Sometimes destiny actually finds us. Today, I am delighted to say that this has happened to me!
As many of you know, I have been on the lookout for the right full-time leadership opportunity. While I have enjoyed the advisory work I have been doing and have had some wonderful projects and colleagues in these endeavors, I am more motivated when I have a primary role into which to pour my energy. I love the sense of building organizations that can scale and succeed, and I prefer to focus my energy on next generation solutions that can create a real difference in how healthcare is delivered. As my career has evolved, I have realized that there are two primary modifiers to these goals that are essential pieces of my puzzle: 1) A+ people, and 2) commitment to a meaningful mission to make healthcare better for more than 3 actual people. I am thrilled to report that I believe I have hit the quadfecta on this set of objectives.
This week the American Heart Association, America’s largest voluntary health-related philanthropic organization, announced that they have formed AHA Ventures and I am thrilled to announce that I will get to lead this organization as Managing Partner. AHA Ventures is meant to be an umbrella investment unit that coordinates and builds upon the AHA’s highly successful investment strategies already in place; these include Cardeation Capital, the AHA Social Impact Fund and the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund. The goal of creating AHA Ventures is to expand the ways the organization approaches the marketplace with its capital and brand to accelerate innovative solutions in health technology, science, and social impact. AHA Ventures will also provide a platform into which to integrate new programs and initiatives that support the AHA mission and that leverage the organization’s extensive scientific and medical intellectual capital. There are a few cool new programs already on the drawing board and they will be so much fun to explore.
Wow! What an amazing opportunity to leverage my past work experiences as investor, innovator and operations leader and my desire to bring a clearer focus on mission into the scope of my work. By the way, has anyone come up with a better word for innovation yet? I am so tired of that word. I think a contest is in order.
Back to the news at hand. When it comes to great people, it’s hard to beat the team at AHA, many of whom I know well from my past work as a consultant to, and volunteer in, a variety of AHA’s innovation initiatives. The place is filled with inspirational and action-oriented leaders and the management team displays such an amazing blend of intellect, accomplishment, and compassion. I am thrilled to become a part of this group and they have been so welcoming to me already. An added plus is that the leadership team is truly diverse in all respects.
I started this write-up by saying this feels like destiny; here’s why: back in 2014 I helped the AHA start their original venture fund, Cardeation Capital, which is going strong in Fund 2. While I have stayed connected to the periphery of that effort, I always wished I had a deeper involvement. My wish is apparently about to come true, but in a much more comprehensive way given the significant expansion of investing interest and programming at AHA today. What a difference a decade makes.
Interestingly, 2024 kicks off the Second Century of the American Heart Association. There are few organizations that live to 100 years these days, and even fewer that continually grow, diversify, and expand their relevance rather than the opposite. AHA is anything but stuck in the Innovators’ Dilemma, constantly looking towards how it needs to reinvent itself to make a better and more impactful future. Man, I love that. Sit on your laurels and you will have a laurel-shaped impression in your rear end. Stand up and keep moving forward and you will find your next great opportunity. It works for people and for organizations. It’s great when those things coalesce.
I start my new role in January during JP Morgan week (week 1: blisters and too much coffee; week 2: world domination!) and until then will be doing my best to slack off while my mind reels at the possibilities and potential of my new role, new teammates, and reinvigorated commitment to a mission I have long supported. AHA leadership has said that their goal for AHA Ventures is to integrate select investment assets and initiatives to maximize return and mission impact for a world of longer, healthier lives for all. I could not have designed a better job opportunity if I set out to do it myself.
For those of you who don’t know the AHA, you would be amazed by all that they do. Take a gander around their website. Most people think of AHA as a funder of cardiovascular clinical research and an organization that educates and advocates for individuals with, and at risk for, heart disease. This is definitely true. But what is also true is that the organization’s remit encompasses not just heart disease, but also stroke and various other neurovascular conditions. Because they think holistically about these challenges, AHA’s work very directly also addresses a variety of intersecting conditions, such as mental health, nutrition, and women’s health, among others. The organization had over $1.2 billion in revenue in 2023; more than half of this came from philanthropic donations, but hundreds of millions of dollars also come from Mission Aligned Businesses – commercially sold products, programs and related partnerships that improve care, educate clinicians, and deliver better quality outcomes in communities in over 80 countries. AHA is a true game-changer in healthcare and for me, that makes it especially attractive in a world that has lost interest in niche players.
I look forward to seeing those of you going to JP Morgan at the Band-Aid store and, to all of you, have a wonderful holiday season, and thanks for all of the support so many have provided me along this journey. You know who you are, and I will be sure to remind you how much you mean to me. And to my new colleagues at the AHA, thank you for trusting me to join your team. I can’t wait to be a part of your continued success.