04 Oct Noosheen Hashemi – An Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Investor, And Philanthropist
The pandemic completely changed the way that we look at things. A simple cold or cough may not be so simple anymore. We need to be extra careful as simple symptoms may just be signs of underlying chronic disease. In this episode, Noosheen Hashemi shares how her company develops solutions to prevent, predict, and postpone chronic disease. Noosheen is a tech veteran, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. She is the founder and CEO of January AI and has excellent exposure to great technologies and startups. In this episode, she joins Matthew Sullivan to discuss how machine learning plays a role in our health. In addition, she shares her approach to address health problems and contribute to society.
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NOOSHEEN HASHEMI – AN AWARD-WINNING ENTREPRENEUR, INVESTOR, AND PHILANTHROPIST
Noosheen is the founder and CEO of January.ai, a seed-stage precision health tech company that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to prevent, predict, and postpone chronic disease.
Noosheen, you have asked the question that I love people asking, which is, how does the interview work? Why is this like this? It’s completely unprepared. It’s spontaneous. No planning whatsoever. That can lead to disaster. Fools leap in where angels fear to tread. All is well because I have two things that are important, A) A cup of coffee and B) Most important, a fabulous guest.
Thank you. That’s kind of you. I fear that I’m not funny. Your British humor is going to be phenomenal.
Don’t worry. As I say frequently, I like to set myself low standards. I consistently fail to achieve them. I’ll run out of humor and talent quickly. Unlike you who have invented the cure for something incredible with your company, January.ai, which is in itself a fabulous name. It deserves no introduction. You’ve created this phenomenal healthcare company.
In addition to that, you’ve managed trillions of dollars for a family office where you had exposure to all sorts of other great technologies and startups. Your background is not just entrepreneurial. You see it from both sides of the coin. You see it from the investor side, which is a difficult thing to be. You also see it from the operator’s side. Isn’t that slightly cheating?
Not really. I was an operator at Oracle for ten years. I then went to operate another company, the mid-’90s, early days of dot-com.
In the mid-’90s, there was no dot-com then. There was only AOL. Your email address was 75597644@CompuServe.com.
It was crazy. Personal Finance was happening. People used to go to Charles Schwab to execute a trade. They would call their stockbroker on the telephone. They would read the paper and look up stock prices on the back of the newspaper on a day-to-day basis. We were doing something innovative, which was bringing financial data online for personal investors. The whole world of personal investing was beginning to develop. Prior to that company, tools had been in the hands of companies like Bloomberg. Investors have professional “terminals.”
I was a stock broker at that time. You had Reuters and Bloomberg. Everyone preferred Bloomberg because it had much more stuff to do.
We could talk for ten minutes on Bloomberg. What an incredible story. They stayed with the time. They never became irrelevant, which is interesting even though technology changed and many things changed in terms of how people trade and transact. I was doing that in the mid-‘90s. We sold that company. I then went off to the family office. Two kids and two foundations later, I decided to go back to the dark side and began operating some of our portfolio companies around 2013.
Four years later, I decided that I wanted to be an operator. I wanted to bet on myself. I was helping other entrepreneurs and I was coaching. Those companies were interesting and they were doing interesting work. The ultimate bet is to bet on yourself. I started January. January is the month of new beginnings. It’s based on the Greek god, Janus, who has two faces.
If you’ve looked back before, we think of the look back as the cards you were dealt in life, the genetics that you were given, the food that you were raised with, the habits that you were cultivated for you with your family, or how you were raised. You’re faced forward, a person of reason, and deciding how to live the rest of your life. My son was sixteen years old when he came up with a name. We brainstormed 300, 400 names. I was looking for something like Amazon or Apple and he said, “January.” I was like, “It’s a real name. It’s not a weird name like 35ABBB.”
He didn’t spell it three Ns or something as well.
Have it be a regular name. Generally, people think of January as a time of renewal and resolutions. We wanted people to feel every day that we are all on a journey, we do plan and make goals, but we do get derailed and it’s okay to get back on. In a way, every day can be January 1st.
