Shifting Your Perspective To Add Value And Improve Diversity

#WomanCrushEntrepreneur

Rashida Bobb

Founder & CEO

Bricks Health, Inc.

September 2020

Background

Advisor, SXSW

Advisor, Republic.co

Advisor, Springboard Enterprises

Advisor, CTIP

Various investment and business growth strategy
roles, at
Bayer
Peppermint VC
Pfizer

Express ScriptsMaster of Public Health, Yale
University School of Public Health

Rashida Bobb is an advocate, strategist, investor, advisor, entrepreneur and founder of Bricks Health. In her career, she’s had the opportunity to work with a wide range of healthcare clients on various transactions and business strategy engagements. Her 15 plus years of experience culminated in the founding of Bricks Health, a strategy advisory firm that focuses on the digital healthcare market. For Rashida, digital health offers an unprecedented opportunity to breakdown the siloes within the industry that limit collaboration and innovation in healthcare through platform interoperability, evidence-based decision making, and technology integration. Rashida founded the company to support startups looking to expand to new markets, corporations launching new products and VCs looking to invest in digital health. She shares with our Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, how focusing on her strengths enabled her to pursue entrepreneurship and create value for clients and opportunities for diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Looking back at your early career choices and academic pursuits – was becoming an entrepreneur part of your plan?

I didn’t originally plan on becoming an entrepreneur , it was something I realized was my future after my first eight years working for large corporations. After a lot of introspection, I recognized my passion for entrepreneurship and how my career in management consulting and corporate development prepared me to launch Bricks Health. My first job after graduate school was as a management consultant because I wanted to be in a position where I could learn as much as possible about healthcare and business growth. I advised multi-million dollar companies in determining a strategy to become more competitive in the healthcare market. After this time, I wanted to take a step back from healthcare. So, I joined a startup, Lunch Time Deals – a precursor to Groupon – as the second person at the company. On the team, I focused on strategy and marketing, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, the company did not take off as we had hoped and when that happened, I decided to go back to healthcare. Only this time it would have to be different and focused on ‘what’s next’ in healthcare. In my introspection, I outlined my strengths, launching new products and businesses; research and analysis; developing strategy from both operator’s point of view; which, became the core tenets of my company, Bricks Health.

What makes a good leader?

First and foremost, there is no one size fits all. Personally, the type of leaders I have enjoyed working with the most know how to construct and motivate a team. A good leader can identify, develop, and retain their team because they know they’re only as valuable as their team. A good leader builds a team that is complementary in skills, approach, and background. A lot of people make the mistake of building a team with like-minded individuals, but you miss a lot of opportunities this way. Team members should only be like-minded in their shared commitment. The next attribute that I think is important is vision. A good leader can see the bigger picture. The big picture might mean considering global opportunities, or intersections between industries, or the relationships from one division to the next. Lastly, a good leader is someone who can be comfortable with ambiguity. Leading through mergers and acquisitions, large scale lay-offs, and crises like the pandemic. This entire year has been a great example of uncertainty.

From your experience, how do you define diversity? How does it impact the way the industry is performing?

Diversity ought to be defined in context. Organizations first need to know what they are trying to diversify. What I care most about is diversity in investments and diversity in executive and board leadership. As an investor, my thesis is simple: I invest in digital health companies with diverse founders. In this context, diversity is women, especially a woman over 40, people of color, specifically those underrepresented in technology, new immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ+ people. That’s not to say that if you’re not in these groups you’re not diverse, but you have to consider diversity in the context of technological and investing. Concerning age, I think this is one aspect of diversity people don’t always consider. So often, in technology, the 23-year-old, recent MIT grad, building a tech company, is glorified, and we don’t give a chance to people who may have had a late start to their career, or someone who had to accumulate some wealth before taking that kind of risk. In healthcare, the majority of spend comes from people over 50, and so it only makes sense to provide them the opportunity they are looking for as founders. Regarding executive and board leadership, statistics show women and people of color, specifically, black women, are making advances but not at the same rate as their counterparts. Big tech companies, professional service firms, and the like continue to track the number of offers and improvement to diversity with every class of new hires but retention is low, growth trajectory into leadership positions is minimum, and the pay differential is even more imbalanced. We still have a long way to go in this industry but I am launching a new company, the Marula Project, to ensure qualified, diverse leaders have the opportunity to be appointed to executive and corporate board positions.

From your experience, what has changed the least, yet still has major impact regarding gender parity within entrepreneurship, technology and healthcare? What is your advice to women looking to be professionals in this space?

Let me start with the second half of that question. My advice for women, anyone in general, early in their career is two-fold:

  1. Challenge yourself. Don’t get comfortable with just earning a paycheck. Do your day job and build additional skills at the same time. Want to learn how to fundraise? Volunteer on a fundraising committee and see how its done. Want to learn how to launch a product? Build one from scratch and launch it yourself.
  2. Don’t be afraid to move. If you ever have the opportunity to take an assignment abroad, do it. Diversity includes working with diverse people, in new settings and in different cultures.

As for the first part of the question, I don’t think I see enough founding teams where there is a black woman on the team. Only 30 black women founders have raised $1M+ in venture capital. An incredibly poor showing, especially having sat with investment committees and seeing other founders get funding based on hopes, dreams, and sawdust. Whereas black women who don’t get the same commitment even though they show up more prepared and with multiple backup plans. Further exacerbated by the lower likelihood of investors passing black founder deal opportunities to their networks. Hopefully, this will change in the next decade as more black VCs are promoted to partner or launch new funds.

Lecky’s Comments:

While the US population is 13% Black, it is unintelligible that only 4% of the Black community represents the venture industry, particularly given that in 2019, Black buying power was nearly $1.2 trillion. COVID-19 and recent tragic events, while further traumatizing the Black community, like a laser, highlighted the many racial disparities that exist and the systems supporting its beneficiaries. Whether implicit, explicit or complicit, the question is WHY. We have many solutions, but let’s not put a bandaid on a gaping wound, it’s not sustainable. In a special edition, I will address the WHY but until then, let’s not let the definition of race be “a situation in which individuals or groups compete to be first to achieve a particular objective.” This only connotes that there has to be a winner and a loser-and we all can WIN!

If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us.

Contact information:

Sharon Mwale       Program Manager        [email protected]

Subscribe
to our mailing list

Fill in your details and we’ll get back to you in no time.