Noosheen Hashemi: Founder & CEO of

Episode 234

Learn how Founder and CEO, Noosheen Hashemi, teamed up with Dr. Michael Snyder to launch, a health tech company that uses artificial intelligence to prevent, predict, and postpone chronic diseases like diabetes. Hear how personalized nutrition is where it is at and learn about her incredible journey on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to just make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show, though, join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so thrilled to have my next awesome, awesome guest here. We have Noosheen Hashemi, who is the founder and CEO of January AI, we were just chatting a little bit she lives in in Silicon Valley and with her family, and she is the, as I mentioned, the co founder and CEO of January AI, which is a health tech company that uses AI to work to prevent, predict and postpone chronic diseases like things like diabetes. And of course, that is one of those diseases that with the company, I found it hint, we’re always like looking at ways to actually prevent things versus actually looking at ways to deal with them once you have them. So I love, love, love everything about this when Noosheen’s name came across my screen and a little bit more about her company, I was just really fascinated. So I’m excited to have her here to share a little bit more about that, like so many other fabulous entrepreneurs that we have on the show and CEOs, she did not start out as an entrepreneur, she actually spent years in tech with companies like Oracle. And she’s also done quite a bit of angel investing and philanthropy before she actually decided to start her own company. And I’d love to hear a lot more about how the AI piece comes into this. Because of course, we all want to really understand how that starts to move companies and change along the way. And she’s definitely done it. So she was also honored by the World Economic Forum as a technology pioneer a bit ago. And that’s just added to the list of many of her numerous awards. So thank you so much for Nietzschean for coming on.

Noosheen Hashemi 2:38
Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Absolutely.

Kara Goldin 2:41
So for those listeners who aren’t familiar with January AI, can you share a little bit more about the company and its mission?

Noosheen Hashemi 2:49
Absolutely. Our mission is to eradicate lifestyle diseases, like diabetes, and related diseases that are really are not rooted necessarily in genetics. But they are really artifacts of the way we live every day, how we eat, how we move, or don’t move. And so we feel that we have the technology today to already make a huge dent in lifestyle diseases. And if we weren’t, we had the will to really expand the use of this technology to the population. But as well, there are other levers of change that we could we could make I have a big, have a big passion around what the government can do in terms of government policies that affect health in America, not just what technology can do, not just what people can do, but also, you know, what, what all the effects sectors of society can do government, private sector, individuals, how they run their lifestyles. I think the answer of having a healthy nation is within all of those, there’s really no silver bullet, but the individual, the person can take a huge role. And there are definitely technology tools that can help people to do that.

Kara Goldin 4:05
So your co founder is Dr. Michael Snyder, how did you to connect on this?

Noosheen Hashemi 4:10
So I, as I got interested in health and essentially healthcare, machine learning and what machine learning could do for health. I started asking around to meet people. And I was meeting with the head of the Stanford School of Medicine Boyd miner and I said I’m really interested in multi omics and just hold person view of, of health and Mike and I set up a meeting for 45 minutes, and we ended up talking for 90 minutes. And the next time the very next time we met, which was pretty quickly he said, Let’s just let you know, I’ve been thinking about this, you know, I want you to be my co founder. Let’s start this company. I had already started the company I’d named the January already. I want to do multihomed company. So it turned out that he just rolled into the company. And we went ahead with the with the company that we had. So I met him through Stanford Stanford connections. I want to say I have a business school. And I’ve remained close to the to the university in the last 25 years. And I’m a, I’m a big fan of big fan of entrepreneurship and discovery, which is really a key tenet of Stanford University. Really, I mean, to go to Stanford Business School is really big on entrepreneurship, as you know, it’s what it’s known for. So you pass through those walls. At some point, you got to start something. So I’m pretty committed,

Kara Goldin 5:26
I love it. That’s great. You know, what you described, I remember years ago, when I moved to Silicon Valley, I came from New York. And I think what really drove me everybody talked about Silicon Valley as entrepreneurship, this is in the mid 90s, it was really kind of the beginnings of direct to consumer and some of the stuff that was going on, that I ended up getting involved in, but I loved the idea that people were so open to connecting people. And a lot of these ideas were not fleshed out, it was just people kind of being put into a room together and coming up with different ideas, which, again, is is something that sometimes that’s where entrepreneurship, and ideas really start, right.

