Tammi Jantzen of Astarte Medical: “Why you shouldn’t surround yourself with people who look and think exactly as you do”

You shouldn’t surround yourself with people who look and think exactly as you do. You need differing opinions and points of view to truly expand your thinking. Building a diverse team has always been important to us, however, it was never about achieving a prescribed diversity quota. Every hire we make is based on the best possible candidate with the right experience and skillsets. Our core values of competence, respect, authenticity, and communication help guide us as we grow. I’m proud to say our efforts have resulted in an incredibly talented and diverse team of amazing individuals. There’s so much we learn from one another — it amazes me every day.

a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammi Jantzen.

Tammi is co-founder and CFO of Astarte Medical, a precision nutrition company using software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes in the first 1000 days of life, initially focused on preterm infants. NICUtrition® by Astarte Medical is a real-time, clinical decision support solution designed to standardize feeding and optimize nutrition for preterm infants in the neonatal ICU (NICU). Tammi spent 15 years as CFO of three early stage venture capital funds and is an angel investor and serial entrepreneur.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

or the last 20 years, I have worked with my co-founder, Tracy Warren, as both investors and entrepreneurs. We have historically targeted healthcare, but six years ago decided to focus exclusively on women’s and children’s health, an area we are both passionate about and a largely underserved area of innovation and investment. In an attempt to gain insights into clinical needs and pain points, we visited many women’s and children’s hospitals talking to innovation groups and researchers. It was during a visit to Brigham and Women’s Hospital that we met Kate Gregory, a NICU nurse and Harvard researcher. Kate opened our eyes to the challenges of preterm infants and early life nutrition. She was clearly a rock star and we knew immediately that we wanted to work with her. Kate’s passion quickly became our passion, and we realized we didn’t just want to invest in the idea, we wanted to build the company ourselves. At the time, we didn’t know what the product would be, but we set out to investigate the problem first and develop the solution second. About nine months later, Astarte Medical was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In early 2019, we successfully raised a $5M Series A financing and then another $3.5M convertible note financing at the end of the year. Woo hoo! The Series A fundraising journey, however, was not what we expected it to be. Having spent so much time in early stage venture capital investing, we went into this thinking we knew exactly what we needed to do to win over investors. We focused on the business and the opportunity and shared our vision for revolutionizing care. It was clear early on that we had set very unrealistic expectations on how much time and energy would be expended to raise this round of funding. Sitting on the other side of the table as entrepreneurs, we gained an appreciation for all the founders that had come before us as investors for over 15 years. Nothing happens as quickly as you think it should and there’s a lot of “tire kicking” that sucks up so much of your time and never leads to an actual investment. And the worst part was investors that could never get to a “yes” or “no”. Hearing “no” is better than perpetual indecision. But with persistence and drive, it can be done! Sitting here today, I’m happy to report that we have an amazing investor base.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The mistake was taking multiple meetings with a group of investors that were clearly never going to invest in a female-led company. I can call it a funny mistake now, and lesson learned for sure, but at the time not so much. Here’s how it transpired…at a meeting with an all-male group of potential investors, we were asked, “Do you have any men on your team?” In fact, we do. But, when the CEO has 15 years’ experience in the industry and an MBA, the CSO is a registered nurse with a PhD and over 10 years researching our product area, and the CFO is a certified public accountant with extensive financial experience, should that matter? The question about our company’s testosterone level was followed by one about who would handle mergers and acquisitions negotiations for us. Those can get quite complicated, the potential investors helpfully informed us. The mistake was not listening to our inner voices that day that were screaming “RUN! and don’t look back”. But we continued for the next 12 months to take meetings and entertain questions. Ultimately, they couldn’t pull it together and we successfully closed our $5M Series A financing — without them. The lesson learned is that not all money is good money. I’m so grateful they are not part of our investor base — I just wish we would have listened to our instincts sooner.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Hands down, that person is my co-founder, Tracy Warren. We have worked together for 20 years — longer than most marriages. We joke about the fact that we have “one brain” because we often know what the other is thinking before speaking. Although, strangely, people often mix us up, we are definitely not the same person. Tracy is the high-level strategic thinker of the team. She comes up with the crazy brilliant ideas, and I figure out how to actually get them done. Tracy has continually pushed me to think bigger and outside the box. I am forever grateful to her for helping me see my own potential and push me to be a better me.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

