Merry Christmas from the Schantzens

Crystal and I are notoriously bad for getting Christmas cards out, so each year we end up sending an email with updates, but it is hard to keep up email addresses sometimes, so I decided this year to include it as a post here. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Crystal, Isaiah, and me.

Dear Friends,

2013 has been a great year for us. There have been a lot of changes for our family, so here is the recap.

Most importantly, we became parents in June. We decided to become foster parents around the beginning of the year and on June 23rd around 1pm we got a call about a little boy named Isaiah. By 3pm we were parents to a very sweet toddler that came to us from a very broken home.  He was 18 months old when he came. He recently turned 2 and we absolutely love and adore him. This has been the biggest challenge of our lives, but we’ve weathered the storms and are all doing great! Isaiah faced some tough challenges when he came to us, but he has developed immensely since then. He’s very, very active and loves to hit and throw everything and anything. His best friend is our family dog Ranger, his favorite movie is Nacho Libre (he was even Nacho Libre for Halloween), and he loves cooking with Crystal and making animals sounds with Sean. Although he is not talking much, he has quickly learned some sign language and yells out a lot of almost-words with incredible confidence. We can’t wait to hear what his little voice will sound like when he does start talking more.

Isaiah has a 12-month-old little brother named Ethan who will also be joining our family sometime in January. While we still have no idea whether we will be able to adopt these boys, the court has a final date of June 30th, 2014 to decide everything. Since foster parents are usually the last to know anything, we are learning to accept how unpredictable things are and to be happy with the time we do have.

Crystal also graduated from UT Dallas in May in speech pathology and got a fantastic job working for an architectural firm. Although she doesn’t use her speech pathology degree at work, it has been a real asset in our home with baby Isaiah.

Finally, Sean left his law firm in May after much thought to start a software company with his close friend Jared Iverson.  It was very hard for him to leave his firm and friends there, but the opportunity to start a company with a best friend in a brand new market was too much to resist. The name of the company is Healthfundr. They are building an online marketplace to provide more people access to healthcare startup investing. They’ve been making some great progress. Sean was even quoted in the Washington Post and will be presenting to the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association in January. It has been the most challenging and rewarding time of Sean’s career.

Last but not least is Ranger. Our little dog has endured a lot of abuse from Isaiah these past 6 months, but he’s also received a lot of love. Wherever Isaiah goes, Ranger is there. Ranger has been a huge source of comfort and friendship for Isaiah and we are so thankful for our sweet little pup.

The big theme throughout our year has been how mindful the Lord is of us. As we’ve come to love Isaiah immensely and see him work through so many challenges that he shouldn’t have to face in the first place, we’ve seen the Lord opening our hearts, healing his, and helping us and be the best parents we can. We know better than ever that the Lord does great things through imperfect people.

We are beyond grateful for this year and all of the wonderful changes that have come into our lives. It’s been both our most challenging and our most rewarding. Thank you for all of your support and prayers as we could not do it with the support of our family and friends.

We wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!

All our love,
Sean, Crystal & Isaiah Schantzen

Healthfundr Update #1

So I’ve started emailing contacts about what we are working on at Healthfundr and giving updates on our progress. We’re starting to move big on the execution side of our model (now that we’ve figured out what it is) and I want to keep what we’re working on chronicled for myself, so I’m going to post the meat of the update emails here with as few changes as possible.

  • New Model - We’ve been refining our model substantially as we’ve gotten to know our market better and determine how best to serve it. The biggest change is that we’ve recently embraced a marketplace/platform approach to building the company. Rather than picking and vetting individual companies for average investors to invest in, we enable them to invest at low investment minimums alongside active early-stage healthcare investors in companies that the active investors have selected and put their own money into. The closest analogy is AngelList Syndicates, but a number of details differ to accommodate our market better. We think this model scales better and lets us focus on a single core competency, providing average accredited investors access to top-tier health startup investments.
  • Great Advisor - We brought on Randy Werneth as an advisor. Randy is a very successful medtech entrepreneur and has been making invaluable connections for us. You can see his more complete bio at healthfundr.com/the_team.
  • JPM Conference - We’re going to be attending the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. If you know anyone we should meet while there, please let us know as we just got invited and are getting a late start setting up meetings.
  • Harvard – We’re going to be on a panel, presenting to the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association in January. We’re very excited to speak with such a great audience.
  • [I took out some financial/capital issues that we don't want to be public.]

There are also some things we are working on that we would appreciate any introductions you think would be mutually beneficial.

