The idea that entrepreneurs should be badass problem solvers is not a new one. If you Google any variation of “entrepreneurship” and “problem solving” you’ll get back at least 25 million search results. As this article in Entreprenuer.com puts it “Something many successful entrepreneurs know is that you don’t have to have an earth-shattering, game-changing idea to start a business. You just have to identify a problem and find a way to solve it.”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons Chrissa McFarlane, founder of Patientory, has been so successful throughout her life and in the last four years building her business. She is, in a nutshell, a badass problem solver.
Mom Knows Best
Born in Jamaica, Chrissa and her family migrated to New York when she was just three years old. While her father was in banking and restaurant management, her mother was a teacher and early childhood educator both in Jamaica and the Bronx. Throughout her childhood, Chrissa found herself the subject of her mother’s passion for good education. Her mother would order and import books, she put Chrissa in the library reading club, and would implement supplementary work books when she felt her schooling needed it.
It became apparent very early on that Chrissa had a love for math and science. As a member of the science club both in middle school and high school, she participated and won an award in the New York City Future City Competition. Using SIM technology (I mean who didn’t LOVE The SIMS?) Chrissa, along with her team of fellow middle school students, designed a city and then replicated it in a 3D model.
“Science club was a way of gaining exposure into different aspects of applied science and knowledge.” Chrissa says.
From dissecting a pregnant pig, to spending summers in labs counting pathogens, to shadowing doctors, Chrissa’s love for science continued to show itself.
“In school I started to look at the opportunities I could have if I really committed myself.”
Diagnosing Koi Fish
One summer, several of her father’s koi fish died while he was away on business. Chrissa’s mother was too scared to remove them from the tank so Chrissa volunteered. With her love for science and a growing interest in problem solving she decided to take a pair of scissors and a kitchen knife to dissect the koi. Her goal was to figure out what had caused them to die….right there in the kitchen! “I wanted to know what happened to the fish!” Chrissa said.
Ivy League & Failures Along the Way
After high school, Chrissa went on to continue her education at Cornell as a pre med major. She wanted to practice medicine and ultimately help people. It was here that she began experiencing business as well as health care, however.
Chrissa took a part-time job at a mental health association and, at 19 years old, was asked to develop a new program. This was her first experience developing something new and her first experience with the business side of healthcare.
This experience helped Chrissa make the decision to get her MBA at Wake Forest before going to med school. She wanted to supplement her experience with a business degree before committing the next six years of her life to medical school.
Wake Forest was a completely different experience. It was a small program with about 40 students (as compared to the 23,000 undergrads at Cornell) and the Dean was the former CEO of Pepsi. It was also a different experience because Chrissa didn’t do well in the second half of her MBA program. She took a semester off after feeling discouraged. It was in that season that she decided medicine wasn’t for her.
“Failures along the way led me to the path of startups.” Chrissa says
“I knew that this is where I belong.”
After deciding medicine wasn’t for her, Chrissa got an email from an alumni asking if she’d be interested in working for a telemedicine startup in New York. They had just raised their Series A and were looking for people to build out the product. Chrissa took the job. This was her first taste of the venture backed startup experience.
“I knew that this is where I belong…” Chrissa said, “solving problems on a daily basis.”
And there, in that moment, the lightbulb really went off. Chrissa’s true passion was always looking at challenges and solving them.
“I had to decide. Am I going to solve people’s problems on a daily basis (doctor) or am I going to have a real impact? At most, doctors see 30-50 patients a day but technology can scale and impact millions of lives.”
Although it was at that moment Chrissa knew she wanted to impact the world through technology, she didn’t come up with the idea for Patientory until six months after leaving the telemedicine startup. Her experience there helped her recognize the problem she wanted to solve but she also saw a way to inspire other women and people of color to enter the space. She started asking herself “Why aren’t there more black people in digital health startups?”, “Why isn’t there more representation?”
While it took some time to conceptualize Patientory, from the beginning Chrissa knew that being a person of color equipped her with bringing a diverse perspective and understanding to what it means to build an inclusive organization.