To start out, you were very much an operator. You were involved with this exciting landscape, which was the early days of the internet. It was difficult to navigate because you had no bandwidth and broadband. Oracle itself was still in its infancy. The platforms that you could build things on didn’t exist. I know that there were some tremendous exits in the late ‘90s. Did you find it difficult moving from being an operator or from being an entrepreneur to an investor?
It is a different mindset to invest.
No, because every investment needs operating help.
As an investor, I presume that most of your investments would be minority investments.
Yes, they were minority investments. Also, investments are in public companies, in private companies, in limited partnerships in VC funds, and a variety of funds of different kinds. It’s quite a diverse portfolio. The whole idea of a diverse portfolio is a new concept. Generally, people earn their wealth in a single instrument, in a single stock. They have to learn the whole game of diversity, which is counterintuitive. My husband and I refuse to sell Oracle shares. He worked at Oracle for ten years as well. He went to Yahoo!. He was the founding CTO of Yahoo! for eleven years. He also had Yahoo! shares. Neither one of us was interested in selling any of it.
Looking back, that was probably the right decision.
It was right and wrong. We thought it was sacrilegious and disloyal. We didn’t understand how you develop wealth after you’ve earned it and what you do with it next. In terms of mindset, it is a different mindset to invest. That’s one of the reasons I still invest. I invested in a company. I invested in two other companies before. I still do invest.
My approach to investing was hands-on. Invest and then get in and help people show up and interview them. Do a number of things, jump in, if necessary, on the board, hire a CEO, hire executives. My husband’s approach is different. Of the 130 companies that we’ve invested in, he’s invested in 100 of them. I’ve invested in 30 of them. His approach is more of a portfolio approach. People call him when they need him. He generally doesn’t get operationally involved. He’s taken a portfolio approach and he’s done phenomenally well because the rule of the numbers does work.
When you invest in 100, it is possible that 1 or 2 make it big. I’ve had unicorns of my own, thankfully, in the 30 that I’ve invested in. Mine was more hands-on. I decided, “If I’m going to be hands-on in a company, I’m going to jump in and start my own company.” These days, my role is hands-off. For the three companies I invested in, I’m not spending any time whatsoever with them. My singular focus is January. That is my biggest investment. I am in that investment fourteen hours a day and seven days a week.
Is it creativity that drives this? Is it a need? Is it that with investing, there is a limited amount of change that you can make if you’re not there as the CEO on a day-to-day basis?
That’s true. I have gone into companies.
I thought you were going to say, “That’s absolute rubbish.”
No. Both partners I’m friends with have a successful Silicon Valley VC company. They asked me to come in and look at their companies. I looked at nine companies. I spent half an hour each with the CEO. I wrote a SWOT analysis for each one of the companies. I presented it to them and they would shake their head. As I went through, they would go, “It’s true.”
I had read the company in 30 minutes with the CEO. I had the whole thing about their entire market and what was going on. They were like, “Yes, it’s true but we can’t tell them. We’ve told the CEO that. We’ve told him this but he won’t listen.” There needs to be patience. Entrepreneurs need to be respected and given the space to come to those conclusions themselves even though the answer is clear as day.
Successful investors have a way of managing how they give feedback and how they receive feedback and how they have this great exchange with their entrepreneurs in terms of having this sense of urgency. Also, allowing these entrepreneurs to operate in the way that they know best. It’s a tricky game, that’s for sure.
One of the companies that, as clear as day when I walked in and said, “They have a whole data play.” They had a piece of hardware and they were collecting data and selling the data. I don’t want to tell you which company it was. They were doing $10 million deals. When you’re successful, you never think you should do things differently. You should do things better. I was like, “There’s a data play above the data.” You hand government’s data. What are they going to do with the data? You need to analyze it and say, “That means this.”
They eventually did get into the data play. At the time, the CEO was focused on building the hardware. He was proud of the hardware they had built. He kept showing you that. They went public. He did get onto the data play. It didn’t happen in that timeframe when I was talking to him several years ago. There’s a whole lot of patience that is required if you’re sitting in the investor seat.