  • We’re looking for a lead developer. We’re looking for full time, full stack LAMP developer with an eye towards marketing and user experience. I’ve interviewed a lot of people in the last week and we have some great candidates, but we’d love referrals on this.
  • We’re meeting active early-stage healthcare investors to be lead investors on the marketplace, including individuals, angel networks, funds, and family offices. Through Healthfundr, they can potentially obtain greater returns on their own investing (through shared carried interest), have greater influence in the companies they invest in, increase their investing profile, and provide their portfolio companies with greater visibility.

We’re really excited about where things are going.

Calexico Spiritoso

This is more a short update than an actual post. I have been listening to the relatively new Calexico live album, Spiritoso, consistently for the past few months and I still have not tired of it. The album is from a series of shows backed by Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.  The backing is incredibly natural, well-imagined, and adds a great richness that doesn’t change the character of the songs. If you can’t tell, I think it is very good. I am a big fan though and am definitely biased. Crystal Frontiers and Black Heart might be my two favorites.

http://www.anti.com/releases/spiritoso/

Blog Relaunch, Foster Care, and Week One of Being a Temporary Father

Relaunching my blog has been on my list of things to do since I decided to leave the comfort of my law firm and start Healthfundr with my good friend Jared. It just took unexpectedly becoming a father last Saturday to get me to do it.

I became a father and Crystal became a mother last Saturday afternoon. We’ve been trying to adopt for nearly a year now and about 6 months ago we decided we also wanted to become foster parents, mostly as another path to adoption, but knowing that most (all?) of the the children we would foster would not become part of our family permanently. We decided to go ahead with it anyways. My father was raised in a foster home and I’ve seen first hand how positive an influence on our society’s most vulnerable children foster parents can be.

Since the beginning of June, we’d received about a call a week from Circles of Care, the foster agency we work with that interacts with Child Protective Services (CPS) on our behalf. Apparently, June is busy season for crappy parents in Texas, since the number of children brought into the foster care system ramps up at the beginning of each summer. Each time, our coordinator would tell us the sparse details she had, give us time to decide whether to take the child, and then tell CPS that we were interested. Each time, we were told in a second call that the child had gone to another home. The first time was tough, but we realized this is the way things have to work when the biggest interest at stake is ensuring the child goes to a home, not our own desire for certainty. I had decided in my mind that it was going to be a long time before we received a positive second call. Last Saturday though, the second call was to tell us that we were going to be bringing an 18 month-old little boy into our home that afternoon.

It’s now just setting in though, a week later, that I became a father last Saturday afternoon. To be honest, it felt like glorified babysitting the first few days and even today I’ve wondered what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but it’s become much more than babysitting. I probably won’t be our little boy’s father for a long time, but after seeing the positive effect we’ve had (along with the great friends who have helped us care for him during the day) in the short time we have been with him, I am sure that I have been his father and Crystal his mother during this difficult period of his life.

When he arrived, he cried constantly for hours at a time, thinking, quite literally in his young mind, that we had kidnapped him. While I’ve had to step into another room to collect myself and remember patience on more than one occasion, I’ve also seen how much we’ve been able to help him through the most difficult and unfair experience of his short life. As Crystal has told me numerous times, “we are doing a good thing” for him. He came to us from a very, very dark place. He still struggles, particularly when left alone, but he is becoming more of a child each day. I mean this in the best possible way. He now smiles, is becoming curious, is figuring out how to do things himself like open ziploc bags, is learning some sign language, and is overall learning to be a child. Most importantly, he is allowing himself to feel happiness and set aside some of the defensive mechanisms he never should have had to create in the first place. This morning, he even woke up smiling for the first time. We don’t think he has ever had strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, or most other fruit before, but is already in love with them. Crystal made chicken pesto pasta for dinner last night and he audibly giggled each time he took a bite.

While our first week as parents wasn’t what we imagined when we first decided to have a family, we were still able to become parents. It has been extraordinarily challenging and fulfilling at the same time. We are making the most of what reality has thrown at a sweet, sweet little boy’s life and positively shaping it to the extent we can. As Dieter Uchtdorf, a leader in our church, said, “Lift where you stand.” This is where we are standing, so this is where we’ll lift.

We’d love to post pictures of our little boy, but one of the foster care rules is that we can’t post anything on the internet. Email me if you want to see him.

Postscript for the other things going on in our life.

In other news that will play a more prominent role in my future writing, I started a company, Healthfundr, with Jared Iverson. We’re making it possible for a lot more people to invest in health startups at investment minimums as low as $1000.

Crystal also started a new job three weeks ago at Boka Powell, an architectural firm here in Dallas. It has been a busy time here in the Schantzen household.