Before Astarte Medical was founded, I would say I was much more comfortable staying behind the scenes, being supportive but not putting myself in the spotlight — ever. But when it comes to startups and fundraising, it’s all hands on deck. I had to push aside my fears and give the company pitch, as often as we were given the opportunity, whether it was to an individual investor or on stage with an audience of 200 people. In the beginning, I stressed myself out in unhealthy ways over every single pitch. I have now learned the key to releasing and relieving that stress and anxiety is preparation, practice, and confidence. When preparing for a high stakes meeting or presentation, always remember that no one knows your business better than you do. That realization is game changing.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

You shouldn’t surround yourself with people who look and think exactly as you do. You need differing opinions and points of view to truly expand your thinking. Building a diverse team has always been important to us, however, it was never about achieving a prescribed diversity quota. Every hire we make is based on the best possible candidate with the right experience and skillsets. Our core values of competence, respect, authenticity, and communication help guide us as we grow. I’m proud to say our efforts have resulted in an incredibly talented and diverse team of amazing individuals. There’s so much we learn from one another — it amazes me every day.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

We are in a unique position at Astarte Medical to use our current NICUtrition® platform to tackle health disparities in neonatal ICUs. As shown in recent studies, racial disparities are widespread in NICUs in the United States. Black and Hispanic preterm infants experience a significantly increased risk of developing comorbidities than white preterm infants. Even within NICUs, disparities exist in how preterm infants are fed and nourished resulting in adverse outcomes that disproportionately impact Blacks and Hispanics. We can leverage our NICUtrition® platform to liberate data from a hospital’s electronic medical record to support health equity programs and develop a better understanding of the causes of these disparities. By providing data to highlight racial disparities in real time, we can enable effective interventions to reduce disparities and improve care while the baby is still in the NICU.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

While all leaders make contributions, responsibility for success rests on the shoulders of the executive team. Success is multifactorial and means building a sustainable and profitable business that provides continued employment to employees, reliable and innovative products to customers, and a solid financial return to investors. Ultimately, the executives are the ones held accountable for this success.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

The biggest myth is that you need to have fancy credentials, prior experience, an extreme type-A personality or that you need to be a middle-aged white man to be a great executive.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women often face skepticism, consciously or unconsciously, about whether they can get the job done or be effective leaders. Success has to be proven. Whereas with male executives, it’s assumed they will be successful until proven otherwise.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

As with any startup, you wear many hats. Although my official title is CFO, I actually spend less than 25% of my time on financial-related matters. As a CPA, I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I would lead the marketing effort for any company. Yet, here I am, doing just that. Admittedly, I’m learning as I go and lean heavily on the team for support but I’m enjoying it way more than I thought. Astarte Medical was born from an idea, and here we are, four years later with 12 employees, selling our product, seeing our vision take shape in a meaningful way. I’m not sure what I thought it would be, but I know it’s not a “job”. It’s so much a part of who I am now, it’s more like another child to grow and nurture.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

I can’t imagine being a successful executive without having passion for what you are doing. Passion, drive and determination are key. If you are a person looking for a 9 to 5 job, this isn’t for you.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Stay focused on executing and delivering on your core business. Too many start-ups attempt to take on an impossible scope early in their gestation and fail to do any one project well.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Over the last 40 years, there has been a significant increase in diseases such as allergy, asthma and obesity — conditions which are all linked to gut health. In order to reverse this trend and have a positive impact on the next 40 years, we are focused on the first 1,000 days of life, from conception through age two. It is a period of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. The foundations for life-long health are largely set during this 1,000-day period as this is the most critical time for brain development, healthy growth and creating a strong immune system. Proper nutrition during this time can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. Astarte Medical is initially focused on optimizing nutrition and gut health for preterm infants; however, our strategy is to then move into prenatal care and early infant nutrition to optimize gut health across this unique window of opportunity. Our vision is to have a hand in creating the healthiest generation ever.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Invest time in finding the right hires — take the time to make sure the cultural fit is right. A bad fit can create negative energy and can bring the whole team down.
  2. Communicate expectations — ensure that every employee knows what is expected of them. It is key that they know what success looks like for them individually and as a team.
  3. Hold the team accountable — both when things aren’t going as planned but also when goals are achieved.
  4. Always trust your gut instinct (pun intended) — if that inner voice is telling you that someone doesn’t fit with the company culture you are working hard to build, don’t wait to make a change. See #1 above — it impacts the whole team.
  5. Think big and encourage your team to do the same — it will make them feel part of something bigger and can be a motivating factor in their current role.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to inspire the movement toward wellness and prevention rather than treatment of disease. At Astarte Medical we are inspiring this movement by using data and analytics to inform care early in life during the most critical time of growth and development to set our kids on the proper trajectory toward life-long health.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” During the early part of my career, as a venture fund CFO, I was pretty content working in the background to support the partners in the firm. I enjoyed my work and found satisfaction in my accomplishments, but never at any time did they include promoting myself, speaking to an audience, or in any way shape or form “putting myself out there”. As co-founder of Astarte Medical, I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone and do whatever it takes to make the team and the company successful. Stepping up and getting out there has resulted in a confidence level that was previously unknown to me and has led to a tremendous amount of both personal and professional growth and was a key driver in closing our financing.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Melinda Gates — because of her philanthropic work around the world in health, particularly children, but also because of her push to empower women. We share similar interest in increasing diversity in the workplace, encouraging more women to start businesses, and in closing the funding gap for female founders.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