Noosheen Hashemi 6:15
Yeah, indeed, absolutely. Yeah, the beauty of Silicon Valley, at least, prior to COVID. Now, it seems like it’s happening in a lot more places than just Silicon Valley. But the beauty of within, you know, 50 square miles to be able to, you know, start ideas, Hashem out, hire people, build the company, sell the company, you know, raise money for the growth of the company, sell the company, and just just hub of people and of interest and just having that ecosystem that’s been lauded over the all over the world. And now there are hops, you know, everywhere. And there’s lots of Silicon Valley’s outside of Silicon Valley, which is, which is really nice. That’s I think, COVID remote kind of made things, you know, not be so concentrated, as you know,

Kara Goldin 7:01
I totally, totally agree. So, let’s go back to the start. So you immigrated from from Persia, which was before around as 18. So talk to me about those early years. I mean, when you came here, what what do you think? How do you think it benefited you? In many ways? Obviously, you and I were talking, I have many friends who also immigrated from Persia, and it’s, it’s fascinating to me, because so many, many of them are women. And they are so proud of their heritage, but also very smart. I mean, and very, and obviously, you are as well, and you’re a hard worker, and all of those things. What, what do you think, you know, kind of you learned about those early years, and that what helped you to become an entrepreneur? Absolutely. Yeah.

Noosheen Hashemi 7:55
So I was a fifth child of another family who had much older children. So I was an accident. My first sister and I are 17 years apart. So 1713 10, and eight years. So four siblings way, way older. So I was basically at home as an only child, everybody had left and my parents saw the writing on the wall in 1977, tanks on the street, and quickly got me a passport and sent me away two years before the revolution happened. And thank God, they did that I was 14 years old. If they had not done that, if I had gotten stuck there, when the revolution happened and had gone, you know, I would not have had the incredible education that I’ve had, but also just the incredible opportunity. So what was it like? Well, it’s a 14 year old coming to the US. I had my, my brother was living here with his wife and my sister with her husband, and, you know, they had their own lives and I am it made me unbelievably independent. I had to, you know, figure out eventually, like, even my living quarters, like I skipped two grades in high school. I graduated from high school at age 16. From going high school, it was it was a time of change. It was like in 19 I graduate from high school in 1979, which is where the when the hostage crisis happened. So my dreams of going to Georgetown University and getting a PhD in international relations and becoming Ambassador just just went down the drain. Turned out my daughter went to Georgetown later didn’t but that’s just life comes of full circle. But yeah, so my, what I had imagined you know, okay, I’m going to the US I’ll be back you know, and then the revolution happened and of course I didn’t go back and so I wouldn’t lie to you it was it was growing up really fast. So it was not going not being able to go to a four year university first I had to go to a community college first because my my I didn’t even know what like LSAT score or any of this was and my my brother who was kind of responsible for me didn’t really wasn’t really managing all this either. So I was just haphazardly learning like, Oh, so you want me to go to a community college? He said, Yes, you should go to that. I was like, okay. So as soon as I figured things out, I put myself to Stanford, you know, but but I didn’t know as a 16 year old graduating from high school, that people were taking the LSAT and going to four year colleges, I didn’t understand any of that. So. So it was a lot of hard lessons, a lot of things to learn. Fortunately, I mean, I did go to Foothill College, I had straight A’s for two years, didn’t get a single B. And, you know, went off and finished my degree in economics, and political science, and then started working at Oracle, worked for another company for like eight months, and then sent my resume like 60 companies and an Oracle called and I went and started working there. And I ended up being there for 10 years and grew very, very, very, very rapidly. I mean, I started at the, you know, pretty much as an entry level person. And I was very quickly went to a manager and a director and a vice president, in a in, in a valley where it just didn’t have women as VPS. In a matter of five years, people have told me, I should write about it, I should write about those days, I should write about what it was like, how hard it was. One of my friends, Tim Haley, who had a recruiting firm at the time, and has been a VC for decades now says, you know, you should write about those early days in Silicon Valley, and what what it was like to be a woman, woman executive in their 20s, which was just unheard of, really unheard of. I think there was another woman, I’m forgetting her name, who was at Apple, who was like, in her 50s. Yeah. But it was just unheard of, to have somebody in their 20s be a vice president, at 27, at Oracle, a billion dollar company. And it wasn’t easy. I’ll tell you. So those years from when I left Iran, in 1977, at age 14, to, you know, the next 13 years, when I became vice president, Oracle is 27. Those were Those were tough fears. But they were amazing, amazing learnings. I mean, literally just unbelievable learnings at every turn?

