The Business of Pharmacy Podcast™
Sept. 26, 2022

Growing With Venture Capital | Maryam Khazraee, PharmD, MBA, RxPharmacist

Growing With Venture Capital | Maryam Khazraee, PharmD, MBA, RxPharmacist

Maryam Khazraee, PharmD, MBA, founder of RxPharmacist discusses her interest in venture capitalism.

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(Speech to Text)

Mike: [00:00:00] Maryam, for those that haven't come across you online, introduce yourself and tell our listeners what we're talking about today.

Maryam: Name it's Maryam Khazraee. I'm the founder and CEO of RX pharmacist. We create test prep, study guides to help pharmacists pass their M BJE and Netflix exams. The first time for today's topic, we are gonna be discussing venture capital learning more about nontraditional pathways within pharmacy and how our experiences as pharmacists or education can intertwine war with investing in venture capital today.

Mike: Maryam. We're gonna get into all the talk about venture capital stuff and how being a pharmacist helped some of it

but the first thing we need to talk about is that you're a pilot. Tell me about that.

Maryam: yeah, so being active duty in the public health service, it's one of the branches for the military services. Uh, we, um, are able to get access to bases. We do deployments, we do many different things. And part of. Where I'm stationed at the Naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida we can do the Navy flying club.

Uh, there's a flying club, open to military service members and for a fee you can pay to get flying lessons. So I pretty much did that. Uh, you know, all of last year, a little bit this year to get some of my pilot certifications,

Mike: Very cool. So you're in the Navy now.


I was officially, um, in the public health service, which is a separate branch, but people often confuse the Navy because, um, we had to wear the same uniforms. We follow the same regulations and everything. It's this pretty small service about, uh, 5,000 of us nationwide. Uh, and it's more focused on public health.

So. For example with COVID, you know, I got deployed a lot because of COVID, uh, setting up testing stations, um, and, and things like that.


Mike: A lot of times you hear about people going into the, the service associated with college for tuition was that part of it?

Did you get some tuition help or something?

Maryam: No, I, uh, so I, you know, just like everybody else, I got loans for school. I worked two jobs through pharmacy school and I was very savvy financially in not spending money where I didn't need to spend it. Uh, so that really helped me with not getting as many loans as I needed to get scholarships. 

Mike: Where'd your MBA fit into that?

Maryam: yeah. So it was a dual MBA degree. So MBA plus an additional masters. I also did that while working full time. Um, and how I got to pay for that was being in the public health service.

They do give you the GI bill. I used it very rapidly. So even though I could wait three years and then have it get paid out a hundred percent, um, I used it within the first year, so I still had to pay 50% of my tuition, um, for my MBA, but I got a 50% discount.

Mike: What were your other masters in?

Maryam: It was a masters in entrepreneurship and innovation.

But it was an easy masters because, uh, it was more idea based theory based. And, uh, I didn't see too much practicality. The main reason I did it was I thought it would help me out with, uh, with, like building out RX pharmacist, building out my company and everything like that. Um, and I realized that, uh, honestly, the best experience to have when building out a company is just doing it.

Um, a school can't really teach you. I mean, they can help guide you, but they can't really teach you what it really takes to build a successful company.

Mike: Maryam RX pharmacist, is that a business you started? Tell me about that.

Maryam: Yeah. I started as a RX pharmacist in my last year of pharmacy school. So how it originally started was when I was doing my school's big idea competition. The original idea back in 2015, was creating a telemedicine company where pharmacists can talk to patients. That was the original idea. Created the app, you know, it was very basic.

I won first place, at my school's level. And at the time when I pitched at the state level for Florida, the feedback I got from investors is the market's just not there for telemedicine. People are not gonna use this. And even the insurance companies, which did use prototypes of this, were actually creating apps at the time, a very similar concept.

They said your target customer is gonna be moms because they might freak out and they would be the ones using this technology. But in general, most people don't. And they were right, because when I looked at the doctor in demand MD live at the time, this was back in 2015. Again, uh, if you look at their data, a lot of the revenue was coming from, uh, mothers that were using their products.

Now things change because of COVID. Um, so back then I ended up pivoting my idea. How that pivot occurred though was unique.

So what happened was one of my classmates, uh, he filled [00:05:00] his MPG, Netflix exams. He had three little boys. His wife was a school teacher and he relied so heavily on passing his exams because yeah, he was working as an intern and then he also had a pharmacist job offer.

