Cathy Tie would consider herself an artist. However, she does not oil paints on canvas.
The 26-year-old Toronto, Canada native co-founded her first company, Ranomics, at age 18. provides health risk predictions based on people’s genetic data and has now raised over $1 million, according to Crunchbase. He founded his second company, Locke biographya “Shopify” for pharmaceutical companies and others that sell FDA-approved drugs, at 23.
For Tie, art and creativity aren’t exactly as flashy as writing iambic pentameter or dancing at Lincoln Center. It’s about seeing the big picture in the various industries he’s a part of and “being able to be interdisciplinary and bridge concepts from different industries,” she says.
“I’ve always loved putting ideas together and seeing connections that other people don’t see,” he says, such as finding out how science can advance within the world of startups and building business models accordingly. “That is, I think, more of an art and a creative process than anything technical.”
Here it is like the businessmanNow based in Los Angeles, he has relied on his creative and broad thinking to find success in fields like technology and science.
Tie began learning about their industries at the beginning of his high school years.
“I’ve always loved science, especially biology and chemistry, I’ve loved hands-on construction, ever since I was a very little girl,” she says. But she realized that the science curricula they were being taught at school did not include much hands-on learning. Instead, it was a lot of memorizing from textbooks.
Always thinking about the big picture, Tie was in his freshman year of high school when he decided to start emailing professors at the University of Toronto to see if they would let him spend time in their labs, do some research, and help them with a project here and there.
Her work at the university led her to publish her first article in a peer-reviewed journal in the field of immunology, dealing with the human immune system, at the age of 16.
It also led her to realize: “In research, especially in academia, you are subject to a system of academic grants,” she says. That is, if I wanted to continue investigating in that world, I would be limited. But getting funding as an entrepreneur would give her the freedom to do whatever kind of research she wanted.
As Tie began to connect the dots that the way she wanted to make an impact was through the startup world, she also began applying to programs that could help her bring this concept to life.
Tie had the basic idea for Ranomics, a way to solve some of the problems companies like 23andMe were facing with regards to the accuracy of their genetic tests, when he was a freshman at the University of Toronto. He met co-founder Leo Wan, a Ph.D. student at the university, through a startup competition, and the two ended up being accepted into IndieBio, a startup program that provides funding and mentoring to entrepreneurs in the sciences.
Tie ended up dropping out of college and moving to San Francisco to jump at the chance and became CEO of Ranomics for the first three years. She was also invited to apply and subsequently entered Thiel Fellowship, which awards young entrepreneurs who skip or drop out of college a $100,000 grant directly (not to their businesses) over the course of two years.
“Throughout the Ranomics building journey, I learned a lot about startups, selling to the pharmaceutical industry, how to build a profitable company,” he says. All of which would come into play in his next ventures.
At 21, Tie was offered a position as a partner at Cervin Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on business service like software, or SaaS, technology like Salesforce and Slack.
After a year there, he felt like building again and decided to explore opportunities within the digital health space, combining the worlds of SaaS and science that he had come to know. And Tie realized that there was no simple way to create an online store for those who wanted to sell FDA-approved drugs compliantly—a Shopify for pharmaceutical companies, if you will.
“Shopify really took on a problem where everyone had to build their websites, their [customer relationship management software]its payment processing from the ground up, and created a platform where you don’t have to be technical,” he says, adding that, “we’re doing the same for the telehealth and online pharmacy industry.”
Locke Bio is now backed by three venture capital funds in the US and Canada, according to PitchBookbut does not currently share the details of the fundraiser publicly.
Tie is excited about the future of Locke Bio and the various product expansions that she and her team are planning. But the success of the company and all the success that preceded it did not come without obstacles.
“I think very early in my career I definitely stepped on the gas very hard and put in those hard hours, like 100 hours a week,” he says. But “I realized that was untenable because when you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t really see the big picture.”
That’s where that artist mentality has come into play.
“Just like artists would make music, inspiration hits at a random time of day. It could be 2am at night, it could be when you’re taking a shower,” he says. But you have to make time for those spare hours when ideas can flow freely.
These days, he’ll put in those long days to weeks as needed, but otherwise, Tie will make sure to put in at least a little work. 40 hour weeks to get into that free time.
“It’s about taking those sprints, working really hard when I have to, and then being able to reflect on all the things I’ve learned,” she says.