Lessons From Luminaries with Anne Wojcicki

In early February, Village Global luminary LP, Anne Wojcicki, joined us in Mountain View for an intimate fireside chat with the first Chief Data Scientist for the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, DJ Patil.

Anne is a pioneer in bringing personal genome mapping to the masses through 23andMe. At Village Global, we are honored to have her among the small group of LP luminaries whose financial capital and engagement power our network of founders.

Before the event, Anne met with our portfolio founders and network leaders for an exclusive conversation on early-stage entrepreneurship, investing, operating and more.

During the one hour conversation, Anne and DJ discussed the state of direct to consumer healthcare, tailored medicine and the future of digital health, drug discovery, the use of data in drug development and their own respective intellectual journeys.

Check out the video of the talk:


They covered a lot of ground, including:

Why the American healthcare system is broken

“I had this one hospital CEO tell me ‘we’re seeing margin expansion. We just moved collections into the Emergency Department, so we get people on the gurney.’ …The uninsured pay rack rate, so technically the poorest people in this country pay the most.”

Anne worked on Wall Street before 23andMe, so she learned a lot about the industry before getting into it. She talks about some of the outrageous comments she heard from CEOs of healthcare companies and how that spurred her to build a company in healthcare.

“No one makes money keeping you healthy. That feels awful.”

Her principled approach to company-building

“The most powerful people in the world are people who can’t be bought — because they’re going to do what they want and they’re not going to be pressured.”

She explains how her upbringing instilled in her a strong sense of ethics and how that sense of morals and values has influenced the way she runs 23andMe.

The philosophy of 23andMe and how the mission of the company has evolved

“What’s really unusual about 23andMe was how much our Series A deck is similar to our Series F.”

Anne describes her vision in starting the company and the difficulty of getting people to wrap their heads around a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company with social sharing features in a world before Facebook. She talks about why it’s important to her to be transparent and why she was unafraid to walk away from investors who “just didn’t get it.”

Her drive to change the healthcare system, even when it’s difficult

“When you have a mission and you really care, you don’t care about it being hard. Even when we had our FDA shutdown, a regulatory advisor told me I had two choices: you can figure out a way to circumvent the system and sell the company, but if you really want to change the system, you put your head down and do the hard work.”

She recounts what it was like inside the company during its battle with the FDA and why it was important to her to choose the hard path instead of the easy one. She says that this was an instance of the company “demonstrating commitment through controversy.”

The future of healthcare and how she would change the system if she could wave a magic wand

Anne talks about the spaces in healthcare she’s most excited about and how 23andMe is poised to capitalize on them, including new forms of drug discovery and digital phenotyping.

She discusses her fears about what might come out of countries with looser ethical frameworks and state-sponsored researchers, as well as what she’d like to see changed about the American healthcare system. She says that she’d like to see single-payer healthcare in the US as well as healthcare coverage decoupled from one’s employer.

After the event, Anne graciously stayed to greet our portfolio founders and network leaders to discuss their specific businesses and needs.

Here are select photos from the day.

Thanks for reading!


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