Shifting the Paradigm, For Women by Women
Selected to MATTER/Kellogg School of Management Collaborative
WeWork Veteran in Residence, Sponsored by Bunker Labs
Entrepreneur in Residence, Mayo Clinic
President, B2H Consulting Group, Providing Medical Technology to VA and DoD Facilities
Medical Device Leader, Medtronic and Impedimed
Operations and Sales Leader, General Mills, Mars Inc. and Pepsi
Co-Founder, Spearhead Rugby Academy
Married with 4 children, 3 are active duty in the Army
Ann Holder is an accomplished global health care and medical devices executive. She has extensive experience growing revenue through commercial operations, marketing business development and sales. Ann is passionate about healthcare specifically as it relates to reducing costs, improving patient’s ability to manage chronic diseases, and population health. She is leading Odonata Health in the development of a wearable, textile-based product to measure key vital statistics of women and their growing fetus, for use during pregnancy and labor & delivery. She hopes the company, and this product, can affect change here in the US, where maternal mortality rates are increasing, and enable developing nations to improve their maternal survival rates. In conversation with Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, Holder shares her experience and challenges with launching a company designing products for women by a woman.
Looking back at your early career choices and academic pursuits – was becoming an entrepreneur part of your plan?
Absolutely not. I went to West Point and the environment there was very disciplined. When I finished my service in the military, I already knew what I wanted to do with my career. I liked the business aspect of things and with my technical background I started out as an engineer before getting into business operations. As I was promoted into higher operational positions, I became more interested in revenue driving roles. So, I started out in high tech sales, tech sales and strategic finance. In my last role with Medtronic, I was responsible for evaluating new business opportunities and testing new business models for chronic disease management. I was able to travel evaluating startups that were leveraging technology to create viable businesses and could potentially be strategic investments for Medtronic. This is when I first became interested in startups. Dr. Paul Friedman, who was doing early work on fetal monitoring at the Mayo Clinic, gave me that opportunity when he and Mayo Ventures brought me on as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to help further develop fetal monitoring technology and commercialize the work we were doing.
What are the traits that have served you well now as a leader and running your own company?
My professional experience with evaluating other companies, their technology, business feasibility and learning about various markets – both within healthcare and other industries as well – was an invaluable experience and I leverage those skills quite a bit now. However, three key characteristics that have served me well:
- Execution. Building a plan is one thing but implementing it and anticipating, as well as recognizing, inefficiencies have enabled me to be a great executor.
- Discipline. Transitioning from corporate structure to entrepreneurship can be difficult because you truly become the master of your time, but my military background has made me naturally disciplined.
- Leadership training. I seek out opportunities to learn how to become a better leader. It’s important whether you’re managing an entire department, mid-sized finance teams, or smaller sales teams. During the early stages of your business, you don’t have direct reports and learning how to drive people with a plan and influence is a key factor to be able to be effective.
How have your experiences influenced the way in which you approach entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership? Any specific challenges?
At Odonata we want to build a company that is focused on women’s health and the health of their fetus. I’m interested in this because I hope to improve fetal and maternal outcomes here in the US and around the world. Here in the States we have one of the highest rates of women giving birth through cesarean section. Additionally, in many parts of the world don’t have monitoring devices, or they don’t have quick access to locations with the technology. We’re creating a way to assess when the fetus is in distress for system level use and then move toward creating a similar technology to monitor a mother and baby at home. The premise is to utilize artificial intelligence and neural networks to better understand the status of the fetus.
As far as challenges, talking to investors about why it’s important for women to be building companies for women comes to mind. I’ve actually been asked before, “why would you want to give them [women] more data to be more anxious toward the end [of their pregnancy].” It can be frustrating when some of the most common reasons why women don’t start companies or fail after starting have become my reality especially in regard to fundraising.
What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the health & tech industries?
I’ve been working in this space for a long time and sometimes you want to give up especially when you are constantly hitting roadblocks that stem from biases. Find mentors who’ve done what you’re aiming to do before. It can be someone who’s an expert in the technology field you’re working in, a veteran entrepreneur who’s built a successful company or investors. Secondly, take a leap of faith and believe in yourself. Confidence is key. If you’re at a point in your career where you can take a risk, know that even if venturing out on your own fails, you can always go back and do something else.
Lecky’s Final ThoughtsBehind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have their back. Empowered women empower women!
If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us.
Sharon Mwale Program Manager [email protected]