I was on a call with my cofounder and one of our investors over the weekend. He is a great investor, incredibly supportive, and an entrepreneur himself, so he understands the vicious cycles you go through in a startup. He had been talking to another entrepreneur recently who is at the can’t fail stage. Just starting out, getting tons of support, but not yet in the throws of making a serious company happen. It got me thinking about the can’t fail zone and how to stay in it.
I’ve met and gotten to know some incredible people over the last few years. One of the things I most respect about these seemingly superhuman people is that, almost without exception, they are consistent and diligent. They don’t accomplish amazing things through pure intellect or magic. They just choose to do as much as they can, as often as they can, in the most important contexts of their life. It’s hard work and they do it over and over each day.
They tend to be very good at the small unseen things. They dig deep and do Something (with a capital S) to trigger productivity when they least want to do do anything at all. It’s an incredibly impressive trait that I’ve been actively working on in 2014. Given that we’re in that personal reflection time of year, I figured I’d share what’s worked for me.
Trying to do Something as often as possible has helped me see that some Somethings are better than other Somethings. For example, here are some Somethings that tend to work well for me.
- Write something – Anything really. An email to customers, prospect or relationship, brainstorming on some important topic I’m working on, or even a blog post like this.
- Sell/Pitch Something – This isn’t just actual sales calls, but often I try to find someone I’ve been meaning to call or email to pitch, and actually do it. It forces me out of my comfort zone, reminds me how much I like what we’re doing at Healthfundr, and tends to get me back on track.
- Clean my desk, bag, or something else – I am not the most naturally organized person on earth. This helps a lot to clear my head.
- Do some customer discovery – Sending an email or calling someone that is in the target market for Healthfundr is almost always productive and good at getting me refocused.
- Knock off a simple nagging task – Things like sending introductions I’ve had on my list for weeks can be super useful.
- Do some testing – At Healthfundr, I’m over our product. We’re a small team, so this makes me the primary tester. I’m sure it annoys the crap out of our dev team sometimes, but finding a bug, changing how we do something, or identifying something I want to improve can be very motivating.
- Go harass another entrepreneur – I’m super lucky to work at a great entrepreneurial co-working space (complete with the requisite exposed brick and beams), so sometimes I’ll just walk around until I find someone I won’t be interrupting. I then ask them questions about how they do something at their company, like analytics, cold sales emails, or prioritizing development. The key is to not interrupt people that are in the flow. Often I’ll get great ideas from this.
- Screen a company – We get hundreds of companies coming to us at Healthfundr, which means I’m constantly screening companies to find the most promising ones.
- Clean up/review my contacts – It’s a constant battle to keep on top of relationships. Spending 20 minutes reviewing them will often be just enough boost to get me going.
I’ve recognized some common threads among the Somethings that work best to trigger productivity. The best Somethings tend to have 3 traits.
- Simple to Start – They require little effort to get going. If I have very little willpower at a given moment, I need to reduce the friction preventing me from getting going. Sometimes this means the most baby of baby steps.
- Discrete – They require a specific amount of effort and have a defined outcome or goal. I want things that are simple to start, don’t take a lot of time, and that I can mark off a to do list when I’m done. Open-ended Somethings are black holes.
- At Least Nominally Productive -This depends on what I consider productive in a given contact, but I try to keep in mind whether the Something is moving me towards some outcome I want.
This isn’t just for work related things either. The best Somethings in any context have these 3 traits. I do similar Somethings at home with my boys when I just am not in the mood to play or interact. I’ll go sit down next to them, or just pick them up and start tickling them. I’m nowhere perfect at doing this in any area of life, but I’ve improved a lot in the last year by actively focusing on choosing the best Somethings.
I’ve also recognized some Somethings to avoid. These are pure time sucks and rarely trigger productivity.
- Browse the internet – I think everyone understands this one. The big point is that reading industry news or other things nominally related to my company or sector feels productive, but generally isn’t and isn’t likely to trigger productivity
- Research things I need to learn – There is always some skill I don’t have as a startup founder, which means lots of reading and research. Right now I’m learning to do highly-targeted lead generation. General research on this often just turns into an unfocused, wild-goose chase that doesn’t result in tangible progress.
- Chat with team members – This is especially dangerous with my cofounder. We’re very good friends and always have lots to talk about, but doing this means I am now distracting him too. Same goes for other team members. Obviously I like chatting with my team, but it’s not a good way to trigger productivity. This is an area I need to improve on as it can feel very productive, even though it’s not.
The common thread of these things is that they’re the opposite of the second 3 traits of the best Somethings. They aren’t discrete, can often lead to unending rabbit holes, and generally aren’t productive when I do them without focusing on some specific outcome or answer I want. The tricky part is that they as simple to start and appear/feel productive, but they any aren’t good at triggering productivity.
I’m becoming a big believer that consistently choosing the best Somethings is one of the most effective ways I can control my own personal growth and what I accomplish in all the important areas of my life.
This is a crosspost of a post I originally wrote on Healthfundr. You can view the original here.
Over the past year since we launched the first iteration of Healthfundr, we’ve met amazing investors, entrepreneurs, and industry/startup experts. We’ve had more than 800 meetings, calls, meals, and more, helped investors make investments, and refined our model. Most importantly, we’ve learned a ton about how to make online investing work in an industry as complex and broad as healthcare.
We’re a few weeks away from launching what will be the core to Healthfundr making online health startup investing intelligent and scalable: hf Expertise. We’re incredibly proud of hf Expertise and it’s the biggest leap forward yet in our model. We want to make dramatically more startups successful through hf Expertise.
