Healthtech company led by Filipino entrepreneur is rolling out a blood test that uses AI to detect ovarian cancer early and accurately

By Patricia B. Mirasol

InterVenn BioSciences recently raised US$34 million for the commercialization of a minimally invasive blood test for the early detection of ovarian cancer. The San Francisco-based healthtech company innovating on early cancer detection was co-founded by Filipino Aldo Carrascoso (pictured). Image via InterVenn BioSciences

InterVenn Biosciences, a San Francisco-based healthtech company innovating on early cancer detection, was co-founded by Filipino Aldo Carrascoso, who previously founded digital media platform Jukin Media and blockchain payment system Veem. 

InterVenn recently raised US$34 million in Series B funding, led by Anzu Partners and participated in by Genoa Ventures, Amplify Partners, True Ventures, Xeraya Capital, and the Ojjeh family (of McLaren Group fame).  

This funding will go toward commercializing the company’s minimally invasive blood test for the early detection of ovarian cancer. The test is undergoing analytical and clinical validation through the InterVenn Ovarian CAncer Liquid (V.O.C.A.L.) trial. Initial results show a more than 90% accuracy rate. 

“People always call me a serial entrepreneur because I started four companies in the past twenty years. I’m actually not a serial entrepreneur. I am a serial problem target. Problems keep finding me and I keep getting super frustrated. I just happen to find the best teammates to join me in solving very hard endeavors,” said Mr. Carrascoso.

InterVenn has one mission: to create a world where no one is blindsided by disease. 

“Whenever I start a company, it’s always five to seven years before they become mainstream,” Mr. Carrascoso told BusinessWorld

His track record bears this out: Jukin, founded in 2009, licensed viral videos before “influencers” invaded social media. Veem, meanwhile, was an early proponent of the bitcoin blockchain. “So I hope we are the first of many companies doing many wonderful things with this new science,” he said, referring to his healthtech venture.

There is no minimally invasive test at present that can accurately detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, when it is most curable. 

InterVenn’s blood test could change that with next-generation glycobiology (or the study of the structure, biosynthesis, and biology of glycans or carbohydrates), instrumentation, and deep machine learning to change the way people diagnose cancer, all with the aim of furthering research towards curing it.

Early detection generally results in a better outlook. When diagnosed and treated in stage 1, the five-year relative survival rate is 92%—yet only about 15% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in stage 1. 

Most ovarian cancer cases now are diagnosed at stage 4, where the survival rate is less than 20%. Adding to the difficulty of the early diagnosis is that the disease’s most common signs and symptoms—bloating and back pain—could also indicate a myriad of other health conditions.

The clinical trial for InterVenn’s ovarian cancer–detecting blood test, which will be available early next year in the US, is ongoing with participants from the US, Australia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The clinical validation of the V.O.C.A.L. biopsy is modeled after an early model built on a Caucasian population sample. 

“Everyone thought I was crazy… because we’re different genetically,” Mr. Carrascoso said. “When we tested the Caucasian-framed algorithm on Filipinos and Malaysians, the performance increased. The conclusion is: we’re not all that different. We’re all just the same in the eyes of disease.”

Immuno-oncology, or the study and development of treatments that take advantage of the body’s immune system to fight cancer, is next in the pipeline for InterVenn. 

The biosciences company envisions a world where individuals can be triaged and routed to the right drug, where the right therapy selection tool has the ability to have a nearly 100% predictive value for people who are going to respond to certain drugs. 

“We want to be the Tinder of drugs,” said Mr. Carrascoso. “We can match your phenotype to the right drug and technically direct you to the cure.”

This endeavor is a personal one for Mr. Carrascoso, whose mother died of breast cancer in the 1990s. Another close relative was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2016; a cousin died from triple-negative breast cancer from the wrong immunotherapy regimen this year.

“When people ask me, what is InterVenn for you? It is not a business,” he said.

