How A Female Finance Pro Became A Pioneer In Healthcare Innovation

EDITORS’ PICK|653 views|Apr 10, 2020, 07:00am EDT

With the COVID-19 crisis disrupting the entire world, the need for rapid innovation in healthcare has never been clearer. But beyond this terrible virus, there remain many afflictions that impact the weakest and most disadvantaged population the most, due to a lack of funding for accessible and affordable treatments. Tammi Jantzen is a lifelong finance professional who, after embracing the world of venture capital, committed herself to making a difference in the lives of women and children through healthcare innovation. She is the cofounder and CFO of Astarte Medical, a precision medicine company using software and predictive analytics to improve pre-term infant outcomes.

But Tammi offers valuable insights beyond the topics of healthcare innovation and running a company, for she is also a successful entrepreneur who struggled to succeed in a male-dominated industry, while focusing on the most vulnerable people among us. In an inspiring Q&A, we discussed her life story, how to build a great finance team, the importance of continuous upskilling and tech savviness and the unique challenges facing women in the finance profession.

Jeff Thomson: Venture capital is considered a male-dominated field. Yet you were highly successful working as a CFO for Astarte Venture. Later, you secured funding for your own start-up, Astarte Medical. What advice would you give to women who are working in predominantly male fields? What do you do when you encounter gender bias?  

Tammi Jantzen: Perseverance is key. The road to accomplishing whatever it is that gets you up in the morning will be hard – most of the time. Personally, I never want people to invest in my firm because they are trying to fulfill a quota and they feel it’s a requirement. On the other hand, I would like to get the same access to investors as other male-led companies. Even in 2020, gender bias still exists, but it isn’t always because of outright discrimination. Venture capitalists, predominantly men, tend to back serial entrepreneurs who have been successful in the past, also mostly men. They are comfortable investing their money with entrepreneurs with vetted track records. It’s understandable that we are all more comfortable with the familiar; however, because many women haven’t had the opportunity to prove themselves as entrepreneurs, they remain unproven, which further exacerbates the problem. 

Astarte Medical successfully raised a Series A financing last year. However, the fundraising journey was not what we expected it to be. As former venture investors, my co-founder Tracy Warren and I thought we knew exactly who our investors would be and how long it would take; we were wrong on both counts. My advice to female founders is to stay focused on your goals, continue to knock on those doors, and never give up. To make the venture capital world more female-friendly, women need to assert themselves until their presence at the table is no longer a novelty, but routine.   

Thomson: Astarte Medical uses software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes of pre-term infants. Why did you shift focus mid-career to work exclusively on women’s and children’s health? Did you feel that there was a market that was being under-served and had potential?

Jantzen: After working together for almost 15 years in venture capital, Tracy and I set out to blaze a path investing in companies we were most passionate about: those with technologies focused on women’s and children’s health and well-being. We saw an enormous opportunity to add value to an under-served and underfunded market. In fact, the term “FemTech” had yet to be coined. We put our own money to work investing under Astarte Ventures with the intent to build a track record in the space, and then raise a larger fund around our successful thesis.

In an attempt to gain insights into clinical needs and pain points, we visited women’s and children’s hospitals across the country, talking to innovation groups and researchers. It was during a visit to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that we met our scientific cofounder, Katherine Gregory, RN, Ph.D. Kate had a unique background with hands-on clinical experience alongside academic and research credentials. She started her career as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse, received her Ph.D. and had been doing research in her lab at Harvard on pre-term infant microbiome and gut health, long before microbiome was a buzzword. In that initial meeting, Kate opened our eyes to the challenges of pre-term infants and early life nutrition, and we were immediately hooked. Kate’s passion quickly became our passion. We didn’t want to just invest in her idea; we wanted to build the company ourselves. Astarte Medical is a precision nutrition company using software and predictive analytics to improve outcomes for pre-term infants, with a suite of digital tools and diagnostics designed to standardize feeding, optimize nutrition, and quantify gut health. It was that initial meeting with Kate that prompted our entrepreneurial shift.

Thomson: As a platform so heavily reliant on automation, artificial intelligence and data analytics, what did you do to upskill yourself in these technologies to prepare for Astarte Medical’s launch? What should all finance professionals be doing to stay relevant in the digital age?

Jantzen: The upskilling was not trivial. I read – and read some more – anything and everything I could find. There are so many different technologies at play for Astarte Medical. We are a software and data analytics company, so learning about software development, data science and machine learning was certainly in order. Moreover, our software and data analytics are focused on feeding, nutrition and gut health, so understanding microbiome sequencing was also necessary. For example, strange as it may sound for a CPA, I took an online course entitled “Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome” to expand my knowledge in this area.

Another way to upskill our entire team at Astarte Medical was by implementing “Lunch and Learns” so that each team member could showcase and share what they were working on. We also brought in subject matter experts to really deepen the knowledge transfer. We exposed the team to topics like the infant microbiome, shotgun sequencing, bioinformatics, machine learning techniques, software development, fundraising, neonatal nutrition, feeding protocols and outcomes metrics. It was an incredibly efficient way for the whole team to learn about all aspects of the business and provide the forum to ask questions and absorb new information.     

Thomson: On Astarte’s website, you describe yourself as a “classic utility infielder,” someone who has the versatility to cover the basics, but also to quickly transition to cover more complex tasks. How do you cultivate agility in yourself and in your staff? When hiring what qualities do you look for in staff?

Jantzen: The start-up environment demands versatility and creativity from basic execution to complex strategy. An agile attitude is essential for real, fast-paced and effective decision-making and execution. It’s what makes a start-up both exciting and frustrating at the same time. Most days it feels like a sprint. You have to be willing to contribute wherever you are needed. Although I am the CFO, I spend less than a third of my time on finance and accounting matters. I also currently act as head of marketing as well as head of human resources. Having the ability to do whatever it takes to make the company succeed is crucial and we are continually fostering that attitude amongst our team.