Also, as an investor, you bring something vital, which is perspective. You could sit and listen to a CEO for half an hour and it rings many bells that you can map out the likelihood. It’s great. Tell me a bit about January.ai.
Let me say one more thing about the investment. If you’ve been an operator and you’ve done a lot of operations, you have great pattern recognition. Even if there’s little time that you spent with the entrepreneur, you can quickly figure out where they are with things and you can help them quickly. Thank you for asking about January.ai. I appreciate it. What aspect of it would you like me to talk about?
Behind the scenes, it’s a complex offering, as it were. What attracted you to January? Was it a portfolio company that suddenly you felt passionate about?
I founded January from scratch from a clean sheet of paper from the beginning. When I decided to start a company, I did a thorough, methodical search. I looked at everything that was happening in the world, all the meta trends and everything else. I wanted a company that I could scale because I have a gift for scaling.
I had gone into Oracle not from day one but from about $25 million in revenues. We had done a tremendous job scaling that company from $25 million to $3 billion in revenues. I knew how that felt in my bones and my blood. I wanted to do that and feel that adrenaline again. First, I looked for companies to buy. After looking at 2 or 3 companies in the health world, I became convinced quickly that I wanted to work in health and I wanted to work in machine learning. There are stories about that. Maybe I can share that with you some other time.
After not finding the companies I wanted to buy, the two I happened to be looking at had both been started by doctors. They were still run like medical offices, which I didn’t think was the best model of running a company. Being passionate about prevention, multi-omics, whole-person health, and eradicating lifestyle-based chronic diseases, I thought, “I’m going to have to start this myself.” I met Mike Snyder, who also was passionate about all of those things. It was organic. It was crazy how it all came together.
We quickly coalesced around the idea of using wearables to help people figure out what was happening in their bodies and get to know themselves well. That’s how we started that company. It was started from a clean sheet of paper with the vision that it would be multi-omic, whole-person, and that wearables would play a big role in terms of one-omic and so with other omics. There was so much hoopla about genetics and that’s one piece of the puzzle.
The problem that you’re solving, if I can summarize it, it’s sugar. One way of looking at it is the overconsumption of sugar, the education or lack of education about the impact of sugar. On one side, you’ve got something that appears to be the root of all problems, whether it’s high fructose corn syrup or other forms of sugar and how they’re involved. When you started this, it’s a health problem but it’s also a big farmer problem. It’s a field problem. It’s an industrial disease. You have several tigers by the tail.
I’ve heard people say, “If Big Pharma and Big Food could come up with the perfect disease, it’d be diabetes.” I like to be kinder than that. Why we have ended up here has a lot to do with the kind of food we eat, that’s 100% the case. It also has to do with the fact that after the invention of television, we became much less mobile.
We were not meant to sit all day long and then work out at the gym for an hour. We were out and about until about 10,000 years ago. When agriculture essentially produced so many surpluses for us, we could afford to sit down, hang out, have more kids, and everything else. Before that, we were running around and we were hunter-gatherers. We were eating 150 grams of fiber a day, which kept us healthy. We weren’t dying of the same diseases as we are now.
There are several things happening. We are not mobile as we were, foundationally. We are eating packaged foods, which have a lot of harmful products in them. They lack fiber in a dramatic way. Our diet lacks fiber in a substantial way. Fiber is critical to health. One of my colleagues before used to say that 80% of health was fiber and the rest is January, which is dialing the rest of the levers. Fiber is foundational to health. With packaged foods, up until now, people have been able to market foods without any consequence. As you know, if you talk about Big Food and bliss point, these foods are meant to be addictive.
They’re engineered with phrases like mouthfeel.
They’re engineered to have the right amount of salt, fat, and sugar for you to keep wanting to eat them and not feeling satisfied. I have gone through boxes of white cheddar cheese before I knew this. Before I knew anything about the bliss point, I thought, “I love cheeses. This is delicious.” I’d go through one box of white cheddar cheeses like that.
Allow entrepreneurs to operate in the way that they know best.
