Students vs. Startups Episode 001

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Featuring DaVincian Healthcare and Nidus Analytical Services 

Welcome to the launch of Students vs. Startups: Showdown on the Potomac. The podcast that lets students “face off” with startups. Over the next 26 minutes, you will hear from three Georgetown Students and two of Eastern Foundry’s members as they discuss strategy, tactics, and what it’s like to work for a startup! You can listen to the podcast here, or read the transcript below.

Quotes:

“That’s something that we’re working towards and I’m really animated by our CEO’s vision to bring healthcare to 500 million people in five years.” Linh Hoang, Executive Director, DaVincian Healthcare.

“personally, I’ve been on the ground in Kenya, Ghana, was recently in Liberia supporting the Ebola emergency response.” Alexis Joiner, President Nidus Analytics Services

Thanks to our sponsors:

trg-radiant-nobg-250x300        sas

Transcript:

John Gilroy: Welcome to Students versus Startups, showdown on the Potomac. My name is John Gilroy, and I’ll be your moderator today. The format for this 26-minute podcast is quite simple. We put a leader of a tech startup in a hot seat, students ask questions, we find another innovator and then do it again!

The founding sponsor for Students versus Startups is The Radiant Group. If you enjoy solving complex problems and like to work with bright people, then The Radiant Group is the place for you. Contact Al DiLeonardo or Brian Poe at http://theradiantgroup.com  

We have three students. Each has a Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management from the School of Continuous Studies at Georgetown University. They’ve all studied tech management, and many of them have had marketing courses, so they have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the world there. I’m going to go one by one introduce these students, and they can tell a bit about their background.
Wes Lewis. Now Wes works with user experience. He has a very good background in this whole area. Wes, tell us about your background and your interest in technology, please.

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Wes Lewis, Phil Crawford, Tyler Gray

Wes Lewis: Sure. I have about thirteen years of experience working in web design development, user experience, research, and so forth. I currently work as a user experience design lead with Booz Allen Hamilton. I’m supporting about three contracts right now. Glad to be here.
Phil Crawford: Hey, my name is Phil Crawford. I’m actually a management consultant, work for the federal government, specifically within something called IT sensibilities, something called the section 508 allowing people …Anyone to access technology regardless of their background or their skill sets. Prior to that, I actually worked in the international field, international non-profit work in consulting, working with technology training other parts of the world, Africa, Latin America, so pretty international background. Also very excited to be here. I’m actually a first-year, first-semester student in the program and off to, I think, with taking your course.
John Gilroy: So, you’re a soon to be graduate, huh?
Tyler Gray: Hi, yes my name is Tyler Gray. Three years ago I founded my own company in Gray Street Solutions http://graystreetsolutions.com/  which really wouldn’t have been possible without the help, support, and mentorship I got at Georgetown. Specifically from the start-up Hoyas program. We do digital marketing for a variety of clients, defense, associations, and we also dabble in building our mobile apps so I’m very happy to be here and really thrilled to talk with everybody.
John Gilroy: The challenge with Tyler, didn’t know what side of the table to put him on. The start-up or the student? But he’s going to have some good questions for you. And our first start-up is called DaVincian Healthcare http://davincian.com/  and the leader of the company is Linh Hoang, H-o-a-n-g. Linh, tell us a little about your background, please.
Linh Hoang: Thank you, John, it’s a delight to be here and also to have a conversation with all of our students from Georgetown University. It’s really a privilege. I’m really excited to be part of this conversation, to talk a bit more about DaVincian, what we do. We are a technology start-up company focusing on building mobile healthcare solutions for patients, doctors, and their concerned family members. Connecting that health ecosystem and that’s what I’m thrilled most about at our company.