And all they had to do was pass his exams. And unfortunately when he didn't, they not only withdrew his pharmacist job offer, but they also fired him from his internship. And you can imagine that was very devastating for him. So when he called me up at three in the morning crying, I thought one of his kids died.

Uh, and he explained the whole situation with me. I said, I have to help this guy out. So I got together with classmates. We started helping create these guides for him to help him pass, um, and also help him get a job to get back on his feet. And finally, when he called me up, he said, you had to do this for everybody.

And that's how the RX pharmacist got created. Is this RX pharmacist a big money maker or how do you see this going down the road?

what I see with the org's pharmacist. You know, when it comes to money, right? The reason something makes money is because you're providing value in some way, you're solving someone's problem. And in return, they're paying you for that. That's honestly the bare bones of it. So when you're looking at growing a company, when you're looking at making more money, You're ultimately looking at how much bigger impact can I make.

So with RX pharmacist, yes, we do plan to grow the company more. And what we did recently this year, which was different, we used to focus primarily on the students as customers. Uh, we switched this year to a B2B model business to business model where now we're targeting college of pharmacies now because it helps the student out.

They're not really having to pay out of pocket for the services, but also helps the school out because it increases their passing rates. And, you know, specifically with RX pharmacists, the reason we got created is because right now there is a lack of state specific M PGE. Netflix, we have, you know, RX prep.

They recently got bought out by UWorld back in April of, um, 2020. Uh, so yes, their business model was heavily focused on making money and scaling it. Uh, but they don't really do M PJ E prep. Um, they offer some federal content, but it's all right. Um, but they do a great job on Netflix because they've just been doing it for over 20 years.

Um, for us, we wanted to fill that gap in the market, which was state specific content. Uh, and that's what we're primarily focused on. So we have 16 states in the country that we cover. And the goal is to grow to up to 40 states.

Mike: Am I getting that? This is the law portion of the test.

Maryam: Yes.

Mike: What are those initials?

Maryam: M P J E.

Mike: I don't even know what that is. M P J E. So I'm gonna say M is for, I don't know. I'm gonna say J is for jurisprudence.

Maryam: Uhhuh.

Mike: P is for, um, E is for an exam. I don't know what that M and the P are for. Give me a hint, give a hint.

Don't tell me, just gimme a hint.

Maryam: it's a multi-state


Mike: All right.

Maryam: jurisprudence examination.


Mike: I, yeah, I should have known 


I should have known P I should have known though. P was her pharmacy, right? That doesn't take a genius, but the multi-state part is the one I got tied up on.

Maryam: Yep.

Mike: Maryam, you're shifting out of the public health service and I saw a ton of stuff on your LinkedIn about venture capitalism. Is that the reason for the shift out of the public health system?

Maryam: So shifting out of public health service was more of a personal decision, uh, because you actually have a lot of active duty officers that also do venture capital.

 As long as it's not a conflict, the interest in what you're doing, but there actually is a pretty big community of active duty officers, whether they own their own businesses or they go into venture capital.

Um, and that was a community that I tapped into, 

Mike: When you say a big network, is that extraordinary? Like in other words, you see it in this public health thing, but you might not see it in a group of pharmacists working for a, a chain store or something like that. Or you might not see it in a group of hospital pharmacists. Is it just by kind of chance that this group of public health was getting into VC stuff?

Or is that something I'm missing, why does that grow in a [00:10:00] group like that?

Maryam: So I would back it up a little bit too. Understand more the military structure. So there's the department of defense, which has the five armed, well six armed services because we have to include the space force now.

Mike: Oh, yes. My son was asking me about that space force.

Maryam: yeah. Space force. So, you know, there's six of these armed services, armed force services. There's also two that are unarmed, but also considered military serving under the umbrella of uniform services. And those two, one is the United States public health service, which I'm in. And then the other one is Noah. Um, uh, actually, no, Noah is the agency.

 But I think they are the national ocean. Atmospheric association officers, uh, and they also get military benefits and follow military roles and regulations. So serving in this overall uniform service, right, six armed, two unarmed, you're looking at eight services across the board. The beauty of the military is we tend to do a good job collaborating and we don't leave anybody out. So when we advertise programs or education, things like that, it's open to all the services. So I was very lucky when I started to Google and search venture capital, I realized, oh, wow, there's actually a pretty big community of active duty officers or service members even enlisted to that are, uh, interested in this space for venture

Mike: Why did you even go on looking for venture capital? Is that something you came across? Is that family stuff?

