Author Archives: Rana Abdelhamid

One founder’s mission to make healthcare more accessible

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. That’s why we launched Founded, a web series that shares the stories of women founders who are using tech to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To highlight the stories of four women of color tech entrepreneurs, for our first season we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S

In our latest episode, we interviewed Chrissa McFarlane who is the Founder and CEO of the blockchain startup Patientory (which is also helping distribute diagnostic kits and medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis). She first learned about bitcoin in 2010, started working on broader blockchain solutions in 2015 and later published her book, "Future Women: Minority Female Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Era of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency."

Tell me about the moment when you first came up with the idea for Patientory. 

I was working with a telemedicine company and experienced first hand the difficulty patients have obtaining access to their medical information. I was also actively researching Bitcoin and Blockchain at the time and made a connection between the two industries. 

What was your vision for healthcare? What problem are you hoping to solve?

For over a decade, the main problem in the healthcare industry is  the topic of interoperability. The ability to access health information securely and easily across multiple providers has been a challenge. I recently wrote about this for the Electronic Health Reporter

Where do you see Patientory going within the next five years? 

Looking past our current pandemic, I see Patientory providing the capability to keep large populations of people around the world healthy. This year proved that we need access to digital health solutions more than ever. Telemedicine usage rose over 70 percent for certain apps. Being able to treat patients is not going to stop with an office visit, but should be an ongoing engagement that can be facilitated by technology. 

As a fellow New Yorker, I’m curious about your upbringing in the Bronx. How did it shape your vision for your work?

Growing up in the Bronx, I was exposed to various cultures and many different people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. During my first internship at the New York City Human Resource Administration/Department of Social Services, I met with hundreds of families across the city. This opened me up to  discrepancies that existed, especially as it related to healthcare; it helped to shape the mission behind Patientory in serving all people regardless of class or race.  

What are some of the first steps you took when starting your company?

I found advisors and mentors who would help me for the long-term. One of the most important factors of running a business is having strong relationships. 

 Two years ago, you made headlines after securing $7.2 million in funding in two days. How were you able to raise so much so fast?

Being a pioneer in the space, it was difficult to secure the first round of institutional funding. So we decided to create a cryptocurrency, called PTOY, through our Foundation. More than 1,000 people all over the world purchased the cryptocurrency, which secured over $7 million in funding for Patientory. It also provided grants to support early stage companies building blockchain healthcare solutions, which later translated into interest and continued support for Patientory’s initial capital raise. 

What advice do you have for other women interested in starting their own technology companies? 

Connect with an ecosystem, whether it’s an accelerator or incubator, and never stop talking to customers! I recently wrote a book about women entering the modern entrepreneurial world, and I talk about the 10 important mindsets you should have when you’re starting a business—for example, persistence and coachabilty. 

One founder’s mission to make healthcare more accessible

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. That’s why we launched Founded, a web series that shares the stories of women founders who are using tech to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To highlight the stories of four women of color tech entrepreneurs, for our first season we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S

In our latest episode, we interviewed Chrissa McFarlane who is the Founder and CEO of the blockchain startup Patientory (which is also helping distribute diagnostic kits and medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis). She first learned about bitcoin in 2010, started working on broader blockchain solutions in 2015 and later published her book, "Future Women: Minority Female Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Era of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency."

Tell me about the moment when you first came up with the idea for Patientory. 

I was working with a telemedicine company and experienced first hand the difficulty patients have obtaining access to their medical information. I was also actively researching Bitcoin and Blockchain at the time and made a connection between the two industries. 

What was your vision for healthcare? What problem are you hoping to solve?

For over a decade, the main problem in the healthcare industry is  the topic of interoperability. The ability to access health information securely and easily across multiple providers has been a challenge. I recently wrote about this for the Electronic Health Reporter

Where do you see Patientory going within the next five years? 

Looking past our current pandemic, I see Patientory providing the capability to keep large populations of people around the world healthy. This year proved that we need access to digital health solutions more than ever. Telemedicine usage rose over 70 percent for certain apps. Being able to treat patients is not going to stop with an office visit, but should be an ongoing engagement that can be facilitated by technology. 