There are many factors and consequences are huge. Obesity is still rising in every country in the world. We have a global problem on our hands. On a personal basis, people can watch their blood sugar. On a structural basis, in terms of what governments, companies, nonprofits, and what everybody can do, there is a lot that needs to be done that goes beyond the role of the individual. Certainly, the individual must self-advocate. They must get to know their bodies. Who’s going to care more than you are? Who knows you better than yourself?
Our company helps people learn about themselves. It makes it easy for people to see what’s happening in their body, to see inside their body, to see how their blood sugar is going up and down as they take different actions, and to be able to react to those. We also help you with our tools. We help you learn how to eat more fiber by telling you how much fiber you’re eating. We help you manage your calories by looking at how active you are. We help you eat lower glycemic index food.
Let’s say there are three foods that are spiking Matthew’s blood sugar in a big way. We’ll let you know what those three biggest spikers are and then we show you alternatives for those foods. We show you either food alternatives or we show you activity alternatives, which we call activity counterfactuals. That’s not a consumer term. We’re working on our terminology. We are a bunch of geeky people with a lot of big words that we’re trying to make accessible.
Counterfactual is a big word, which I shall adopt and use as my own henceforth. It’s otherwise known as a lie.
Not that kind of counterfactual. Let’s say you ate fish and chips and you spiked X amount, your blood sugar went to 150, if you walk ten minutes right after, what would your blood sugar be at? If you walked 25 minutes right after, what would your blood sugar be at? That’s what the AI does, which is cool. It gives you tools to see, “I can still eat fish and chips but I need to walk X amount. Do I have time to walk X amount? I don’t. I’m going to eat on a day that I can.”
We’re all about not depriving you. We’re not saying, “Don’t eat this. Stop doing that.” That’s what people are getting. They get diagnosed with diabetes and their doctor says, “Everything you were doing until yesterday is wrong. Drop 50 pounds. Don’t eat refined sugar, refined flour. Eat a lot of vegetables. Walk 10,000 steps a day.” That’s daunting for most people. We give them small steps.
By biting off or by attacking this huge problem, the payoff potential is enormous because it is a global marketplace and it is a significant human problem that goes multi-generational.
The complications from diabetes are horrendous, involving nerve damage, organ damage like kidney damage. There’s diabetes-based kidney disease, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, problems with eyesight, amputation.
I want everybody to know that you don’t get those problems with fish and chips, incidentally. Carry on. Support your local fish and chip.
Come to January and find a recipe for fish and chips that has a low glycemic index.
I don’t have to walk. Someone else can walk. The other problem is, as an investor, you’re always looking at the total addressable market, the TAM SAM SOM things. How do you approach this problem? You cannot be all things to all people. What is your angle? How did you come up with a solution where you can begin to get traction in an area where there’s less competition? Did you go through that same process to say, “This is the problem. This is how we’re going to solve it. This is how we’re going to approach this so that we can build a bridgehead and then start expanding from within.”
On day one, we started with our obsession with prediabetes. We thought, “Jesus.” At that time, 90 million people had prediabetes. Some of them have since converted to diabetes, 88 million people have prediabetes. Of those people, 84% of them don’t even know they have it. Talk about a time bomb. The research has shown that 58% of people with prediabetes, if they don’t go through an intervention, could end up with diabetes. That was our obsession when we first started. We said, “What a no-brainer. Let’s see if people with prediabetes have glycemic dysregulation. Let’s see if their blood sugar is going up and down a lot and going up more than what’s normal. Help them avoid foods that are spiking them.”
How does machine learning play a role in this? I can see the bigger end. We’re back to that data and information discussion. If you’re collecting enough data from enough participants, there are many layers to the play here. It’s not just at a consumer level, it’s at a behavioral level.
We started looking at wearables data. Mike Snyder, my cofounder, had been wearing many wearables for many years. He’s done some famous studies called iPOP. He’s done many studies. He did The Human Microbiome Project. He’s not just a genomics guy. He’s truly one of the world’s few multi-omics scientists who looks at different omics at different parts of health. He puts together the whole picture and then watches people go from health to disease and observing what’s involved in that and using wearables in the process.