Maryam: So it mainly came across from MBA school. So during MBA school, I learned about venture capital there. And funny enough, I touched on venture capital through my own company, RX pharmacists, going to conferences where other founders go to and talk about, you know, their companies and venture capital is pretty much the other side of startup.

So, you have your startup companies and most of them want venture capital money, right. They're probably having, they wanna need to scale. They need money to scale their company. And that's where you go to venture capital. So think of, like shark tanks. I dunno if you ever watched that show shark tank, but very, very similar to that.

Mike: That shark doesn't get me going on shark tank because it seems like. You know, I've got little ideas for businesses, you know, they don't come to fruition really, but I've got 'em and I think I would go on shark tank and say, you know, Hey, I, you know, I made a, uh, you know, I made a pot holder for grandmas in their kitchen or something.

And they would say, well, how many of 'em have you sold? And I'm like, well, I think my grandma might be buying one. And they're like, well, you don't have $10 million in sales. So we don't really want you, it's not really an entrepreneurial startup show. It is truly more like a venture capital show.

And they don't claim that they're not, but I was thinking it more of like a business startup, but it's more VC.

Maryam: It's kind of like VC, uh, the, the companies they feature are more retail mom and pop type stuff. Sometimes,

Mike: For the story part of it. And

Maryam: Exactly. Yeah. You don't see a data AI machine learning analytics company pitching on shark tanks, right. 

so, so, uh, you know, with venture capital it's it's, and honestly you see a lot of celebrities go into venture capital, believe it or not.

So a lot of celebrities, you know, famous actors, they actually start their own venture capital funds, because think about it. They have a lot of wealth coming in. They're trying to do something with that money and being able to invest it back in things that they believe in companies that they believe in, that they wanna see change is a beautiful thing. 

Mike: The stars are not setting up a VC firm that is funding the money though they're working with VC firms and using their money for that.

Maryam: Sometimes they work with other VC firms where they'll just give them the money as an investor. Right. So they'll be an investor of that VC firm to give their money to them, to then allocate to different companies. Or they might actually open up their own VC firm or private equity firm. 

Mike: And then they would maybe collect money from other people,

maybe other star friends or something like 

Maryam: Yep. You got it.

Mike: That's interesting. 

Why? Because they're interested or they wanna make more of a dent or what?

Maryam: it could be for different reasons, but most of the time it's too. Be able to make more money

Mike: Oh,

Maryam: uh, for, for the most part. Right. Um, because usually, and it's a risk, right? It's a higher risk type [00:15:00] of, uh, you know, you have to be, what's called an accredited investor to be able to invest in companies.

Now, there are certain platforms where you can invest without being an accredited vet investor, uh, such as a platform called Republic. Uh, you can do it that way, but most of the time you have to be accredited, which just means that somebody checked your finances and said, okay, if they lose all this money on this investment, they're not gonna be homeless.

you know, they have money to, to spend and, and to do it in this way. But most of the time they do it to grow the money, right. To invest it and then grow it and also see that impact that they've made through the, through whatever company they've, they've invested.

Mike: If you're a founder, do you like to have VC funds coming in, associated with your new company? Or if you didn't have to, if you had plenty of your own funds, you would, you would not bother with it.

Maryam: So there's two main issues with taking venture capital money. The first is almost all the time. You have to give away equity in your company. So they're gonna be owning a certain percentage of your company, depending on how much money that they gave

You kinda like shark tanks.

We see that on, on shark tanks all the time.

The other side that people don't think about is that you're also giving up control of your company, too, depending on how much equity you're giving away. If you had to raise more money, you're giving away more equity. At some point you will lose control of your company.

So now if they want to kick you out as CEO and founder, they can easily do that. If they own more than 50% equity in the company. And I've seen that happen with founders where they've spent almost, you know, 10 years of their life building out this company, greatly impacting everything and something. Didn't jive well with the venture capital folks.

And they said, we want this person out and they do. They just fire them right on the spot. They can, they have that power. And that's very scary as a founder because, you know, ultimately it's your like baby, right? Like you spent life, sweat tears trying to build this company out. And next thing you know, um, it's, it's gone.

And also they might be doing things that you don't want them to do with the company. Right. They might end up selling it to make money off of it. They might end up completely changing the services that you offer, uh, in a way that you don't, you know, agree with them doing. So there's things like that. Yeah.

Mike: You don't want anything to do with it if you don't need it.

Maryam: If you don't need it, if you have the funding available, you definitely don't wanna take VC money, especially if you're growing a company in stealth mode. So a lot of times, um, there's gonna be a lot of startup companies that grow in stealth mode, purposely steal mode, meaning. There's no news article on it.

