ABC’s Shark Tank has a regular panel of investors who entrepreneurs can learn from just by watching the show. With their experience and understanding of business, millions of people turn in or stream weekly to see how these super successful investor conduct business. Occasionally, the show will feature guest sharks to take part in the negotiations with the hope of investing in a company and making a profit. One notable guest is Anne Wojcicki. While many may never have heard of her, most have heard of her company 23andMe.
Wojcicki has been a trailblazer in the biotechnology industry. Her appearance on the show not only highlighted her business acumen but also her commitment to transforming healthcare through genetics. Let’s take a look at this successful founder and guest shark.
Early Life and Education
Born in California, Wojcicki grew up in a family that valued education and inquiry. She pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Yale University, where she developed an interest in genetics and healthcare. Her early life was marked by a curiosity about the world around her, setting the stage for her future endeavors in biotechnology. Before launching 23andMe, Wojcicki gained valuable experience in healthcare investment and biotechnology. In 2005, Wojcicki married Google co-founder, Sergey Brin. Incidentally, Wojocicki’s sister Susan Wojcicki, is the CEO of YouTube.
Growth of 23andMe
In 2006, she co-founded 23andMe, aiming to make genetic testing accessible and understandable to the general public. The company revolutionized the way people approach their health. Now, people can get insights into genetic predispositions and ancestry through simple saliva-based tests. Early in the startup’s journey, Wojcicki confronted skepticism from both the public and regulatory bodies. Understandably so since the world had never really seen anything like this type of business.
The concept of direct-to-consumer genetic testing was novel. People had major concerns about privacy, data security, and the potential for misuse of genetic information. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to 23andMe, demanding the company cease providing health-related genetic reports until they had regulatory clearance.
Wojcicki then led her team in working closely with the FDA. By doing this, she addressed the regulatory concerns and also set a precedent for how genetic testing companies could operate within legal frameworks. This collaborative approach was pivotal in regaining the FDA’s approval in 2015 for 23andMe to provide genetic health risk reports.
However, Wojcicki wasn’t done. She pushed the company to evolve from offering ancestry information to providing insights into genetic health risks. She also wanted to give customers information on carrier status for certain conditions and pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomic is how genes affect a person’s response to drugs.
One of Wojcicki’s significant achievements is the role of 23andMe in research and drug development. The company’s large genetic database has become a valuable resource for medical research. In a groundbreaking move, 23andMe launched its own therapeutics division.
Anne Wojcicki on Shark Tank
Anne Wojcicki’s appearance on “Shark Tank” during Season 11 showcased her expertise and discerning investment choices. She has a history of making personal investments in numerous organizations, including a notable investment in Bristle’s seed round. This makes her no stranger to investing in growing startups.
In one of the episodes, Wojcicki reviewed several pitches. For instance, she encountered Unbuckle Me, an ergonomically designed buckle release tool for child car seats. Wojcicki offered a royalty deal with Kevin O’Leary for Unbuckle Me but lost out to Mark Cuban and Lori Grenier.
However, the most memorable proposal for Wojcicki came from Gallant, a Pennsylvania-based stem cell technology firm focused on pets. Gallant offers a service allowing pet owners to preserve their pet’s healthy stem cells at the time of spaying or neutering. These cells can be used for future medical treatments.
This was absolutely in Wojcicki’s wheelhouse. However, she knew of the challenges and expenses involved in such a direct-to-consumer healthcare service which made her hesitant. Despite her reservations, which led Daymond John to drop out of the negotiations, Wojcicki teamed up with Lori Greiner to make an offer. They initially proposed $500k for an 8% stake, eventually settling on $500k for a 5% stake after negotiation.
Since its appearance on “Shark Tank,” Gallant has grown significantly. The company, which specializes in regenerative medicine for pets, notably stem cell therapy, gained popularity post-show. Tragically, its founder, Aaron Hirschhorn, passed away in 2021, but the company has continued to thrive. As of July 2023, Gallant’s annual revenue reached $5 million, marking a considerable increase from previous years. The company’s estimated net worth is around $45 million, and it continues to operate successfully, with its headquarters in San Diego, California, employing between 11 to 50 people.
Anne Wojcicki’s journey from a curious student to a leader in biotechnology and a guest on “Shark Tank” is a testament to her vision and resilience.