MPulse Mobile Announces Closing Of Series C Funding Of More Than $16 Million, Led By Optum Ventures

New investment will support mPulse Mobile’s engagement and outcomes strategy through Conversational Artificial Intelligence

mPulse Mobile, a leader in Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions for the healthcare industry, announced more than $16 million in funding. The round was led by Optum Ventures and includes existing investors HLM Venture Partners, OCA Ventures, SJF Ventures, Echo Health Ventures and Rincon Ventures.

Powering more than 300 million personalized, automated consumer healthcare conversations annually, mPulse Mobile’s solutions help consumers and healthcare organizations achieve better health outcomes by increasing engagement and improving communication through meaningful, tailored conversations. mPulse combines behavioral science, artificial intelligence and an enterprise-grade platform to assist healthcare organizations guide consumers to adopt healthy behaviors.

mPulse Mobile has more than a decade of healthcare consumer engagement experience, serving more than 100 healthcare organizations. The Series C investment will help mPulse Mobile further enhance solutions that deliver positive consumer experiences on behalf of its customers.

Recommended AI NewsAspera Named in Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant for SAM Managed Services

“We are excited to have the support of Optum Ventures and all of our current investors as we execute on our strategic roadmap to improve health outcomes for consumers and our customers through improved communications,” said Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile. “This new investment recognizes that scale and solution performance are key factors in successfully engaging consumers in their healthcare, and we will use it to expand our consumer conversational AI capabilities, enhance our client engagement analytics platform and expand our engagement solutions across healthcare verticals.”

“mPulse Mobile enables valuable connections between healthcare organizations and consumers, while addressing a significant market need for better experiences,” said Laura Veroneau, Partner, Optum Ventures. “We believe mPulse’s innovative approach to consumer engagement can play a key role in improving health outcomes and lowering the total cost of care.”

Chicago’s 100 Best Places To Work in 2020

Looking over this year’s Best Places to Work winners, it’s hard not to get nostalgic for the office, pre-COVID. Talk of tricked-out breakrooms, birthday celebrations, impromptu happy hours and rooftop decks has us pining for the days of interacting in real life with co-workers.

Today, most of us are still working from home, unsure when office life (or any part of life) will be back to normal. It will happen, of course, and when it does, these companies are showing the way: providing employees with the perks, amenities, pay and benefits that keep them happy and productive.

A record 14,522 employees participated in our survey about their workplaces this year, well before the virus took hold. Read more about the top companies in three categories—largemedium and small.

Back-to-school shoppers are showing up after all, study shows

Dive Brief:

  • The back-to-school season isn’t going to be as strong as it was last year, when August store visits rose 5.1% at Target, 3.7% at Best Buy and 2.5% at Walmart. But recent footfall analysis from Placer.ai suggests it is nevertheless set to come to the aid of retailers.
  • Back-to-school shoppers are showing up after all, as those chains, along with office supply retailers Staples and Office Depot (where visits declined last year) saw foot traffic pick up during the last week of July and continue into August, according to a report from location analytics firm Placer.ai.
  • Walmart’s 4.5% year-over-year increase in time spent in stores suggests customers are getting their errands done in one place, Placer.ai said.

    Dive Insight:

    The back-to-school season has been something of a wild card this year, with the pandemic forcing consumers away from stores and students away from schools, not to mention dragging down employment and the economy more broadly.

    That has retailers on edge, considering how back-to-school trends serve as a bellwether for the all-important holidays in the fourth quarter. Both spending periods depend on foot traffic to stores.

    Placer.ai has recorded upticks of exactly that. Best Buy appears to have indeed benefited from the bigger-than-usual spending on tech forecast by Deloitte earlier this year, as Placer.ai found its traffic up from July 13 to the week of Aug. 10, hitting a 7.6% peak rise the week of Aug. 3. The electronics retailer views stores as an important asset, telling analysts last week that some 60% of sales flow through the store somehow, through curbside pickup and ship-from-store as well as in-store sales.