There's no publicity on it. You have no idea. It even exists and it can be an operation for years until finally they think it's time to make this public. And then they'll, they'll go public. And they do that for a reason because they don't want to display the technology. They don't want other competitors to know what they're working on.

Uh, because a lot of times, um, with the industry with venture capital, sometimes they follow buzzwords or trends and you have to keep in mind, trends are temporary. They're not long, long term things.

Mike: Maryam, you've got a big interest in this. Would you say you've dipped your toes into it? Would you say that you've done enough that if something goes wrong, you lose some sleep over it.

How much are you into the VC thing?

Maryam: I would say I'm still learning. There's a lot to learn and, and a lot to do with it. Uh, ultimately with being a venture capitalist, it's about your network. It's about, you know, anybody can give money to a company, anybody. I mean, there's tons of VC firms that have tons of cash that they can give you money for.

But the true difference, if everyone's giving can give you money, then what do you look for? Right. As a founder, you're looking for, okay, what value can you bring me other than your cash? Because I can go to everybody, you know, on the street for that. Uh, so that's, when you wanna look at, you know, how can you support the startup?

And that's whether you have specialized knowledge and in what you're doing, if you have a network that you can introduce to make them grow as a company and be more successful, uh, or is it just having a team that can support that company with hiring with. Business development and things like that.

I know this is so unique for pharmacists. Like we obviously did not touch this in pharmacy school. Some students may have touched it in their undergraduate degrees, some take finance and business in their undergraduate

degrees. Uh, but if you go back to the roots of being a pharmacist, we used to own our own pharmacies right back in the day.

I mean, everybody was an independent, you know, pharmacy owner and it's the same concept of running a business. Right. So, you know, I, I, I think, [00:20:00] you know, as pharmacists, there is a little bit of a trend going on recently where we're seeing a lot more pharmacists become entrepreneurs

almost out of either necessity because they can't find a job because I know the market's really saturated or because they're just wanting to make a change in, 

in like society.

Mike: Let me go back on the thought about, some venture capitalists are maybe more. Valuable for a company. Let me think that through, because if you pick the right company, you might have more to offer that company as far as your expertise and so on. They might want you more to invest in them because they know that, you know, more ultimately does that then allow you better rates, 

if you're more valuable to that new startup, they know you're more valuable and you are more valuable. It seems like there's a money grab to that. Somehow do you get better rates or what's the value of that? I know it's there, but how does that value play out?

Maryam: That's a very good question, because at the end of the day, it's extremely variable. So it is a negotiation play, 

right. Where you are negotiating. So kind of like a shark tank, right. You know, 

how they go back and 

forth, the check size and 

Mike: I can do this cuz I have this TV show, but I've done it before, so I can help you get into all of

Maryam: exactly right. You know, uh, yeah. Same type of concept where anybody can give you money. Right. They can all give, give the company's money, but now they're trying to convince the founder of the company. Well, Hey, you should go with me because I had this experience or I have contacts in retail or X, Y, and Z.

So, and that changes things because now it depends how much leverage you have. So for example, you know, the reason I looked into venture capital in 2021, Was because between 2020 and, uh, the end of 2021, we saw a huge, uh, everyone was going to venture capital. During those years, there was a flood of money, valuations for companies, valuation, meaning how much the value of that company skyrocketed, almost crazy high to the point where it didn't make any sense.

And that's why everybody was doing so well in the stock market, because they were just throwing money at everything, you know, where you can just, you know, uh, throw the dice and your stock. You could pick any stock and it'll still go up. So, um, we were seeing that in 20, 20 and 20 and at the end of 2021, now that has changed and cooled off tremendously, I would say at the end of 2021, things started cooling off.

And now as we're getting closer to this year, it's plateaued tremendously. And that's because of different issues, fed rate hikes and things like that as well. Uh, But, um, that also piqued my interest in venture capital when everybody was going in and back at the end of 20, 20, beginning of 2021 timeframe.

Mike: I know this is not related, but I'm just making an analogy of this Bitcoin. For example, there's companies out there now, like Coinbase, they kind of go between. Like, if I wanna go get fast food, the fast food company doesn't want Bitcoin and the Bitcoin company doesn't want my fast food money, coin base kind of speaks the language of both.

And is this middleman kind of like a currency exchange, is there such a thing with VC? Is there a. Program something that kind of lets people dabble in it where you're not maybe dealing right with the VC firm or the company, but you're kind of, uh, handheld app, you know, trade in, you know, a few bucks here and there, I imagine there's gonna be such a thing if there's not to kind of dabble in it.