In the last three months, we have doubled the size of our team at Astarte Medical, which is both exciting and terrifying. Outside of the specific technical requirements of any position, some of the other qualities we look for are curiosity, creativity, positivity, integrity, good communication skills and attention to detail. Maintaining our culture and preserving the passion for our mission is an integral part of our hiring process. We invest time in finding the right hires to make sure the cultural fit is right. A bad fit can create negative energy and can bring the whole team down.   We operate as a team and attitude is everything.

Thomson: You are a Kauffman Fellow – part of a Silicon Valley based program focused on accelerating innovation, supported by the global venture community. What did you learn from that two-year experience? How were you able to apply it to founding Astarte Medical?

Jantzen: Kauffman Fellows is a leadership program for the venture capital industry to develop talented innovation leaders to support entrepreneurs in their mission to change the world. The two-year structured curriculum consisted of quarterly in-person modules, each tackling a theme or aspect of innovation investing from fund management and deal terms to building boards and optimizing human talent to social responsibility and ethics. Following the completion of the program, I have now graduated into the Kauffman Fellows Network, a global connected network with access to more than 500 leaders in the venture and innovation community.

During the program, I was challenged to create and execute on a personal development plan and was continually pushed to think outside the box. I was introduced to incredible speakers and thought leaders in our modules, including numerous icons from the venture world with different points of view, which resulted in many moments of surprising clarity. The session that stuck in my mind the most was a deep dive into the characteristics of a visionary entrepreneur: radical self-belief, willingness to go against the grain to follow your passion even when others think you are crazy, and being able to build a stellar team of talented and diverse individuals who also believe in that passion. 

This session still resonates with me today. Tracy and I founded Astarte Medical based on the belief that we could not only build a company with a sustainable business model that would provide sizable returns to our investors, but also one that would develop solutions that would have a meaningful and measurable impact on the lives of the tiniest, most vulnerable patients. It was extremely validating to raise $8.5M last year from an incredibly supportive group of investors who share the same vision. In addition, we are deliberately working to build a strong, diverse team of individuals who also share our passion. Passion makes you believe, at the deepest level, that what you are doing matters. This conviction is evident at Astarte Medical whether you work in Sales, Dev Ops or Finance.

This article has been edited and condensed.

Here are 3 ways to save money amid coronavirus

GMA logo

By GMA Team

As many Americans increasingly find themselves out of work and filing for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic, many have to find extra funds.

ABC News Technology and Consumer correspondent Becky Worley shared her tips for finding a few extra dollars during these uncertain times.

Subscription scrub

Get your credit card statement and pull out every recurring monthly charge. Cancel anything you can and don’t forget to go through your iTunes and Google Play subscriptions too. Becky said she was able to find $55 dollars worth of subscriptions, which accumulates to $600 a year.

Becky also suggested renegotiating cell phone plans or cheaper cable using a website called Asktrim.com.

Get a budget together

The second way Becky suggests saving during these times is to budget. She suggests several apps to get started like “You Need A Budget,” which can help you list your outgoing income and stick to a plan, and another app called “Mint,” which is a less rigid budgeting tool but gets the job done.

Sell

Go Marie Kondo on hyper drive and see if you can sell anything that you have that’s valuable. Becky suggests familiarizing yourself with sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, The Next Door “For Sale” section and selling apps like Poshmark and Mercari.

Figure out how they work, take pictures of your items and sell.

MORE: How to get financial help during coronavirus pandemic

Livly Inc. Raises $8 Million in Fundraising to Transform Property Management and Resident Communications

New funding led by Geolo Capital, OCA Ventures and Founder Equity

CHICAGO, April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Livly, a leading provider of modern digital applications for apartment buildings nationwide, is announcing a new fundraising of more than $8 million dollars to fuel its future growth. The investment round includes private equity group Geolo Capital, venture capital groups OCA Ventures and Founder Equity, and many additional strategic investors from across the real estate industry.

The Chicago-based property technology startup provides a simple integrated platform of mobile and web applications for both multifamily community residents and property managers. CEO Brian Duggan says that the new capital raise will accelerate Livly’s growth to new domestic markets and development of innovative tech solutions to improve resident experience and streamline property management.  “We’re very fortunate to have such strong support for our vision from both institutional and strategic investors, who position Livly as one of the best capitalized startups in this burgeoning industry,” says Duggan. “This investment round is a vote of confidence from the private markets in our unique ability to create substantial value for our clients in the multifamily industry.”

Livly’s new apartment technology represents the most modern and user-friendly alternative to the existing legacy industry offerings. Before Livly, residents and property staff required multiple disjointed software solutions for basic tasks such as resident move-in, general communications, package management, rent payments, and amenity reservations. Traditional building apps, which consolidate some of these services, provide antiquated experiences that do not meet today’s technology standards.

Livly offers a no-cost digital amenity that significantly improves the resident experience through an intuitive mobile app and online community hub. In just a few clicks, residents can seamlessly handle tasks such as move-in onboarding, setting up renters’ insurance, requesting maintenance, receiving package notifications, and much more. Livly also enables property managers to cultivate resident communities through a variety of dynamic communication and social engagement tools, including a unique new digital community feed that serves as a private social network for apartments. Geolo Capital Partner, Tom Gottlieb said, “Livly is the must-have platform to compete in multifamily and represents a giant leap forward in proptech and resident engagement.”  OCA Ventures Partner Kevin McQuillan echoed Mt. Gottlieb’s sentiments. Further, Kevin McQuillan said, “The Livly team is producing the first industry applications that can meaningfully move the needle on resident retention.”

Livly selected its investment partners to provide added value to the startup and support its national growth. Among many other benefits, Geolo Capital lends deep expertise in delivering hospitality-level products to multifamily, OCA Ventures offers vast experience in scaling successful technology companies, and Founder Equity brings advanced analytics to Livly’s digital product suite. The remainder of the investors provide additional distribution channels for Livly’s technology.

