Be brave, not perfect.
Reshma Ananthakrishnan is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ready Surgery, the Surgical Risk Intelligence Platform that makes surgery safer through AI-Enhanced Decision Science. She is a second-time Healthcare entrepreneur and believes strongly that AI can help our healthcare system achieve the quadruple aim of quality, value, patient engagement, and provider empowerment. She comes to Healthcare with deep technology experience leading the design and development of some of the most innovative products at top companies. Reshma helped deliver immersive cross-device experiences for a broad range of content types from documents & videos to 3D & DICOM content at Box; leveraged Data Science, analytical A/B testing & viral growth engineering to reach over 75 Million empowered educators worldwide at Edmodo; and was part of the award-winning team that developed the ubiquitous and wildly successful Office & SharePoint collaboration product suite at Microsoft. Her broad professional experience includes developing eHealth patient engagement and risk management solutions at the Providence Health System, and serving as Investment Partner at Social Venture Partners helping identify investments that maximize impact.
Reshma graduated summa cum laude in Computer Engineering, and with Lockheed Martin, CISCO, Schlumberger and Microsoft Technical Scholar Awards. She is also the recipient of the Texas A&M College of Engineering Alumni Gathright Award, the Apalla Scholar Award and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership & Service. She has spoken at various conferences including at the prestigious Grace Hopper Conference, as well as at the AWICS and COI Leadership conferences. Her talk on Healthcare Innovations was voted ‘Best Talk’ by the audience at the ProductCamp Product Management conference.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My personal and family experiences with Healthcare, particularly with surgery was the biggest factor in identifying an opportunity for impact. However my study of and practical exposure to two sets of Nobel Prize-winning work in fields outside of Healthcare really helped crystalize the approach to a solution –
1. Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize-winning behavioral theory called Prospect Theory,
2. Harry Markowitz’s Modern Portfolio Theory on risk and reward in investments.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days now as the CEO of a tech startup are highly variable. I find there is really no working around the fact that they are extremely busy days and require a lot of hours. I work about 12-14 hours a day on average at this stage of our company (but expect that to ramp down to about 10-12 over the next few months). I am just really glad I learn new things everyday with what I do and work with people I enjoy working with. I find problem solving just as much fun as a recreational activity!
How do you bring ideas to life?
As an engineer, the idea of jumping in, experimenting, doing and making is a big part of what makes things happen for me. I am a fan of being in the arena and generally stay away from armchair quarterbacking which only serves to deter you from action. Especially when it comes to early ventures, you get a lot of “why it will be very difficult” from even the most well-meaning people, but committing by “doing” is really critical in bringing ideas to life for me. I cannot sit on ideas for too long. I either act right away or stop thinking about them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
AI-enhanced solutions are a massive opportunity in all fields. Ultimately AI helps people automate things that can be automated in order to focus on what really matters. I think it can bring immense freedom (especially with time) to allow people to do more of what brings joy to them.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The key to productivity for me personally is working when I am in “flow” – trying to find the right moments for the right type of work when possible. E.g. I like to do deep work later in the evening/ night and schedule meetings in the afternoon over a coffee etc. It’s not always possible when it comes to interacting with others and scheduling meetings with more than 1 person but I try to limit meetings to a few days a week. I also tend to work in larger blocks of undisturbed time. This type of productivity is not perfect and comes with trade-offs. I tend to be late or unavailable on some social messaging platforms that can interrupt deep work which is difficult when it’s your own friends and family that are trying to reach you. But I need this approach to stay in the work “zone”.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be brave, not perfect.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Everything can be measured and improved.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Look at your recurring activities and find time that can be shaved off in order to channel into activities that make a material difference. I can be found optimizing even minutes. I do believe every minute counts.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Understanding that “selling” is really about sharing a solution that can help others succeed in what they do. So being enthusiastic about sharing our approach and learnings, rather than following “business” playbooks, helps us remain authentic, empathetic and genuinely helpful while bringing new disruptive solutions to a traditional industry.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When building my first healthcare startup, I tried to build a team fast to make progress. But what I learned was that how you work with the people on your founding/ management team is more important for the success of a startup than anything else – much more so than your idea, talent, innovation or business model. The speed of trust and the psychological safety of committed partnerships is incredibly important, and small decision-making teams are more ideal for disruptive startups. At Ready Surgery, we are a strong close-knit team that is able to execute more with less because of what I learned from my prior experience.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Doctors are mobile and always doing a lot of things at the same time. They are on their mobile phones more than any other devices. Help them leverage their phones to be more productive and do less “busy” work. Anything from reducing context-switch, receiving calls/ faxes and signing charts and documents automatically to intelligent digital solutions to avoid repetitive work can change their “overhead” and approach to their clinical work – which will ultimately enable them to refocus their attention to higher standards for quality and will improve our healthcare system dramatically.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Whiteboards. I cannot have enough of them. Same with notebooks. Writing and drawing by hand brings the most clear thinking for me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use Calm everyday for unguided timed meditation. But on days my mind is not calm, the guided meditation can help focus and ensure I have a better session than if I sat to meditate on my own. It’s a great app!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success‘ is an incredible book that is important for any leader – that can provides the sort of awareness that can be life-changing in your personal and professional life. It’s something I go back to all the time and probably one of the most impactful books I have read. Anyone that works for me has to read it!
What is your favorite quote?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt
- Read about different fields. Concepts in finance and economics can help design technology and healthcare solutions.
- Put in the hours and learn to enjoy it. There is simply no short-cut to hard work.
- Jump in and do. Avoid using “advice” from experienced or well-intentioned people as excuses not to try something.
- Measure objective data to improve how you spend your time and make decisions.