Maryam: So there are platforms available. For people to invest in star companies that are not accredited investors. Uh, one example is called Republic. Uh, you can actually go in and invest in companies and then you can also go, you know, there's other, uh, there's many apps that kind of focus on this and websites and, and companies that you can, you can look into.

Mike: Maryam. Take me through a really cool day for you in five years. Are you doing pharmacy stuff? Are you doing just VC stuff? Take me through a great day for you.

Maryam: So five years from now, whether it's my company or someone else's company on something that will focus on fighting fraud and scams with the advent of. Technology, we're moving so much faster into AI machine learning and just [00:25:00] removing humans from the process more and more.

It really scares me because we will have a lot more bad actors out there that are gonna start to try to commit fraud and scams. And it'll probably get to a point where you can't call a human for help, and you might be calling a, a robot or some something that you think might be human, but it's not, it might be just, you know, think Amazon Alexa, right.

You can talk to it. Um, well we have technology through Google, you know, they. Big media press recently about how they thought one of their AI algorithms went sentient. Right. Um, so, so we have this now and also through the government, we also are working on a bill of rights for AI, um, so that, you know, as we develop robots and systems that they will have their own rights.

Uh, so in five years from now, I wanna create something that will fight against fraud and scams. Um, cuz I'm just sick of it. I'm just sick. And you know, as our population gets older and more senior, we're just gonna see more of that. So ultimately a great day for me is working on something you know, almost like a crime fighter, I guess you could say, but preventing innocent people from getting hurt, preventing innocent people from, you know, getting, uh, scammed basically.

Mike: A couple days ago I was looking at a video of this UFC fight. And this guy jumped off the side and the other guy smacked him in the face with his foot halfway down.

And the guy contorted into this weird thing. And I didn't know, it was, I didn't know it was a video game until I started looking in the comments and there was some debate going back and forth, whether it was a video game or not. And then today I was online and I was watching, uh, Something in the war, like shooting this plane down or something.

And I didn't know if it was a video game or not. And I thought there were two times, in like a week, that I didn't know what I was watching, you know? And that was weird to me. It worked just in the beginning of that, pretty much,

boy, you threw a wrench at me on that five year plan thing, Maryam I'm thinking like VC stuff or, you know, flying or something like that.

How are we gonna adjust to that? How do we get from here five years later? Is that gonna be some VC thing that you invest in or does your company switch something? How do we get from here to there?

Maryam: That's a very good question. Uh I mean, I've already had this, it's an idea, right? It's not in a business plan or anything like that. I have talked to a lot of techies that are in the industry that, you know, Uh, cybersecurity, things like that, but I, I just think it's gonna be a bigger issue moving forward.

And I see that a lot of the big fortune 500 companies are not doing anything about it. So think of Facebook, for example, right. Facebook, so many fake accounts, so much fraud going on there, scams left and right. Uh, and yet they're not really doing much about it. They're doing the bare minimum, I would say.

Uh, but they're not really doing much about it. Same thing with Twitter, right? Elon Luskin, Twitter. There's a big ordeal about the bots, but he's right. There's a lot of fakeness on Twitter, a lot of fake bots posting and the huge issue with this is over time. Like you mentioned, what's reality and what's. 

Uh, and that's gonna be a big problem, especially with Oculus, they're creating the Oculus goggles, they're doing prototypes with it. Uh, and now you're gonna start blending between reality and what's not reality, but even more than that, you know, I'm really worried when they take out the human from the equation.

So for example, an AI type of algorithm, I dealt with this with Amazon, for example. So Amazon, they have, uh, this, you know, you can publish books on Amazon, things like that. So there was a book I wanted to publish on Amazon. They use an AI algorithm completely for the process to check, to make sure you own the copy rates and all that stuff. They claim that I didn't own the copyrights. And I said, Hey, well, here's my copyright registration right here with the S PTO. I paid the fees. Oh, by the way, here's all the drafts. Here's the contracts. I mean, I had six months worth of paper trails to prove that I was the content holder. Um, and that was not enough until I realized I am not talking to a human,

this interface that I'm emailing is not human.

And when I tried to call in for help with Amazon, they said, sorry, humans are not supposed to be involved in that process. I'm like what? . So it, it really scared me. I said, if this is what's going [00:30:00] on now, just imagine what's gonna happen in the future where now you're stuck. You need help and you 

I can't go anywhere to get help.