    Back-to-school season is usually a big one for office supplies retailers. Despite pressures this year, sales have actually picked up somewhat for them too, most evident in the week-over-week data, according to a blog post from Placer.ai Marketing Vice President Ethan Chernofsky. Staples’ foot traffic increased nearly 20% the week of Aug. 10 compared to the week prior, while Office Depot’s traffic increased 14.2% during the same period.

    “All of the brands analyzed have seen growth since the week beginning July 27th, signifying a strong momentum to the overall retail recovery,” Chernofsky said in the post. “So, while the pinnacle of the back-to-school season will likely be lower than in 2019, the peak is still taking place, giving a needed boost to this sector.”

Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare: Suelin Chen

Suelin Chen believes that embracing your own mortality can be a force for good. She’s the CEO of Cake, a web-based service that helps users plan for their end-of-life goals and wishes. The 39-year-old says the pandemic has produced feelings of uncertainty and fear—but that addressing death head-on can be empowering and life-affirming. The executive started the company in 2015 with her business partner, Mark Zhang, a palliative-care physician, after meeting at an MIT event on hacking health care. By then, Chen had already spent years in academia, health care and business, but her on-the-spot pitch was to develop an easy, digital service to help people let their family and friends know their wishes if they’re at the end of their life or incapacitated. The service doesn’t include creating a will, but lets users map out everything from how they’d like their social media accounts to be managed after they’re gone, even how they’d like their funeral to feel—including the music—and store documents in one place. It has since been used by major hospitals and banks, including Massachusetts General Hospital and Natwest, and Cake closed a $1.6 million funding round at the start of the year. And there’s evidence that the pandemic has spurred end-of-life planning: By April, user engagement with the service had increased by more than 400%.

SpiderOak Mission Systems Adds Recognized Industry Leaders to Federal Advisory Board

New board to guide SpiderOak in setting new standard for secure communications and collaboration in federal marketplace

NEWS PROVIDED BY SpiderOak Inc. 

Jul 29, 2020, 13:59 ET

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — SpiderOak Mission Systems, providers of cryptographically-secure communication and collaboration products, announced today the formation of the company’s Federal Advisory Board.  Composed of thought leaders from civilian, defense, and intelligence agencies, the board features Lieutenant General Ken Tovo, U.S. Army (Retired), Counterterror and Cyber Security expert Nancy Dillman, and internationally renowned political scientist and management scholar Professor Daniel Diermeier.

This news is just another benchmark in SpiderOak’s effort to strengthen its defense- and intelligence-industry expertise. The new board members will be instrumental in helping the company best align the capabilities of their secure communication and collaboration product suite (CrossClave) and new in-the-works solutions that address trusted application development and secure management of spacecraft and payloads to ensure they align with the requirements of the federal government’s most sensitive information-sharing environments.

CrossClave is a modern productivity suite designed from the ground up with security-first principles, not as an afterthought. CrossClave gives users absolute confidence in the safety and integrity of their most sensitive data across trusted and untrusted networks alike. Leveraging a unique combination of No-Knowledge encryption and Distributed Ledger (i.e., private blockchain) technologies, CrossClave eliminates entire categories of cyberattacks, reducing the attack surface and the subsequent vulnerabilities attackers can exploit.

We are honored and excited that Lieutenant General Tovo, Ms. Dillman and Mr. Diermeier, will officially be joining SpiderOak’s newly created Federal Advisory Board,” said Dave Pearah, President and CEO of SpiderOak Mission Systems.  Their positions are effective as of August 1st, 2020 and have already begun advising this disruptive company.

This announcement builds on SpiderOak’s ongoing strategy of growing its federal market presence and helping DoD and intelligence clients address some of the industry’s most complex security challenges. “It is essential for us to find proven leaders who not only share our perspective on security but have the mission experience to validate the need for it.  Lt. Gen. Tovo, Ms. Dillman, and Mr. Diermeier will help the executive team build on our investments and guide us to the next level,” said Mike Campanelli, SpiderOak VP of Federal.  “I am confident that these are the leaders to get us there.”

