My pet peeve is: People who make decisions based on ego and fear My celebrity crush is: Mila Kunis
Engineering a sustainable future for the planet
THE POWER OF ACCEPTANCE. Ivonna Dumanyan remembers the exact moment her founder journey took a life-changing turn. "It was the point at which I realized our product would sell," she recalls, "but for a much lower price point than we'd expected or hoped." The realization meant overcoming her fear, ego, and sense of self - and embracing her executive role in the company as she worked on an exit strategy.
The business, Fathom AI, was founded by Ivonna and her now-wife, Gabby Levac, in 2014. The pair started the company after meeting at a sports rehabilitation center. Both were NCAA Division I athletes at Duke University, but injury had cut their seasons short. United by their wounds, they discussed the challenges of accessibility to information about your body and came up with Fathom AI. Combining their skills – Ivonna a mechanical and electrical engineer, and Gabby a data scientist – they designed a wearable device with artificial intelligence that analyzes motion data to create individually personalised training regimens that reduce injuries.
After running the company for six years, they exited it to Equinox Media, a wellness and fitness service owned by Equinox Fitness. Ivonna describes the experience as "probably the most formative of my life. It forced me to put aside my ego and work through my insecurities and say, this is the kind of person and leader I want to be, this is how I want to treat my team, and this is how I want to treat my investors."
Ivonna says the experience ultimately ended positively because she and Gabby had stuck to the philosophy they'd laid down at the beginning: when making critical company decisions, they consider their customer first, then the team, then the investors, then, finally, themselves. "We landed the ship very cleanly, and it turned out well for everybody in the end. By putting others first, we also had a comfortable outcome. If I could make one recommendation to founders going through this, it would be to practice that ideology. Focus on others first and be a good steward - it will be the most rewarding experience possible."
GROWING FOOD FOR THE FUTURE. After taking a break, traveling across the US, and "revisiting my values," Ivonna has returned to her life's passion, sustainability. It's a subject she holds close; having emigrated from Ukraine with her mom and grown up below the poverty line, her family often could not afford fresh food. As a student at Duke University, she worked in sustainable energy research and organic agriculture before leaving to launch Fathom AI.
On the cusp of launching a new startup with Gabby tied to sustainability, Ivonna met with the founders of Hippo Harvest, who are developing technology to grow vegetables in greenhouse environments in a way that's sustainable and affordable to the mass market. "They completely blew me away with what they were doing. I think my experience as a founder taught me a lot about what constitutes a remarkable, game-changing idea. Ivonna joined the company in 2022 and is now its Chief Business Officer.”
Through Fathom AI and Hippo Harvest, Ivonna says she feels lucky to have been able to follow her passions and work on projects aiming to make a large-scale impact. "I have a personal belief that business can be an incredible force for good because it combines the power of narrative, which changes minds, with the power of economic incentives, which changes behavior. That's been my chosen way to change the world for the better."