Rashmi Joshi is a serial entrepreneur based in Seattle, Washington. She has over 10 years experience in product and marketing strategy, and building successful businesses from the ground up.
Rashmi is founder and CEO of a remote care monitoring solution for elders, called Asha AI. We asked her what she finds engaging about her new role, and what drives her to get up in the morning.
"My role as the CEO and founder is to make sure that everything is moving in the right direction. I'm tasked with making sure that the strategic vision for the company is very well communicated and thought out and that we are essentially drafting different initiatives and activities that align with the high level strategy end points. As a serial founder, I don't think there's any other role that I could play. So it's just a sort of a unique work dynamic made for unique people."
Rashmi’s is an observation that many startup founders and serial entrepreneurs can identify with. The excitement of starting a business and working in a rapidly changing environment which constantly throws up new problems to solve makes Joshi excited to go to work every day, and has been a key motivator for her since she started her first business when she was 16.
"This is my fifth business, after starting my dance company, when I was 16. I went on to dive more deeply into technology startups and started to look into the kinds of questions that not just founders ask themselves as they're beginning to launch a new business, but also the kinds of questions that venture capitalists and investors are thinking about in terms of how successful that business is going to be. I'm the kind of person that when I find that little itch, I hold onto it and I drive forward with that as much as I can until there's absolutely no possible way that I can succeed and then, you know, it's time to go."
That early approach to creating a business based on gut feeling, and the desire to drive it forward as far as possible has led Joshi to explore a multitude of opportunities. She credits her approach to business as a key part of her trajectory in business to date - the desire to understand absolutely everything she can about any topic that takes her interest.
"I'm the kind of person that if I find something that I really like, I want to know everything about it. I will do diligence for months. With dancing, I used to dance three to four hours a day. I used to teach dance, choreograph, and participate in a number of dance teams. It is the same thing right now with Asha AI - we did diligence for about eight or nine months before we ever decided to move forward and start working on the execution piece."
Joshi says the result of this in-depth research and analysis is not always a business idea, and it may result in a new passion - for example she has begun exploring the secrets of the cosmetics industry out of her own curiosity. Combining the logical, analytical research with a creative passion is an aspect of her personality that has been valuable in her career to date. We asked Joshi what advice she had for other young entrepreneurs looking to follow in her footsteps.
"I would say take time to listen to your gut. There are a lot of people out there who will try to tell you which way the tide is coming in. The reality is you can't learn from a textbook based on what other people have done in the past, what to do now, if you're in a field that is being created as we speak. You have to take the hundreds of books that you're reading and articles that you've done research on, and then taking all that into consideration you really have to depend and rely on your own gut instinct. And that's something that no one can tell you."
Taking the step into the unknown of creating your own business and dedicating yourself to making it work can be daunting. Often all of your hard work can be put to the challenge, sometimes by issues outside of your control. Despite all of the success she has enjoyed so far, Joshi’s career is not without those challenges.
"One of my older startups we were working on the ideation phase for quite a while, and we'd finally come up with what we thought was the perfect solution, and then figured out how to build the MVP of that solution. I had pitch meetings scheduled in San Francisco and a build documentation required with that MVP, and slowly but surely, all of the engineers that I'd been working with up until that point started dropping the ball once we came to the actual rolling up of the sleeves and doing the work."
The experience proved to be a valuable learning point for Joshi, as she realised the importance of making mutually beneficial agreements and having a clear understanding of the expectations of your team. Being a non-technical founder, Joshi was faced with high profile meetings around a product that did not exist in any tangible form, and with no support from her team.
"At that point I said to myself - I might as well go down swinging. I called everyone in my phone book who had any technology experience whatsoever. I was fortunate to find one of my friends who was an ex-CTO, who said, “I can guide you and give you directions on how to build this, but you're going to have to do the work.” I have no problem with doing the work. For two weeks, I basically worked night and day, 20 hour days and built the prototype and to my surprise, it actually worked!"
Joshi describes the startup journey like a ‘baby being born after 9 months’ - and attributes her success so far down to dedication and hard work. The realisation that she could achieve what she wanted from life if she worked hard enough has been a key motivation for her. Along the way she has forced herself to master new skills, including the all-important ‘soft skills’ that are so crucial for being an effective leader.
In her role at Asha AI the business community in the Cascadia Corridor has provided Joshi and her team with support, particularly the Life Sciences Washington Institute and Cambia Grove. Joshi recommends for any startup founders or executives in the region to reach out to for guidance and support, particularly in the biotech and healthcare industries.
Like many startup founders, Joshi has found that finding investors can be a challenge. While there are a wealth of companies and schemes available to help companies that are new to market, sometimes finding the right investor for your business is not always straightforward.
“The Pacific Northwest really just needs more venture capital and venture capital specifically focused on B2C and consumer applications. I think there's a big focus here in Seattle, especially on B2B organizations largely because we have a huge enterprise network here, but it's really difficult to be in this space if you're in the B2C consumer facing market. There aren't too many investors here who focus on investing for that market in general. One of the nice things that we do have here is that there's a wide network of healthcare organizations that people can tap into, which, for us as a healthcare company, that becomes very important.”
We asked Joshi if she could go back in time and tell her younger self 3 things: what would they be? While she was keen to point out that she doesn’t have regrets, she did have some words of wisdom based on her experiences:
- Trust your gut
- Don’t underestimate the power of energy. Bring your energy to the table.
- Stop waiting for someone to give you permission to be the best version of yourself.
Asha AI was founded as a reaction to Joshi’s grandmother becoming ill, and the difficulties of responding in a timely manner when they live independently many hours away in India. Providing in-person support and managing the required care involved flying home for visits regularly. Joshi was surprised when she looked for a solution to help with this issue and found there was nothing that could help. Asha AI was born.
“I was perplexed by the fact that there seemed to be no solutions on the market today that helps solve that dynamic. Especially in the US, most people don't live with or close to their parents. We have a huge aging population and COVID-19, I think, has further put a lens on what's going on with care management related to elders. I had the opportunity to dive into the pain points experienced by people who are not just living in different countries, but they may be living in different cities. They may be living across the state and some of the issues that arise as you're trying to help manage the decline of care and elders and what are some ways that we can solve for that.”
Recognizing that gap in the market for a solution to a problem that is only likely to grow in the future, Joshi leveraged her background in technology to get to work on pulling together a variety of tech tools and solutions to address the dynamic.
“The tricky part is that most companies in digital health are not really made for elders in the sense that they're very tech heavy, or they might be clunky to use. I know my grandparents would never go through the process of downloading a new app on their tablet or phone. As younger folks who are very familiar with technology, we feel it’s intuitive. Those things are not necessarily intuitive for elderly patients.”
The journey has just begun for Asha AI, and the team are working on providing an application that will be usable for the elderly but also capture valuable health data that is often missed in traditional medicine, or may not be available at all. They are also launching the Health Equity Fund for Asha which will make it easy for people to be able to donate a subscription to those in need. Asha will match each donated subscription with another. It’s a mission that is rooted in a powerful personal experience, and an ambition to make the world a better, more connected place.
“The core value of what we're building at Asha, is a solution that's made with elderly patients in mind. So that it is as easy as having a conversation with your son or your daughter. Making it usable, putting it into a format so that we can start making connections about that patient's health so that we can prevent decline is really the goal and the focus for Asha. I'll be very happy if we can get at least 1,000,000 patients on Asha and help prevent the decline of their health in a meaningful way in the next 10 years.”
You can find out more about Asha AI and sign up for the beta here: https://ashaai.com/beta-list/