Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Dr. Shubhra Jain leads healthcare investments at Cota Capital. Prior to Cota, Dr. Jain was Associate Director of Commercial Strategy and Corporate Development at Natera where she focused on Biopharma Partnerships, the diligence of potential acquisitions, market research and competitive positioning. Prior to Natera, she led Product Management for Acute care suite of products at Pieces Technologies where she developed and launched SaaS risk surveillance and prediction solutions for clinical outcomes and published peer-reviewed research on the subject. Prior to Pieces, Dr. Jain served as a consultant and an advisor to several health tech startups and Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Jain is a Primary Care Physician, has her Masters in Engineering from Stanford with a major in Biodesign and her MBA from the Wharton School of Business.
Shubhra, what does your current job role entail?
I lead Healthcare investments for an Investment fund in San Francisco. My role involves finding exciting healthcare startups and helping them grow and scale.
How has your career progressed since your degree?
I have had a non-linear career path. Following medical school and my experience practicing as a Physician, I did a Masters program at Stanford. My first real job was leading product at a digital health startup - which was incredibly helpful operational experience and really set me up for success in my current role. I then decided to go to Business school at Wharton to do my MBA and moved to my current role in Venture Capital from there.
Since there are really not many female investors in tech space, especially not those focusing on emerging technologies, I need to ask this - has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
I like to say that most things worthwhile in life don't come easy. You are absolutely right - Currently, less than 10 percent of decision-makers at VC firms are women and 74 percent of U.S. VC firms have zero female investors. In my case, with me being a first generation immigrant and not coming from the traditional background of having spent 10 years at a tech firm like google or facebook, it was far from straightforward for me to get into VC.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
All my life this far - I genuinely feel that all of the experiences, the twists and turns I have had, have been building up to this moment and I have truly found a job that brings it all together for me. I leverage my clinical experience, my tech and product background and my business and finance skills on a daily basis.
The biggest obstacle for me was the lack of a role model that I was trying to emulate. Having grown up in a small town in India, there was no one I could look up to and say - I want to do exactly what they are doing, I want their job. When I started on this path, it felt very lonely and I had to figure it out one step at a time. Hence, I am passionate about creating the opportunity for other bright minds coming from underprivileged backgrounds to "see it to be it".
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you?
I look at it as a drive to create equal opportunity. Inspiring women to choose careers in tech, advocating for them to progress to leadership positions and supporting them to balance their professional careers with their goals for personal care and their family.
You get in touch with many female founders in the tech space. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur and woman in fem tech and health tech industry?
First off, fem tech is 100x harder than health tech, which is hard enough in itself.
Specifically with fem tech, the founder is often the only female pitching to a room of male investors who don't understand the market, believe in the need or value the solution. They often go back to their administrative staff or go home to their wife and ask if this is even a problem and that one token female becomes their source of truth.
Hiring is a challenge as well. I have heard top tier engineers being embarrassed to tell their friends they are joining a female health startup and they would rather pick a photo-sharing app or a gaming platform.
Managing organizational culture can be tricky, especially as the startup grows and brings in more experienced hires from the industry. The founder needs to screen carefully for the relationship her executives have with other females in their professional and personal circles - This is often a good proxy.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the emerging tech, especially IoT, AI and digital health in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
The connected world - This is closer to being a reality than it has ever been. We are tearing down walls and breaking silos. All devices/systems/data will talk to each other to make our lives seamless and unlock human productivity.
Biology as a tool - We are just scratching the surface of programming biology to our advantage. We will use biology to store data, fight calamities, cure diseases and change behaviors.
We will engineer biology to create new materials that will expand our ability to explore the universe, enhance human performance, weather extreme environments and live happier, healthier lives.
AI as leverage - AI will co-exist with humans as part of their day today lives. AI will take over the administrative, mundane tasks to free up human creative potential. Humans will use this leverage to create, invent and be present - with themselves and others.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in technology sector out there?
Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something. They are wrong. At the very least, they don’t know if you can and neither will you, unless you try it.
Never settle. Demand more from yourself and you will surprise everyone.
Maintaining gender balance in teams is critical. A founders' job is lonely as is - It can feel even more so if you are not deliberate about hiring and creating the right culture of inclusivity from the very beginning
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fem tech and health tech?
Wende Hutton, GP at Cannan Partners
Lisa Suennen, Mannat and Phelps
Nola Masterson, Portfolia
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.