When we first started, we started looking at prediabetes and we said, “We’ll start with wearables and see what that tells us.” We quickly learned that food was a critical thing that we needed to know about. We needed to know what people were eating. We also set out not to go, “This is a cool CGM. Let’s throw a CGM on everybody.” It was more like, “What’s the benefit here? Who benefits? People with diabetes benefit. Let’s see how we can benefit them.”
We quickly looked at the data on food and noticed that the data is extremely noisy and lacks integrity. MyFitnessPal was collecting a lot of food data. It was crowdsourced. It was hard to machine-learn on that. The USDA data wasn’t accurate. It was off by 20%. We noticed there were lots of curated databases but they weren’t all labeled. All the foods in Yelp don’t have labels. You can go to your local mom-and-pop shop and see how many calories your salmon has, your French fries, or whatever you care about.
We realized we needed to label foods to be able to make food into an asset. If we want to be precise about food, we need to label food. We began that massive project of aggregating a food database and then labeling the foods that weren’t labeled, which sounds way easier than it was. We then saw that people’s glycemic responses were better associated with glycemic index and glycemic load of foods as opposed to carbs. A lot of predictions in the diabetes world are this calculus of carbs to insulin.
When did you start this program?
We hired our first technical person in November of 2017. We were doing experiments in the first six months of 2018. We were doing experiments on ourselves. We would do the craziest things. We would eat muesli and then eat it with guar to see what guar did and what the impact of fiber was. Fiber is big for a glycemic response. If you have fiber in your stomach in the last 24 hours, it does lower your blood sugar in terms of what you will eat next. We were looking at everything that affected your blood sugar going up and down, everything from stress to fiber.
The thing that would worry me most is that you couldn’t build your business on the foundation of data that was reliable.
No. It was this cold start problem.
The cold start was all the way back to food itself. What you were saying is all of the food labels that you get are wrong.
First of all, there are no food labels. The food labels that exist could be wrong even from USDA. The crowdsource data wasn’t useful. We looked at it and we were like, “What’s the available data?”
That is based on secondhand information. Have you built your own IPR, which is the real impact of certain foods? Even though you could say, “If I go shopping and look at the label that says, ‘Carbs X amount of grams, sugar, salt,’ I can disregard that if I go to your database and see what’s the truth.”
You can look at your personalized glycemic response to that food, especially if you’re at the grocery and if it’s got a food label. We would’ve ingested that into our database and we would’ve put our machine learning on it. The way this works is you come in and go through Telemedicine. If you can benefit from CGM, get CGM.
You can download our app. I’m wearing an Apple Watch. You hook up your fitness trackers like Fitbit or Apple Watch and your continuous glucose monitor to the app. You start logging your food for a period of four days. You go about your life the way you normally would. That’s the time where we are collecting baseline data on you for the first four days.
After four days, we can start predicting your glycemic response. Even if you don’t do any experiments or you don’t do anything else, we can predict your glycemic response at that point. At that point, you can eat anything from our database, anything at all or not eat it. Look up anything in our database and we would already have your glycemic response to that thing at that point after four days.
The important thing is we’re talking about predictive as opposed to reactive information.
There are many reasons we exist but the main reason is, why should you use your body to try out the food? There are people who say, “I can’t drink Chardonnay because I’ve been told by my doctor it has a lot of sugar.” It turns out, you can drink maybe a glass of Chardonnay and maybe not three glasses of Chardonnay. A lot of people will tell you, “I don’t need the AI to tell me that. I know that I can have that in moderation.” You do. You don’t even know if that one single glass might spike you. We’ve had people who take three glasses of Chardonnay to spike them versus one glass of Chardonnay. It is important to know.
You cannot be all things to all people.
There’s a huge amount of deprivation and guilt around food, “Don’t touch this. Don’t eat that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” It’s important to be able to say, “I could have half a glass of this. I can have a bite of that. I can eat this. I can eat that.” It is a little bit of difference with moderation. Personally, it has made a huge impact on my journey. I was a hot chocolate connoisseur. I’ve been a foodie since I was a child. I have been pursuing food ever since. I was eating the whole family’s cream puffs when I was five before it was dessert time. They would serve dessert and all the cream puffs would be gone. One time, I ate three kilograms of cream puffs, it was nine.
