Superior native credits role models for helping her chart a course
Lindsey Androski remembers her Northern Wisconsin roots and how they shaped decisions that led her to found Roivant Social Ventures.
SUPERIOR — Lindsay Androski remembers playing Capture the Flag in the yard of Bill and Sally Heytens of Superior as a child with her brothers and the Heytens’ children, among other kids.
She said she remembers growing up in a safe and secure community where she could hop on her bike to explore the world around her.
And she remembers the influences along the way that led her to earn degrees in history and biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Superior native now lives in Washington, D.C., and is leading efforts to break down barriers to health care as the founder, president and chief executive officer of Roivant Social Ventures.
Guiding the way
Androski's parents, Loree and Brad Androski of Superior, let her play with Legos and hang out with the boys. As a result, she said she never felt hampered by constraints of gender-based social norms, which allowed her to pursue her love of math and science.
“My parents let me a be a tomboy,” Androski said.
In addition to her parents, teachers Phyllis Ellis and William Rehnstrand, and Dr. Konanur “Kevin” Ramesh — a longtime Superior urologist and father of a high school classmate and friend — all played big roles in shaping Androski's choices over the years.
Ellis was her first influence.
“She was just awesome,” Androski said of her first-, second- and third-grade teacher. “I used to ride my bike to her house and hang out.”
Ramesh drove Androski to and from Rotary Club of Superior luncheons.
“He gave me college and career advice on the drives to and from lunch, and I vividly recall the advice he gave me,” Androski said. “One of my favorite memories is when he explained why he was doing this for me: He said, ‘You need to learn to talk to businessmen and have business lunches.’ Boy, was he right!”
But it was Rehnstrand who had the biggest influence as a social studies teacher, and Model U.N. and mock trial coach.
“He’s the reason I went to MIT,” Androski said.
She remembers Rehnstrand making an economic argument for the benefit of attending a private college over the UW System. Rehnstrand said it could take Androski five to six years to get all the classes necessary to graduate, compared to four years at a private college. The faster timeline would make it possible for her to start working before students at the state campuses even graduated, she said.
Finding a path
Androski's experience in mock trial, which relied on improvising, acting and reacting in the moment, convinced her she didn’t want to pursue a career in law.
“I was going to do research to cure diseases,” Androski said. “I was planning to attend medical school.”
That lasted until her sophomore year when she took a lab job at MIT.
“It was the most boring thing I’ve ever done,” Androski said. “I remember having to get up at 2 a.m. to make sure the bioreactors were working … I decided not to go to medical school.”
After MIT, Androski went into consulting for about three years before attending law school and earning a business degree. She clerked for a judge for a year and worked for a small law firm that handled a lot of trials before joining the federal prosecutor’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, where she worked in the budding cybercrime unit.
After four years there, she said she went back to private practice when a friend from MIT called in 2016 asking her to join Roivant Sciences, founded in 2014.
“I do this thing where I look five years in the future when I have trouble making decisions,” Androski said. “I look back to see what decision I would regret.”
When that call came, she concluded she would regret not joining the startup biotech company.
“It’s been super fun,” Androski said. “I’ve built 35 deals for drug programs, launched 16 companies, hired CEOs."
Roivant Social Ventures is a spin-out public charity of Roivant Sciences. Unlike most corporate foundations, it allows greater flexibility to drive systemic change, Androski wrote for Fortune in February.
Public charities are required to receive most donations from noncorporate sources, but that allows the charity to invest in startups, both financially and by sharing professional expertise.
Androski said she got involved in the public charity because she was looking for a project after promising her No. 2 a promotion to her job within Roivant Sciences.
Currently, Roivant Social Ventures is working with Sunflower Therapeutics, a public benefit corporation. They're focused on developing simplified manufacturing methods to enable efficient production of multiple medicines tailored to a region’s specific needs.
Androski said the public charity is a model that tech companies, banks — any company with expertise to offer — can use to enhance their charitable giving and have a greater impact on social issues.