Could you provide a brief recap of your career since graduating from Owen?
I graduated in 2012 and the following September I helped co-found a company called Zeumo which was in the education technology space. My work prior had been a lot in education and youth-oriented work so it was a natural extension but the first step into technology and software. About a year and a half in, we pivoted from education to healthcare. Long story short, in 2015 we were acquired by a healthcare company. I spent three years post-acquisition at the company and then in 2018 joined another start up called BOS Framework where I currently am working as the COO. It was a seed stage startup and I joined right as they closed the seed round.
What is your company and where did the idea come from? What served as the the biggest motivator or influence in starting your company?
I met the founder through an introduction. I was sitting on a pitch panel at Vanderbilt and connected with a guy who was also on the panel. He was considering making an investment in BOS Framework. He asked me if I would talk to the founder, which I did. I ended up working for him and that guy ended up investing in BOS. It was through Vanderbilt that that tight network of connection happened just by chance and meeting people in the ecosystem.
BOS Framework is a cloud engineering platform that systematizes and standardizes the implementation of the core parts of software development that power your business but have nothing unique to it. If you think about how you set up your cloud structure, your security constructs, your authentication and authorization – all of these kinds of tools are required for any application that you build, but they’re not unique and if they’re not unique they should be automated. If they’re automated, they’re much less prone to error. When you look at how companies grow and acquire new products they often end up in challenges where their products don’t talk to each other and their data doesn’t flow across products. Companies are getting massive overhead as they have to manage multiple products with multiple teams.
What we do is take that back end and integrate it and provide that common foundation for a product or set of products that can help grow that business. Businesses then pay a subscription to that backend service. The developers focus solely on the unique business proposition. We don’t care what industry you’re in because the back-end set of constructs is the same and how you manage your data is all independent of that.
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur and how have you worked to overcome this challenge?
All of it. You have to remind yourself why you got into this space. You should not get into this space lightly. When you’re trying to manifest an idea as a product, trying to build this product, trying to convince the market of it’s value, trying to figure out what you think the market thinks the value is, trying to figure out what money you can make, how much money you can raise, if you can get paying customers etc. – you have this chronic existential crisis in a startup that you have to be able to live day by day. It is really difficult and it’s not comfortable. It’s all of it. You have to have a product, customers and cash. That’s every day and you don’t get to step back and pass on challenges to other departments because you are the only department.
What qualities are most important to possess as an entrepreneur?
You’ve got to be resilient. You’re going to get knocked down and dragged out. The reality is there are vastly more ways to fail in your company than there are ways to succeed. You’ve got to be able to come back the next day and stay creative. For me the key behind resilience is staying in that creative mode. You create the ways to that next phase of your business, product or way out of the challenges. There is no playbook. You have to be creative. To me that notion of being resilient and being creative go hand in hand.
What are you most proud of about your business?
We’re still here. At the end of the day there’s always more you can do, mistakes you’ve made, things you’ve done right and things you’ve learned. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of things right. Everything in a startup takes longer, costs more and is harder than you expect it to be and that’s generally true. If you’re still in the journey, trying to realize the next phase of your product and your company, that’s a win.
What advice do you have for students as they launch their business? Are there any tools you consistently use as an entrepreneur?
There’s tons out there. The first thing I would say is take care of yourself. Whatever you have to do that clears your head, that gives you the ability to think and make decisions clearly to communicate effectively with the people around you – if that’s exercise, eating healthy, doing something creative, listening to podcasts or listening to music, whatever it is that’s the first thing.
Then, I think it’s important to have people around you – whether that’s on your team or in a mentor capacity, where you can just have the conversations you need to have. It can be having a conversation about something exciting happening or having the conversation of “I don’t know if I can keep doing this”. It’s about being able to have that conversation and ideally having someone who’s been through that before who can give you some amount of wisdom or ask you a question that helps you reframe what you’re being challenged by.
For me it’s about 1) Taking care of yourself, 2) Having a team or a partner in your business that you can be transparent with and have that level of connection and vulnerability with is important, 3) Having somebody outside that immediate ecosystem to call for a quick answer when you have a quick question and knowing that you’ll go into the call ready to listen more than talk.
What do you do to live a balanced life? Do you have any interesting or fun hobbies?
I have two daughters so that’s a key part of it. My background is in the visual arts so when I talk about creativity in this space I talk about it very earnestly and sincerely. My brain needs different stimuli. One of the challenges of startups is you have to be super focused on that startup but sometimes when you’re super focused on one thing you lose that ability to be creative. Sometimes I can go to bed reading business books but other times I need to read about an artist or fiction. I will find it’s an important balance for me to have at least three different genres of books usually going and depending on the night, understanding which is the one that I need, that’s going to settle me, refresh me, give me a little bit of juice even as I end the day. One of the things I do is keep a business book, an art book, a fiction book or sometimes a biography or non-fiction book at the ready. That’s one of the ways I keep balanced.