TCA Spring 2021 Community Newsletter

TCA Member Spotlight: Dr. Shadi Battah

Dr. Shadi Battah (pictured with his wife Carisa) is an Intensivist with the Alaska Hospitalist Group, as well as an active angel investor.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you end up where you are today?

I come from a middle class family. My parents are both educated and focused on education and achievement. My dad is an electrical engineer, and my mom is a sociologist. I have three sisters and one brother. I was born in Lebanon and lived most of my life in Jordan where I went to high school and medical school. Shortly after graduating I came to the States to pursue internal medicine. I was in Cincinnati OH for three years, and then I went to Albuquerque NM for a specialization in pulmonary and critical care medicine. I spent three years there. So that’s my education track.

Shortly after finishing in New Mexico I went to Alaska to start practicing critical care medicine. I followed in the steps of two of my previous colleagues who were trained at UNM and ended up in Alaska, I figured I might as well go and check it out, and little I’ve known that I’ll meet my wife there and end up spending the majority of the past decade in the last frontier!

As I developed my non-clinical skills, I started getting interested in health care innovation, and I always liked the entrepreneurial aspect of small business, so I started dabbling in angel investing using public platforms around 2014 – like Angelist, WeFunder, and Funder’s Club. Just to try and stay on the cutting edge of things. I also did a couple of projects in real estate on the East coast with one of my friends.

I eventually ended up putting together a small fund with a group of my colleagues. I’m managing the fund and allocating with a focus on investing in healthcare (especially digital health) and tech.

 

Can you talk about your reasoning for creating the fund?

I really believe that health care innovation is very needed, and we need to look at solutions that achieve what the Institute for Healthcare Improvement calls the “quadruple aim”; solutions that provide better patient care, improve the quality of care, at a lower cost, while giving both the patient and the health care provider the best experience possible in terms of the interaction and communication. That’s my basic screening tool.

The other aspect is that I’m a big believer in the middle class and small business. I can put my money in many places, but I prefer investing in entrepreneurial hard-working people, in the local economy, and in real job creation. Startup investing is risky, but at the same time I know the money goes directly to actual people, to creates jobs, and to creates the potential for change. That’s the nuts and bolts of why I’m doing this.

 

Is managing that fund something you’re looking to bring more people in and expand on, or is it more of a sideline for you?

Let’s put it like this: COVID-19 last year derailed my timeframe quite a bit, because I’ve been heavily involved at the bedside taking care of patients. The situation created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and there was a lot of time spent on managing the consequences of the COVID pandemic, which didn’t leave much for other aspects of what I like to do. At the same time, COVID accelerated adoption of digital healthcare platforms and telemedicine, there has been that kind of activity.

Going forward I am thinking about how to further this part of my investing journey. Possibly consulting, and raising larger rounds. But it’s a moving target right now, I’m not sure to be honest.

I’m also pursuing my MBA. I’m more than halfway done, and it’s through University of Massachusetts, I’m learning a ton and I think that’ll really help me make a better-educated decision in how to proceed.

But you know, I love clinical medicine, and I love the bedside, taking care of patients, talking to families, seeing people get better, or if they’re not getting better, helping them through end-of-life situations. Even if I end up spending more time in Ventura capital , I always want to have my hands on the pulse of the healthcare industry and the best way to do that is to continue to be engaged on the clinical care side, at all times. The nature of what I do allows me to scale my number of shifts up and down depending on what else is going on in my life, which is a blessing because it’s not an option for a lot of people.

My perspective, right now at least, is that I want to always be involved in clinical medicine, and telemedicine, even if not in the same capacity or total number of hours that I’m spending now. I think keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the clinical side comes in handy for an administrative job in healthcare in terms of recognizing what’s necessary and what areas need innovation.

 

How did you end up joining TCA?

One of my friends in New York told introduced me to Eugune Cho, the CEO of Discover Echo. I ended up syndicating some money alongside TCA’s investment. TCA was the lead investor, and I met Dean Rosenberg over the phone, discussing TCA’s due diligence. Eventually I was introduced to Ashok and Sergio. I really liked the conversations and people a lot, and few years ago ended up becoming a remote TCA member.

 

Tell us a little about your family.

I’m married, we have three boys. My wife Carisa took a unique path in her education. She did her undergrad in psychology (with minor in math and biochemistry) at USD, and after working in psychology for few years, she went to school to pursue nursing, and most recently completed her masters degree in nursing education and was an adjunct professor at University of Alaska.

