By Collin West and Nihar Neelakanti, Kauffman Fellows Fund
The story of two women who’ve raised more than $6 million to start their own “fem tech” company for women and children’s health
Tracy Warren (left) and Tammi Jantzen (right)
● Tammi Jantzen is the cofounder of Astarte Medical, a precision medicine company that utilizes software and predictive analytics to improve health outcomes during the first 1,000 days of life.
● Jantzen prides herself on being part of a female-led cofounding team and has become very acutely aware of the specific challenges involved in fundraising for female founders.
● She shared her experience transitioning from CFO in venture capital to entrepreneur, as well as pitching investors on “fem tech.”
● Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Tammi Jantzen grew up in a small Wisconsin college town and started her professional life as an accountant working for a publishing company, which was later acquired by McGraw Hill. After the acquisition, McGraw Hill let go of all the accountants and offered Jantzen a job in New York City.
A year after the move, Jantzen realized her passions were leading her elsewhere. She fell into venture capital around 1998 after a VC client of her husband’s, a residential contractor, talked about how their fund was looking for a CFO. Soon enough, the fund offered Jantzen the job, and the rest is history.
With nearly two decades of experience in venture, Jantzen made the bold
transition to entrepreneur and cofounded Astarte Medical , a precision
medicine company that utilizes software and predictive analytics to improve
health outcomes during the first 1,000 days of life, with an initial focus on
Jantzen prides herself on being part of a female-led cofounding team for
Astarte Medical and has become very acutely aware of the specific challenges
involved in fundraising for female founders.
She joined us to speak about her fundraising experience as a cofounder of a
startup, combining her former experience and perspective as GP of a fund
tackling a complex, significant problem from two different angles.
Learning by doing
There are few industries in which learning is so closely tied to “figuring it out
along the way” than venture capital. Having an intimate understanding of the
financial mechanics behind investment transactions is often the only
prerequisite to becoming a successful venture capitalist — the rest must be
learned through a wide variety of good and bad deals.
“Prior to becoming immersed in the VC world, I had only heard about venture
capital,” noted Jantzen. “I didn’t know much about it, and I learned from just
The fund Jantzen joined was a $45 million regional fund and had already
made a couple of investments. As the fund was preparing to raise a second
fund, one of their LP’s presented an opportunity to join him in a $150 million
fund called Battelle Ventures. Jantzen was a founding member of Battelle
Ventures in 2003 as CFO and saw the fund grow to $250 million under
management. Battelle Ventures was an early-stage fund focused largely on
healthcare, energy, and homeland security.
“Battelle Ventures only had a single LP, so there were unique aspects to our
mandate and operations as a result,” commented Jantzen.
During her time at the first fund, Jantzen met Tracy Warren. After Battelle
Ventures chose not to pursue a second venture fund, Jantzen and Warren
joined to start their own fund, Astarte Ventures. It was the first fund focused
exclusively on women’s and children’s health.
“Fem tech wasn’t coined yet,” said Jantzen. “We saw an enormous
opportunity to add value to an underserved market. Prospective fund investors
told us to go out and prove the market actually exists. We took a bet and it
paid off. We helped validate the space and proved that our small fund would
actually make money.”
Jantzen and Warren put their own money to work, investing under Astarte
Ventures. In the course of their work, they spent a lot of time visiting women’s
and children’s hospitals around the country. That’s where they met Katherine
Gregory, RN, PhD at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Jantzen and Warren
were intrigued by Gregory and her research.
“Kate Gregory was clearly a rockstar,” said Jantzen. “She was working on
some phenomenal research on preterm infant microbiome and gut health. She
had a unique background having hands-on clinical experience as a nurse
alongside stellar academic and research credentials. At the time, we didn’t
know what the product would be, but we knew it was worth the time and
energy to figure it out. This initial meeting with her prompted our
entrepreneurial shift and led to the founding of Astarte Medical in 2016.”
Starting to fundraise
Astarte Medical has raised over $6 million, with $1.4 million coming from
Jantzen and Warren personally. Astarte Ventures funded the initial seed
round, which funded the BabyBiome Study in Gregory’s lab at Brigham and
Women’s Hospital. The company also received seed capital from Ben Franklin
Technology Partners, who invested alongside the founders’ capital based on
the strength of the team while the concept was still forming a business. In
October 2017, having formulated a solid plan and developed an initial product,
Astarte Medical went out to officially raise its Series A. However, fundraising
for these experienced investors-turned-entrepreneurs was not without its
“Having spent so much time in early-stage investing, we went into this thinking
we knew exactly what we needed to do to win over investors. The process of
raising capital took longer than we ever thought,” said Jantzen. “It was
actually really frustrating. VCs and even many of the angel groups said two
things: ‘It’s really interesting what you are doing, but you are a little too early,
so come back to us when you have revenue.'”
She added: “One of the most frustrating lessons of fundraising was spending
too much time entertaining the wrong investors. We spent an incredible
amount of time in diligence with some, who when asking about exit strategy
and corporate development specifically asked if our female-led team could
handle it. One group even asked if we had any men on the team. There we
were with a life-changing company, a functional business model, and an
experienced team, and we’re being asked if we had male supervision.”
Despite vexations, the pieces started to come together in early 2018. Keiretsu
Forum MidAtlantic would become the lead investor, and the term sheet was
executed in February 2018. Astarte Medical got its final commitments in
December, a full 10 months after the execution of the term sheet.
“We now realize that we set very unrealistic expectations on how much time
and energy would be expended to raise this round of funding. We spent 80%
of the time on 20% of the commitments,” said Jantzen. “We spent too much
time chasing small checks. In the final three months, the bulk of the money
came in triggered by some uncommon avenues.”
Astarte Medical participated in accelerators XLerateHealth and Illumina
“Every accelerator helped add another critical piece to the puzzle,”
commented Jantzen. “XLerateHealth helped refine the pitch, and much to our
surprise, $1 million of the $5 million came as a direct result of our participation
in XLerateHealth. The Illumina Accelerator enabled us to sequence an
unprecedented amount of data at a fraction of the cost, and provided dollar for
dollar match funding. The match funding provided $2 million of the $5 million
Series A round, which was a tremendous catalyst, enabling us to close our
round slightly oversubscribed.”
“This has been the hardest I’ve ever worked but, hands down, the most fun
I’ve ever had,” added Jantzen. “I think the coolest thing for me is that we are
making a difference in the lives of infants and families, helping babies thrive.
What better mission could there be? But it’s not all about impact; we’re
building a solid, highly investable business. Closing our Series A was
validation of our vision and opportunity, as well as our team.”
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