April 2019 Newsletter

A Fellowship That Transcends Time
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Jane Fam, 

We have closed our Series A round of financing! (You can read the press release here). We’re excited about the wonderful investors who are taking a chance on hard science for the hope of a radically different way to manage health. And we’re grateful for your support, advocacy, willingness to engage in the research, and your voices--especially your voices. We heard you. We hear you. Your encouragement and feedback mean everything to us.

I want to share a story with you about two important people who helped us achieve this milestone. First, an entrepreneur I met two years ago, who was and is running her own startup, Deb Kilpatrick.
Deb is the type of leader you hope you will grow up to be one day. During our first conversation, she listened so deeply that she was able to synthesize and articulate Jane’s vision as well as I’ve ever heard. As scientists and technologists, we sometimes agitate against the pressure to simplify incredibly complex ideas into a neat little package for everyone to understand. So many layers! Reducing everything into a  60-second elevator pitch about a smart tampon that diagnoses disease just takes the depth out of the whole approach.  
Because Jane isn’t just a diagnostic, it’s a reclamation of how women should be living their lives, with agency and information. Jane is a way of ameliorating the diagnostic odyssey women go on because someone isn’t listening to their symptoms, not acknowledging their pain or doesn’t have any tools to help them on their path.

Deb immediately got the impact of what we were doing. She grasped the wholeness of our story. Stephen and I walked out of our first meeting with Deb feeling seen and understood. We asked her to join us as an advisor at that same meeting. In every meeting with her since, we have walked away feeling optimistic. It doesn’t matter the scale of problem you bring to her, Deb makes you believe you can take it on because it’s evident, she believes you can. And then, you can’t let her down, and so...you take it on!
A Pivotal Moment
The second person came into our lives at a pivotal moment. Last summer, Stephen and I hit a point. In the past, I would have described it as a nadir but with experience, I now realize that we had just drilled down to the epicenter of a problem :) The core is always hot and uncomfortable but that doesn’t make it a low point. That problem was fundraising a substantial amount of capital for what investors categorize as a “women’s health diagnostic.”
That same summer, Deb nominated me to become a “Ferolyn Fellow,” which is a  wonderful program housed at the Fogarty Institute to help medtech entrepreneurs reach their full potential. They do this by pairing fellows with an industry expert for 10 months of intense mentorship and accelerated growth...
From left to right, Liz McDermott (Fellowship Advisory Board), Fellows Amanda French, Neil Zimmerman, me (Ridhi) and Dr. Fred St Goar (Fellowship Advisory Board)


..that's where I met Angela Macfarlane.
The first thing that I noticed about Angela was her striking aesthetic. She is tall, often dressed in black and has a luminescent smile. (For anyone wondering why I noticed her aesthetic first, it’s because she was pointed out to me across a room. My very first observation was visual. I promise it’s not gendered!) Our initial conversation was about the “why” of what I do. She was curious about my motivation and asked me questions about the story of Jane. She was warm and empathetic. Angela listened, not only to my words but also observed all my nonverbal cues, ways in which we say so much without saying a word.  nbsp; She has listened in this way in every meeting we’ve had. It’s one of her super powers.

The next time we met, Angela probed me on the science and the tests we were interested in developing. That was followed by long meetings about patent strategy and our commercial plan. Eventually, we got to a point where she was so well versed in what we were doing at Jane, it felt like she was with us  in the trenches. It was a different type of mentorship than I’ve ever experienced before. I had acclimated to sharing top line summaries of issues I was facing with experienced, invested members of my network in the hopes of benefitting from their expertise. This work with the Fellowship was on a completely different level. It was a true apprenticeship. It’s the kind of process that can happen when you work with someone who has done this many times before, knows the nuances of your situation, and is guiding you precisely through it. My work with  her through the fellowship has been pivotal in getting to the next stage of growth for Jane. 
After the fundraising closed, I paused to reflect on the fellowship (small “f”) of women who step up to help each other grow. But in particular, I wondered why Angela had contributed so much time and effort to be a part of Jane’s journey. We have developed a close friendship in the past 10 months, but her level of commitment to helping in a profound way and not a superficial way was evident since day 1. This line of thinking brought me back to the Fellowship (capital “f”), a tribute to a woman I had never met before she passed, Ferolyn Powell. 
Ferolyn Powell was one of a handful of  female leaders in the medtech industry when she led Evalve, the company that developed the MitraClip . Today this therapy has been shown to be the best intervention for people who suffer from primary and secondary mitral regurgitation, which is caused by a leaky heart valve that can both contribute to AND be a result of heart failure. 

Ferolyn was an important part of Angela’s life as a mentor and as a friend. Angela has told me how integral Ferolyn was in her own journey as a medtech leader and how she freely mentored other startup founders.  She spoke about the loss of Ferolyn as an emerging voice for causes she cared for deeply outside of medtech. 

When I probed her about it, Angela said that she feels confident nothing would’ve made Ferolyn happier than knowing that her approach and commitment to mentorship is continuing on through the fellowship. One entrepreneur can create a big impact, but by helping to create other compassionate innovators with shared values, that work can scale much faster. It is meaningful for Angela--to be a part of creating a living legacy, to enable a vision Ferolyn might be proud of.  And in that response, I found all the clarity I was seeking. 
So finally, Jane Fam, I feel gratitude for the big "F", Ferolyn, this woman whom I never met but whose life force was so contagious that she created an esprit de corps that transcends time, a mechanism that reaches across generations so that innovators, years later, might hit the epicenter of their current, most pressing problem, and break right through. And gratitude for the small "f", the fellowship of women, coming together in meaningful ways to push us all forward.

Yours,
Ridhi
Copyright © 2019 NextGen Jane, All rights reserved.


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Stephen Gire