Today, Livly is active in more than ten U.S. cities, and has partnered with some of the most prestigious organizations in multifamily real estate, including The Related Group, Lincoln Property Company, and Golub & Company.

About Livly, Inc.
Livly, Inc. is revolutionizing apartment communities by developing innovative digital applications for the multifamily industry. Livly’s no-cost digital applications offer a fully integrated one-stop-shop for property management tasks and resident engagement. For more information please visit: www.livly.io

PursueCare Announces Series A Funding To Meet Increasing Demand For Telehealth Addiction Treatment Services At Home During COVID-19 Outbreak

NEWS PROVIDED BYPursueCare 

Mar 18, 2020, 09:21 ET

MIDDLETOWN, Conn., March 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — PursueCare (pursuecare.com), a Connecticut-based telemedicine provider treating individuals struggling with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), has announced a Series A capital raise to help meet growing demand for its virtual medication-assisted treatment programs due to COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) outbreaks.

The capital raise was lead by Chicago-based venture firms Seyen Capital and OCA Ventures, along with a syndicate of existing and new investors.

PursueCare’s app and services were launched in 2019 to address rural populations suffering from high rates of OUD, and a lack of comprehensive treatment options in their communities. The innovative “tele-MAT” model gives patients convenient and private access to care, including medical providers who can prescribe medication like Suboxone, addiction counselors, behavioral therapists, and at-home toxicology screening. Care coordinators help patients get started with a treatment plan, and provide support throughout care.

Additionally, the company’s Joint Commission-accredited pharmacy, CompreCare Rx (comprecarerx.com), can ship medications directly to patients’ homes in 25 states. Earlier this year it launched an online pharmacy where patients and family members can order the life-saving overdose reversal drug Narcan and the generic-equivalent naloxone.

The PursueCare app is designed for use on any smart phone or tablet, and can be used by individuals with limited data plans in areas with poor cellular service. The telehealth care provided is covered by most insurances.

Ordinarily, treatment with buprenorphine medications like Suboxone requires a a one-time visit to a partnering medical facility before treatment can continue at home. However, on March 16th, 2020, the DEA published a COVID-19 Information Page containing guidance waiving this requirement during the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services public health emergency declaration.

“People with OUD and other substance use disorders may be at greater risk due to the effects of those substances on lung and heart health,” said PursueCare’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Powell, MD. “By transitioning patients out of physical interaction and ensuring they can safely receive consistent care from home, we can help reduce unnecessary exposure for vulnerable populations.”

PursueCare establishes transition-of-care programs with partnering community health centers, hospitals, primary care, and residential programs using its PursueCare Connect portal product. The portal makes it possible to quickly collaborate with on-site providers, and immediately assess and smoothly transition patients into virtual care at home.

The company recently announced it will be waiving PursueCare Connect portal implementation fees to support adoption and use by health partners during the COVID-19 outbreak to refer patients to PursueCare’s telehealth providers.

“We already work with healthcare organizations in rural and underserved areas that are short on resources and don’t ordinarily treat substance use disorders directly,” said CEO and Co-Founder Nick Mercadante. “We can immediately take some of the burden off of emergency departments and walk-in centers that anticipate being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. By increasing availability to our partner portal, we hope more facilities take advantage of our ability to immediately triage patients into effective evidence-based treatment so they can free up staff and resources for COVID-19 care.”

Streaming tools provider Genvid raises $6M to ‘sell the virtual equivalent of front row seats’

Sam Desatoff, March 17, 2020 12:54 PM

Genvid’s total funding has reached $53 million. Interactive streaming has a major future, according to DFC analyst David Cole.

Interactive streaming tools provider Genvid Technologies has raised $6 million in Series B funding, adding to the $27 million raised in November. Investors include a varied list of companies, including Huya, NTT Docomo Ventures, and Samsung Ventures. In total, Genvid has received $33 million in Series B funding, and $53 million in total.

“The most interesting thing about this funding was the diversity and level of the investors,” David Cole, analyst at DFC Intelligence, told GameDaily. “The Twitch of China, the broadband provider of Japan, and the consumer electronics giant of South Korea. That was impressive.” 

Genvid provides a suite of tools that allows viewers of livestreams to interact with the game they’re watching. By downloading Genvid’s software development kit (SDK), developers can integrate it into their games and let viewers buy into an interactive experience. For a fee, users can gain access to free-moving in-game cameras among other interactive benefits.

Cole said that Genvid appeals to investors because it’s focused on a new way to monetize the viewership of game streams.

“[Genvid is] focused on a new way to monetize an audience that is not being monetized,” he explained. “If you think of a sport like baseball, basketball, or soccer, you have a few people who play it professionally, you have significantly more that play it on a casual basis, but you have way more that simply watch others play the sport. Money is made based on how many people watch the sport, not how many people actually play it. In the U.S., football is the most popular sport but probably the one least played by viewers. If the same mechanic can be true for games it will increase revenue.”

In this way, Genvid has the potential to allow devs and publishers to tap into a brand new source of revenue. Cole likened it to how advertisers flocked to esports as that market has grown throughout the years.

“The idea is that Genvid provides technology that allows developers to enhance the viewer experience,” Cole said. “That can be from custom camera views, detailed stats, cheering specific players or teams or more. Of course, there is potential to charge viewers for those activities. This makes esports about much more than just advertising and sponsorship. You can sell the virtual equivalent of front row seats.”

For Cole, interactivity in streaming has a great deal of growth potential, but it’s up to developers to figure out how to attract users.

“Genvid isn’t a service but instead a technology that developers can implement as they see fit. Of course, it will take a great deal of experimentation to figure out what works. Interactive streaming I think has a major future, more so in coming years as publishers work out how best it is implemented,” he said.

Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and global quarantine efforts, now is an interesting time for the livestreaming landscape. Cole expects that the general streaming audience will indeed see short-term growth during the scare, but it could lead to some far reaching trends.

“As for current quarantine issues, I think it is more short-term,” Cole predicted. “There should be a spike in streaming with levels going back down as things return to normal. However, it is the type of spike that gets more people involved in streaming and thus leads to long-term growth.”

Doron Nir, CEO of streaming tools provider StreamElements, echoed this sentiment.

“The livestreaming and content creation space is going to be hotter than ever based on its current momentum,” Nir told GameDaily. “A bi-product of this calamitous situation that the world is currently facing is the power of livestreamed entertainment has taken center stage.”

Right now, there are five upcoming games that will support the integration of Genvid’s tools: Deadhaus SonataIn the BlackRetroitDemolition Robots KKand Don Swagger.Moving forward, it will be interesting to track the technology’s adoption into the greater streaming landscape. There’s no guarantee that viewers will take to such a product, but where there’s a chance to monetize something, you can bet large corporations will at least make an effort to capitalize. 

Nasdaq Acquires Institutional Investment Fintech Firm Solovis

Solovis will pair with eVestment to deliver investment data, portfolio analytics and monitoring across public and private markets

March 09, 2020 08:30 ET Source: Nasdaq, Inc.

ATLANTA, March 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nasdaq, Inc. (Nasdaq: NDAQ) announced today the acquisition of Solovis, a privately-held financial technology company offering multi-asset class portfolio management, analytics and reporting tools across public and private markets. Solovis solutions will be available through Nasdaq’s eVestment group and broaden eVestment’s capabilities with portfolio analysis and monitoring for institutional investors and consultants.

“Nasdaq’s mission is to provide transparency and data to the financial world, all through modern technology,” said Lauren Dillard, Executive Vice President and head of Nasdaq’s Global information Services Group. “The combination of eVestment and Solovis bolsters our capabilities to serve the investment community. Together, they create a global leader of proprietary content, insights and portfolio analytics.”

Solovis gives sophisticated investors a unified line of sight into their portfolios, performance and risk across asset classes. For the 600+ institutional investors that rely on eVestment today for manager screening, Solovis provides complementary power for ongoing portfolio management. 

“Combined, we bring tremendous decision-making power to our investor clients, pre- and post-investment, across public and private markets,” said eVestment co-head Jerrod Stoller.

“We founded Solovis on the commitment to help asset allocators make better investment decisions through robust data and analytics,” said Solovis co-founder and CEO Josh Smith. “Our mission aligns seamlessly with eVestment’s and makes us well-positioned to capture the opportunities inherent in the evolving global markets landscape. We are excited to join the Nasdaq family through this acquisition.”

Solovis co-founders Smith and Caleb Doise and the rest of the company will remain in place and continue to operate out of offices in Dallas; Charlottesville, Virginia; and, San Francisco.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this investment is consistent with both Nasdaq’s strategy to maximize opportunities as a technology and analytics provider to capital markets, as well as its capital deployment and return on investment capital objectives.

About Nasdaq
Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

About eVestment
eVestment, a Nasdaq company, provides institutional investment data, analytics and market intelligence covering public and private markets. Asset managers and general partners reach the institutional marketplace through our platform, while institutional investors and consultants rely on eVestment for manager due diligence, selection and monitoring, as well as intensive portfolio and risk analysis. eVestment brings transparency and efficiency to the global institutional market, equipping managers, investors and consultants to make data-driven decisions, deploy their resources more productively and ultimately realize better outcomes.

About Solovis
Solovis is leading fintech innovation for institutional investors with a powerful cloud-based platform for multi-asset class portfolio management, reporting and analytics – uniquely designed for the limited partner community. Endowments, foundations, pensions, OCIOs and family offices leverage Solovis to transform how they collect and aggregate investment data, analyze portfolio performance, model and predict future outcomes and share meaningful portfolio insights with key stakeholders. The Solovis institutional investment management technology platform enables detailed analysis and dynamic data modeling across multiple portfolios and pools of capital for actionable, transparent insights that empower both operations and investment teams.

Media Contacts:

Joe Christinat
joseph.christinat@nasdaq.com
646-441-5121

Mark Scott
mscott@eVestment.com
646-899-0149

NDAQG

MPULSE MOBILE INCREASES SUPPORT OF MEDICARE ADVANTAGE AND MEDICAID HEALTH PLANS THROUGH KEY SOLUTIONS AND TECHNOLOGY PATENT

By Josh Ades  Posted February 25, 2020

LOS ANGELES – February 2020 – mPulse Mobile, the leader in Conversational AI and digital engagement solutions for the healthcare industry, announces today that it has crossed two significant milestones in early 2020. mPulse Mobile now supports more than 30 million healthcare consumers and has also delivered over 500 million automated conversations for high-value solutions like Medicaid Redetermination, Medication Adherence and a range of solutions focused on closing gaps in care to improve quality measures for their healthcare partners.

Healthcare organizations across the industry are increasingly investing in interactive messaging as it continues to be the most effective channel for engaging their consumers. mPulse experienced exceptional growth in its Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans in 2019, adding 20 new government program plans in the past year. With these new partners onboard, mPulse now works with plans that manage the care of more than 23% of Medicaid lives and 56% of Medicare Advantage lives in the US. mPulse has a combined 28 years of experience working with 6 of the top 12 Medicare Advantage plans by size. Closing out a strong 2019, mPulse now partners with nearly 100 different healthcare organizations. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, mPulse customers focus on behavioral health, pharma, dental, and medical technology.

“We are thrilled to be doing so much work across the healthcare landscape to drive meaningful outcomes in quality improvement, member satisfaction, and population-level behavior change among many others. We always try to remember that real people are behind every outcome and helping to guide them is our mission, so it’s exciting to really feel the impact we can make alongside our customers on their members’ lives.” said Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile.