Kara Goldin 12:12
Well, it’s interesting that you talk about that too, because I I speak on a number of university campuses and and business schools as well. And I had started out in larger companies that became larger while I was there, both in media and in tech. And, you know, I think the interesting thing is, is that a lot of those years helped me to figure out what I wanted in a company, how to grow a culture, how to lead all of those things. So I wouldn’t say any of them were a waste of time. I know

Noosheen Hashemi 12:47
not at all right. And no, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Kara Goldin 12:51
Yeah. And I’m sure Oracle as well, I mean, it’s such an amazing place to be. And when I see people who are graduating from college and thinking that they want to go and start a company, and they want to I mean, there are lots of things that maybe you miss that watching inside of a large company first and a great training program, whatever it is, that definitely gave you, I think, a leg up and struggle. Absolutely,

Noosheen Hashemi 13:18
yes. I mean, I, when I walked in, I was 22. I think oracle of 1985 to 1992 was an unbelievable place it it really was. I mean, fast growth is really interesting when you’re doubling in size every year. And the opportunities that that affords you when you’re growing if you’re an ambitious and driven and hardworking person is infinite. Yeah. So you’re constantly pushing yourself and wondering how much more you can push yourself and and you are in company of other people who are also very serious about their careers and ambitious and there, you have something to do. You’re all in it. It’s it’s like the feeling of euphoria is like you with a lot of other people are doing something quite impossible is really interesting. And it’s bonded us, you know, forever. I I’ll see Larry, also next week. You know, so when you’ve been in the trenches together sort of bonds you forever. That’s amazing. And, yeah, so I do. I mean, we didn’t have a we didn’t have a training program. We were just learning just off the I know, like my daughter’s in the APM program at Google right now. Yeah, those are, those are luxuries at the time. It was like just go do it. Go do this. Go do that go to that today. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. The education that came from those from those years was was irreplaceable. You can’t get in any business school.

Kara Goldin 14:42
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Noosheen Hashemi 17:23
I officially started in 2017. But we hired our first technical person in November of 2017. So really, 2018 was our first kind of year of operating. But I you know, I filed the papers in 2017.

Kara Goldin 17:36
What was the first kind of challenge that you thought about when you were when you were actually setting out to to start January, I might die? Like wow, was there? I mean, was diabetes, or what was kind of the big thing that you guys wanted to tackle first,

Noosheen Hashemi 17:53
my vision when I when I was meeting with Mike Snyder was, hey, we’re taking a very narrow picture of health. We’re looking at someone’s a once your cholesterol whatnot. And we need to take your approach, which is this multi omics approach, we should look at all the factors that go into health, like all the things we can learn from people wearing sensors, like wearables, like, you know, fitness tracker, or heart rate monitor, continuous glucose monitor, we thought was an inflection point in wearables, because it was now being used for health monitoring, as opposed to just fitness monitoring. So yes, we were very excited about usage of new technologies, specifically wearables, and what they could tell us about chronic conditions like diabetes, Mike Snyder has type two diabetes. And he’s actually it’s not a lifestyle disease. He has this. He had this genetic predisposition to type two diabetes, he has a very rare genetic case where, after a viral infection, diabetes, developed in his in his body. So when we first started, I would say the hardest thing was, was finding a technical, co founder or technical, technical lead for the company that was really hard starting on your own, not being a technical person trying to find that technical person is really challenging. So you’re competing with you know, Fang, obviously for talent. You when it comes to AI, a lot of people I interviewed early said, Hey, I don’t really care what I work on. People were working on autonomous cars and fintech and robotics and, you know, ad tech, and they weren’t, you know, health an AI is not something people thought about, or four years ago, it just wasn’t in 2017. People just didn’t think about that in 2001. I was searching for that technical person. So so so that was challenging. And then we weren’t just doing AI, you’re doing a combination, you really are living at the convergence of of medicine and science, which is in the labs before it becomes medicine and AI. So this interdisciplinary lens is just something that people don’t have, it’s something that is going to, it’s still evolving, and it’s going to evolve over the next couple of decades. So a, I had to find a technical person to execute my vision and what I had in mind to this, these people needed to be aI people and I had huge competition for, for hiring AI people. And three, I needed people that just understood more than AI, they weren’t. They were curious about science, they were curious about medicine, they were curious about the human body. And much of what had been done in sort of, quote, unquote, data science and big data at that time, which is not AI was really about like claims data and like, like patient stratification for payers and things like that there was nothing about personal science like, like the AI of your body, like what’s happening with your body? What, what, what trends can I observe about the human body as opposed to like your insurance claims? So it was like it was it was pioneering on every angle, and it was, so it was hard to even describe to people who had never, you know, a lot of a lot of the people you would interview these technical leads were like, Huh, you know, like, you’re like, Well, you know, there are these like, this, this medical research has been done as has got these missing variables. And we could go back and look at the end. So you’re, you’re like talking about a new world that doesn’t exist yet, and you’re trying to recruit for it. And that’s one of the that that was definitely one of the challenges. So fortunately, the best thing in our favor was that we are working on a mission. That is, you know, half of the adult US population had diabetes, or prediabetes. And now the numbers have grown. So when I started, there were you know, 30 million people with diabetes and something like 80 million people with pre diabetes, now we’re looking at 96 million people with diabetes and prediabetes and 37 million people with diabetes just in a few years. So people knew this was this was serious, it was a big problem. It’s a problem that has remained unsolved. So the mission was very attractive to people. And that’s one of the things so, so people who were on some kind of health journey, maybe a cancer survivor, maybe someone with diabetes, those people took interest in the company. And those were the early, early employees, people who had a reason to care about prevention, they had a reason to, to, you know, they believed they had sort of been given their odds way too late, or, you know, in cases where they couldn’t do anything about it. So they were really interested in and inspiring other people of that suffering.