As a fellow New Yorker, I’m curious about your upbringing in the Bronx. How did it shape your vision for your work?

Growing up in the Bronx, I was exposed to various cultures and many different people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. During my first internship at the New York City Human Resource Administration/Department of Social Services, I met with hundreds of families across the city. This opened me up to  discrepancies that existed, especially as it related to healthcare; it helped to shape the mission behind Patientory in serving all people regardless of class or race.  

What are some of the first steps you took when starting your company?

I found advisors and mentors who would help me for the long-term. One of the most important factors of running a business is having strong relationships. 

 Two years ago, you made headlines after securing $7.2 million in funding in two days. How were you able to raise so much so fast?

Being a pioneer in the space, it was difficult to secure the first round of institutional funding. So we decided to create a cryptocurrency, called PTOY, through our Foundation. More than 1,000 people all over the world purchased the cryptocurrency, which secured over $7 million in funding for Patientory. It also provided grants to support early stage companies building blockchain healthcare solutions, which later translated into interest and continued support for Patientory’s initial capital raise. 

What advice do you have for other women interested in starting their own technology companies? 

Connect with an ecosystem, whether it’s an accelerator or incubator, and never stop talking to customers! I recently wrote a book about women entering the modern entrepreneurial world, and I talk about the 10 important mindsets you should have when you’re starting a business—for example, persistence and coachabilty. 

Sandeep Ahuja is comfortable confronting convention

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. Founded is a new web series that shares the stories of women founders using tech to solve some of the world’s challenges. For our first season, we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S., to highlight the stories of four women of color entrepreneurs.

Today, we’re releasing our second episode, an interview with Sandeep Ahuja. Sandeep is the co-founder of cove.tool, a software platform that helps architects and engineers model energy efficient buildings. We had the chance to talk to the Atlanta-based entrepreneur about her international upbringing, how she creates community for women in tech and how it felt to make Forbes “30 Under 30” list. 

Can you explain what cove.tool is to someone who’s not in tech?

Buildings contribute to 40 percent of total carbon emissions, and while developers and owners don’t mind doing the “right thing” for the planet, no one has unlimited budgets to spend on green building design. We still have to make things affordable and that’s exactly what cove.tool’s smart optimization does. We want to make it easier to build sustainable and green energy efficient buildings.

What originally inspired your interest in fighting climate change?

As a daughter of a diplomat, I traveled the world seeing the remarkable homogeneity of buildings in climates as diverse as Riyadh and Moscow. Given the outsized contribution buildings make to climate change, I was deeply troubled by the lack of architectural response. I wanted to disrupt this idea, and for me, given that I moved to a different country every four years, I’ve always felt comfortable with change and with confronting entrenched beliefs.  For me, there was no such thing as conforming to conventions. 

What was it like to be named to the Forbes “30 under 30” list? 

It’s both exciting and humbling; so many people reached out to express support and congratulations. It was exciting to see so many  strong women on the list, as well as so many immigrants, including myself! 

Cove.tool is meant to help architecture and engineering professionals fight climate change, but how can everyone else help? 

Getting politically active and pushing business and political leaders to take action is the key. Multinational corporations, investment firms and government regulations account for the vast majority of emissions. A good place to start in America is to join grassroots efforts like Citizens Climate Lobby, a bi-partisan organization tackling climate change. Collaborating with them is a great way to organize, volunteer and raise awareness. Writing letters to your local representative, congressperson and voting for fighting climate change candidates also makes a big difference. 

Why do you think it’s important for women in the entrepreneur and tech worlds to create community? 

Being a data driven person, the data clearly answers the "why.” Women only receive 2 percent of VC funding and make up only 11 percent of leadership in tech; this is creating a world of systematic bias. This needs to change and the change can start with me, you and everyone else. I drive change by making sure that cove.tool maintains a strong gender and diversity ratio and that we put  women in leadership roles. Our first non-founder team member was a woman, and the second was a woman, too, and they weren’t hired for any other reason aside from the fact that they deserved those roles and had the best skillsets. I also volunteer, coach and hopefully inspire other women founders and architects.