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Wes Lewis, Phil Crawford, Tyler Gray, Claude Jennings Jr., Linh Hoang

John Gilroy: Well, with a wonderful, timely topic, I’m going to ask you the question we’re going to ask all of our start-ups here. So tell me, what business problem do you solve?
Linh Hoang: You know, most of healthcare is broken today and you’re not personally …You don’t have access to your information, you’re not getting the care that you need, the …Most Americans do not have access to that information timely, so what we’re hoping to do is building apps. Healthcare apps that allow you to have access to your information, connecting with your patient to your doctors, and having your concerned family members accessing that information as well to help you in achieving better healthcare. So having the tools at your fingertip on your mobile device is something that we’re excited to build out for families and healthcare professionals.
Tyler Gray: So there’s a lot in the news about mobile technology wearable devices. Where do you see the future of that going? To maybe one day have less expensive healthcare, because I wear a Fitbit?
Linh Hoang: I think the tools is only an enabler in helping us getting to better health, but really what’s behind it is going to be the data. I think as we look into the future of healthcare, there’s going to be a ginormous amount of healthcare data being made available. How do we comb through that information to help patients make better healthcare decisions? So having the tools and the capability to analyze the data and help with intervention. That should be the focus of healthcare going forward in the future.

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Linh Hoang

Tyler Gray: Going back to the origins of why you wanted to start up this company. A lot of people have ideas about start-ups because they’ve seen an existing model, but in a different industry or sector. Was there anything you were seeing in other parts, I don’t know, in other industries that needed innovation that you were thinking “all right, healthcare. We can do something with real time data”. Any inspiration like that or you just knew it? Day one.
Linh Hoang: I work for a start-up. I do not own or start this company, but I’m working for a start-up. At the end of the day our company came into existing because of our social mission, actually, to provide healthcare to under-served communities around the world. As we explore that theme more and more, we’ve realized that there are under-served communities here in the US.
There are young professionals who are working out, the millennial generation, working in the 1099 economy that don’t have access to healthcare, right? Even though we’re living in a very prosperous country. So whether serving communities here in the US or around the world, the idea is to build low-cost healthcare solutions that allow everyone to access high-quality healthcare connecting them to a healthcare professional at the right time for a reasonable price.
I think essentially that’s what we need. And especially more millennials and young people going into healthcare we need to make sure that healthcare is not a major burden to them. Having tools on devices that they are familiar with, that’s going to be most important for us.
Wes Lewis: I’m curious about your …Any drivers that you may have that fuel your desire to pursue this venture. Is there anything that you would say that drives you? A passion or just entrepreneurship or the mission in general? What drives you?
Linh Hoang: You know when I met the CEO, Mr. Theodore Waz, he said we want to bring healthcare to 500 million people in five years. It’s a ginormous goal, and I think that’s …Looking back, that’s what really animated me about our company and why I work here is that there is serious need around the world. So what kind of tools are we going to create to reach that many people to provide the intervention?
For someone in a village in South India being able to use their phone or go to a clinic that have the telemedicine tools that connect with a doctor maybe fifty or a hundred miles away because there’s no hospitals in small villages. Being able to connect under-served communities like that to healthcare, that’s what excited me the most and using telemedicine as a vehicle to delivering care. That’s something that we’re working towards and I’m really animated by our CEO’s vision to bring healthcare to 500 million people in five years.
Phil Crawford: So 500 million? That’s quite a big number, but it’s awful amazing. I really like it. My main question is do you have any type of kind of strategy for what geographies, regions you’ll hit first? Are you going to do any ? You’ve already mentioned the need within the United States, are you going to focus their first or go outside or try to hit every little piece at once?