When Mr. Carrascoso had a related diagnostic test done at the laboratory of his co-founder and fellow Filipino Carlito Lebrilla, a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Davis, and a fellow at the  American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mr. Carrascoso discovered it took 12 months and a roomful of people with PhDs to check one person’s blood sample. 

With his experience in software and neural networks, Mr. Carrascoso created a technology for InterVenn that marries mass spectrometry, the only tool precise enough to measure the composition and location of post-translational modifications (or the alteration in the amino acid sequence of the protein after its synthesis), with artificial intelligence powered by large, human-curated datasets.  

“Literally, this is a blue-sky opportunity,” said Mr. Carrascoso of the AI that scaled the workflow and data interpretation of mass spectrometry from 12 months to 12 minutes—a 10,000% increase in throughput. 

With this technology, a blood test will be able to tell patients—early and accurately—if they will develop a certain type of cancer. 

The same technology and science used for the ovarian cancer detection test was applied to nearly two other dozen indications—including renal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, melanoma—with reportedly similarly promising detection results. 

If the test lives up to its expectations, Mr. Carrascoso said that cancer may eventually become “like a headache.” That’s the dream.

InterVenn has teams in Silicon Valley, California, and Ortigas Center, Pasig, dedicated to its mission of creating a world where no one is blindsided by disease. 

The Ortigas-based group is in charge of information technology-related tasks such as engineering, information security, development and operations, and server system administration. 

“When someone tells you they’d rather work than sleep because they don’t want to add another moment of misery into another person’s life and family, you know you’ve got a really good team,” said Mr. Carrascoso 

“I need this to be successful,” he continued. “I couldn’t help my mom. I wanted to become a doctor. But then someone told me, tumulong ka na lang ng duktor [why not just help doctors]. People need to know what InterVenn is doing because when we become successful, the amount of lives we are going to save will be in the millions of people. I don’t say that lightly.”

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This entrepreneur developed a cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence to help people

5 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ivan Caballero is a Catalan technological serial entrepreneur who , in his fourth company, received a call from his main client, an airline, saying that they were about to close and that all the debt they had with them could not be paid, which implied firing his team of 17 people.

An hour later Ivan receives the news that he was going to be a father, that moment of shock going from business success to failure, to the feeling of absolute creation by his future fatherhood, prompted him to seek to leave a better world.

So in 2013, as a social experiment in Barcelona, he decided to validate the hypothesis that a disinterested action of help, by generating a chain effect, can transform an entire society.

So he decided to create Social Coin , a virtual currency in which, by helping someone, the person receiving this support had the commitment to help someone else, generating a chain of favors. In one year they achieved more than 500,000 positive actions with more than 20,000 social coins distributed in more than 70 countries. This social experiment became a global movement allowing you to understand what motivates people to help others.

“To want to help people, they need to have a context of what are the social needs around them, generosity can improve our life, but also that of others”, says Ivan.

After this learning, at the end of 2015 they were winners of a grant of one million euros by the European Commission with Citibeats , a project to detect through social data the real-time needs of citizens to be able to make informed decisions using intelligence artificial ethics.

They were subsequently recognized by the United Nations World Summit Award as the most innovative project in the global inclusion and empowerment section, in addition to being selected as one of the Gifted Citizens Projects in Ciudad de las Ideas , Puebla.

During 2017 they were investing the capital received by the European Commission to develop their technology in conjunction with the Spanish Artificial Intelligence Institute , launching in 2018 the first version of Citibeats.

By creating an analytics platform augmented with Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing algorithms, you can process large volumes of text data in any language and text format. The objective is to help multilateral organizations and Development Banks to react more quickly to social problems, allowing the creation of initiatives that help to solve them in a better way.

Citibeats team / Image: Courtesy Citibeats

During COVID-19 , Citibeats has collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program to detect the needs of the population, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Helping to identify needs that may be hidden in the population, for example, on April 15 the New York Times reported famine problems in Venezuela and Colombia, but the Caballero algorithm had detected it 14 days earlier.