That’s a world record, isn’t it?
It must be. I should be given an award for that. It’s not how my mom saw it. It is different from person to person. It’s important to know how it works for you.
There were some studies or approaches where people looked at different blood types. You can narrow down your chemistry to type A, B, C, D, or something. What you’re doing is you’re looking at each person as an individual. You’re looking at their personal chemistry based on reliable information.
You can’t change your blood. Whatever your blood type is, it is what it is. Take a look at the reaction of what your body’s doing and then say, “I want to eat this. I want to eat that.” Look at that up.
This gives you that information. I don’t know if my blood sugar is spiking. You can’t tell them. You can assume that you know but you’re getting false stages or false signals. You’re interpreting the way that you feel incorrectly. This is exciting from your perspective because this touches on all of the things that you looked at before. If you get this right and you get mass adoption, which is a critical component, you have all sorts of information, data, predictive analysis, and the ability to steer people along with certain food choices.
Before we go to mass adoption, let me talk about technology a little bit more. Once we labeled the foods and did all that, we ran a clinical trial. That took 1.5 years. We then had to deal with a cold start problem. We recruited and 23,000 people showed up at the door and we took 1,022 of them including 250 people with type 2 diabetes. We ran a trial where we put them on a program and watched their glycemic response to the foods they were eating.
Based on what we learned with those 1,022 people, it developed our algorithms, our prediction model of, “A-ha. This is how.” That’s what we presented at the American Diabetes Association Academic Sessions in 2020. That prediction model is the core of our technology, where we can predict for you. Hence, if you eat this, we can then predict your response to 16 million other foods, which has the results that you mentioned. We’re able to compare any two foods, two groceries, and two recipes. We’re able to tell you what the price of food is and minutes of walking.
We can get you to eat lower glycemic, low foods. We can hack through the food. We can get you to eat more fiber. We can get you to manage your calories. We can get you to learn how to fast. We know for a fact that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction together can have positive benefits for improving insulin sensitivity. You’re also working on your underlying physiology. How do you get mass adoption? That’s all about user experience. User experience is what is going to create mass adoption. That’s a fact.
Do you get pushback? Are you seeing a competition, the establishment, the status quo because you’re doing something revolutionary?
There’s pushback. There are elements of the ecosystem that are not friendly to the foundational philosophy that people own their data and they should be able to use their data the way they want. The healthcare system is backward. In the name of privacy, people have put gag orders on, for example, transfer pricing like insurance price. Consumers are not to know some of the prices between providers and payers, for example.
This is all in the name of privacy. It’s all about protecting the consumer. It’s udderly against the consumer’s best interests, 100%. It is 100% in the consumer’s best interest to have their own data and combine their data the way they want with any other data. Many people are trying to uphold the silos. Frankly, it is financially motivated. They want to monetize the data in any way that they can. We feel passionate that healthcare must become consumerized and that people must have a choice. They must have a choice of devices they use. They must have a choice about who they give their data to and how they combine their data to get insights. The regulations are behind on this.
Your application, is it agnostic in terms of how it’s delivered in terms of what wearables? You’re not hardware-based.
It’s the old Oracle motto, which is, we are hardware agnostic. We deliver value on top of the hardware. We want consumers to have an udder choice about the hardware they use. We would be committed to adding hardware as we go so people can have their choice.
What that means is that it’s a software-based application and hardware-independent, which is ideal. You don’t come up against the hardware blocks like, “I don’t like that watch. I like this watch.”
They don’t pick winners. People should have a choice.
Can you partner with the likes of the other companies out there? Are you able to provide your information to them to make their offering more acceptable? If you’ve got existing providers that already have large consumer marketplaces, are you likely to want to partner with those guys?
We would love to partner as long as we are not interested in selling our patient data or user data. We have made the decision that our product is a subscription product that we don’t monetize through advertising. Setting that aside, we’re open to partnerships. We’ve been heads down on science and research for over 3.5 years. We’re interested in monetizing that research. We’re interested in putting it in the hands of large companies that can bring this to large masses.