Some of the outcomes mPulse achieved in 2019 include their co-published study in JMIR demonstrating the impact of Social Determinants of Health on Medicare medication adherence, a 12 percentage point improvement in Medicaid redetermination rates for a large Illinois-based MCO, and a 48% screening completion rate for a previously unengaged Medicaid population. These results were the product of close collaboration between mPulse and the plans, as well as their leading Conversational AI platform and ongoing solution optimization.

“Relationships are the key to success, both between us and our partners but just as importantly between our partners and their members. Leveraging our behavioral data science team and enterprise-grade technology, we are able build real connections and empathy at scale between healthcare organizations and their members that lead to important outcomes,” added Ram Prayaga, mPulse Mobile CTO.

Intelligently pairing behavioral data science with technology has long been core to mPulse’s offerings, and recently led to a patent (patent #10474724) for the Mobile Content Attribute Recommendation Engine (mCARE). mCARE plays a major role in Conversational AI programs by analyzing consumer profiles each time new information is added and automatically delivering the best next communication to the consumer to increase the likelihood of health activation,” explains Prayaga.

Further indicating mPulse’s focus on bringing a scientific approach to healthcare consumer engagement, they earned a trademark for Conversation Science™ in 2019. Conversation Science refers to the use of advanced analytics to determine how impactful conversations are, ranging from the population level all the way down to 1:1 with each individual. The ability to measure and report on conversation efficacy empowers mPulse to adjust rules governing each conversation to ensure members have the best possible experience and to achieve key health engagement outcomes.


The most promising Philly tech companies in this new decade: RealLIST Startups 2020

The startups chosen for this year’s roundup vary in product and in mission, but represent innovative approaches and solutions across rising industries in Philadelphia and beyond.

 By Paige Gross / STAFF

Every year since 2017, we here at Technical.ly have combed through our archives, listened to our communities and relied on our own reporter gut instincts to name 10 startups we deem to be extremely “real.”

These folks are the movers and shakers of the startup tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem here in Philadelphia, and from where we stand, they are well shaped to do big things in 2020 and beyond.

Most have given us evidence — through doubling down on hiring, fundraising or launching new products — that they’re setting up to make the Philly startup scene better than it was before they arrived.

From where I stand, as a reporter fairly new to Philly’s tech scene but with a deep understanding of Philadelphia’s strengths and weaknesses, these startups make the cut. They are varied in product and in mission, but represent innovative approaches and solutions across rising industries in this city and beyond.

As always, the companies chosen fit these criteria:

  • Have been founded no earlier than 2017, a rule Technical.ly cofounder Christopher Wink established in his 2012 definition of a startup. (The sunset period, unfortunately, leaves out some very real contenders that graced our list last year such as NeuroFlow and Lilu which have made significant strides, deals and growth this year.)
  • Make the lion’s share of their revenue from a specific product offering. That means agencies were not in the game.
  • Have not been through a significant exit event like mergers or acquisitions.

P.S. If you don’t see your startup on this list, don’t worry — that doesn’t mean the work you are doing is “unreal.” This annual list is just a peek into some startups we think will make some major strides, though we will be following as many as possible throughout the year.

Let’s jump in.

10. FORT Robotics

The one-year-old company is a spinout of Humanistic Robotics, which was founded in 2004 and created devices to keep humans safe from landmines which were deployed in areas such as Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. In about a year, FORT, which has a mission to create a secure, end-to-end wireless platform that ensures human safety around dangerous machines, has grown from its original team of 10 to about 25 employees and raised $4 million in seed funding.

“The industry has been there, and the tech is finally there, but there’s not yet a safety platform of record,” CEO Samuel Reeves told Technical.ly during a visit to its Curtis Center office. In 2020, FORT will likely raise a Series A round and continue to grow, Reeves said.

9. Simply Good Jars

Former professional chef Jared Cannon launched this line of jarred, ready-to-go meals stored in connected smart fridges at the end of 2017, and has seen slow but steady success with the venture since. Cannon was chosen for New York-based Food-X, an accelerator program for food-related startups, in 2019, where he claimed to tap a handful of Fortune 500 companies as customers.

“We are on the cusp of some really exciting stuff,” Cannon told Technical.ly. “We’ve partnered with Byte Technologies along with other regional brands to commercialize our offering and help even more people have a better for all food option available steps away from where they’re already living life,” i.e. offices and other facilities such as hospitals.

In September 2019, Cannon pitched Simply Good Jars to a handful of investors at a live pitch event, and raised $325,ooo — part of a $1.6 million seed round he said was underway.

8. GoCoach

This job training and reskilling company was started in NYC, but its founder, Pennsylvania native Kristy McCann Flynn, told Technical.ly last year that she was coming home to run the business from Philly. McCann Flynn launched the company in 2018 to offer a SaaS and customer-facing solution to the professional development market.

The app relies on a network of customers and career coaches who work together to bring folks up to speed on current workforce trends and skills. It tracks KPIs, has behavioral assessments and brings in a range of “coaches” for various industries. The company is remote friendly, and has a handful of employees in Philly, New York, California, Washington and North Carolina.

“We will be honing in on Philly hires for sales and support and West Coast for tech,” McCann Flynn said.

7. Avisi Technologies

This Pennovation Center-based medtech startup was founded by University of Pennsylvania grad Rui Jing Jiang in 2017 while she was at The Wharton School. The company’s product, VisiPlate, aims to treat open-angle glaucoma with an ocular implant that’s designed to remove excess fluid from inside the eye. The device releases pressures that damage the optic nerve.

In 2019, the company said it was funded via non-dilutive grants and awards including a $225,000 federal government grant from the National Science Foundation and additional funding from Penn, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, VentureWell E-Teams, among others. Last year, Avisi went through the MedTech Innovator Accelerator based in San Francisco.