“We have learned that one of the pillars to promote citizen participation is to understand the needs of society that is why we have created Citibeats using artificial intelligence for the massive analysis of social data in text format, but this would not make sense if we did not use this type of technologies following three pillars that we consider ethical “.

1. User privacy, avoiding collecting personal data and, if for any reason we have to do so, we immediately delete them once the analysis is completed, without generating traceability of the users who have generated this information.

2. Reduce bias, around 70% of the content generated on social networks in Latin America is by men, which skews and misrepresents the voice of women. The same occurs with certain ages and races that are not so represented in the total analysis of social networks, so we have developed our own technology to draw balanced conclusions.

3. Use cases with a positive impact on society. Many of the Artificial Intelligence tools are used to sell more, however, at Citibeats we are very clear about the importance of using these technologies for projects in which there is a positive impact on society, directly impacting people’s well-being ”, says Ivan .

According to the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Andrew Ng , “artificial intelligence is the new electricity and all industries will be impacted by it” so that every day it will play a fundamental role in our lives, being key that Directors of public and private organizations understand the possibilities that are presented to them when using this type of technology and specifically in the public sector to empower citizens to help detect the main problems and promote participation in the creation of solutions that benefit to his community and with this to the world.

As entrepreneurs, access to technologies such as artificial intelligence is democratized every day, which gives us great power to help solve the world’s great problems, but every great power implies great responsibility, which is why it is very important to detonate talks about artificial intelligence. ethics .

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5 Hard Sacrifices You Have to Make to Become a Successful Teen Entrepreneur

A 19-year-old entrepreneur breaks down what it takes to find success.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’m 19-years-old and I’ve built a £1m online business. I’ve learned that it is necessary to make some painful sacrifices in order to achieve what you what,. Here are 5 tips I’d like to share with any other young person dreaming of starting their own business or just starting on their entrepreneurial journey. 

1. Less socializing with friends and family

One of the biggest drawbacks to becoming a teen entrepreneur is that you lose your ability to socialize. It’s not that you no longer have the time (although that can be a factor.) It’s that your whole outlook on life and perspective changes. I used to hang out with school friends playing computer games and talking about pointless things, school gossip or girls but once I started my business, I gained new interests and was more aware of more meaningful issues like the ideas of the world, climate change, politics. I find it hard to relate to people my own age now and I find a lot of my friends are older, in their 30s. As an entrepreneur, your perspective changes and you think differently to other people. I’ve talked to other entrepreneurs about this and they say the same, about often feeling alienated within your own mind. You lose the ability to talk about everyday things and find yourself unable to relate to friends and family like they used to. It can be a lonely existence.

Related: 32 Proven Ways to Make Money Fast

2. Not meeting dreams of parents

I decided to follow my dream to become a teenage millionaire whilst I was still at school. I quit education at 17, leaving without any A-Levels. I was always a bright kid and my mum had aspirations for me to be the first one in our family to get a university degree. She always dreamed I’d graduate, get a fantastic job then settle down and start a family. By pursuing my entrepreneurial dream so early I’ve had to sacrifice my education, but I don’t regret this as school wasn’t teaching me what I needed to know to succeed in business. But I have sacrificed part of my mother’s dream – and that’s my only regret.

3. Your health and wellbeing

This is the one thing that’s absolutely crucial to success and you can’t be a successful entrepreneur without a healthy mind and body. Unfortunately, it’s often the thing that’s put to one side or forgotten as things take over. For me when I was younger I spent a lot of time playing computer games, then when I started working on YouTube I still spent vast amounts of time each day sat in front of a screen to the detriment of my health. I was overweight and lacked confidence but as my business started to be successful I felt better so I exercised. As I got thinner and fitter I felt better, this reflected in my work and vice versa. I now know that health should be number one and having a healthy mind and body is imperative to succeeding in business regardless of the industry.