We have the best technology, hands down. I don’t know anyone else who has the approach that we’ve taken to combining food, CGM, and heart rate data. There’s some research that has been done around the world, in universities, and in some companies with that combination of data, but all of them are small and none of them are predictive in the way that we have made it. If they’re predictive, they’re encyclopedic.
At the end of the program, they tell you, “Eat these ten things. Don’t eat these ten things.” Big whoopie. If I’m at a birthday party, I want to know what I should eat from what’s being offered here. What do I do when I’m at the pizzeria? January is trying to empower you to live in the real world every day with the choices that you face as opposed from a given list. Our technology is the best, bar none. We do want to put it in the hands of more people.
From an advisory perspective, you’re leveraging all of the experiences that you’ve had. Funding is a major part of this to be able to spend so much time building your fundamental research foundation. Did you fund this internally? Is this something that you found people quickly wanted to jump on and support you?
We did have a combination of internal and external funds. When I started talking about machine learning in healthcare in 2016, there was a small conference on machine learning and healthcare and that’s why I got encouraged to go in this direction. Mostly, if you came out of the conference and talked to people, including with people like my husband who had done quite a bit of investment in health care, people thought you were crazy. They thought, “Healthcare is never going to change. It’s never going to transplant.”
That’s probably a good sign then. You’re onto something then.
You’re either crazy or you’re crazy because you’re crazy good. The whole world has come our way, some for good reasons and some for bad reasons. COVID was a bad reason the world came our way. People recognize that they may have underlying conditions that might kill them or put them at high risk. People got used to Telemedicine as a normal thing. Telemedicine got fast-forwarded a decade at least as a result of COVID.
We’re spending $3.8 trillion on US healthcare. That number is supposed to go to $11.8 trillion by 2040. We can’t afford to continue the way we are. We’re not getting healthier for all the money that we’re spending. How do you spend $12 trillion on health care? We have to go to prevention. There’s recognition around that. This is the moment for food as medicine. People are recognizing that we all are different and that we should be eating differently.
COVID had a big impact. It has completely changed the way that we look at several different things. It has made us much more aware of the possibility that you can, without a moment’s notice, end up with something that’s going to kill you.
One of the reasons I started January and could commit myself to this journey was that I could self-fund part of this journey. A lot of people are not in a position to solve big problems. They don’t have the mental space and the financial resources to do it. They don’t care to do it. If you have the mission or you’re a believer, you want to do something substantial.
My first career was about building great, lasting, enduring, and highly profitable companies. My second career was giving away money and investing in entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. My third career was combining the two. If you can have a company that is doing good and is doing well, that’s the ultimate. I wanted to do that one before I die. That’s why I tackled this.
This is one of the biggest issues we have. Where are the world’s best and the brightest sitting? Where are their talents being applied? Ads. That’s where they are. They’re sitting at Google and Facebook. Yes, it was pulling teeth to attract talent to come and work on machine learning and healthcare. That’s hard. Almost all of the brilliant people that you come across at the time were like, “I could work on any interesting problem like autonomous cars, ads, FinTech, and robotics.”
If you said health, they’d be like, “What? How do you even do that?” People consider it as this closed thing. It is a closed thing with awkward incentives and all sorts of archaic rules. One by one, we’re chipping away at these rules that people deserve to have their own electronic health records. They should have their own digital health data as well. That should be mandated. It is mandated in some laws but some companies ignore those and they say, “No. We’d sell you a device but then we’re going to monetize the data separately.” That’s not fair to consumers.
January AI empowers you to live in the real world every day with the choices that you face.
I wanted to mention the word blockchain and the impact of blockchain on healthcare records. That’s a whole new conversation. I want to stop here for a moment, change direction, and leap into the Hooked On Startups Quickfire Questionnaire. I want to have another show with you and talk about all the other amazing stuff. I need to ask you these questions because I feel that the answers that you give will be inspiring tools. Question number one, what is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
Question three, what are you most excited about?
My son’s journey in figuring out what his generation should be doing about what’s happening on Earth.
