Kathy Tye considers herself an artist. Not the oil paints on canvas type, though.
A native of Toronto, Canada, the 26-year-old co-founded her first company, Ranomics, at the age of 18. Provides health risk predictions based on people’s genetic data and has now raised more than $1 million, according to Crunchbase. He founded his second company, Locke Bio, on “Shopify” 23 for pharmaceutical and other companies selling FDA approved drugs.
For Tie, art and creativity are not as on-the-nose as writing in Iambic pentameter or dancing at Lincoln Center. It’s about seeing the bigger picture across the various industries he’s a part of and being able to be “interdisciplinary. and marry concepts from different industries,” she says.
“I’ve always loved bringing ideas together and seeing connections that other people don’t see,” she says, explaining how science can be advanced in the startup world and business models can be built accordingly. “It is, I think, more of an art and a creative process than a technical thing.”
Here’s how the entrepreneur, now based in Los Angeles, has leaned on his creative, big-picture thinking to find success in fields like tech and science.
In a tie for 14 were cold-email professors
Ty started learning about his industries early in his high school years.
“I’ve always loved science, especially biology and chemistry, and I’ve loved building from a young age,” she says. But she noticed that the science courses taught at the school didn’t include much hands-on learning. Instead, it was mostly memorized from textbooks.
Always a big picture thinker, it was in his freshman year of high school that Ty decided to cold email professors at the University of Toronto to see if he would be allowed to spend time in their lab, do some research, and do some research. Help them with a project here and there.
His work at the university led him to publish his first paper at the age of 16 in a peer-reviewed journal in the field of immunology related to the human immune system.
It also led her to a realization: “In research, especially academia, you’re constrained by the system of academic grants,” she says. That is, if she wanted to continue researching in that world, she would be limited. But getting funding as an entrepreneur gives him the freedom to do whatever kind of research he wants.
She has been accepted into young entrepreneur programs
As Ty began to connect the dots of what she wanted to make an impact in the startup world, she also began applying to programs that would help make this concept a reality.
Ty had the basic idea for Ranomics, a way to solve some of the problems companies like 23andMe had when it came to the accuracy of their genetic tests, when she was a freshman at the University of Toronto. He co-founded Leo Wan, Ph.D. student at the university, through a startup competition, and both were accepted into IndieBio, a startup program that provides funding and guidance to entrepreneurs in science.
Ty dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco to pursue an opportunity and became Ranomics’ CEO for the first three years. He was also invited to apply and was later admitted The Thiel Fellowship, which awards $100,000 in grants directly (not to their businesses) to college dropouts or exiting young entrepreneurs over a two-year period.
“On the journey of building Renomics, I learned a lot about startups, selling in pharma, how to build a profitable company,” she says. All of which would come into play in his next ventures.
Starting Shopify for Pharma
At age 21, Ty was offered a position as a partner at Servin Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on software-as-a-service, technologies such as Salesforce and Slack.
After a year there, he felt the itch to reinvent himself, and decided to explore opportunities within the digital health space, combining the SaaS and science worlds he knew. And Tie was no simpler way to build an online store for those who wanted to sell FDA-approved drugs in a compliant way, than Shopify was for pharmaceutical companies, as it were.
“Shopify really took the problem where everyone had to build their websites, theirs [customer relationship management software]Their payment processing from scratch, and built a platform where you don’t have to be a techie,” she says. “We’re doing the same thing for the telehealth and online pharmacy industry.”
Locke Bio is now backed by three venture capital funds in the US and Canada, according to PitchBook, but is not currently publicly sharing fundraising details.
‘When you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t really see the big picture’
Tie Locke is excited about Bio’s future and the various product expansions she and her team have planned. But the company’s success and the success before it all didn’t come without obstacles.
“I think early in my career I definitely stepped really hard on the gas and worked those hard hours, like 100 hours a week,” she says. But, “I realized that was not sustainable because when you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t really see the big picture.”
That’s where the mentality of the artist came from.
“Like the way artists make music, inspiration comes at random hours of the day. It could be 2 a.m., it could be while you’re in the shower,” she says. But he must make time for those off-hours where ideas can flow freely.
These days, he’ll put those long days into the weeks when it’s called for, but, otherwise, Ty makes sure to work at least a 40-hour week to get that off-time.
“It’s about taking those sprints, working hard when I need to, and then being able to reflect on everything I’ve learned,” she says.
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