Mike: The program that I use to, uh, edit the podcast and do sound stuff , I can actually type words and it comes out in my voice, of course, all the, deep fakes. Now, the videos, you know, with you see that in TikTok, you know, the stars, Tom cruise has a fake guy, sort of an Elvis.

And, uh, I think the Elvis one is fake though. I think I'm smart enough to pick up on that one, unless he's alive, still in Kalamazoo.

We just threw this out as a fun question.

Let's say in five years you're doing this and we don't know yet. If that's a company or you're working for someone or you're writing a paper on it or teaching it, whatever. How do you get there personally? 

Maryam: I strongly believe that you don't have to be an expert in the ultimate vision of what you're trying to accomplish. You just need people that believe in you believe in the vision

that do know what they're doing, and that can help you get there. 

And that's ultimately what a founder is, is someone that may not be knowledgeable in what they're doing, but they have a vision they're leading the team and they're getting that done.

Uh, so that's what I Truly believe in. You know, leading people, if they believe in that vision of what I have to create 

Mike: Anybody right now can pretty much get into any system. If they have the wherewithal, they've got the time they've got the focus. It's big enough for them to spend their efforts on.

But eventually when this stuff gets like AI and cheaper and all this kind of stuff, It's proven they can hack into anything they want to, they don't come into Mike's checkbook just because, you know, there's nothing there kind of thing. But if they want to, they certainly could. And when it gets cheaper to do it, and there's more AI out there and all that kind of stuff, they can go anywhere.

They want to go. So that's a nice vision you have.

Maryam: And for financial institutions, Constantly fighting against this, right? Think credit cards. Have you ever seen a credit card charge where you're like, I that's not me. I didn't charge that, how they get your information. Right. And it's usually through hacking into a company or service that you paid for could be up to five years ago, they store that credit card information.

Right. And then now it's sold on the black market. Uh, and then from there they can, you know, get access to your stuff. And by the way, if it goes to the black market, uh, black web, dark web, they call it.

There's almost no way you can get that back.

So some people have to apply to new social security numbers, 

and that's why I'm saying, like, we may not feel it right now fully, but we will feel it a lot more moving forward, uh, because the technology's easier to access and they are trying their best with encryption and.

And things like that to fight against it. But, um, my concern is when you take humans out of the equation, because now you don't have common sense. Right? When you're talking with somebody humans, we can tell common sense wise, Hey, it's, something's fishy here. We have that instinct, gut feeling built into us, um, that, that, that we can recognize that.

Right. And I don't, I don't think, uh, AI or, um, anything created will have that because it's always gonna have that inherent bias depending on the data that you feed into it.

Mike: VC, where do you see that playing in a company like that? If you started something up five years from now

Maryam: Right. So when starting any company, you always wanna have a business plan, you wanna do your research and see, okay. You know, where's the market at right now? Where's it gonna be in the future? Do we have one? Something that's already solving this problem.

What's the gap? I mean, all the business stuff that you learn from MBA school.

So that would be the first step is, um, you know, making, uh, that business plan and everything. Um, the second step from there is just testing out the concept, right? Talking with people that are experts in the field, they might do research on it and try to see, okay, if I was to build this, how would this work out?

Uh, and then building it, building what's called a minimum viable product. It can be very crappy. It can be like the worst thing ever, but it's something just to prove the concept venture capitalists usually. Don't invest in it. So ideas by itself. Think of Airbnb when Airbnb started. Yes. They initially got a little bit of money, but they were doing their idea for like almost, I think, six months or so before they got BC money, right.

They literally, you know, quit their jobs. They went and, you know, were hosting people in their own place and then they [00:35:00] actually drove themselves to other places. So they kind of, you could say bootstrapped it a little bit more themselves. 

And what convinced the venture capitalist to invest in them was during the Obama timeframe.

When he was getting El lookeded in, you know, the first time, uh, people couldn't find a place to stay. 


what, what they did was they did that to help out, but also what they did to raise money. Because they weren't making much money. 

Were they created? Branded Obama serials

Mike: I've heard that story.

They had branded cereals and then the guy said, let me see if I got this. And then he went to the VC. I, I know I'm stealing your thunder, but I gotta let you know, I'm least up on something. And then he went to the VCs and they said, I want money for my Airbnb.

And they said, well, you don't have any proof. And he says, listen, if I can sell cereal for 

$500 or something like that, I gotta be able to raise money on a bed. Am I close? Even on

Maryam: yes. You're, you're absolutely right. That's, that's pretty much how, how, how it happened, but if, you know, honestly, it's just convincing someone to believe in you, but it helps when you've prepared and you've tried and you've done something, right. It's not just an idea.