United States Army Lieutenant General (Retired) Ken Tovo joins SpiderOak after serving as Commanding General of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).  “I think what SpiderOak is doing with No-Knowledge Encryption and Distributed Ledger is a real game changer for secure information exchange in field,” said General Tovo. “The possible applications are exciting, and I look forward to directing them where they can be of the most benefit.”  Tovo was graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1983. He served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Southern Command; Commander, Special Operations Command Central; Deputy Commanding General, Special Operations Command Europe; Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and Commanding General, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan and NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Tovo is joined by Ms. Nancy Dillman who most recently served as an Operations Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in denied-area tradecraft techniques, along with counterintelligence (CI) and counterterrorism (CT).  “The challenges facing secure communication and collaboration in military operations are at a completely different level than in commercial settings,” said Ms. Dillman.  “SpiderOak’s Zero-Trust approach is specifically designed to operate in these contested environments, and I look forward to helping them get this capability into the hands of people who really need it.”  Before joining SpiderOak, Ms. Dillman’s last overseas tour took place in Afghanistan, where she handled sensitive CI and CT accounts. Following her public service, Ms. Dillman set out to develop data-analytic products that would offer real-world solutions to USG clients.  She became the majority owner and CEO of Rsignia Inc. in 2015, and after having successfully built the company, Ms. Dillman oversaw and led the acquisition of Rsignia by FedData Holdings in 2019. 

Professor Daniel Diermeier, an internationally renowned political scientist and management scholar, also joins the Federal Advisory Board.  “From a business perspective, it’s been interesting watching the rapid shift to telework over the past few months,  specifically how it has exposed a massive security blind-spot in many of the products organizations rely on to facilitate the remote workplace,” stated Diermeier.  “SpiderOak’s security-first design principle eliminates this blind spot and brings enterprise level security to the home office.” Daniel was recently elected Vanderbilt University’s ninth chancellor, beginning his term on July 1st, 2020.  A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Guggenheim fellow, Diermeier also served as the provost at the University of Chicago, where he was recognized as the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor and as dean of the Harris School of Public Policy.

SpiderOak is looking forward to how Lt. Gen. Tovo, Ms. Dillman, and Professor Diermeier can guide and accelerate the company’s objective in driving a new standard for secure communications and collaboration within the DoD and intelligence communities. The advisory board will be structured to help with SpiderOak’s direct operation and keep the company up to date on various business, regulatory, and federal trends and the potential impact on the company and clients.

About SpiderOak Mission Systems

As network environments have become increasingly contested, the defensive capabilities of most software products have not kept pace with the attackers. SpiderOak is on a mission to protect the world’s data via secure communication and collaboration products and solutions. Our offerings leverage Zero-Trust distributed data enclaves to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our clients’ most sensitive data in any environment. From explicit entitlements in mobile applications to process sandboxing in web browsers, SpiderOak employs a constructional design philosophy where security is built into our products from the ground up.

For more information about SpiderOak Mission Systems, join us for our August 6th SpiderOak/CarahSoft webcast, “Blockchain And Distributed Ledger: Not Just for Cryptocurrency Anymore!”  contact the SpiderOak team at 703-673-9037 or e-mail Caroline.Malaby@carahsoft.com.

mPulse Mobile Announces Closing of Series C Funding of more than $16 Million, Led by Optum Ventures

PR Newswire August 11, 2020

New investment will support mPulse Mobile’s engagement and outcomes strategy through Conversational Artificial Intelligence

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — mPulse Mobile, a leader in Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions for the healthcare industry, today announced more than $16 million in funding. The round was led by Optum Ventures and includes existing investors HLM Venture Partners, OCA Ventures, SJF Ventures, Echo Health Ventures and Rincon Ventures.

Powering more than 300 million personalized, automated consumer healthcare conversations annually, mPulse Mobile’s solutions help consumers and healthcare organizations achieve better health outcomes by increasing engagement and improving communication through meaningful, tailored conversations. mPulse combines behavioral science, artificial intelligence and an enterprise-grade platform to assist healthcare organizations guide consumers to adopt healthy behaviors.

mPulse Mobile has more than a decade of healthcare consumer engagement experience, serving more than 100 healthcare organizations. The Series C investment will help mPulse Mobile further enhance solutions that deliver positive consumer experiences on behalf of its customers.

“We are excited to have the support of Optum Ventures and all of our current investors as we execute on our strategic roadmap to improve health outcomes for consumers and our customers through improved communications,” said Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile. “This new investment recognizes that scale and solution performance are key factors in successfully engaging consumers in their healthcare, and we will use it to expand our consumer conversational AI capabilities, enhance our client engagement analytics platform and expand our engagement solutions across healthcare verticals.”