Reality TV star Tanya Sam on life as an entrepreneur

In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. That’s why we’re launching Founded, a new web series that shares the stories of women founders who are using tech to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To highlight the stories of four women of color tech entrepreneurs, for our first season we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S

In our first episode, we meet Tanya Sam, a reality TV star and tech startup investor. Through her work with Tech-Square Labs and the Ambition Fund, Tanya is strengthening the power of historically under-served entrepreneurs. 

We sat down with her to dig deeper into her vision for the tech industry. Here’s what she had to say about her past life working in healthcare, how she’s helping bring minority voices to the table and how she balances her career with filming a television show.

Today, you’re a tech entrepreneur, investor and reality TV show star—but you were a nurse for the bulk of your career. Tell me about your career transition to becoming a tech founder. 

When I first moved to Atlanta, I was still working full-time as a registered nurse, and my then-boyfriend/now fiancé Paul was launching a cybersecurity company. On our second date, he actually had to take a coffee meeting with his co-founder, and I sat in on the whole conversation. I was so impressed! I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneur world.   

My career in healthcare is actually what inspired Limitless Smart Shot: As a nurse, I worked busy 12-hour days, and we relied on coffee constantly. So I wanted to create a dietary supplement that would be healthier and could increase focus, attention, memory and support healthy brain function.  

You’re the co-founder of  Tech Square Labs, Atlanta’s lead seed stage venture fund. What was your vision for Tech Square Labs? What problems are you hoping to solve?

The vision of TechSquare Labs was to create opportunities to help tech entrepreneurs make something from nothing. Oftentimes, early entrepreneurs have an idea that they believe can become a large-scale, technology-based company, but they don’t have the resources to drive that idea. TechSquare Labs helps with everything from providing coworking space to helping teams with patent research and networking opportunities.

You also founded the Ambition Fund to invest in women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. Where do you see The Ambition Fund scaling with the next five years?

In the next five years, I plan to take the Ambition Fund Business Battles to over 50 cities across the globe, help fund over 500 companies and by that point to have also helped 1,000 women and minorities become angel investors. I want to help change the face of entrepreneurship by making it more female, more black and more diverse.

Just being on set with you for the shoot, I noticed that you have a great sense of humor. What really cracks you up?

I am truly a corny and goofy nerd at heart! I like dry, witty humor and laugh at my own dumb jokes. I try to live life to the fullest by working hard and enjoying what I do! I think that comes from my stint as an oncology nurse; it really teaches you an appreciation for life and health. 

What’s it like filming The Real Housewives of Atlanta? I’ve read you turned down the opportunity to film full-time—why?

When I was offered the chance to work on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I thought it was a great chance to show the life of a black woman working in tech on mainstream television; representation matters! But filming takes a ton of time, and it wouldn’t be possible for me to work on the Ambition Fund and TechSquare Labs, and all my other projects, if I were on the show full-time!

You do a lot of these kinds of interviews; is there anything you’d like to share that you don’t usually get asked about?

I love to talk about my passion for a nonprofit organization that I am very involved in. Kate’s Club is an Atlanta nonprofit helping young people who are facing life after the death of a parent or sibling. Kate’s Club connects kids and young adults so they can share their experiences, and helps them process their grief in a comfortable, safe, uplifting setting. I’ve been a volunteer and working with children at Kate’s Club since 2016, and I’m currently on the Board of Directors and serving as the Gala Chair for our annual Mourning Glory Gala May 16, 2020.

There’s a personal reason why Kate’s Club holds such a special place in my heart. I also experienced loss at an early age; I lost my mother at the age of 12. When I was going through that, let me tell you, there was nothing like this around for my younger sister and I. No clubhouse, no programs, no summer camps or even exposure to other kids that had experienced loss.    

Are there any stories you’d like to share about using your influencer status in a positive way?

So recently, I actually helped bring someone onto the Kate’s Club board after meeting online. I use my Instagram Stories to talk about my work at Kate’s Club, and I had a woman reach out to me to share her grief story, and she ended up making a donation right there over Instagram. And now, just this week, she ended up joining the board!