The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
Ewelina Woloszyn is the founder and managing partner of AI Healthcare Capital, a PE fund focused on protecting and improving the lives of patients and healthcare professionals by revolutionizing the healthcare system through investments and acquisitions in healthcare technology. She was nominated for inclusion in “The Strong Women in IT 2021 Global Edition” and was selected by the U.S. Department of State to take part in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
IVLP is an exclusive group of participants hand-picked for their contributions and leadership. Woloszyn is also a trusted adviser with Astia, a global investment organization that is leveling the playing field for female founders. She has been featured in Forbes and was nominated to the Perspektywy Women in Tech’s “Top 100 Women in AI” list.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
Ewelina Woloszyn: The world needs women to be increasingly involved in critical decision-making processes. This extends to those in the financial industry and PE. Being involved in such processes means having a voice and more control over where we are going as nations and people. For example, by supporting the right companies using emerging technologies in healthcare, I can be part of the change and improvement of this sector. Ideally, we could not only improve but maybe even fix problems that are important for us to solve. This is a very exciting and rewarding opportunity.
Also, diversity in any industry leads to better decision-making. Different perspectives, experiences and insights can help firms see the full picture and make better decisions. Many businesses serve a diverse customer base, and having a PE team that reflects this diversity can lead to better understanding of these markets and the ability to cater to them more effectively.
Greater gender diversity in PE firms can thus influence portfolio companies toward more gender-inclusive policies and practices. It also helps close the financial gap between women and men, and female role models can encourage other women and girls to pursue their careers in the industry. As an illustration, females dominate the healthcare industry, but only a very small percentage occupy senior leadership positions.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue entrepreneurship?
EW: I know that being an entrepreneur can be challenging and demanding, but it also gives one the opportunity to work on something meaningful, following one’s heart and passion, which sometimes leads to breakthroughs or improvements never achieved before. If more women, and importantly, investors investing in women, would be part of this wave, we could create better products and services for entire generations to come. Society is going to benefit from the evolving potential of this group that historically — for many reasons — has not received enough opportunities.
In addition to bringing different perspectives, the experiences of women can lead to more innovative products and services. Successful companies also create jobs and drive economic growth. Starting a business also helps women achieve their financial independence, their goals and even their dreams.
Q: What do you think are the keys to success for women entrepreneurs?
EW: There are several critical components, starting with creating the right support system and gaining access to capital. By support system, I mean a strong networking group that will open the doors to potential investors, partners and mentors.
Another key is communication/pitching skills, polished and practiced to articulate the business idea and value proposition that will attract the right talents and resources.
Women entrepreneurs should know about alternative funding sources. Statistically, women-led companies are less likely to be funded. Gaining access to loans, grants or other resources may be crucial for the longevity of the business.
Persistence, resilience and confidence are also key traits of successful entrepreneurs.
Q: Can you share a personal story that you feel exemplifies the value of women entrepreneurship?
EW: I am a great fan of Sara Blakely and what she created with SPANX, starting with just $5,000 of her savings. I am impressed with her accomplishments, especially since she lacked previous business experience, and how she managed not only the company culture and the brand but also what she represents.
She saw a need in the market that others didn’t and created a product that millions of women now use. She faced numerous challenges along the way, but she persisted and succeeded despite them. Her success has made her a role model for aspiring women entrepreneurs around the world, showing them what’s possible.
Blakely is also an example of how a mother can be fulfilled in her personal and business lives, showing that any woman can eventually become a billionaire and have a happy family — it doesn’t need to be one or the other. You don’t have to be a billionaire, but having a great career and a family is still an option.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
EW: A few years ago, my grandma lost her battle with cancer. The diagnosis came to us in the latest stage. We did as much as we could, but it was not enough to save her.
The right diagnosis is nothing more or less than pattern recognition, which leads from symptoms to potential cause and treatment the patient should receive. I experienced firsthand how inefficient use of data that delays diagnosis leads many people to lose loved ones.
With a vision of making the healthcare system more like a trusted family friend, I decided to step up and create my firm, AI Healthcare Capital. Our core mission is to save and protect lives and help healthcare professionals and patients by applying selected emerging technologies in the healthcare industry. My motives are to help people and, I hope, prevent them from experiencing what I did with my grandmother, so they can keep their loved ones alive as long as possible. My firm and I are 100% dedicated to the healthcare space and driven to help patients navigate the care journey, optimize that journey, reduce costs and decrease the high levels of burnout among healthcare professionals.
