“Communicate expectations” With Tyler Gallagher & Tammi Jantzen

Work deliberately to hire a strong, diverse team. Don’t surround yourself with people who think the same as you do. Continually work to build relationships with your direct reports and empower them to be successful and have confidence in themselves. As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of […]

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Work deliberately to hire a strong, diverse team. Don’t surround yourself with people who think the same as you do. Continually work to build relationships with your direct reports and empower them to be successful and have confidence in themselves.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammi Jantzen, co-founder and CFO of Astarte Medical, a software and predictive analytics company improving health outcomes in the first 1000 days of life. She is also co-founder and General Partner of Astarte Ventures, the first fund focused on women’s and children’s health and wellbeing. Tammi spent 15 years as CFO of three early stage venture capital funds. She is an angel investor and serial entrepreneur. Tammi can provide insight from a variety of C-suite roles both as an investor and an entrepreneur.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For nearly 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 were 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 premature infants and early life nutrition. That first meeting with her prompted our entrepreneurial shift. She was clearly a rock star and we knew immediately that we wanted to work with her. 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?

I would like to start by saying that we recently closed a $5M Series A financing. Woo hoo! The 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.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have developed the first ever platform focused on nutrition and gut health in the first 1,000 days of life. We are initially focused on the tiniest and most vulnerable during this period — preterm infants. In our preemies, gut health — or the intestinal microbiome — is essential in the infant’s growth and brain development. Due to advances in modern medicine, we can now survive infants at just 22 weeks gestational age. However, for the clinical teams who care for them, these tiny babies create complex challenges related to feeding and gut health. While we have vital signs for organs like the heart and lungs, there is no vital sign for the gut, the organ that drives growth and brain development. Our gut health score empowers clinicians to personalize care and our feeding platform provides standardization in the execution of such a care plan. Our solution will have a meaningful and measurable impact on health outcomes for these tiny infants — this is the happy ending to our story!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! We are building the largest and most comprehensive dataset of preterm infant microbiome profiles and corresponding clinical data from the electronic medical record about both mom and baby. Our dataset will enable the introduction of MAGI, the Microbiome And Gut Inflammation score. MAGI is a digital diagnostic that leverages machine learning to provide a real-time quantification of gut inflammation, without the need for sequencing at the bedside. It enables better decision-making through risk stratification, accelerates the adoption of new interventions, and allows for better stewardship of antibiotics. It provides clinicians the ability to personalize care for these tiny infants to improve health outcomes.

What advice would you give to other female 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.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Work deliberately to hire a strong, diverse team. Don’t surround yourself with people who think the same as you do. Continually work to build relationships with your direct reports and empower them to be successful and have confidence in themselves.

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.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

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 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” 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 to the most amount 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.

Some of the biggest 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.

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