6. QuotaPath

QuotaPath made the 2019 RealLIST for reasons that remain true in 2020: It raised a $1.5 million seed round led by Austin-based ATX Seed Ventures and angel investors, and the company’s profile is raised with cofounder AJ Bruno. His first company, TrendKite, was acquired last year in a nine-digit deal.

In 2019, the team launched its flagship product, a platform designed to help salespeople calculate and track their commission-based earnings and quota attainment. The company also raised $3.5 million, doubled its employee headcount and had a company kickoff in Philadelphia where it flew its Austin employees up for a hackathon and a day of strategic sessions.

5. Gettacar

The Northeast Philly startup is run by two childhood friends, Yossi Levi and Jake Levin, with years of experience in traditional auto sales and a stint at goPuff for Levin, who helped launch the local delivery service company that got a $750 million investment in 2019. The thought process was this: Why can’t cars be sold and delivered the same way you can get a six-pack of beer sent to your house?

The pair launched the showroom-less auto seller in 2018, essentially an online platform where folks could shop for a used, reasonably priced car and get it delivered the next day. The company raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in 2018 which included San Francisco-based e.venturesThe Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A Gettacar spokesperson told Technical.ly in December that it employed 100 people locally and operates a 25,000-square-foot reconditioning center in Northeast Philly.

4. NICKL

This news subscription startup was born in Brooklyn, but lured to the City of Brotherly Love for the 2019 LIFT Labs accelerator class — and has since decided to make Philly its home. NICKL, and its product NICKLpass, found success in the idea of bundling and selling news outlet subscriptions to groups, namely companies. It was a need the three-person company heard from Comcast during the accelerator.

Nickl has secured discounts as high as 70%, CEO Sumorwuo Zaza said, in deals that give news outlets more subscribers and Nickl a share of revenue from the sales, he told the Inquirer. One of NICKL’s only confirmed clients is the Los Angeles Times, which told the Inquirer it has “seen some encouraging results” since trying Nickl’s corporate account bundling service. The company will continue to work out of LIFT Labs until the 2020 accelerator class moves in, and then the company will get an office nearby, Zaza said.

3. Crossbeam

Three-time founder Bob Moore jumped into his latest project, “LinkedIn for data” startup Crossbeam, in 2018 with cofounder Buck Ryan. The duo raised a $3.3 million seed round in early 2019, then a $12.5 million Series A in August led by FirstMark Capital with participation from existing investors First Round CapitalUncork Capital and Slack Fund.

In 2019, Crossbeam’s platform went live and onboarded more than 100 companies (including some local ones); released products; been featured on the “How I Raised It” podcast; and won first prize at PACT’s Phorum demo pit. In early 2020, the startup has reached about 20 full-time employees, including senior product manager Lindsey O’Niell (one of our inaugural RealLIST Engineers), who moved to Philly to join the team.

2. Penji

The on-demand graphic design startup, founded in 2017, is becoming a go-to for companies looking for design services and has some mass appeal from its unique subscription model: unlimited design services managed through proprietary software for a flat rate of $369 a month. It’s been heralded for extending those services to Camden nonprofits that couldn’t afford them for a single dollar. It earned enough clout to land on the Inc. 5000 list last year at number 1,006.

Penji set up shop in Camden near the waterfront two years ago, but its significant staff growth — up to about 60, now, cofounder and CEO Khai Tran said —was cause for the startup to move operations over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Philly in fall 2019. Tran told Technical.ly at the time: “The mission didn’t change. Just the location did.”

1. Astarte Medical

This precision medicine company is run by two former venture capital investors, Tracy Warren and Tammi Jantzen, who have since taken their savvy in raising money for others to their own startup. The team had an especially banner year — raising a $5 million Series A round in May 2019 and an additional $3.5 million in November — and seems it will have an even more impressive 2020.

The funding will go toward the commercialization and adoption of its NICUtrition, a suite of digital tools and diagnostics that supports feeding protocols, practice and decision-making in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) for premature babies. The company will use the additional funds to accelerate hiring and ramp its sales and marketing efforts for its first two solutions, NICUtrition Analytics and NICUtrition Guidance.

“Astarte Medical plans to grow its team by 300% in 2020, adding in-house sales and marketing staff, as well as client support functions to assist early adopters,” it said in November. “In addition, the company also plans to expand its in-house engineering and data science teams to support continued product development.”

The duo also gets props for rapid fundraising and hiring in Yardley, a ‘burb not really known for attracting tech talent.

Finally, a few honorable mentions (in no particular order):

  • EmployeeCycle
  • Swirl
  • VyB
  • TrekIT Health
  • Kumba Africa
  • This Apps Saves Lives
  • Leadovate
  • Hopskip
  • MD Ally
  • NaturAll Club

Placer.ai, a location data analytics startup, raises $12 million Series A

Catherine Shu@catherineshu / 7:00 am CST • January 22, 2020

Placer.ai, a startup that analyzes location and foot traffic analytics for retailers and other businesses, announced today that it has closed a $12 million Series A. The round was led by JBV Capital, with participation from investors including Aleph, Reciprocal Ventures and OCA Ventures.

The funding will be used on research and development of new features and to expand Placer.ai’s operation in the United States.

Launched in 2016, Placer.ai’s SaaS platform gives its clients real-time data that helps them make decisions like where to rent or buy properties, when to hold sales and promotions and how to manage assets.

Placer.ai analyzes foot traffic and also creates consumer profiles to help clients make marketing and ad spending decisions. It does this by collecting geolocation and proximity data from devices that are enabled to share that information. Placer.ai’s co-founder and CEO Noam Ben-Zvi says the company protects privacy and follows regulation by displaying aggregated, anonymous data and does not collect personally identifiable data. It also does not sell advertising or raw data.

The company currently serves clients in the retail (including large shopping centers), commercial real estate and hospitality verticals, including JLL, Regency, SRS, Brixmor, Verizon* and Caesars Entertainment.