“mPulse Mobile enables valuable connections between healthcare organizations and consumers, while addressing a significant market need for better experiences,” said Laura Veroneau, Partner, Optum Ventures. “We believe mPulse’s innovative approach to consumer engagement can play a key role in improving health outcomes and lowering the total cost of care.”

About mPulse Mobile
mPulse Mobile, the leader in Conversational AI solutions for the healthcare industry, drives improved health outcomes and business efficiencies by engaging individuals with tailored and meaningful dialogue. mPulse Mobile combines behavioral science, analytics and industry expertise that helps healthcare organizations activate their consumers to adopt healthy behaviors. With over a decade of experience, 100+ healthcare customers and more than 300 million conversations annually, mPulse Mobile has the data, the expertise and the solutions to drive healthy behavior change. For more information, please visit http://www.mpulsemobile.com

About Optum Ventures
Optum Ventures is the independent venture fund of Optum, a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone, and part of the UnitedHealth Group. Optum Ventures invests in digital health companies that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to health care services and how care is delivered and paid for, and that make the health care system more reliable and easier to navigate. For more information, please visit http://www.optumventures.com.

About HLM Venture Partners
HLM Venture Partners is a leading venture capital firm and one of the nation’s oldest and most experienced in the tech-enabled healthcare services, healthcare information technology, and medical device and diagnostics sectors. Seeking dynamic, emerging-growth companies, HLM invests in the industry’s most innovative companies, including Phreesia, Teladoc, AbleTo, Regroup Therapy, Nordic Consulting, meQuilibrium and ClearDATA. http://www.hlmvp.com

About OCA Ventures
OCA Ventures is an early stage (Seed, Series A, and Series B) venture capital firm focused on equity investments in companies with dramatic growth potential, primarily in technology and highly-scalable services businesses. OCA invests in many industries, with a preference for technology, financial services, cyber security and healthcare technology. Founded in 1999, the firm is investing out of its fourth fund in companies spread throughout the United States. Learn more at https://ocaventures.com

About SJF Ventures
SJF Ventures invests in high-growth companies creating a healthier, smarter and cleaner future. Its mission is to catalyze the development of highly successful businesses driving lasting, positive changes. We are experienced venture capital investors who have been at the forefront of impact investing since 1999. We are passionate about generating extraordinary results, creating positive changes, and partnering with visionaries who combine these two. Our team has invested in over 70 companies during the last 21 years, bringing time-tested perspective and expertise to partnerships with entrepreneurs. For more information, visit http://www.sjfventures.com

About Echo Health Ventures
Echo Health Ventures invests to build and grow great health care companies. Echo Health Ventures seeks to drive systemic health care transformation through hands-on, purpose-driven strategic venture capital and growth equity investing. As a strategic collaboration of Cambia Health Solutions and Mosaic Health Solutions, Echo Health Ventures works closely with its parent entities to catalyze the development of its portfolio companies and accelerate their innovations to scale nationally. For more information, please visit http://www.EchoHealthVentures.com

About Rincon Ventures
Rincon Venture Partners, as well as its successor firm Bonfire Ventures, is an LA-based seed-stage venture capital firm that invests exclusively in B2B software businesses, and typically leads or co-leads a startup’s first priced round. We back extraordinary founders who are seeking to build world-class market leaders, and aspire to serve as those founders’ most trusted advisors. Investments made by the firm’s founders include The Trade Desk (IPO), Burstly (acquired by Apple), Edgecast (acquired by Verizon), Datapop (acquired by Criteo), MessageLabs (acquired by Symantec), Orbitera and Bitium (each acquired by Google), EmailAge (Acquired by LexisNexis), TaxJar, ChowNow, Rainforest QA, Invoca, Honk and others. For more information visit http://www.bonfirevc.com

QL Gaming Group acquires TennisInsight to power BetQL tennis

By Chris Murphy -August 11, 2020

QL Gaming Group (QLGG), a direct-to-consumer sports data and igaming affiliate platform, has announced the acquisition of TennisInsight, the world’s largest online tennis community. This latest partnership will expand the capabilities of BetQL, QLGG’s sports betting analytics platform for casual bettors, to include both men’s and women’s professional tennis.

TennisInsight specializes in crowd sourcing data for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Davis/Fed Cup, Challenger and International Tennis Federation (ITF). 

The premium tennis statistics site has data on all 550,00 professional matches since 2000, including player ratings and actual vs predicted odds. TennisInsight also boasts 400,000 user-generated predictions.