For investors, hf Expertise is a way to get relevant, market-specific information to help you do better due diligence and make smarter investing decisions. For startups, hf Expertise is a way to increase your chances of success by getting cost-effective and efficient access to expertise to help you navigate the many challenges you face.
Over time, hf Expertise will be multiple products that connect investors and startups to industry and startup expertise. But when we launch, hf Expertise will be two things, an on demand phone advice platform and user profiles. Check out the video below to learn about these two products and read on to learn why we’re building hf Expertise.
Why We’re Building hf Expertise
A few months ago, we stepped back and asked “What do health startups need to succeed?” We decided it’s three things: capital, expertise, and technology. We set aside technology (as that’s outside of what we’re doing), and focused on capital and expertise. We quickly realized that the two are inextricably connected.
Because healthcare is so broad and complex, it’s nearly impossible for any one investor to know everything they need to know to make smart investing decisions in every promising company they see. Likewise, beyond the typical uncertainty of a startup, healthcare startups face enormous regulatory, clinical, bureaucratic, and other uncertainty not faced by other startups. It’s often difficult to even figure out who the real customer for a company’s product is. (see Reimbuserment for Investors)
We quickly realized how unique healthcare is. Both investors and startups need access to an incredibly wide range of highly technical and complex expertise. We also realized there really aren’t any low friction ways to efficiently and cost-effectively connect investors and startups to industry and startup expertise. For example, a large venture capital fund can relatively easily bring in expertise to help them decide whether to write a $5M check, but these economics just don’t work for individual or part-time health startup investors.
These insights led us to start building hf Expertise. We realized that by using technology to more efficiently connect investors, startups, and investors at the most critical, early stages, we can help individual/part-time health startup investors make better investing decisions by giving them access to relevant, market-specific information, and startups access to expertise that can increase their chances of success. With this model, we want to make more startups successful, increasing returns for investors and improving the quality of life for everyone.
hf Expertise Phone: On demand phone advice platform
The above video gives the details, but if you didn’t watch yet, hf Expertise Phone is an on demand phone advice platform that connects investors and entrepreneurs to industry and startup experts. It’s a way to have frictionless micro-consulting engagements. hf Expertise Phone is also the first way we’ll be using the hf ecosystem to efficiently build real connections between investors, entrepreneurs, and industry/startup experts.
Once we launch, every hf member will be able to have a user profile that highlights their areas of expertise. Building a profile will be super simple. You’ll just sync with either LinkedIn or Doximity and we’ll automatically create most of your profile. Once you add areas of expertise and a few more details, your profile will be good to go. Soon after we launch, you’ll also be able to connect with other hf members through your profile.
Your hf profile will be the starting point for building relationships and transacting with other hf members. We want to build community trust by empowering members to work together and transact with each other. Transactions can be as small as a 15 minute phone call or answer to a question, or as large as cofounding a company or coinvesting with someone. Your hf profile is the core of your ability to build a reputation and transact in the hf marketplace. We’re starting simple, but over time, you’ll have more and more ways to use your hf profile to build a reputation and relationships with others in the health innovation ecosystem.
While everyone will be able to create hf profiles, highlight their areas of expertise, and connect with other members, not everyone will be accepted to be an expert that is able to take on demand phone advice calls, provide info to investors, or assist hf portfolio companies. We want to ensure that hf Expertise is the best expertise network available to early investors and entrepreneurs. As the community grows, we’ll accept more and more experts and types of expertise into the network.
We’re extremely excited about what we’re working on and can’t wait to have you join us in making investing in and buidling health startups smarter, easier, and more efficient. To get started, request a hf Expertise invite below, then create your hf account if you don’t have one yet.
I had a friend recently tell me he was starting to do some outsourcing. I told him I’d send him some of my notes on how we do it at Healthfundr. I decided to just add it here too, as it’s been incredibly valuable for us. Various types of outsourcing and offshoring have helped us save ~50% on development, marketing research, and a few other areas.
This picture made me realize how much I’ve changed since becoming a parent. I was in the Apple Store the other day and noticed this image on the wall. Before becoming a parent, I don’t think I would have given more than a passing glance. This time though, I immediately felt anxiety before I even took in the details of the image.
After a few seconds and realized the source of my anxiety. This picture is every parent’s nightmare. Your teenage child, driving in an old jalopy SUV death trap with a bunch of their friends (one of which you don’t even like), no seat belts, blasting music, in a blizzard, and probably driving way to fast. I mean, just look at the warp speed snow flying by. It’s like a perfect storm for parental worry.
The picture even hits a little too close to home for me personally. In high school, a friend had an admittedly awesome, but old SUV death trap and I was in that thing for plenty of stupid crap (Geoff and the Chief for any high school friends).
My boys are just two and three, but my perception of danger in the world has gone up exponentially over the last 18 months (we’re adopting them for those that don’t know and did the math). And I think I’m a somewhat liberal parent when it comes to typical danger. I’d prefer to teach them how to jump off stuff. They certainly aren’t going to stop doing it when I ask, so they might as well know how to do it right. Regardless, I still see far more dangerous situations than I ever did before.
Glass coffee tables that just used to be poor options for putting my feet up on are now a cracked skull in the making. Silverware drawers are now well-stocked armories for impaling eyeballs. And rooms with more toddlers than toy cars are powder kegs for bitten arms and apologies to parents I barely know. I hadn’t really stepped back to think about it, but my reaction to this picture made me realize just how differently I see everyday things.
I’m not trying to cast shame on Apple. It just happened to be what got me thinking. To be honest though, I am surprised the picture made it to primetime nowadays. For a company that is so good at crafting their public image, it seems unusual. It’s one of 6 images in my local Apple Store and is prominent on the iPhone 6 sales page in the online store too.
Maybe it’s a calculated effort to get parent’s to relax a bit.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.