“Up until now, we’ve been heavily focused on the commercial real estate sector, but this has very organically led us into retail, hospitality, municipalities and even [consumer packaged goods],” Ben-Zvi told TechCrunch in an email. “This presents us with a massive market, so we’re just focused on building out the types of features that will directly address the different needs of our core audience.”

He adds that lack of data has hurt retail businesses with major offline operations, but that “by effectively addressing this gap, we’re helping drive more sustainable growth or larger players or minimizing the risk for smaller companies to drive expansion plans that are strategically aggressive.”

Others startups in the same space include Dor, Aislelabs, RetailNext, ShopperTrak and Density. Ben-Zvi says Placer.ai wants to differentiate by providing more types of real-time data analysis.

“While there are a lot of companies touching the location analytics space, we’re in a unique situation as the only company providing these deep and actionable insights for any location in the country in a real-time platform with a wide array of functionality,” he said.

*Disclosure: Verizon Media is the parent company of TechCrunch.

The story of two women who’ve raised more than $6 million to start their own ‘fem tech’ company for women and children’s health

Collin West and Nihar Neelakanti, Kauffman Fellows Fund Oct 4, 2019, 10:29 AM

  • Tammi Jantzen is the cofounder of Astarte Medical, a precision medicine company that utilizes software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes during the first 1,000 days of life.
  • Jantzen prides herself on being part of a female-led cofounding team and has become very acutely aware of the specific challenges involved in fundraising for female founders.
  • She shared her experience transitioning from CFO in venture capital to entrepreneur, as well as pitching investors on “fem tech.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tammi Jantzen grew up in a small Wisconsin college town and started her professional life as an accountant working for a publishing company, which was later acquired by McGraw Hill. After the acquisition, McGraw Hill let go of all the accountants and offered Jantzen a job in New York City. 

A year after the move, Jantzen realized her passions were leading her elsewhere. She fell into venture capital around 1998 after a VC client of her husband’s, a residential contractor, talked about how their fund was looking for a CFO. Soon enough, the fund offered Jantzen the job, and the rest is history. 

With nearly two decades of experience in venture, Jantzen made the bold transition to entrepreneur and cofounded Astarte Medical, a precision medicine company that utilizes software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes during the first 1,000 days of life, with an initial focus on preterm infants. 

Jantzen prides herself on being part of a female-led cofounding team for Astarte Medical and has become very acutely aware of the specific challenges involved in fundraising for female founders. 

She joined us to speak about her fundraising experience as a cofounder of a startup, combining her former experience and perspective as GP of a fund tackling a complex, significant problem from two different angles. 

Learning by doing

There are few industries in which learning is so closely tied to “figuring it out along the way” than venture capital. Having an intimate understanding of the financial mechanics behind investment transactions is often the only prerequisite to becoming a successful venture capitalist — the rest must be learned through a wide variety of good and bad deals. 

“Prior to becoming immersed in the VC world, I had only heard about venture capital,” noted Jantzen. “I didn’t know much about it, and I learned from just doing.” 

The fund Jantzen joined was a $45 million regional fund and had already made a couple of investments. As the fund was preparing to raise a second fund, one of their LP’s presented an opportunity to join him in a $150 million fund called Battelle Ventures. Jantzen was a founding member of Battelle Ventures in 2003 as CFO and saw the fund grow to $250 million under management. Battelle Ventures was an early-stage fund focused largely on healthcare, energy, and homeland security. 

“Battelle Ventures only had a single LP, so there were unique aspects to our mandate and operations as a result,” commented Jantzen. 

During her time at the first fund, Jantzen met Tracy Warren. After Battelle Ventures chose not to pursue a second venture fund, Jantzen and Warren joined to start their own fund, Astarte Ventures. It was the first fund focused exclusively on women’s and children’s health. 

“Fem tech wasn’t coined yet,” said Jantzen. “We saw an enormous opportunity to add value to an underserved market. Prospective fund investors told us to go out and prove the market actually exists. We took a bet and it paid off. We helped validate the space and proved that our small fund would actually make money.” 

Jantzen and Warren put their own money to work, investing under Astarte Ventures. In the course of their work, they spent a lot of time visiting women’s and children’s hospitals around the country. That’s where they met Katherine Gregory, RN, PhD at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Jantzen and Warren were intrigued by Gregory and her research. 

“Kate Gregory was clearly a rockstar,” said Jantzen. “She was working on some phenomenal research on preterm infant microbiome and gut health. She had a unique background having hands-on clinical experience as a nurse alongside stellar academic and research credentials. At the time, we didn’t know what the product would be, but we knew it was worth the time and energy to figure it out. This initial meeting with her prompted our entrepreneurial shift and led to the founding of Astarte Medical in 2016.” 

Starting to fundraise

Astarte Medical has raised over $6 million, with $1.4 million coming from Jantzen and Warren personally. Astarte Ventures funded the initial seed round, which funded the BabyBiome Study in Gregory’s lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The company also received seed capital from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, who invested alongside the founders’ capital based on the strength of the team while the concept was still forming a business. In October 2017, having formulated a solid plan and developed an initial product, Astarte Medical went out to officially raise its Series A. However, fundraising for these experienced investors-turned-entrepreneurs was not without its challenges.

“Having spent so much time in early-stage investing, we went into this thinking we knew exactly what we needed to do to win over investors. The process of raising capital took longer than we ever thought,” said Jantzen. “It was actually really frustrating. VCs and even many of the angel groups said two things: ‘It’s really interesting what you are doing, but you are a little too early, so come back to us when you have revenue.'”

She added: “One of the most frustrating lessons of fundraising was spending too much time entertaining the wrong investors. We spent an incredible amount of time in diligence with some, who when asking about exit strategy and corporate development specifically asked if our female-led team could handle it. One group even asked if we had any men on the team. There we were with a life-changing company, a functional business model, and an experienced team, and we’re being asked if we had male supervision.”