Related: 3 Relationships That Will Build the Tribe Every Entrepreneur Deserves

4. Less mental freedom

I’m sure this is true for many working people but it’s just exacerbated when you’re an entrepreneur. To be successful you have to put 100% into your business and this means the line between work and personal life are blurred or rarely exist. I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do or tasks that need to be completed or form that need filling in. All my time is spent thinking about work, sometimes to the detriment of my personal life, which could be particularly hard for a teenager.

Related: 2 Ways to Make Money Online This Month

5. Less opportunities to be silly and have fun

I miss the vibrant social life that other teenagers have as standard. I’m busy with my business and I think I’ve just grown up faster than other people my age. As well as a busy social life I’ve missed out on the silliness and making mistakes I’ve seen others make while they’re young. When you’re a teenager it’s meant to be a time to try new things and sometimes do stupid stuff. And while I don’t regret doing some of these things I know I’ve become more sensible than maybe I should be. I still have fun and I’ve done fun things that other teenagers can only dream about, like driving my Porsche through the Californian mountains. But as I now think differently to many people my own age I feel I can’t just join in with the silliness like I used to be able to.

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Tony Hsieh: Former boss of Zappos and Las Vegas entrepreneur dies after house fire | US News

Tony Hsieh, the retired boss of fashion brand Zappos who spent years helping develop downtown Las Vegas, has died at the age of 46.

He died several days after suffering injuries in a house fire in New London, Connecticut, surrounded by his family.

A fire chief told US media that firefighters were called to the property at around 3.30am (8.30am GMT) on Friday after reports of a man trapped in a part of a house. He added they had to force their way in and remove the victim, perform CPR and then take him to hospital.

Mr Hsieh donated millions to help regenerate Las Vegas

Mr Hsieh, a Harvard graduate, joined Zappos, then called ShoeSite, in 1999, and stayed with the brand for 20 years, even after its $1.2bn (£880m) sale to Amazon in 2009.

The company shared a tribute following the announcement of his death, saying: “The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being.

“His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos.”

As well as running the fashion firm, Mr Hsieh was known for his work in redeveloping downtown Las Vegas, stumping up $350m for a regeneration project in the city in 2013, shortly after moving his company’s headquarters there.

The money he pledged helped start-ups, restaurants and other businesses get off the ground, in an effort to transform a once-neglected part of the city.

He also wrote a book called Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion And Purpose in 2010, scoring him a place at the top of the New York Times and Washington Post bestseller lists.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, led the tributes on social media, saying: “Celebrating the life while mourning the loss of my dear friend Tony Hsieh.

“Tony was a deeply original thinker always challenging me to reject conformity & follow my heart. Tony was driven by the mission of delivering happiness & brought joy to all who knew him. Rest In Peace Tony”

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos added his condolences on Instagram, saying: “The world lost you way too soon. Your curiosity, vision, and relentless focus on customers leave an indelible mark. You will be missed by so many, Tony. Rest In Peace.”

Pro skater Tony Hawk was also among those sharing memories of Mr Hsieh, writing: “A beautiful tribute to a true pioneer. Tony Hsieh was a visionary. He was generous with his time and willing to share his invaluable expertise with anyone.

“And he was very, very cool.”

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A New Podcast Brought to You by Yelp and Entrepreneur Media

Behind the Review features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences – whether positive or negative – giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings. 

3 min read

It’s no secret that customers want to have a positive experience and that owners want to receive positive reviews. With that in mind, is partnering with , a leading publication for entrepreneurs and small-business owners, to dig a little deeper on both accounts in a new called Behind the Review. Hosted by Yelp’s Small-Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, Behind the Review features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences — whether positive or negative — giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings. 

Hear the trailer below and subscribe for new episode every Thursdays.

Hear from plumbers, florists, salon owners, restaurateurs, fitness entrepreneurs, and more about how they create unique customer experiences, providing takeaways that business owners in any industry can apply to their own operations. 

In one of our first episodes, you’ll hear from Chris Goode, the founder and CEO of Ruby Jean’s Kitchen & Juicery in Kansas City, Mo:

You gotta listen because what you can’t be is a know-it-all. If you have people that have spent their money at your business and they’re giving you real time feedback, you need to listen. And sometimes it hurts to listen. It’s like, ‘You could have been a little nicer, but you’re right.’

