shares the journey in my interview with her. I am not shy about saying that I am a total fan of the product, the company, the team, the brand, and fully support TomboyX’s drive to change the definition of beauty. Enjoy the conversation.