Despite vexations, the pieces started to come together in early 2018. Keiretsu Forum MidAtlantic would become the lead investor, and the term sheet was executed in February 2018. Astarte Medical got its final commitments in December, a full 10 months after the execution of the term sheet.  

“We now realize that we set very unrealistic expectations on how much time and energy would be expended to raise this round of funding. We spent 80% of the time on 20% of the commitments,” said Jantzen. “We spent too much time chasing small checks. In the final three months, the bulk of the money came in triggered by some uncommon avenues.”

Astarte Medical participated in accelerators XLerateHealth and Illumina Accelerator. 

“Every accelerator helped add another critical piece to the puzzle,” commented Jantzen. “XLerateHealth helped refine the pitch, and much to our surprise, $1 million of the $5 million came as a direct result of our participation in XLerateHealth. The Illumina Accelerator enabled us to sequence an unprecedented amount of data at a fraction of the cost, and provided dollar for dollar match funding. The match funding provided $2 million of the $5 million Series A round, which was a tremendous catalyst, enabling us to close our round slightly oversubscribed.” 

“This has been the hardest I’ve ever worked but, hands down, the most fun I’ve ever had,” added Jantzen. “I think the coolest thing for me is that we are making a difference in the lives of infants and families, helping babies thrive. What better mission could there be? But it’s not all about impact; we’re building a solid, highly investable business. Closing our Series A was validation of our vision and opportunity, as well as our team.” 

Takeaways as a GP and entrepreneur

As a general partner at a venture capital fund and a cofounder of a startup, Jantzen has a unique point of view of fundraising. 

Sitting on the other side of the table as entrepreneurs, they gained an appreciation for all the founders that had come before them as investors for over 15 years.  

“Looking back, 2018 was a challenging year while we were fundraising.  With little gas in the tank, no one took a salary and the founders personally invested to bridge the company to closing,” said Jantzen. “From a personal standpoint, it was a difficult year, but we wholeheartedly believed in our vision and knew we would persevere. Having a cofounder to lean on throughout the process was critical to our success. I couldn’t imagine going through it as a lone founder.”

“We were surprised that we didn’t get more traction from female-founder-friendly investment groups that we thought would be excited about the opportunity,” added Jantzen. “We were fortunate to have Astia Angels and NextAct Fund invest, but most early-stage VCs and many angel groups are very risk-averse. We found ourselves spending a lot of time entertaining potential investors that we shouldn’t have given their biases and tire-kicking. There was one angel group we spent over a year in diligence with only to find that they couldn’t pull an investment together.  In retrospect, it turned out to be a blessing as not all money is good money. We are fortunate to have a syndicate of committed investors who share our vision and respect the experience and potential of this team.” 

The process of pitching a startup to dozens or even hundreds of investors is more of an artform that requires discipline and due diligence. 

“We had over two hundred iterations of the pitch deck. We treated every investor pitch as a unique opportunity,” she said. 

Jantzen’s largest frustrations were not knowing who was really serious and able to invest, investor indecisiveness, and lack of leadership within angel groups. 

“If I had to boil the entire ten months of fundraising to three takeaways, I would say: focus initially only on folks that can lead the deal; your relationship with your investors is much like a marriage, so be selective with who you choose; and above all, be persistent. Stay focused on the business and the opportunity, continue to share your passion and vision, and the right investors will ultimately buy in,” she said. 

Through Astarte Medical’s vision of improving outcomes in the first 1,000 days of life, Jantzen and team will have a meaningful and measurable impact on hundreds of thousands of infants and their families. Astarte Medical has already built the largest and most comprehensive dataset of preterm infant microbiome profiles and corresponding clinical data about both mom and baby. 

“We started the company based on Kate’s idea of using a ‘calculator’ that looks at microbial health risk factors of baby — gestational age at birth, how they are born, antibiotics administered, mom’s health, how they are fed, and so on — and marries those factors with microbiome sequence data and outcomes,” said Jantzen. “If we can connect all those factors together and identify which variables influence the establishment of the microbiome and how it changes during the course of the infant’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, we can build predictive algorithms to risk stratify infants and provide predictive models on growth that can help clinicians make better-informed care decisions around nutrition, feeding, and the use of antibiotics and probiotics. With our dataset, we’re developing MAGI, the Microbiome And Growth Indicator — a gut health profile.” 

Astarte Medical has also built NICUtrition, a feeding dashboard that simplifies the processes of documenting and logging feeding for preemies in the hospital. The more data it collects, the more powerful of an impact the data will be able to make in the future of personalized medicine. 

“Zeroing in on the best way to feed every baby is going to be huge for ensuring health in the first 1,000 days of life starting from conception through age two,” said Jantzen.

Jantzen is optimistic about the future, and as cofounder of a startup tackling major issues head-on and transitioning from GP of a fund aligned with her passions, Jantzen is thrilled to be in the space.

Nihar Neelakanti is an investor at Kauffman Fellows Fund, produces The Arena Podcast, and writes the Journal Newsletter by Kauffman Fellows. The firm’s investments include Zoom, Carta, Tally, Groww, One Concern, and Catalog DNA. Previously, he was an analyst at Correlation Ventures, a venture firm out of San Francisco that has invested in notable consumer companies such as Casper, Cotopaxi, and Imperfect Produce. He also cofounded Vendima Bags, a direct-to-consumer luxury bag startup.

Collin West is cofounding partner of Kauffman Fellows Fund and a Kauffman fellow from class ’17. He’s also founder and head of research of Kauffman Fellows Research Center. Previously, he was a principal at Correlation Ventures. He’s a 2x founder. He’s also pictured in the Guinness World Records for leading the first team to row a boat across the Arctic Ocean over 41 days and 1,000 miles non-stop and unsupported.