Through the eyes of the reviewer, listeners will get a first-hand account of the customer’s experience, not just what’s written in their review. The podcast will explore why they were compelled to review the business in the first place, if an issue was resolved, what about their experience was unique, and what other business owners can learn from the customer’s perspective.

Going “behind the review” sheds light on why some experiences lead to reviews — good, bad and inbetween — and what that means for consumers and business owners alike. 

Our starting lineup includes a florist sharing a truly unforgettable experience with a customer and why going the extra mile pays off; a teacher whose review of a new local spot inspired positive change; a heating and cooling specialist who takes the time to respond to customer messages within hours; and a makeup and beauty bar that celebrates diversity and uniqueness in clients.

Check out the trailer and be one of the first to subscribe and listen on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher and Soundcloud. New episodes are added every Thursday, starting November 12th. 

Lastly, a special thank you to Yelp’s own Senior Manager, Ali Schwartz, for composing the podcast theme song.

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Q&A: Young entrepreneur turns up the heat at family business

This week we chat to Alex Tyson, a young man who has taken over the
running of family business iHealth Saunas and putting his own stamp on the

ISB: Please tell us about the backstory of the company before you
“took the reins”.

AT: My parents Peter and Miriam originally sold infrared sauna for a
European manufacturer between 2002 and 2008. As they were only a distributor,
they were ultimately hamstrung in the quality of product and service they could
provide. In 2008 they created iHealth Saunas. Utilising his 30 years SME
business experience my father started up the company in the best way he knew
how: here’s a product we sell, push for the deal, get the sale… it was an old
school style of business and it worked for most of his life. However, it was
clear to me when I began working closely with him that this style of doing
business was on the way out.

ISB: What is the point of difference of iHealth saunas compared to
others in the market?

AT: We don’t just flog you a sauna. We specialise in infrared saunas
with a focus on helping our clients optimise their health. It was clear to me
from the start that we don’t really sell saunas, we sell the lifestyle that
goes along with sauna ownership. We help people improve their health. We focus
on giving people the tools to live healthily through the highest-quality infrared
saunas and the latest health education. People who are looking into infrared sauna
are doing so as a way to better look after themselves, so we double down on
this with our sauna guide, regular online webinars with health professionals
and our Sweat It Out podcast.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced when you took over the
running of the business, and how did you overcome it?

AT: The biggest challenged I faced when taking over the business was
culture. I had a vision, but for it to be achieved I needed people who believed
in it. However, the business was old school. Arguments about commission, people
not believing in the product, no one properly being looked after, it wasn’t a
nice place to work and it felt as if every second day the was a blue between
staff. I had also taken over the business when I was 24 and so, although I had

several years working alongside my father, I would have been ignorant to think
I knew how to run a business. At the time I took over, the business had over
$500k in debt without a sales process to leverage or an overdraft to utilise.

So, I worked hard to change the culture. I knew that if I had a team
that believed in what we were doing, believed in me, we could do anything.
Those who were not promotable were let go and over time we had an energised
team who enjoyed doing their work and believed in the importance of what we
were doing. I also underwent training with DENT through their “key person of
influence program” and took on a business mentor. Through focus and belief, we
were able to turn things around.

ISB: How do you envisage the business developing in the next couple of

AT: We are currently going through a significant
growth phase. And I see this continuing as we continue to shake up the sauna
market with our health education and focus on customer experience.

Besides the growth in our sales and logistics, I
see us doubling down on the customer experience. How can we make sauna even
easier to use through app development? How can we more easily deliver our
health content in a more digestible way which integrates with customer sauna

Our mission is to provide healthy lifestylers a
platform to live continuously healthy on. And so, my focus remains on how we can
continue to improve the quality of life for Australians through what we do.