Kara Goldin 22:35
Absolutely. That’s, I mean, you describing January, AI, is how I describe hint, in the early days, I mean, the exact same thing we people said, have asked me over the years did you have a hard time recruiting, I’m like, Look, I didn’t have any experience in the beverage industry, people were crazy to trust me right to show up there. I mean, this did not look like it was going to become the company that it is today. But the mission and the purpose. And the reason for us actually trying was what drove people. So a number of our investors, a number of our employees all came from, or had invested in, or had worked at other companies that were not in the beverage industry, but they looked at it with a we’ve got to figure this stuff out. This is really fascinating. This really interesting. So it’s very similar to what you’re talking about. I love it, what’s been the biggest surprise in building the company, the

Noosheen Hashemi 23:35
biggest good surprise, which is, was what happened with COVID. So it’s the silver lining of COVID. So we did not, when I started, I just expected it to be way, way, way, way, way harder. Still, I thought as hard as it was, when I would tell people like my husband, who’s co investor with me in the family office. And together, we’ve invested in over 130 companies. When I started talking about machine learning and healthcare, he thought I was crazy. He said, I’ve been through this already, I’ve invested in healthcare companies, you’re being way too idealistic, you know, only if we collect this data only if we do this and that we did that we did that in this company. We did this in this company. It turned out that, yes, it makes so much sense in one of his companies, they had connected all the HR data to each other, but then that’s not really how they were able to help people finally they were able to make money by essentially helping providers be able to get more reimbursements from payers, you know, something that wasn’t as idealistic as they had first started, which was like to help people be healthier. So he was like, you know, your, your, are you sure this is this is kind of crazy. And I was absolutely, absolutely and it you know, just you could not determine from from this path you still can’t. So this surprises that, you know, I thought it was gonna take way longer way. It’s going to be much harder because when he talks about people taking control of their health and people caring about their health, learning about their health and You immediately got this thing like, no, people will not do that people know that certain behavior, people know that smoking is bad, they still smoke. Yes, but lots of people have stopped smoking, yes, there are some people that will continue to do that. But they will immediately tell you that, that’s not going to work, that people will not change, their behavior will not change, they will not, they will not take their house, they care more about their cars than their bodies. And I mean that all this comes, what happened with COVID is that people learned on a very personal level that, you know, what could happen if you have underlying conditions that you don’t know about something like 40% of the people who died had underlying conditions, including diabetes, so it was a matter of life and death, people, all of a sudden, were jolted, this pandemic kind of caused people to go, Oh, my God, like health is important. Health is not something I take for granted health. If I if I’m not healthy, I could actually die the next pandemic, and it became much, much more vivid in their minds the impact that health would have. So it was a horrific thing that was, you know, that came came upon our planet. But the silver lining of this is now people recognizing that they do have a role to play that their health is important that health is wealth. So a lot of people that I thought, you know, it’s just the optimizers that cared about a lot of things. I’m hearing from people I was just talking to. So a few several friends who are not really involved in technology. They’re not really involved. They’re, you know, they’re retired. Or they’re, you know, they’ve been home, they’ve just been like, they’ve never really even worked. Yeah, and they’re telling me about insulin resistance. They’re telling me about synbiotics. They’re telling me about their microbiome, they’re telling me it is becoming now very, and I don’t mean, just here, I think people are recognizing that, oh, you know what I do everyday counts. If I sit all day counts, the supplements, I take count these things count. So the biggest surprise is that people are onboarding to this health journey at a faster rate than I could have ever expected.