Mike: Maybe it's just consulting, but let's say you have a product. How do you come up with, uh, a working product without a ton of money not something you dabble in, 

Maryam: The first thing would be to, for first, create a team, right? It could be a bare bones team, but people that believe in your idea and what you first can do, even though you have no money, give away company equity. Right.

I may not be able to pay you, but I'll give you company equity. It's on a vesting schedule.

if you stay, you know, for the first four years, then you get to keep it, things like that. 

That's one way of being able to that, that type of company

Mike: We're gonna pay you a little bit just to eat, to make this program, but then you're gonna get some capital in the 

Maryam: exactly. Yep. So that's usually what founders also do when they start something, is they give away equity, uh, to also grow the co uh, the, the company, because they might not have the funding as they're going through and trying to fundraise. Right. 

You know, it could also be through grants, through pitch competitions, business competitions.


Tell me how the P D behind your name can help you in venture capital pursuits.

Maryam: The pharm D gives us credibility that we are able to be disciplined enough to study and learn very, you know, we learned a lot of different complex topics right through pharmacy school. But ultimately I would say the bigger picture of things is the pharm D helps give that security blanket. There's a lot of good stories out there of a lot of amazing companies that got created, uh, and the people that created them, the reason they were able to take that risk and do it was because they had a fall.

They said in the worst case scenario, if I'm starving and I'm hungry, I can always go and be a pharmacist part-time full-time somewhere. Right. And having that little tiny security blanket that kind of helps in your mind, right. Mentally with the mindset is very critical because a lot of times people are too afraid or too scared to create something, to create a company because of this.

And that's a really sad thing, because imagine what their vision or their impact on society could have been if they actually went through and did it.

Mike: And that can be a risk on both sides that can be starting a company getting VC, but also investing VC funds. You're able to invest some because you know that if it goes bust, like most of 'em do until you hit that, you're gonna have the means to get back on your feet.

Maryam: exactly. So I think overall with the phar degree, it's a versatile degree, right. That we can go into many different career pathways in pharmacy. Um, but it's, it's a great security blanket and we actually have a lot of pharmacists that end up being entrepreneurs and doing something that has nothing to do with pharmacy.

One of my classmates actually, uh, you know, I graduated back in 2015. I think he graduated in, uh, a year ahead of me, 2014. Um, he ended up leading the pharmacy altogether. He was in the pharma industry. He made good money in pharma and he was creating these little companies on the side, you

know, uh, and finally he ended up going all in to a company called Prickley.

 Prickly is a [00:40:00] pharmacist created. Uh, beverage drink.


they're using a prickly pair for the beverage. And he actually went on shark tank recently and he said, I am done with pharmacy. I'm quitting. I'm going to this, but he has the luxury of doing that because of that pharm D degree.

Mike: I've talked a lot in this show, the negative of that, if you're spending seven years, you're $170,000 in debt. It doesn't allow for entrepreneurial freedom in your first 10 years of graduating because of all this luggage on your back with that said, though, as we're talking now, it does give you some freedom to know that you do have those skills.

Should something not work out. You can get back on your feet.

Maryam: Exactly. And there, there is a small community. It's small, but there is a community of pharmacists that are entrepreneurs, whether they went into real estate or they created their own company. Um, there's actually quite a few people out there, so I wouldn't. Discredit the pharm D degree. It's just, it gives you that blanket of security, that credibility that you can always jump back into,

uh, to have that confidence to start whatever company that you wanna end, end up starting

Mike: Is money a metric for you? 

Maryam: Money is not necessarily a metric for me because in my mindset, I know eventually we're all gonna die. and you can't take your money to the grave. Uh, so, you know, I focus more on the impact of society. Now don't get me wrong. Money's important. It helps us pay the bills, live a certain lifestyle that we want to live.

But at a certain point, when you, when you get above a certain threshold of making money, you tend to lose your happiness but I think money also buys you freedom to then pursue the things that you want to pursue in life.

And sometimes people are forced into it. So there's people that, unfortunately during the 2008 crisis, right, or even during COVID, when they lost their jobs, they were forced to look at other ways to make money. And that's what started their journey to creating their own company. And now they're very successful, right?

And ultimately I wanna put this idea in people's heads that, you know, the only reason you're making more money is because of the value you're bringing to your. Customers or the people you're serving. So the more value you bring, the more money you can be able to, to, to make. So when people make fun of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, it's like, well, look at what the value they created.