“We envision BetQL as an all-in-one platform where users can find insightful data for all sports,” said Justin Park, QL Gaming CEO. “We’ve learned that the best way to offer an authentic experience around a particular sport is to partner with a business whose sole focus is that sport. We can’t think of a better partner than Ulysses Oliver and TennisInsight to power BetQL’s tennis product.”

QL Gaming has also acquired a proprietary motorsports database built by a professional handicapper over a 19-year period. The 600,000 record database will allow BetQL to expand into NASCAR, Formula 1 and IndyCar.

Level I Randomized, Blinded Study Demonstrates Significant Improvement in Surgical Proficiency Using Virtual Reality Training

 Josh Sandberg August 10, 2020

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Aug. 10, 2020 – Osso VR, a virtual reality-based surgical training platform used by surgeons globally, and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, today announces the results of a validation study using its technology. The study, titled “Does Virtual Reality Improve Procedural Completion and Accuracy in an Intramedullary Tibial Nail Procedure? A Randomized Control Trial” was officially published online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research in August 2020.

The study examined whether VR, compared to the current standard of a technique guide for surgical training, would show an improvement in procedural accuracy and completion for an intramedullary (IM) tibial nail procedure, which requires the combination of elaborate and large-scale movement applicable to most surgeries, and its conclusion found VR significantly increased procedural accuracy and completion rate of an IM nail procedure when compared to the utilization of a technique guide alone. This demonstrates VR has the potential to help residents learn all surgical procedures and its utilization in surgical education may improve patient safety and outcomes.

For the study, 25 first and second-year medical students, without prior exposure to an IM tibial nail insertion procedure, were recruitedThis participant group sets this study apart from other studies on VR in surgical training as to ensure participants had largely the same skill level. Participants were randomly assigned to the technique guide control group, the VR group, or the VR and technique guide group. In the control group, participants were given an online document with wording and images directly from a tibial nail technique guide, which they were able to use at their discretion. Participants in the VR experimental groups went through Osso VR’s simulation in three separate sessions, at a set interval of 3-4 days apart. Following 10-14 days of preparation, all participants performed an IM nail on a SawBones tibia. 

In the technique guide group, 2 of 8 (25 percent) participants successfully completed the procedure. Both VR groups demonstrated significantly increased procedural completion rates (p < .05) with the VR group having a 6 of 8 (75 percent) completion rate, and the VR technique guide group having a 7 of 9 (78 percent) completion rate. The number of normalized incorrect steps displayed a significant difference between both the VR and VR technique groups when compared to the technique guide group (p = .02). 

“The use of augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality have become more prevalent in surgical preparation in recent years, and through learning more about its uses I became interested in putting technology to the test to understand how they could contribute to surgical proficiency,” said Mark Orland, head of the VR research study at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. “I was first introduced to Osso VR, specifically, through its use with medical students at the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine and saw how the students were using it to practice surgical steps or learn new procedures. The results of this study demonstrate the effectiveness of VR and how it can be particularly impactful in improving procedural accuracy and completion rates.”

“This is another exciting study further exhibiting the significant impact VR is able to have on surgical proficiency and patient outcomes on a global basis,” said Justin Barad, MD, CEO and co-founder of Osso VR. “We repeatedly cite a University of Michigan study showing that upon graduation from residency, after 14 years of education, 30 percent of surgeons were still unable to operate independently. We truly believe that the safe and repeatable environment of VR, combined with a realistic immersive environment, has the capability to change that outcome in the years to come.”

A previous Osso VR validation study from August 2019 conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) showed a 230 percent improvement in the participants’ overall surgical performance when prepared with its VR training. 

To learn more about using Osso VR, visit www.ossovr.com

About Osso VR 

Osso VR is an award-winning, clinically validated surgical training platform designed for medical device companies, practicing surgeons, residents and medical students of all skill levels. Using immersive VR technology, the scalable platform offers a realistic, hands-on training environment that leads to real world performance gains and ultimately improved patient outcomes. Osso VR is the first training platform to incorporate assessment into its modules, objectively measuring the trainee’s knowledge of steps, level of precision and overall efficiency throughout the procedure providing a benchmark for proficiency.

Led by UCLA and Harvard trained orthopedic surgeon Justin Barad, MD, the Osso VR team has a deep background in clinical care, medical technology, and VR development. To learn more, visit www.ossovr.com.

Some hospitals are tracking Covid-19 by adding sensors to employees’ badges

PUBLISHED SUN, AUG 2 2020 9:30 AM EDT

  • SwipeSense started off by tracking whether staff at hospitals were correctly washing their hands. It also monitors expensive assets, like wheelchairs. 
  • Now, for the first time, it’s tracking people’s movements. 
  • That’s a form of contact tracing – but inside the four walls of a hospital. 

