Author Archives: C. DAY

The 30-Year-Old Startup.

This entire issue Sept. 24, 2012 is an Innovation Special.  Fabulous article on “The 30-Year Startup”, Intuit, who with the help of guru founder as advisor Scott Cook and under CEO Brad Cook has reinvented innovation in teams to test new ideas continually.  It’s working so well that Intuit ranked 57th out of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, moving up 27 spots from last year.  Not bad for a tech firm with $4.1 billion in venues and a market valuation of $17 billion.

It’s lunchtime at Intuit INTU +0% in Mountain View, Calif., and the company’s almost-daily ritual is under way in the cafeteria: office hours with Scott Cook. Intuit’s billionaire cofounder perches on a stool in his everyday wear of running shoes, a button-down oxford shirt, canvas jeans and a Swatch as four product managers explain their new idea, code-named Peppermint: an online marketplace like Craigslist that would allow hair salons, landscapers and dentists, or any of the 5 million small businesses that use Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software, to connect with potential customers under the halo of being “Intuit-certified service providers.”

On a table between Cook and the Peppermint quartet is a giant piece of white oak tag divided into little boxes labeled with the big questions: What’s your idea? What’s your vision? What’s your leap-of-faith assumption? What’s your hypothesis? The upper rows of boxes have fluorescent pink and yellow Post-it Notes in the m scribbled with answers.

There are dozens of such projects and experiments going on across the company. Cook meets monthly with 14 or 15 similar teams, meaning that most of his workday lunches are occupied by one brainstorming session or another. Right now this one isn’t going so well. Cook gently interrogates with his lips pursed and hands held out over the oak tag.

 How are you going to vet the service providers?  We could use credit scores or Yelp ratings. Okay.
How would you show if there’s buyer dissatisfaction?  We could let people know by looking at how
often their customers switch.

But they’ve already switched. That’s a lagging indicator.

We know people are interested in the service. To prove the market interest, the quartet had set up a Google GOOG +0% AdWords campaign, spending a couple of hundred bucks on a text ad that ran next to searches for dentists, hair salons and landscapers. It read: “Intuit-recommended service providers to meet your everyday needs” and linked to a dummy Web page thanking the visitor for being part of a study making QuickBooks better. They figured 10% of the ad click-throughs would yield a sign-up. It turned out 20% did.

That’s good, replies Cook, but what does “Intuit-recommended” mean? How do we reliably vouch for them? You really have to test what you can deliver. It’s not the right test. I’m not sure I believe the results if it comes up positive.

The Peppermint quartet looks crestfallen, but they agree Cook is right. They pack up, promise to tighten their idea, do some testing with real businesses and go through some more trial and error. With a little bit of money and in a short amount of time, a new product idea at Intuit stepped toward viability.

This is how things get done at the software company. In the last few years Cook and CEO Brad Smith have recast a big tech firm, with $4.1 billion in revenue and $17 billion in market valuation (similar to Yahoo YHOO +0%‘s, with far less fanfare and drama), in the image of a startup: fast-moving, embracing uncertainty, continually learning. And it’s worked: Intuit is making its second appearance this year on FORBES’ annual list of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, moving up 27 spots to 57.

New ideas are put to the test constantly. In 2006 the TurboTax group experimented with just one tweak to the website during the 100-day tax season. This season they ran hundreds of tests. Intuit tells FORBES that more than $100 million of its 2012 revenue came from products that didn’t exist three years ago, a tenfold increase from 2010.

Plenty of companies are a religion, where people take their cues from the top. Intuit is a science lab, where anything can be tested and proven incorrect. “When you have only one test, you don’t have entrepreneurs; you have politicians. When you have lots of ideas you have entrepreneurs,” says Cook.

He’s found a kindred spirit in Smith, who became CEO in 2008. “Genius and a thousand helpers are not going to solve the problems of today or tomorrow,” says Smith, 48, who speaks quickly with a ready smile and a West Virginia twang. (He grew up in Kenova, W.Va., not far from where the Marshall University football team’s plane crashed in 1970, and a We Are Marshall movie poster hangs in his office.) “There are very few Steve Jobses out there. We run small teams and lots of rapid experiments. No politics. No PowerPoints.”