My three boys are Sami, Ramzi, and Zayne. They’re all young (6, 4, and 2 years of age), and keep us super busy. We’re hoping as life goes back to some kind of normalcy and the kids go back to school that Carisa will be able to resume her work in nursing education or some clinical nursing in a part-time capacity, hopefully in the next two or three years.

 

Is Carisa also interested in the business and investment side of healthcare?

She says that she doesn’t like the business side of things, that she’s more focused on the educational aspects of healthcare, but I find myself often bouncing ideas off of her, especially when it comes to tech platforms that have something to do with social media or e-commerce. She has a good eye for what might take off. I find myself often reflecting on her use of certain apps – a while ago I ended up investing in a pre-IPO company based on her recommendation after using the app and experiencing their service, and it did REALLY well after the IPO. So she has a good eye for things, but she doesn’t really want to get too far into it.

 

You’re relocating to California. Will you be coming to San Diego?

We have family in the Bay Area, including Carisa’s grandmother – who is 97 – so we are trying to spend as much time with her as possible. We live next door to her right now. Down the line I think we are very interested in moving to San Diego, considering my wife’s love affair with the city – she loves San Diego, and she always talks about the city, I think the 4 years she spent there in undergrad had a profound impact on her. Not to mention she loves the weather as well. For me, being part of the TCA Community has been extremely valuable: the amount of learning I’ve done the past three years has been amazing, and the people I’ve met and connected with and became friends with is invaluable to me. I think moving to San Diego would be a natural transition when the time is right.

 

What did you do for fun pre-COVID, and what are you doing these days? 

Pre-COVID I played a lot of soccer, both indoors and outdoors. That’s actually how Carisa and I met; we met for the first time during a coed game in November 2010. We’ve been playing together ever since, though sometimes on different teams. Soccer has always been a big part of my life; unfortunately COVID has thrown a big wrench into that. Chess has also been a big part of my life, I’ve been playing since I was 5 after my dad taught me. He was a good player – it took me like 10 years to beat him! I play chess almost daily, one short game per day, it’s my way to decompress. I also love to read – nonfiction, with focus on economics, politics, and philosophy. I read a lot in healthcare as well obviously.

We’ve been doing a lot of hiking whenever we have the chance. We go to places that the kids can hike with us too, we can’t be as crazy as we were ten years ago. We’ve done some mountain climbing in Alaska, but we haven’t done much since the kids. I also used to mountain bike a bit when I was in Albuquerque. Carisa is a great snowboarder and skier, and did some skydiving when she was in San Diego a while ago!It’s hard for me to watch her snowboard sometimes because it can be pretty scary –  she’s very good and she takes on the difficult paths. We like to travel a lot, to Europe, and the Middle East to visit my parents as well. After we beat COVID, and we can resume flying internationally, I’d like to reconnect with my siblings. They’re scattered all over the place. One of my sisters is in Canada, another is in Finland, my brother and other sister are in Amman, Jordan near my parents… Hopefully soon we can see them.

 

Can you share your opinion of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Our historical experience with coronaviruses is that they mutate, and with enough mutations it can impact the efficacy of the vaccine. I think about risk in a Swiss cheese model: to prevent an unfavorable outcome (infection in this case) we need as many layers of protection as possible. That way there are no perfect holes that can alights go through all the layers leading to a bad outcome. Vaccines are one layer, the mask is another, minimizing gatherings and social distancing is another… All of those precautions are important, and it’s prudent for all of us to continue to think in that direction because we still don’t know how things are going to unfold. We already have a couple variants and there are reports already about the concern over reduced efficacy of the current vaccine against the South African variant .

Now whether the vaccine will make a dent on transmission, that remains to be seen. It depends on how fast we can roll it out, and how many people will agree to take it, and how fast the virus is going to mutate. That’s a wild card. I’m almost certain that we’re going to be talking about a yearly COVID shot as more variants show up. When we get to the point that there’s a variant for which the vaccine is only 30% effective (let’s say), it becomes difficult to control these variants without putting together a new vaccine

At that point you start thinking, okay, we need to develop a COVID vaccine with one or two new mRNAs to reflect the changes in the viral structure, similar to what we do with the flu shot. Based on immunological studies and data, we decide which variants we include in the vaccine. Luckily working with mRNA will give us more flexibility. We’re manufacturing the vaccine now, versus growing a virus in a chicken egg (like flu vaccines). That’s a silver lining – in addition to pushing digital health care and telemedicine on the adoption curve, COVID has advanced vaccination science by years. The advancement in the use of mRNA technology is really exciting, with vaccine development as well as potential impact on use of mRNA in cancer treatment. I’m hoping the tech will allow us to adjust as needed, because I’m sure we’re going to get to a point where we need a new round of COVID vaccines.