ISB: Finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your
journey you’d share with other young entrepreneurs looking to run their own

AT: Culture is king. If there is someone not happy, deal with it. The
bad apple really does spoil the batch. As soon as you get the sniff someone is
not happy, look after them, listen to them, and take action on whatever you
find. When you need people to take drastic action, like we had to during COVID
this year, it is much easier if your team is on side and motivated.

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Latina Makes History Rising From Poverty To Pot Entrepreneur

Cindy De La Vega’s voice breaks as she recalls what it was like to grow up in San Francisco’s notorious Sunnydale Development. Known as “The Swamp” or “The Dale,” the 50-acre tract of dilapidated public housing still makes up the city’s poorest and most isolated neighborhood. As a little girl, De La Vega says she fell asleep many nights on the floor curled up next to her mother on a mattress. It was the only way to guard against the stray bullets they worried would pierce their bedroom window.

As an aimless teen in mid-Nineties, De La Vega nearly dropped out of Balboa High School until a compassionate guidance counselor intervened. He encouraged her to join United Playaz, a local mentoring program where she could count on a hot meal and a willing ear. Later, when she struggled with domestic violence at the hands of a partner, her older sister helped her escape from her abuser and begin to rebuild her life.

Although she and her family eventually moved out of their Sunnydale apartment, they stayed in the old neighborhood. Her zip code was one of the reasons she became a prime candidate to apply for a shot to open a business in the city’s flourishing new cannabis industry under an entrepreneurship program aimed at helping the city’s poorest citizens. Through sheer will, assistance from the San Francisco Equity Program and financial backing from vertically-integrated cannabis company, The Shryne Group, De La Vega made history this month as the first Latina to operate a cannabis retail shop in the city.

“My message is you have to be strong and keep fighting and do not give up,” the 38-year-old mom of two said in an emotional telephone interview the week before the ribbon cutting for her glossy new Stiizy storefront in busy Union Square.

De La Vega’s foray into the legal cannabis industry is notable at a time when states that have commercialized the drug in recent years have struggled with how to make the wealth-generating opportunities of cannabis more equitable, especially for people of color, families affected by incarceration or convictions for low level pot crimes, and those who have ties to neighborhoods disproportionately targeted by prohibition like De La Vega. The potential profits could be life-altering. The Marijuana Business Factbook estimates that legal sales of both medical and recreational marijuana in US will exceed $15B in revenue in 2020. But a majority of the industry’s biggest players are run by white, male executives and boards.

With this in mind, the city and county of San Francisco set out to diversify its local pot businesses and to repair the harm of the cannabis criminalization on communities of color. In a 2017 report, the city’s Human Rights Commission stated, “poverty, education gaps and criminal records are the vestiges of explicitly and implicitly racist enforcement policies.” The local government created a program to cultivate economic development opportunities for San Francisco’s most impoverished neighborhoods and its residents. De La Vega, whose family originally immigrated from Mexico, qualified under several criteria. The program has been criticized for its slow roll-out. Eleven equity licenses have been granted over three years with 277 applications still under review, according to a recent story by SF Weekly. This, as other cities around the California, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, continue to work through the challenges of issuing specialized permits under similar initiatives.

“We need reduced costs for licenses. We need to give them (applicants) special training in technology and the applications process,” explains Gina Kranwinkel, president and CEO of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, which conducted a recent study of ten social equity programs across the US and offered new guidelines to help local governments make the initiatives more transparent and accountable. Challenges to help marginalized groups move into the industry have persisted in other states including Massachusetts and Illinois. Colorado lawmakers only approved a program to prioritize minority applicants in July. And the issue is on the 2020 ballot in Arizona and New Jersey, where voters are considering referenda to legalize adult-use including provisions to make the industry more equitable.

One of the biggest hurdles for social equity applicants, including De La Vega, is access to low-interest loans and also guidance when assessing potential investment partners says Kranwinkel. The federally illicit status of cannabis has kept most banks on the sidelines and financing options are scarce for entrepreneurs who, like De La Vega, don’t come from money. Without the net worth and collateral to lease property for her potential business as she waited three years to line up the approvals to open, De La Vega was forced to look for partners. She says the process was overwhelming, confusing and intimidating. There were times she thought she might just give up.