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Linh Hoang

Linh Hoang: I think products have to be tested in their market environment, right? What we realize is that right here in the US, we have to be very cautious and judicious in how we roll out or products because of certain compliance that we have to go through. But at the same time, this is the market that we are serving. So of course, the US market is our key focus, but of course many of our telemedicine tools, as we build them we test them immediately in developing countries getting feedback from patients, from doctors. This makes senses for them in that environment, right? And alter the tool to fit that environment.
I’ll give you a very concrete example. We develop our telemedicine kit for frontline rescuers in natural disaster areas. We listen to them …We provided initially a very fancy tablet, but that doesn’t work in a natural disaster area. It’ll break immediately or scratch so we have to alter our design very quickly to meet the customer in need. Ultimately, you know, creating tools that work for the market environment. I think sometimes in a developing country we can be very innovative and low-cost. I think that’s what start-ups have to do is to really understand the needs of their market environment.
Phil Crawford: So, obviously your company is a strong, social, good mission but you’re still a start-up and there’s a lot of pressure. How do you maintain a positive culture, especially with millennials who get a bad rap? But given the general demands and seriousness of what you’re trying to do and how far and how fast you probably need to grow.
Linh Hoang: I think those things really go together. It’s not sacrificing one or the other. At the end of the day, by doing good, we are going to be profitable. Right now we have the luxury of being a start-up but at the same time that is a lot of pressure on us to perform, and that’s something that we take very seriously and are animated about because competing and working with other companies to create relevant tools for healthcare, that’s something that’s a lot of fun to us. As we talk about our stories, sharing our successes, investors like that. Millennials love it as well, and getting the feedback directly from doctors. Sometimes they say “why are you giving me this something really cumbersome? Less is more”. I think working in that …Involving all of these decoders in the health ecosystem is critical to success.
John Gilroy: Thank you very much. That was a great introduction to your company. I’d like to thank the students. If people want to get more information on your company, where should they go, Linh?
Linh Hoang: They should go to www.davincian.com 
John Gilroy: Well we’re going to end round one right here, we are hosted by Eastern Foundry. A start-up hub in the business of forging innovation in the government marketplace. For more information go to www.eastern-foundry.com. Our monthly sponsor is SAS Federal. Through innovative analytics, business intelligence, and data management software and services, SAS helps government agencies make more informed decisions faster.
Welcome back to Students versus Startups: Showdown in the Potomac. You already know our students, Wes Lewis, Phil Crawford, and Tyler Gray. Allow me to introduce our next start-up, Nidus http://nidusanalytics.com/ . Represented by Alexis Joiner, president. Nidus provides niche, technical services, and subject-matter expertise to a diverse client base. Wow, covers a lot of bases there.
Alexis, we’ll start with the question that people ask our start-ups but first of all, tell us a little bit about your background and how you wound up starting this company.
Alexis Joiner: Thank you. I started off my career working in the civilian sector as a federal bureau of investigation analyst not long after September 11the attacks hit Washington and New York. At that time we were going to war in Iraq looking for suspected WMD and the bureau was recruiting individuals with public health, scientific health background.

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Alexis Joiner

So I initiated my career in the civilian sector working in the areas bio-defense, bio-terrorism, and transitioned to the private sector working as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton. So I have diverse experience working both on the civilian sector as well as the private sector.
John Gilroy: I’m going to ask a question that I ask everyone. What business problem does your company solve?
Alexis Joiner: I think our company serves in a somewhat integrated space where you have emerging threats such as Ebola, Zika virus, where you’re crossing over both healthcare sector defense and security markets. We can basically provide expertise and strategy to our clients in helping them define their problems and prioritize their needs based off of suspected risks and vulnerabilities.
Tyler Gray: So, coming from obviously large organizations to starting a smaller one, what would you say have been your top lessons learned? Or if you had to go back and do it again what would be different or maybe the biggest surprise of them all?

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Tyler Gray

Alexis Joiner: Sure. I think, as you referenced, coming from a large consulting firm and large federal civilian agency, you can certainly identify larger companies unfortunately sometimes aren’t as flexible and agile. In the smaller company you can see opportunity then often develop solutions to those problems in a more efficient manner. So, for me as a small business, we’re able to look at kind of emerging markets as well as define more flexible solutions for clients.
Phil Crawford: So you’ve got this amazing experience over the past couple years. Kind of what drew you, what’s your passion for pursuing this business and moving it forward for the next five, hopefully ten years, you know the rest of your life?
Alexis Joiner: Sure. Yes, my passion really initiates from public health and kind of the global good kind of social entrepreneurship and I guess I could sort of define my company as a doing good next generation type of company. Perhaps my passion isn’t necessarily to scale up and be a large fortune 500, but perhaps we can actually solve real world emerging issues challenging, threatening our security, our healthcare environments.

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Alexis Joiner

Wes Lewis: Thinking about when you actually decided that it was time to break away from a big industry-large company to start your own company, did you have any types of issues in terms of determining when that best time was? Did you encounter any type of challenges regarding determining the time? And I guess what was your exit strategy? Breaking away and, you know, starting your own.
Alexis Joiner: Certainly. Good question. I think certainly you should always have a plan before you jump into starting a business. While I was still working for my former employer, I was doing my own homework and kind of market research and tapping into resources at the local and state level for, you know, how do you start your own company? What federal or state level resource is available? Such as women’s small business centers that are available across the country. You know, really developing that initial business market plan.
I’m actually five years out now from when I founded my company in 2011 so certainly I’m at a point of re-assessing where I am. Where I thought I would be five years ago and where I am in looking to the future where the opportunities are both internationally and domestically here, in the US.
Phil Crawford: When you were doing the research five years ago and you were kind of looking at potential risks or challenges, are those risks the same today, five years later or is it different?
Alexis Joiner: Yes. I think, circa 2013 time frame, the US federal government, our defense markets were coming to somewhat risks themselves in terms of were pulling out of Afghanistan, Iraq, defense cuts, sequestration hit. So established companies were essentially trying to keep themselves afloat and as a new start-up company certainly it’s kind of challenging to see where am I going to fit into this market. But as a result of that, I started looking outside the US for opportunities. So in the last three years our company, me personally, I’ve been on the ground in Kenya, Ghana, was recently in Liberia supporting the Ebola emergency response.
Tyler Gray: So as you’ve grown your company, both with clients and employees, contractors, what have you …I guess what’s been your biggest challenge or what did you learn the most from? Or maybe something if you had to do over you would do differently?
Alexis Joiner: Sure. I think being a start-up and especially if you’re in the federal government market space is challenging in itself. It’s almost, you could say, an oxymoron because you don’t necessarily think of government, start-up, innovation, going together. So I think as a start-up in the federal sector, you’re definitely vulnerable to volatile market and having to market yourself as a small business to prime companies that can wait indefinitely for a contract award and you’re just trying to get your feet wet with your first contract. That’s definitely a challenge and certainly you have to be strategic in terms of what opportunities your targeting.
Wes Lewis: I would be curious to see who you believe are your biggest competitors?
Alexis Joiner: I like to …Kind of coming from a consulting world, you change your competitors into your partners. Being able to team with companies where you feel like you can either supplement areas that maybe from a cost perspective. You can offer a lower cost solution or you have that niche capability that that company is not going be able to fill themselves. So the more that you can partner with companies rather than trying to be a competitor, because there’s certainly prime companies that are in my space but I think it works to a smaller company’s advantage to develop that partner-teaming relationship rather than trying to compete head on with that big competitor.

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Wes Lewis, Phil Crawford, Claude Jennings Jr., Alexis Joiner,

Phil Crawford: As you talked about partnerships and management as different relationships, do you find yourself spending more and more time actually doing the managing process and not actually the work? Because you actually have to work with all these different pieces and –
Alexis Joiner: I think as a small business owner you wear multiple hats every day, so you become a legal expert reviewing NDAs, teaming agreements, you become the accountant managing your finances, and certainly you have to develop those marketing skills on your own. But at the same time you can be creative and I’ve been fortunate to utilize academia to hire interns who are looking for that work experience. You just have to be able to balance multiple tasks at a time so you really become a project manager for yourself so to speak.
Phil Crawford: Why did you choose Eastern Foundry as an incubator and what kind of good services and support do you get here?
Alexis Joiner: Sure. I choose Eastern Foundry …I’m a recent member as of July-early August time frame. Eastern Foundry did not exist when I started my company in 2011. It’s about two years old now. So I was actively looking for an incubator that was focused on federal government contracting and Eastern Foundry is one of the few in this Washington DC area so it was a perfect fit for what I was looking for rather than having to go out single handedly seeking their services. I can say I have benefited from internal marketing services already available.
John Gilroy: Great job, Alexis. Great job, students. Alexis, if listeners wanted to get more information on your company, what website should they visit?
Alexis Joiner: Yes, they can visit www.nidusanalytics.com.
John Gilroy: N-i-d-u-s analytics .com. Is that right?
Alexis Joiner: Yes.
John Gilroy: Great. Well, we’re running out of time. I’d like to thank our sponsor the Radiant Group, our host Eastern Foundry, and monthly sponsor SAS Federal. If you would like to see a transcript of this episode, please visit the blog at www.eastern-foundry.com. Signing off from high atop a nondescript building in lovely downtown Rosslyn, Virginia I am John Gilroy. Thanks for listening to students versus start-ups, showdown on the Potomac!
 

If you are interested in participating in Students vs. Startups as either an entrepreneur or a student, please reach out to Associate Producer, Dan Bowman at Dan@eastern-foundry.com

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