 

Is there any message you’d like to leave us with?

In between the pandemic and the health care outcomes and the economic outcomes, there’s a lot of fragility and a lot of divisions, but the way I look at it, we’re all in it together. Whether you are on the right or the left, from here or there, we all live under the same sky, and we face the  consequences of our decisions collectively and together.

It’s time to embrace each other in this environment and focus on what really matters, on how to carry along with this American experiment. It is unique, it is the only place that I want to be, but you know, nothing can be taken for granted, things need to be protected and worked on. We are in a time where we need to rethink how to really protect the middle class, how to best advance the economy at a time when tech is changing so fast that it’s rendering a lot of people outside of the new economy, leading to things like prolonged structural unemployment.

How do we deal with this? How do we deal with the fact that the infrastructure and industrial base has been gutted over the past two or three decades, as we’ve transitioned to a nearly full-service economy? Also, COVID has exposed issues related to reliance on the extended global supply chains. The lesson is to think local. Think regional, support small business, think about neighborhood and community. I only do as well as my neighbor is doing. Let’s embrace each another, despite the political polarization and fragility that we see. We need to come together and agree on facts, truths and science, and move forward.

TCA Sponsor Feature: Ascent Private Capital Management

Jonathan Miles (4th from right) and the Ascent team

 

Tell us about Ascent, what services can you provide that TCA members would benefit from?

Ascent was set up by U.S. Bank in 2011 to help our largest clients manage the sustainability of family wealth. We’re designed to solve for sustaining family wealth for multiple generations. A lot of times, wealthy families are subject to the “three generation rule” – shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. We were established as a boutique within the bank to work with families, $75 million and up, to help them with their banking, investments, financial management, and ‘wealth sustainability services.’ Some of these are services offered by other boutique family-office-oriented firms on an à la carte basis, while our approach is to take a team approach and customize the engagement for each family. Whereas many other firms focus on offering individual services such as managing a portfolio or lending money, our focus is on serving as a family’s financial home, for current and future generations.

I’m part of a team focused on California and split my time between San Diego and Los Angeles. Most of our team is in San Diego while we also have people in Newport Beach and San Francisco. Virtually everything a client may need is provided by people on our team. Our team includes five managing directors who service every client as a team: Investments, Banking, CFO Services, Wealth Sustainability, Client Experience.  Even though a client may not have investments, I’m still involved to help add perspective on the economy and investments, and add context for other decisions. That’s probably one of the big differentiators for us, as we think about who our competitors are in the market. We don’t fly people in from New York or from Chicago; a lot of the expertise clients need is already on the team. In addition, there are additional investment, banking, wealth planning, charitable services, trust services, etc, at the national Ascent and U.S Bank level. We’re a boutique with the footprint of much larger organization. We work with individuals, families, family offices and family foundations, and non-profits in our local communities.

What unique skills and experience do you bring to the table for Ascent, and what value can you add for your clients?

My background is institutionally focused. Prior to Ascent I was in institutional consulting specializing in alternative investments. Most recently with Wilshire Associates in Los Angeles (national investment consulting firm) and prior to that I was at Mercer in Chicago (another consulting firm.) Prior to moving into advising other investors I was at a hedge fund for many years trading credit and option strategies. An institutional consulting background is very relevant for our clients. We think of our families as institutions because they need to think multi-generationally, just like a foundation or endowment, taking advantage of their scale and investment horizon versus the average individual investor. Not only do they need to think differently, there is the added complexity of taxes, potentially the distraction of still operating a business, issues of how best to transfer that business to the next generation, or even how to maximize the after-tax wealth of the next generation. We’re always looking for the most tax-efficient way to achieve these and other goals. Our team solves problems like these regularly.

