SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH: Late night comedy. TWO TRUTHS ABOUT ME AND A LIE: I’m tall, dark and handsome. IF I WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND AND COULD TAKE 3 THINGS: Satcom device, solar charger, water desalinizer. EARLIEST ENTREPRENEURIAL MEMORY: Consulting for space technology companies.
A bundle of sticks is stronger than any one stick
U-TURNING FROM HEDONISM IN PURSUIT OF PURPOSE. Martine Rothblatt is changing the world as CEO of United Therapeutics, giving the hope of life to patients with chronic disease. While she describes the nature of her personality as helping others achieve happiness and fulfillment, she notes that drive was not always there as a kid. “My credo growing up was pretty much one of hedonism,” Martine says. “However, when I pursued hedonism to its limits, on the paradise-like Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, I suddenly came to realize that it was a dead-end.” It’s like when you reach a dead-end driving, you know you have to turn around, she explains.
The converse of hedonism was purpose, she decided, and seeking purpose by helping others realize joy came to catalyze the founding of United Therapeutics. Martine had been successful with her founding of satellite radio SiriusXM, formerly CD Satellite Radio, when her daughter Jenesis was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Her solution was to found a company that would come up with a treatment.
While an accomplished lawyer and expert on communications, she knew nothing about pharmacology and had to read dozens of books and hundreds of articles to understand what was technologically and chemically possible. “As an entrepreneur, I refused to allow myself any excuses such as my ignorance. I decided that I would save my daughter, or die of exhaustion trying.”
Just as creating SiriusXM from scratch was daunting, so was founding United Therapeutics, and breaking the challenge down helped Martine. “I was afraid of failure, but I tried to divide challenges into small enough pieces that each piece was doable.” The pieces naturally fit together like a puzzle, and that helped the risk of failure go away, she points out.
STARTING ANEW ON DIFFERENT STANDING. Martine was aware of her female gender identity as a kid, and was out to the transgender community when she had started SiriusXM, but was not yet out to the straight community until she left SiriusXM after its IPO. However, starting United Therapeutics as transgender person was not necessarily harder than presenting as a fake cisgender person, she muses. She notes having a business competency when starting United Therapeutics that she had lacked earlier with SiriusXM outweighed having to overcome people’s transphobia.
The business game is rigged, especially against women and diverse people, Martine says, adding that being unaware of that truth leads to missing other huge facts about this environment. “However, if you don’t play, then you cannot win.” For LGBTQ business folks, the choice is between trying to win at a game that they start off disadvantaged, or certainly losing at the game because they never competed at all.
The same logic applies to coming out. “Of course if you come out you will face discrimination. But you also have a chance of ultimate personal happiness.” But staying in the closet is certainly losing at the game of personal happiness, Martine says.