So, What is Patientory?
Patientory is a healthcare IT population health management software that runs on the PTOYMatrix blockchain network. (We know.. It’s a mouthful!)
Part of Patientory’s core mission is to empower consumers to take action and own or be the custodians of their own health data. Chrissa wanted to provide data analytics to create more actionable insights and teach people how they can improve their lifestyles on a daily basis.
When starting out, one of the biggest challenges was getting access to that health information. Chrissa thought EMRs (electronic medical records) would be the solution only to realize that the hospitals actually own the information (not the patients) creating incredibly protected silos.
The lightbulb came on after this realization and Chrissa set to work to address the current infrastructure of our healthcare systems. After looking at the emerging technologies at the time, she landed on blockchain technology. The Patientory software and the blockchain network acts as a secure bridge between the silos of electronic medical records allowing them to talk to each other. Ultimately, this empowers the end users to manage and transfer their health data to achieve actionable insights for improved health outcomes and well-being.
From BoomTown to Silicon Valley
After Chrissa came up with the first concept for Patientory in December 2015 she incorporated. In early 2016 she applied for and was accepted into the BoomTown accelerator in Boulder, CO. The accelerator program helped her with product/market fit, they dug deep into the problem she was solving, and ultimately what it means to be a company in healthcare.
After BoomTown, Chrissa moved to Silicon Valley with the intention of raising investment. But a lot of investors were “just not getting it”, Chrissa said. “Being a female founder has made me more aware of the disparities in the technology startup space between white male funded companies, female funded companies, and minority female funded companies. Less than 2% of investments in the last decade went to minority female funded companies. Noting that the majority of investments that go to white males do not result in a return, while female counterparts rarely get the chance to have the opportunity to prove their businesses can be successful.”
When she couldn’t get investment, she moved to Atlanta, got plugged in to Tech Square Labs, and pitched at the Atlanta Startup Battle all while writing her white paper. “While I’m not a fan of crowdfunding, at the time we needed to get investors” Chrissa said. “It made sense to explore crowdfunding because we needed to continue building the company. At every stage be prepared for rejection.” she said “Not everyone is going to join the bandwagon.”
So, while traditional investors just “weren’t getting it”, Chrissa used a token sale to raise $7.2 million from over 1700 investors in 3 days without giving up any equity at all. (mic drop) Patientory was one of the first health care companies to do a successful token sale and one of few Atlanta startups to do a token sale over $1M.
So What is Patientory up to Now?
Today, Patientory has thousands of subscribers on the waiting list while they continue to test the enterprise and consumer products. They also have 150 registered node hosts on their PTOYMatrix and five companies building apps on the Matrix including their own product Patientory, Inc.
“We have over 30,000 subscribed app signups on the waiting list with 2% of these subscribers in Beta” Chrissa said. “Anyone, particularly developers, can join and host nodes on the blockchain network and receive PTOY tokens at ptoy.org or develop apps on the network for healthcare use cases by joining the network consortium at patientoryassociation.org.”
“I want to create a healthy healthcare information exchange ecosystem powered by individuals.” Chrissa said when asked about her dream for the future of the company.
Patientory is also about to launch their first institutional round of funding in the next two weeks… just a little over three years after their first attempt. Looks like that bandwagon is coming back around and we hope investors will see the value of jumping on board this time.
Whether it’s dissecting a koi fish to determine why it died, building a program for the mental health association from scratch as a teen, building a product for an early stage telemedicine startup, or figuring out how to get funding when no one will invest, Chrissa has proven time and again that problem solving is in her DNA.
Patientory is about 4.5 years old. Chrissa is a seasoned entrepreneur, a black female founder, and one of the most driven people we know. When we asked her what advice she’d give other founders/entrepreneurs she said this, “Keep pushing! Strive to build a network of support because a Founder’s journey is never a sole journey.”
We couldn’t agree more. The Village was built to provide that community and support for Atlanta entrepreneurs and we’re so proud Patientory has called the Village home for the last three years.