Right? They created this, you know, uh, you know, retail type of empire now, and people love Amazon. Because they get their packages within two days and they can order anything they want. It's very convenient and the same thing with, uh, with Tesla, right? And just all the other companies that Elon he's making, um, it's making a difference in society, you know, to create EV types of, uh, vehicles.

So it is very possible. I think where people get stuck is they think, oh, I can't do that. 

Oh, they're smarter than me. Not really. . I mean, you can do whatever you wanna do in this life. And 

The biggest thing is time, right? We only have one life to live and you cannot buy time back. Even if you had a trillion dollars, you cannot.

Buy time back. So make sure every day that you're living and you're, you're living a worthwhile life that you wanna set for yourself. 

Um, because you can't, you can't bring that, that time back. So that's why, when I talked about my early career, all the things I've done that's because I didn't wanna waste any time I wanted to do as much as I could early on knowing that later in life, you know, you get older, 

uh, it gets, it's not as easy when you're young 

Mike: I was watching something yesterday, this guy was talking to a billionaire, and said, when this guy was 22 years old, he wished for a billion dollars. And when he was a billionaire as an older man, he wished he was 22. You know, something like that.

You can't get that back. 

Maryam, you wake up. tomorrow and it's September of your senior year of high school. How are you going to play out the next 15 years? Are you gonna do what you did? Are you gonna go to pharmacy school and MBA and do this with the service and things like that?

Or are you gonna play it differently? Let's say it's back in that actual time, because now things might have changed with computer science and 

Maryam: Mm-hmm mm-hmm 

Mike: back when you graduated, would you have played that any differently?

Maryam: I'll be honest. Uh, I, I won it. Um, I think things worked out pretty well. Uh, even though by the time I graduated, I was freaking out cuz I was like, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do? Um, cause originally the goal was going into pharma through a fellowship program. Um, and you know, once I didn't, you know, I think it was [00:45:00] only one program.

I got accepted two, but I, I did, I, it was just not a great program. So I kind of freaked out there for like a few months. I was like, oh man, what am I gonna do? Um, but you know, I honestly, I wouldn't, um, I, I. The beauty of life is we get to, and at least for me, I've purposely wanted to introduce to myself many different avenues and different things to learn just because that's who I am as a person.

I'm just a really curious person, but everyone's different. I remember flying, um, on a plane. I was, uh, serving to go to this Indian health service reservation. And funny enough, the guy sitting next to me was a pharmacist. I was like, whoa, what are the odds of that? This is a tiny plane, literally like 20 Cedar planes, very, very tiny going to the middle of nowhere.

Um, and he was a pharmacist. So I was telling him about, you know, when I was doing, I was like, yeah, you know, I run this company on the side with the, with the test prep business. I do this and do that and he just breathed in and just briefed me. He said, wow, Are you tired? Like, I would never do that.

Like I just wanna do my retail job, go home, watch TV, play video games. And I'm like, okay, well that's your life, you know? I mean, that's, that's what you wanna do, but, and he's like, why won't you just be a regular pharmacist? Just why are you so ambitious? I'm like, I don't know. I just, this is who I am. And I, I, I think it's, it's kind of boring to be, you know, like a retail pharmacist.

I mean, you don't get bored. He's like, no, I love my job. I'm like, okay, 

Well, that's great. So, you know, that's 

important too, as long as you love your job, you're good.

Mike: Maryam, great having you on the show. I think a cool part of the message is that. Sometimes pharmacists can almost look at non pharmacists and be envious and say, oh, they're not stuck doing what I'm doing. The world is their oyster. But I think that the important message is that to a degree it's not gonna hold you back. You're the one holding yourself back. I mean, it can only be promising to have more degrees.

 The message I think is you're not stuck in that. That's a springboard, if you want it to be.

Maryam: Absolutely. At the end of the day, it comes to mindset. It comes to your mindset. It comes. And I know this sounds so cliche, but the thoughts that you put in your mind are very powerful. The mind is very powerful to the point where, you know, some people can be dreaming and they might dream of getting in a fight and they can feel that pain.

 It's crazy to think about how powerful the mind is. This. The key is to, you know, Really focus on your end goal, what that is for you and then work backwards to achieve it. And you can achieve it. You may not be able to achieve it in one day or one week or even one year, but you know, like they say, when you have an elephant, how you eat it, you eat it in small pieces,

Mike: Thanks for being on. And I look forward to keeping in touch.

Maryam: All right. Thank you so much, Mike. Thanks.