From an investment perspective, I have a heavy alternatives background, as do many my investment peers across the firm. Investing in alternatives is an important part of many client portfolios given the variety of strategies and opportunity for higher returns. This is a big part of why I’m involved with TCA. TCA is startup venture capital, which is not a common thing for most retail investors. It’s more of an angel investor/institutional marketplace. That’s where my interest and desire to work with TCA comes from: confluence of my interest in alternatives, supporting entrepreneurs , and being a part of the San Diego start-up/venture ecosystem. I think I said this on the panel I did with Caitlin, is that being part of the ecosystem is very important for us and we want to support this community.

I moved to San Diego to join Ascent and become part of the San Diego community, joining and supporting TCA was something I advocated for with management. I’ve been here for two years, I moved for a lifestyle and career change. I like San Diego so much better than Los Angeles. I have two kids, they’re still in Los Angeles, and most of my free time is spent with them so my hobbies went on the backburner: my hobbies are being with them, doing what they want to do. I end up doing a lot of Lego model building and crafting. If you come to my house, it’s full of models and crafts my kids and I do together. I don’t miss L.A. all that much – but please don’t tell the Angelinos!

My specific interest in early stage investing is that I have a history of being entrepreneurial and prior to my decision to go into trading, I was president of my college’s Entrepreneurship Association and even started a couple of businesses. One of them was an idea for fundraising to help pay for the entrepreneurship association and other clubs. I had a marketing plan and support from other student organizations but the school had a contract with the bookstore on campus and they didn’t appreciate what I was doing, even though I was trying to help the organizations raise money.

After college I ended up going into investments, focused on trading and the markets. I went down that path because investors are accountable at the end of the day, the P&L, I either made money or didn’t. It’s similar to being an entrepreneur in that you have an idea, you execute on it, and it’s successful or not. In my mind it’s parallel because you’re taking control over the outcome of your life, not letting someone else decide. A successful entrepreneur, like a successful trader, has the skills to figure out how to make money. One reads the capital markets, the other reads commercial markets, both have a view on where their markets are going . Coming full circle to where we are today, when I heard about TCA I thought “I want to be a part of this.” I can’t necessarily be an entrepreneur – but I can make the most of the path I’m on by being part of the organization.  My entrepreneurial spirit led me to join Ascent to help build an office that had no AUM. I approached it as an entrepreneurial decision.

 

TCA San Diego Community Newsletter – Winter 2020

As we’re finally ready to wrap up this surreal year, it’s worth a moment to take stock of what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, what we’ve learned, and how we’ll adapt.

We entered 2020 primed for TCA’s biggest and most active year yet. We did, in fact, achieve those goals, though we never could have imagined how they would come to pass.

Our ACE 20 Annual Fund was extremely active at the start of the year – we invested nearly $2.6M before COVID-19 changed everything. Even with a complete halt of our in-person activities, we invested another $800,000 in the two following months.

Adapting to the new normal, we embarked upon a massively successful shift to 100% virtual operations including happy hours, educational seminars and even dinners! Meetings saw record attendance, deal reach expanded, and engagement spiked, as we discovered the benefits of convenience and removal of physical barriers – though we dearly missed the camaraderie and spirited discussion of a room full of friends and fellow investors!

On the subject of friends and investors, TCA-SD continued to grow at a rapid pace, with a 25% increase to more than 260 members! Thanks to this influx of new members, we were able to blow past our ACE 21 Annual Fund fundraising to a total, new record raise of $4.7M! In all, TCA-SD invested $11M in 2020.

We’re well-positioned for the future thanks to our progressive leadership, strong and diverse membership, and generous community support. Our mission to be the premier angel group has only advanced over the past year, and we are excited about our opportunities to help startups thrive in the post-COVID world we will hopefully be entering soon!

– Your Friends at TCA – San Diego

Read the rest of our newsletter here!

TCA San Diego Community Newsletter – September 2020

Our September Community Newsletter is out, announcing our $4.3 million annual fund, our hard science pitch competition at San Diego Startup Week, and community events and resources for entrepreneurs and investors!

TCA Community Newsletter – July/August 2020

The July/August 2020 Community Newsletter is out! Come see what’s new with TCA, read about all the happenings in the startup community, and check out the interesting events and webinars that are taking place this month.

TCA San Diego Community Newsletter – May 2020

The May TCA Community Newsletter is out today! Featuring a special message from TCA San Diego President Caitlin Wege, our 2019 Annual Report as well as our latest COVID-19 resources, community events, and more!