“How was I supposed to secure a location in 2017? I had no money. And then I had investors and companies throwing money at me,” she explained of trying to navigate a cut-throat and complicated business she didn’t fully understand at that time.

She says if it wasn’t for advice from the Equity Program, she would not have found investors who wanted to help educate and train her in all aspects of the business so she could run it. De La Vega owns 40% of the new shop and The Shryne Group retains the balance. Prior to opening, she shadowed the company’s employees for close to two years to gain hand-on experience in management.

“My message to equity applicants is don’t sell out. This is an important platform and you have to do the work,” she advises to other people who may qualify for the program in other states and cities.

With the dispensary doors open, De La Vegas says she looks forward to helping the community where she grew up. She serves on the board of the United Playaz, the program that kept her from becoming a high school dropout and will help raise money to support the charity. More than anything, she hopes her story will inspire her two daughters, her neighbors and other women struggling with poverty and domestic abuse.

“Look, Cindy De La Vega made it,” she says with pride to future applicants, “I came from the same place that you guys come from. I look like you guys. I don’t have millions of dollars. Look, I am a CEO now. I am a business owner.’ And they are going to look at that and say, ‘This is possible. This can work because it is already working with me.”

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Leaving the family business to grow my inner entrepreneur

If you’ve ever bought frozen dumplings from a supermarket or an Asian grocery store, chances are they are Mr Chen’s, a Chinese food brand named after my entrepreneurial dad, who started a wholesale business in the 1980s to bring his favourite foods to Australia.

As a teenager, I spent time working in the warehouse with my siblings, learning the ins and outs of the business. In my early 20s, after some experience in the IT industry, I quit my job to work in the family business. Within a couple of years, however, I decided to venture out on my own and ended up in a successful venture with my friend Tim Molloy, who has been my co-founder on several businesses throughout the years. So how did I go from the family business to striking out on my own?

Dynamic matters

Working in the family business taught me that dynamic matters. I am the youngest of four children. While we were all adults, you can probably guess where I was in the pecking order.

To take risks, make key decisions and assume responsibility, I knew I had to do it outside of the established hierarchy. Firstly, it meant that I would impact – positively or negatively – something of my own instead of risking the family legacy. Secondly, outside of the family dynamic, I could take more control. With Tim, I found joint responsibility and shared leadership as equal partners.

Today, there’s no love lost having left. I’m still involved in the family business, but my sisters run Chen Foods and do it well while I’m happy forging my own path with Good Things.

Find your working style

Another factor that attracted me to follow my own path was that the structure of a day at Chen Foods is quite formal, with set hours and duties, due to the nature of the sector. Working in the family business taught me a lot about hard work and setting up strong systems and processes.

Comparatively though, the way Tim and I work in Good Things developed organically. While we manage our leads and clients in a timely manner, we don’t necessarily count hours, and we’re flexible with doing what we need to do to build our business.

Prepare for reality

No business survives close to four decades without a few challenges and lean times. I saw the hard knocks as well as the successes of Chen Foods, which meant I had my eyes open to the reality of business when I headed out on my own. I knew any problem in the business would be my problem by default and I would need to work through them to find a solution.

As a result, Tim and I have learnt to seize opportunities when we see them because we’ve had to ride out major changes in our market. For example, more than a decade ago we had a thriving business selling neckties, then a combination of the global financial crisis and a fashion movement away from ties almost killed it. We pivoted, which became the seed for the branded merchandise agency we have today, Good Things.

Growing up in a family business enabled me to see what it was like to build something, which compelled me to create something of my own. If you have the good fortune to work in the family business – whether or not you end up there – learn everything you can from the experience so you can hone your skills and find your place. If nothing else, it’s a free training opportunity not many others get, so don’t waste it.

Jeremy Chen, Co-founder and Managing Director, Good Things

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