Nothing trivial then. Question four, what turns you off?
Extreme Left and Extreme Right. People are going mad and it’s getting obnoxious. It’s affecting companies and everything, friendships, families, companies, conducting governance, and running a country.
Many people would agree with you there. Question five, what sound or noise do you love?
I have birds chirping by my bedroom in the mornings when I wake up. Sometimes it’s unwelcome because I’ve been up doing networking. In general, I love birds chirping. I love the sound of water. I also listen to some Persian music. It’s beautiful.
Question number six, what sound or noise do you hate?
Repeating sounds of an air conditioner. It sounds boring. I’m in the 99.9% inventory of paying attention to details. White noise can distract me. I like no noise at all when I’m working. If there’s an annoying air conditioning noise, I don’t like to have it. I’d love to be 100% focused.
Question number seven, and you may plead the fifth, what is your favorite curse word?
The typical. Nothing exciting there.
There’s a panoply of words for the right occasion. Question number eight, what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
That I would like to attempt or that I fantasize about?
If you could do whatever you wanted, what profession other than your own?
When I was twelve years old, I wanted to be an ambassador. Bringing people together would be interesting. That was twelve-year-old Noosheen wanting to be an ambassador from Iran to China. It’s a whole different story. What I don’t have the time and I may not fully have the courage to do is to become a dancer. That would be crazy. That would be out of my comfort zone. Mostly, I’ve used my mind in my life. I can move mountains with my mind. Dancing, that would be spending the time to learn and you’d have to immerse yourself to pick up all the nuances.
There’s no hiding.
Maybe a little bit of that is in my future.
Question number nine, what profession would you not like to attend?
I don’t think there is one. I wouldn’t want to be a lobbyist or things like that.
They say politics is the art of the possible. My final question, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I did good. I do live life that way. Every morning, I wake up and I want to have a positive impact on every single person that I meet. I make sure of it. I would like that to happen. I hope that always happens. If it doesn’t happen, I’m sorry. I will make it up to the next person that I meet. It is foundationally important to me to be a force for good in the world.
My final question is, how do people find out more about you, about January, about what you’ve done, and what you’re doing?
They can go to January.ai. They can also go to TheHandFoundation.org. They could learn about our philanthropic work. They can also contact me on LinkedIn, Noosheen Hashemi. If they have great and brilliant ideas and they’re looking for investment, reach out to our family office. We would love to help.
Thank you once again for coming on. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you. I can’t wait to stay in touch with your progress.
Thank you so much, Matthew. It was a pleasure to meet you.
- The Human Microbiome Project
- Noosheen Hashemi – LinkedIn
About Noosheen Hashemi
Noosheen Hashemi is a tech veteran, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. She is the founder and CEO of January AI, a seed-stage precision health tech company that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to prevent, predict, postpone and manage chronic disease. January AI is Noosheen’s answer to a healthcare industry that seemed to only address decline and disease, rather than prevention and progress; January AI partners with people to understand their bodies and optimize it for health and longevity.
She guides a family office that includes diverse investments in over 100 companies and venture capital funds. Noosheen is also Co-Founder + President of the HAND Foundation, a family foundation that provides financial, advisory, and advocacy support to hundreds of organizations and dozens of scholars and social entrepreneurs dedicated to protecting the young, and promoting the socioeconomic growth and advancement of individuals.
Noosheen spent ten years at Oracle, most recently as VP of US Revenue, where she built the critical sales and administrative capacity that allowed the company to create one of the most productive salesforces in corporate history, scaling revenue from $26 million in 1985 to $3 billion in 1995.
Noosheen and January AI were honored by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on June 15, 2021 as a Technology Pioneer 2021—a cohort of 100 outstanding companies across the Globe. She is a Harold Pratt Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the advisory boards of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Tuft’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Ploughshares Fund. The Silicon Valley Business Journal named Nooshen as one of the ‘Most Influential Women in Silicon Valley. Noosheen’s philanthropic efforts have been honored by the World Affairs Council, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Carnegie corporation Immigration Award, and Girl Scouts of America.