I am excited about the better future that emerging technologies are bringing to many industries, including healthcare, and just knowing that the solutions could also bring significant change in relatively short periods of time compared to inventions in the past.
Q: What advice would you provide to a woman-led company interested in securing PE?
EW: Different PEs will support companies on different levels, so do your homework and speak with those that focus on your niche/market. It is also important to understand that a female-led company has the same or better chance of success as non-female-led companies. Create a relationship before you ask for investment and involve your partners in communication as you go and grow.
Know your investor options and communicate frequently with groups you believe have interest in the opportunity you present to better gain their attention. Be persistent and consider that everything you may have planned could take longer than you think. Demonstrate your passion, vision and execution of your strategy, and share everything that may support your vision and strategy and bring you closer to your goals. Knowing that raising money is a numbers game, prepare yourself for getting many “nos,” but don’t let this stop you. Keep going.
You must be prepared to answer any question about your vision, not just what you cover in your pitch. Have answers ready for the toughest questions you may get.
I also think there is no good leader without exceptional communication skills, as these help you find the right resources. It’s the same as being passionate about a cause and the market you are in.
It is usually better for a company to have more than one founder, if possible. The journey for a new company can be long and bumpy, so having a team and someone to rely on can help a great deal. People invest in people as much as they do ideas, so having a team with a track record provides investors with confidence. Surround yourself with people who will support you and your success.
Finally, attend industry events, look for organizations that are explicitly for female founders and find women-supported communities, including investor communities that have a mission to support more of what women have to offer.
Q: What excites you the most now?
EW: I am extremely excited about emerging technologies and how they could change healthcare for the better. I know there is a lot of conversation out there about AI, especially after the release of ChatGPT. What we must understand is that many AI-oriented companies have been around for more than 50 years, depending on the sector. AI is here to stay and will continue to expand in new, innovative ways.
In the medical/healthcare field, AI has already been used successfully to improve time needed to diagnose an illness, for clinical trial selection, in radiology and in other areas that were natural fits for AI’s ability to sort through vast amounts of data.
I am very excited about how AI is being applied to further help people in healthcare and overcome some of the big challenges facing the industry. The population is growing, but there are not enough healthcare professionals available. Not all people who need help will be able to get it on time. Additionally, we are struggling with healthcare professional burnout. These issues were magnified during but not caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, a contributing factor was the improper use of technology that had healthcare professionals spending more time on administrative tasks and less time with their patients.
Healthcare professionals got into their respective fields to help people, so I get excited looking at ways to help all the people within the healthcare system, from patients to healthcare professionals. For example, AI can automate routine administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, data entry and billing. This could reduce the administrative burden on healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus more on patient care.
AI also can support clinical decision-making by analyzing patient data to identify risk factors or recommend treatments. As for patients, AI can assist in identifying their symptoms before they go to a clinic or emergency department. It can guide patients to the appropriate care facility by location, assist with appointment availability, verify they are covered by their payer network and help with getting preauthorization.
In the past, healthcare professionals often were not included in the process of creating technology solutions. For us, it is important to include them in the process to better ensure we use data and create solutions they can trust and will find valuable rather than create new distractors.
We know that, with the help of AI solutions, we can improve access to and the delivery of better care to different groups, including the underrepresented. Let’s imagine Dr. Steve is using AI solutions that help him identify skin cancer symptoms of an ethnic group with a skin color he has never been exposed to before. This example shows how AI solutions could serve humanity and help overcome the limited data people experience during their training and/or experiences.
I strongly believe we need regulations around AI to prevent bad actors and reduce risks. Healthcare data often includes comprehensive personal information, such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses and billing information. Additionally, it can include highly sensitive health-related data like medical histories, diagnoses, treatments and prescriptions. Together, this information provides a holistic view of an individual, making it highly valuable. It is crucial to think holistically about opportunities to use this information to address the healthcare issues we face while also combating the challenges in this sector.
To contact Ewelina Woloszyn, email [email protected].