Healthcare is one of the most talked about topics in the U.S. What if you could know if you carry the gene for a disease? Well, the startup 23andme is empowering people to take control of their health by gaining in-depth knowledge about their health history. The company launched in 2006 giving people access to understanding the human genome. A home-based kit that collects your saliva could help you possibly prevent a hereditary disease. This is making a huge impact on the healthcare industry, and MillionaireMatch knows why. Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andme, shares her passion for giving people the tools to fight for a healthier life.
Wojcicki, who use to work on Wall Street, was raised by a strong mother who lives by the premise of apologize later over asking for permission first. She was raised by a woman who can’t be intimidated, and that has pushed Wojcicki to question the healthcare industry. Her mother passed down this passion for taking her health into her own hands, after losing her brother at a young age. Wojcicki’s uncle died at only 18 months when he swallowed a bottle of aspirin. He was taken from doctor to doctor to only get his stomach pumped and sent home. But something was still not right. After a night of crying, Wojcicki’s grandparents finally found a hospital willing to take him. Unfortunately, it was too late. He didn’t live to come back home.
“My hope is that having genetic information will lead to them preventing early death, or be more proactive about their health,” she said about creating the 23andme kits. Today, they have over 1 million people who have used the kits to take a deeper look at their family history. Wojcicki believes people are can be very passive about their health care. Often having major procedures without knowing all the details, from understanding why they need the procedure, to what side effects they’ll possibly have to live with. “Most healthcare companies have a responsibility to maximize the bottom line,” she said. Their job isn’t to prevent you from being sick, but more to manage and heal. That leaves 23andme to be not so popular for the business of health care.
“If consumers were more empowered, I think they would take more responsibility for their health.” She believes people genuinely want to change their behavior. Genetics can’t prevent everything, but it does put people in the driver seat. If you could know that you do carry the gene for a preventable disease, having the knowledge may encourage you to change to a healthier lifestyle. “Genetic information is critical to your health. Health is the decision you make every single day,” she said. That would include getting the help of doctors to help you take the next steps once you understand your health history better.
It hasn’t been a completely smooth ride for Wojcicki and her team. The FDA issued a cease and desist to claims that 23andme was under Medicare. “Being shut down in a nasty way was definitely not the high point of the company. It was a transformative moment. I saw it as a sign of success,” Wojcicki said. “If I didn’t love what I did, I would have shut down,” she continued.
Wojcicki offered a bit of advice to entrepreneurs. “I would always recommend partnerships,” she suggested. Her and her co-founder, Linda Avey worked almost 24/7 for years to get 23andme off the ground. When they only had five people on the team, they took turns sleeping. She also said, “When you really believe in what you are doing, it sells.”
If you want to get your kit, just visit 23andme.com. “We believe it’s really about choice. If you want to get access to something that is fundamentally yours, we believe it’s your right to get access to it,” said Wojcicki. We believe so too!