Around 50 hospitals today use a technology from a company called SwipeSense to monitor whether medical staff are washing their hands when they enter and exit patient rooms. Others use it to track expensive assets, like wheelchairs or IV pumps, which have a tendency to go missing. 

The system leverages sensors embedded into equipment and location beacons in hospital rooms, which connect to an online dashboard. Administrators can access the dashboard to check in, or receive reports. 

Because of privacy concerns, SwipeSense has steered clear of monitoring people’s movements. That is, until Covid-19. 

When hospitals started reporting that their staff had contracted the virus, SwipeSense’s chief executive Mert Iseri figured he could help. The situation was particularly problematic when hospitals lacked sufficient personal protective equipment. Reports have found that at least 879 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have now died of the virus. 

So Iseri had the idea of adding sensors to staff badges, which they routinely wear on shifts. From there, the company could create a virtual floor map of sorts to track their movements, including to document potential exposure to Covid-19 inside the hospital. 

The idea was if a patient, doctor, nurse or any other hospital employee was diagnosed with the virus, SwipeSense could pull up a map with little dots, representing people, and administrators could go back in time to determine who might have been in close proximity. From there, the hospital could take steps to isolate and test them for the virus.

Iseri emailed some of the company’s existing customers in March to explain the concept and see if anyone was willing to give it a shot.

“We got huge interest,” he recalled. About 10 of the hospitals got the message and 3 immediately said yes. Health care sales cycles and implementation of new software can take months, but these customers were willing to move forward in weeks. 

‘We could flag when a patient tested positive’

One of the first customers to get on board was Edward-Elmhurst Health in Illinois. The hospital had treated its first Covid-19 patient in early March, and anticipated a surge. 

About 3,600 hospital workers at Edward-Elmhurst agreed to sport a SwipeSense badge, including doctors, nurses and workers assigned to clean patient rooms. By the end of March, the hospital had a functioning dashboard that administrators could use to monitor exposures. 

“We could flag when a patient tested positive, and see whether a staff-member went in and how many times they went in,” said Raj Iyer, the chief data analytics officer.

Some of the hospital’s employees were concerned that their managers would use the data to track their productivity and penalize them if they took long breaks. Iyer reassured them that the sole purpose of the system would be to catch Covid-19 outbreaks, and not to monitor their movements. 

And so far, it seems to be working. In one recent case, Iyer said that a patient unexpectedly got a positive result from a Covid-19 test. Iyer’s team used SwipeSense to figure out how many people had been in that patient’s room. They determined that 75 employees were at risk, and asked them to get tested and isolate themselves for 72 hours. One of them tested positive, but was isolated and prevented from spreading the virus further.  

As a result of this work and other efforts, including frequent hand washing and masks, the percentage of staff testing positive for COVID-19 at the facility went from 17% at the peak in March to less than 1% by June. 

‘Doing everything we can’

The SwipeSense system is form of “contact tracing,” an epidemiological method that involves tracking down and notifying those who might have come into close proximity to a person diagnosed with an infectious disease. But in this case, it’s limited to a particular business, rather than a city, state or country.

Aspects of the system might sound like Big Brother. Iseri, who’s well aware of the potential privacy and security implications, notes that the company and its customers are taking steps to alleviate the ‘creep’ factor. For starters, the SwipeSense isn’t tracking individuals throughout their day and there are no beacons outside of patient rooms — they can’t track people when they go to the bathroom, for instance.

Still, he acknowledges there are risks when it comes to monitoring people rather than things. And these kinds of tools can always get into the wrong hands. “We have to be really thoughtful about the technology we’re building,” he said. 

Another customer using the SwipeSense technology for contact tracing is Methodist Hospital of Southern California. 

For Clifford Daniels, a senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the hospital, it’s not just about keeping staff safe. Daniels is also looking for ways to reassure patients about coming back in.

In the early days of the pandemic, many hospitals agreed to delay non-urgent and essential ‘elective’ procedures. In some cases, that cost them millions of dollars per day in lost revenue. But now, health systems across the country are starting to reopen their doors to patients that still need that knee replacement or colonoscopy. 

“We’re hoping to get across that the hospital is as safe a place as it can be and that we’re doing everything we can to help contain the spread of Covid-19,” said Daniels. In addition to SwipeSense for contact tracing, his hospital and many others are implementing temperature checks, masks, and symptom checks.

“There would be a lot less coronavirus if the rest of the country starting doing what hospitals are doing.”