Up & Running with Ann Holder, Founder & CEO, Odonata Health

Ann Holder, CEO, Odonata Medical, is a Medical Device Executive with a rich background in sales, marketing, finance and operations.  Ann began her career in the US Army after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

In healthcare, Ann worked for Medtronic in a variety of roles in sales, finance and business development and was an executive at a start-up. Most recently she has been helping companies commercialize in the U.S. while focused on developing fetal monitoring technology with the Mayo Clinic.

Prior to Ann’s career in healthcare, Ann worked in the consumer goods industry and in telecommunications for General Mills, Mars Inc, Pepsi and ADC in engineering, manufacturing operations, and supply chain. 

What is Odonata Health’s elevator pitch?

Odonata Health is dedicated to improving the experience and outcomes of pregnant women via novel technology that accurately measures maternal and fetal vital statistics during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The company is committed to improving maternal and fetal health outcomes and working to ensure access to its technology in traditionally under-served communities.

How does your company’s technology address the global maternal morbidity and mortality?

Despite $50 billion in annual spending for prenatal and postpartum care, the U.S. is  one of eight countries with increasing maternal mortality and morbidity. Significant disparities exist across racial/ethnic groups and in rural areas due to lack of access to healthcare or missed or delayed diagnoses. In the US, over 700 women die in childbirth per year. Many of these deaths are preventable with more timely detection of complications and reduction in unnecessary C-sections.

Current monitoring methods for both mother and baby are antiquated and can provide unreliable and inaccurate information. Odonata is developing superior sensing technology with proprietary, FDA-cleared and patented sensors that capture biometric signals and gather more reliable, actionable data, both in person and remotely.

What is deeptech and how is it used in healthcare?

Deeptech refers to companies focused on engineering and scientific innovation. In our case, Odonata is using proprietary sensor technology coupled with sophisticated algorithms, AI, deep learning and big data to give physicians more information about mothers and their babies during pregnancy.

What inspired you to found Odonata Health?

Fetal monitoring is still in the dark ages in certain parts of the world. Even in the U.S., the most advanced country in the world, it’s surprising how behind the times the technology is in this area. I was inspired to start the company by working with doctors at the Mayo Clinic who were innovating technology that could be commercialized and address this problem. I wanted to use my problem-solving skills. And I am also a mother of four children, so personally I was motivated to help other women and children. Mortality because of inadequate monitoring of mothers’ and babies’ health is not necessary. I am inspired by knowing there is a solution to this problem, and I can work on making the solution a reality worldwide.

You were just named a finalist in the Female Founders Competition, tell us more about this program and what it means for you and your company?

This is the second year Microsoft’s venture fund and other key partners have held a competition to recognize and award funding to promising female-founded startups in the earliest stage. The competition is global in nature. Given the significance of the program, and those involved, this is a huge opportunity for a small company. I’m particularly proud of our team and the technology we’ve created because this is the first year the competition has had a deeptech category, and we’ve been named to it in the inaugural year.

In 2018, only 2.3% of venture capital dollars went to companies founded solely by women. Does that reality track with what you’re seeing and your experience thus far?    

It’s hard to generalize as a first-time CEO and first-time fundraiser. The reality is that it is already tough for first-timers like me with an early stage company. When you add the fact that I’m also a female founder, and the research bears it out, it can be even harder than it should be. With this award and with some of the women investors I have found, I also see the positive side of the community pushing to correct this statistic.

What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for Odonata Health?

We plan to raise additional capital this year to advance the development of our first product. An additional large round of capital raising is also planned concurrent with our FDA clearance and initial product launch. We anticipate Odonata’s product will be launched in 2021 into the large and growing $2 billion+ global market for maternal and fetal monitoring.

What does leadership look like to you? 

Leadership is building teams where people with complimentary gifts are allowed to use them to their full potential.

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

The best advice I received was to follow my passions and do what I love, even if it means taking risks. The worst advice I ever received was to avoid risk, which is what I heard from several people. If I hadn’t taken risks, I wouldn’t be doing what I love.

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

An ongoing goal for me is to take everything one day at a time. Of course, I have many objectives and I need to drive this company forward, but in the ever-changing world that we live in, I want to focus on giving my best effort today.

How do you relax / decompress? 

Spending time with my family which usually includes sporting events, regular exercise, and photography.

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community?

The networking is tremendous. I’ve met so many people and companies through Medical Alley who are helping propel Odonata. As an early stage company, there are so many resources that are needed. Medical Alley has been important in directing me. I have to give a shout out to Frank Juskulke for all his help and support!

Up & Running is an interview series with Medical Alley’s early stage leaders on what they see as the future of healthcare and why their company is well-positioned to be part of it. Medical Alley Association’s membership includes leaders in healthcare delivery, payment, technology, and policy, which gives us – and in turn, you – access to diverse perspectives on how healthcare is changing and what lies ahead.

Medical Alley is the global epicenter of health innovation and care; Up & Running, is meant to share insights and spark discussion. If you have a perspective on the future of healthcare, feel free to share it by reaching out to Jamie Oyen at joyen@medicalalley.org

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