Meet Anne Wojcicki: The Story of the Co-Founder of 23andMe
Anne Wojcicki went from being an ignored wife of a billionaire to a billionaire in her own right. She invented revolutionary technology where people can discover their ancestry and potential genetic health risks without leaving home. Now as CEO of 23andMe, she’s used her wealth to help other women develop their groundbreaking ideas with funding.
Here is a look into the life of Anne Wojcicki: where she came from, how she built her empire, and how she stewards her fortune.
Anne Wojcicki: Early Life and Education
Anne Wojcicki began her life on July 28, 1973 in Palo Alto, California. She isn’t the only one in her family to amass wild success. Her two older sisters, Susan and Janet, have done some incredible things with their careers. Susan Wojcicki acts as the CEO of YouTube, and Janet Wojcicki works as an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Her parents, Esther and Stanley, were both educators. The sisters clearly grew up in a home that valued intelligence. As Stanlet Wojcicki worked as a physics professor emeritus at Stanford, the family lived on the campus itself.
At Gunn High School, Wojcicki involved herself as the editor of the school newspaper, The Oracle. She ended up winning a scholarship for her sports stories. For college, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Yale University in 1996. She performed microbiology research with the National Institutes of Health and the University of California in San Diego.
Anne Wojcicki, Co-Founder of 23andMe: Making Her Own Way
Post grad, Wojcicki began working as a healthcare consultant at Passport Capital and at Investor AB. Passport Capital is an investment fund based in San Francisco.
For four years, she worked as a healthcare investment analyst. Her job was to oversee investments in healthcare with a speciality in biotechnology companies.
Over time, she grew disillusioned by corporate Wall Street’s attitude towards the healthcare industry. She originally planned to take the Medical College Admission Test to begin medical school. She decided this wasn’t the path for her and instead refocused her attention on biological research. This decision ultimately gave her the tools and opportunity to found 23andMe.
She, along with Linda Avery and Paul Cusenza, founded the company 23andMe in 2006, a revolutionary DNA testing company that allows you to discover your ancestry while testing DNA for health risks.
Before, getting access to your DNA results was a costly process. Not many could get information on their biology with a genetic test. This prevents people from taking steps to minimize risk factors if you’re genetically predisposed to a certain condition. With 23andMe, anyone can get answers from home. You purchase the kit, collect a saliva sample, send in the results to the lab, and receive a report online.
The company took a big step forward when Glaxo made a $300 million investment in the company. They don’t just want to make people aware of their health risks. They want to use the genetic information they receive from consumer DNA to research treatments and cures for those diseases.
Wojcicki has made it clear that she wants to participate in “revolutioniz[ing] healthcare” through her DNA testing company.
Invention of the Year
In 2008, Time magazine declared the test the “Invention of the Year.” In October 2013, Fast Company named the entrepreneur as “The Most Daring CEO.” In 2020, Forbes listed her as number 93 on the list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
In 2015, the Food and Drug administration began giving approval to 23andMe’s health-specific tests. These tests range from cystic fibrosis, some cancers, Parkinson’s, coeliac disease, Alcheimer’s, and sickle cell anemia.
In 2020, one of their drugs developed with GSK began its human trials.
Anne Wojcicki Net Worth
Breakthrough scientific developments in the commercial healthcare industry have the power to make you unbelievably rich. Before her company’s success, Wojcicki was familiar with wealth. She married the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, in May 2007. Wojcicki remembers being completely dismissed by others in her tax bracket. She was just the wife of a billionaire. What did she know?
Now that she’s developed her own fortune, she’s decided to lift up other women. “I feel super, super lucky,” Wojcicki said, “I have money—and I absolutely try to use my money to drive change. I try to invest in higher-risk companies of people I believe in, or who are doing good things.”
When 23andMe went public, she held 99 million publicly-traded shares. At the end of the first trading day, each share was worth $13.32. Her stake was valued at $1.3 billion.
Through investing in high-profile start-ups, she’s developed the most gender-diverse portfolio of her billionaire colleagues. Of her 29 investments, 14 had at least one female founder. She comments that “Having been surrounded by money for a while, I have seen that it’s heavily male-dominated. I think that you have a lot of women out there who have been underdogs for a while, and are going to drive change.”
In addition to investments, she does a considerable amount of charity work. Although Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin are divorced, they still work together to run The Brin Wojcicki Foundation. They frequently donate to The Michael J. Fox Foundation. In 2009, they donated $1 million to the Hebrew Immigrant Society.
Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins
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