In 2018, women received only 2.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Women Techmakers, Google’s program to build visibility, community and resources for women in technology, is committed to changing this narrative. That’s why we launched Founded, a web series that shares the stories of women founders who are using tech to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To highlight the stories of four women of color tech entrepreneurs, for our first season we’re taking our viewers to Atlanta, home of one of the largest technology hubs in the U.S.
In our latest episode, we interviewed Chrissa McFarlane who is the Founder and CEO of the blockchain startup Patientory (which is also helping distribute diagnostic kits and medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis). She first learned about bitcoin in 2010, started working on broader blockchain solutions in 2015 and later published her book, "Future Women: Minority Female Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Era of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency."
Tell me about the moment when you first came up with the idea for Patientory.
I was working with a telemedicine company and experienced first hand the difficulty patients have obtaining access to their medical information. I was also actively researching Bitcoin and Blockchain at the time and made a connection between the two industries.
What was your vision for healthcare? What problem are you hoping to solve?
For over a decade, the main problem in the healthcare industry is the topic of interoperability. The ability to access health information securely and easily across multiple providers has been a challenge. I recently wrote about this for the Electronic Health Reporter.
Where do you see Patientory going within the next five years?
Looking past our current pandemic, I see Patientory providing the capability to keep large populations of people around the world healthy. This year proved that we need access to digital health solutions more than ever. Telemedicine usage rose over 70 percent for certain apps. Being able to treat patients is not going to stop with an office visit, but should be an ongoing engagement that can be facilitated by technology.
As a fellow New Yorker, I’m curious about your upbringing in the Bronx. How did it shape your vision for your work?
Growing up in the Bronx, I was exposed to various cultures and many different people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. During my first internship at the New York City Human Resource Administration/Department of Social Services, I met with hundreds of families across the city. This opened me up to discrepancies that existed, especially as it related to healthcare; it helped to shape the mission behind Patientory in serving all people regardless of class or race.
What are some of the first steps you took when starting your company?
I found advisors and mentors who would help me for the long-term. One of the most important factors of running a business is having strong relationships.
Two years ago, you made headlines after securing $7.2 million in funding in two days. How were you able to raise so much so fast?
Being a pioneer in the space, it was difficult to secure the first round of institutional funding. So we decided to create a cryptocurrency, called PTOY, through our Foundation. More than 1,000 people all over the world purchased the cryptocurrency, which secured over $7 million in funding for Patientory. It also provided grants to support early stage companies building blockchain healthcare solutions, which later translated into interest and continued support for Patientory’s initial capital raise.
What advice do you have for other women interested in starting their own technology companies?
Connect with an ecosystem, whether it’s an accelerator or incubator, and never stop talking to customers! I recently wrote a book about women entering the modern entrepreneurial world, and I talk about the 10 important mindsets you should have when you’re starting a business—for example, persistence and coachabilty.