Kara Goldin 27:10
I totally agree. We’ve had a few people on here that are sort of fighting these issues as well. And Dr. Lustig Have you ever? Yes, of course. Yeah. And it’s definitely he’s been a, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. And really, really amazing what you’re what you’re doing. So I normally ask this question about a major challenge. But I feel like you’ve answered so many of these kind of in, you know, as in answering some of the other questions. But what what would you want to leave people with around? Just, I think what you’re doing is great. And it doesn’t, even though you’re saying it’s happened faster than then maybe you’re hoped? I feel like things do take a long time. Right?

Noosheen Hashemi 28:01
They do. overnight success takes 15 years. That’s one of the things that entrepreneurs should know. Yeah.

Kara Goldin 28:07
Apps. Absolutely. And, and I just think that your experiences overall, you know, are really coming from a place of doing good. Which, which? Absolutely, yeah, when people, as somebody was asking me this question yesterday, and for it for an article that they said is it is an incredibly hard to grow businesses today, because it’s in COVID. And I said that the first thing that you have to do is stop thinking about why you can’t and figure out why you can and what problem you’re solving. And January AI is definitely solving a big, big problem. And it’s going to take time, because hard problems take time to fix.

Noosheen Hashemi 28:48
Absolutely, yes. For these problems to be solved. We need a lot, you know, we need many things we need, you know, there’s technology. There is you know, as I mentioned at the at the onset, there’s the role of government, the role of private sector role of the individual, there’s, there’s lots of lots of pieces to the puzzle if we really want to have a healthier nation. But in terms of entrepreneurs, I think, you know, my advice would be if people are thinking of starting a company, definitely try to have co founders that can take operating roles, meaning people that can roll up their sleeves and be in the trenches with you. I think Oracle had five co founders even though, you know, everyone knows Larry, but in the beginning, it’s really useful for different people to wear different hats. So I think that’s really important. Doing it by yourself is, you know, solo founders. Do they make it? Yeah, absolutely. We do, but I think it’s but I think it is it is nice to have co founders I think that’s really important. The other thing is to you don’t have an early focus on product. I think it’s really important to have that product orientation people come at it from different angles. And you know, we came at it from science and then products you know, and and People come at it from marketing first, and then they market first and then they start thinking about how they want to change their product. But, but I’d say market orientation is really, really important. And I think having, you know, owners, not just renters is really important. And I think that’s going to be tough in this world. Now, because you’ve seen the great reshuffle, you’ve seen the great resignation, I think a lot of people are in art, want to have control over their time, they want to have control over their lives. So sometimes they rather be contractors and have like side gigs and things like that, as opposed to put everything into one company. So you know, getting a number of people to move in the same direction, a cohesive way when people have so many interests. It’s

Kara Goldin 30:41
hard. It’s hard. Yeah, definitely. But I think having a mission and a purpose, though. Totally, you know, you just have to find those people that really believe and want to create change and and you are definitely doing that. So thank you so much for sharing, all about January AI and overall your your journey. It’s so incredible. And it’s so inspirational. So many gems in there, too. Where can listeners find out more about January AI? And also you

Noosheen Hashemi 31:12
Oh, thank you. I’m on LinkedIn, people can connect with me new Shane Hashemi on LinkedIn, also January I, we are making a lot of changes to our product. And we’re doing a lot of user research, which is really, really fun. I talk to customers myself, a lot. And I really enjoy that. And so yes, watch what we’re doing. We have some interesting new things to bring to bring out in 2022.

Kara Goldin 31:39
That’s amazing. So thanks, everybody, for listening to this episode. And please subscribe to the Kara Goldin show so you do not miss amazing conversations that I have with people like machine. And please be sure to send in those five star ratings for the algorithm. They definitely make a difference and find me on all social platforms at Kara Goldin, I also wrote a book I would highly encourage machine to write that book. It’s took me four years, never would have started if I would have known how long it would have taken. But it was, it was definitely a lot of fun to write it and it’s called undaunted for those who haven’t read it to you. It’s also available on Audible and we’re here every Monday and Wednesday. So thanks, everybody, for listening and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening