Cathy Tie would consider herself an artist. Not oil paint on canvas, though.
The 26-year-old Toronto, Canada native co-founded her first company, Ranomics, at the age of 18. Provide health risk predictions based on people’s genetic data According to Crunchbase, more than $1 million has now been raised. At 23, she started her second company, Locke Bio, a “Shopify” for pharmaceutical companies and others selling FDA-approved drugs.
For Tie, art and creativity weren’t as close to hand as writing in iambic pentameter or dancing at Lincoln Center.It’s about seeing the big picture in the various industries she’s involved in, and “being able to be an interdisciplinary And combine concepts from different industries,” she said.
“I’ve always loved bringing ideas together and seeing connections that other people don’t see,” she says, such as figuring out how to advance science in the startup world and build a business model accordingly. “I think it’s more of an artistic and creative process than something technical.”
Here’s how the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur relies on her creative big-picture thinking to succeed in fields like tech and science.
Tie is a 14 year old cold email professor
Tie has learned about her industry since high school.
“I’ve always loved science from a very young age, especially biology and chemistry, and building with my hands,” she said. But she noticed that the science classes they taught in schools didn’t include a lot of hands-on learning. Instead, a lot of textbooks are recited.
Always a big-picture thinker, during her freshman year of high school, Tie decided to start sending cold emails to professors at the University of Toronto to see if they would allow her to spend time in their labs, do some research, and help out here and there. They complete a project.
Her work at the university led to her first publication at the age of 16 in a peer-reviewed journal in the field of Immunology, which studies the human immune system.
It also made her realize: “In research, especially in academia, you’re bound by the academic funding system,” she says. In other words, if she wanted to continue doing research in that world, she would be restricted. But getting funding as an entrepreneur will give her the freedom to do whatever research she wants.
She was admitted to the Young Entrepreneur Program
As Tie started to connect the ways she wanted to make an impact through the entrepreneurial world, she also started applying to programs that would help her bring that concept to life.
Tie had the basic idea for Ranomics, a way to solve some of the problems companies like 23andMe had with the accuracy of genetic testing, when she was a freshman at the University of Toronto. She has a Ph.D. with co-founder Leo Wan. students at the university, and through an entrepreneurial competition, the pair were eventually accepted into IndieBio, a startup program that provides funding and mentorship to entrepreneurs in the sciences.
Tie eventually dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco to pursue opportunities and spent his first three years as CEO at Ranomics.She was also invited to apply and subsequently received Thiel Fellowship, provides $100,000 in grants (not to their businesses) directly to young entrepreneurs who skip or leave college over a two-year period.
“Throughout building Ranomics, I’ve learned a lot about startups, selling to pharmaceutical companies, and how to build a profitable company,” she said. All of these will play a role in the rest of her adventures.
Launch Shopify for pharma
At 21, Tie landed a partner position at Cervin Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on enterprise services as software or technologies such as SaaS, Salesforce and Slack.
After a year there, she was eager to build again and decided to explore opportunities in the digital health space, combining what she knew about the worlds of SaaS and science. Tie realized that there was no easy way to set up an online store for those looking to sell FDA-approved drugs in a compliant manner, like Shopify for pharmaceutical companies.
“Shopify really has a problem where everyone has to build their website, their [customer relationship management software], they process payments from the ground up and build a platform where you don’t have to be a tech person,” she said, adding, “We’re doing the same for the telehealth and online pharmacy industries. “
Locke Bio is now backed by three venture capital funds in the U.S. and Canada, according to PitchBook, but details of the fundraising have not been shared publicly.
“When you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t really see the big picture”
Tie is excited about the future of Locke Bio and the various product expansions she and her team are planning. But the company’s success, and all successes before it, have not been plain sailing.
“I think early in my career, I really put the gas on really hard and put in those tough hours, like 100 hours a week,” she said. But, “I realize it’s not sustainable because when you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t really see the big picture.”
This is where the artist mentality comes into play.
“Similar to the way an artist makes music, inspiration will come at a random time of day. It could be 2 a.m., or it could be when you’re in the shower,” she says. But she has to make time for those off-duty hours when she can freely exchange ideas.
These days, she’ll take those long days in a few weeks when she needs to, but otherwise, Tie makes sure to work at least 40 hours a week to take that break.
“It’s about taking those sprints, working really hard when I have to, and then being able to reflect on all the things I’ve learned,” she said.
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