Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference on UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being! I’m in the small town of Nashville, Indiana to meet today’s rockstar, Jessica Bussert, founder, president and CEO of Wave Therapeutics. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Well, Jessica, I’m eager to hear about your startup! Why don’t you start by telling me what challenge you’re addressing?
Jessica: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! After caring for a disabled vet with the worst bed sores I had ever seen, I made the decision to use my technical and healthcare skills to try and come up with a better solution to the problem that would be affordable to anyone who needed it. I ended up combining two different clinical therapies into one device and paired that with smart analytics, communications, and powerful sensors, all to help patients and clinicians make better healthcare decisions. Being a transgender woman, I also wanted to start my own business as a way to provide myself and others with a discrimination-free workplace.
Spiffy: It sounds like there are several challenges there. Can you say more about what motivated you to focus on technical and healthcare skills with Wave Therapeutics?
Jessica: I believe that everyone deserves quality healthcare, including those who are unable to pay for it. The veteran I took care of served our country and lost his legs as a result. He was poor and couldn't afford his basic medical care. This really made me sad and angry, and I wanted to do something to address the injustice I was witnessing. Even though our devices will work better than anything else on the market, it was important that we also designed them so they would be affordable to those who needed them.
Spiffy: How would you say that you are working to make the world a more equitable place?
Jessica: I was blessed to live in London, England for a few years. While there I received the best medical care I've ever had, and it was all provided free to anyone and everyone. I hope to bring that kind of system here to the US. I hope that my company is just one small step toward the goal of quality healthcare for all. I've also organized my company so that it is led by a transgender woman and has a board and executives made up of women, 1st generation immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Diversity is important to us!
Spiffy: Agreed! Can you tell me about a recent milestone that you’re particularly excited about?
Jessica: Wave Therapeutics recently formed an important partnership with the Veterans Health Administration. I'm excited to think that my first products will go to the same veterans who initially inspired my work!
Spiffy: I’m always curious how entrepreneurs handle failure. What about you? Can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up?
Jessica: Well, Spiffy, I lost my first career in computers due to anti-trans bigotry. Later, after I went back to school to learn to be a nurse, I experienced discrimination once again during my studies. Through it all, I just kept fighting forward, always working toward my personal goals. The only way you ever lose in this world is when you give up. NEVER give up on your dreams!
Spiffy: What is something unexpected you’ve learned from someone recently?
Jessica: I've learned that all of us start out life as good and worthy of love. Some of us get hurt along the way and others sometimes take out their pain on the rest of us. This doesn't make them bad or evil people. It just makes them broken people who deserve our compassion. That doesn't mean we need to let them keep hurting us, but it does mean that we need to keep loving them even when they sometimes do bad things. This is a hard lesson to live out.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Jessica: I'm a transgender woman. All that means is that I've always been a woman even if I didn't always have the body of a woman. I hope that if you ever meet another man or woman like me that you'll do your best to just see us in the same way and with the same kindness that you would want to receive yourself. We're all human beings after all!
Spiffy: I couldn’t agree with you more, Jessica. Thanks so much for taking the time to share about your work, it’s been an honor!
Jessica Bussert is the founder, president and CEO of Wave Therapeutics, a health tech startup. She is a lifelong maker/hacker who loves to build crazy machines in her spare time. Jessica is also an emergency room nurse who has worked around the world and in disaster areas ranging from floods and tornadoes to earthquakes and the recent COVID crisis. (Nominated by StartOut. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 7, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.