Intuit had to adopt this fast mode. It faces a challenging growth prospect. Close to one-third of the U.S. economy already flows through its software via payroll, invoicing and taxes. How much more can it get? The small business economy is as tepid as the economy overall. Intuit’s two biggest products, QuickBooks and TurboTax, which produce over half of its revenue, already locked up their fairly mature markets. QuickBooks has more than 90% retail market share for small business accounting software. TurboTax has 90% of consumer federal tax app sales.

The plan it is deploying in startup time is a move to the cloud and to mobile. In the past three years Intuit has made a priority of replacing the no-growth packaged-software business with faster-growing online versions of its big hits and with subscription services such as online and mobile banking software. Of Intuit’s 60 million customers, more than 45 million now use online or mobile versions of its software, up from 10 million in 2008. Seven million of those 60 million are active mobile customers.

Avoiding the physical delivery of its software has done wonders for its income statement. Return on invested capital since Smith took over the top job in 2008 has risen from 14.7% to 24%. Its shares have doubled in the past five years, while the Nasdaq is up only 20%. The shift to the cloud and the smartphone also gives Intuit a big opportunity to mine all that online spending and hiring data that can fuel new products and service ideas, and sell customers upgrades like payroll management and online banking.

In mobile Intuit has built 55 apps, teaching it the thorny task of making money from the phone. Its SnapTax app, which takes a picture of your W-2, charges you $24.99 to file it as your federal return. Intuit gets subscription fees from its mobile banking clients (“The other 14,995 banks in the U.S.,” says Smith). Snap Payroll is a free app that calculates paychecks for new employees in minutes but also acts as a lead generator for the paid versions of Intuit Online Payroll. Mint’s iPad app offers a daily update of your financial life and targets offers for credit cards and savings accounts.  Left CEO Brad Cook. .

FORBES’ innovation methodology, done in partnership with HOLT, a division of Credit Suisse, centers on investors’ confidence in a firm’s ability to come up with new revenue-generating or money-saving ideas. Intuit’s revenue is up 10% over the past 12 months. Smith wants to keep moving up. His goal: Add $1.5 billion in new revenue over the next three years, implying a growth rate one or two points faster than the last three years.

The year Smith took the top job, Intuit had just begun a program of workshops called “Design for Delight,” which teach employees how to think more creatively through experiments and to embrace what’s called “deep customer empathy.” The workshops can be an hour long or last a couple of months. In 2008 Intuit ran one workshop. In 2009 it held 27; in the last 12 months, 700. They’re led by a cadre of 160 people who have regular day jobs but spend 10% of their time as so-called innovation catalysts. A workshop can mean wacky brainstorming sessions in which managers roll on the floor pretending to be a silent ninja or wear Cabbage Patch Kids hand puppets while pretending to talk as a real customer.

A group of employees testing Intuit Financial Services’ mobile banking app spent a day in July at the Chevron CVX +0% Federal Credit Union in Concord, Calif., selling cupcakes for $2 each if paid for with cash or $1 if purchased with the app (which they were more than happy to demonstrate). The app is not even fully built; they just wanted to see if people have it or would bother to take out their phone to use it. The “willingness” test is crucial to continuing with a new product’s development. Why bother if no one cares? The trick is to figure that out fast and inexpensively.

Since the publication of The Lean Startup (Crown Business, 2011) Eric Ries has become a Silicon Valley guru for entrepreneurs who, using little or no money, strive to turn an idea into a company. He makes a compelling case for companies to recognize that markets are too uncertain and time too precious to drag out decision making about what customers want and what products to build. Just do the best you can and keep getting better. (The principle doesn’t always apply. See under: airplanes.)

But Intuit, with 8,000 employees, has also embraced Ries. The relationship began three years ago, when someone from Intuit videoed him speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Cook saw the clip and showed it to Smith. Neither at the time was happy with the data on Intuit’s product development process. An assessment completed in early 2008 showed that only 4 out of 50 products introduced in the prior decade achieved $50 million in revenue.

Cook asked Ries to talk to the troops, but Ries wasn’t interested in big companies and their problems. “But when Scott Cook calls you, you do what he says,” Ries remembers. As soon as Ries finished addressing 2,000 employees, Smith popped up and said, “Folks, remember Eric’s definition of a startup: ‘a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.’ We match up with that exactly.”

Ries was taken aback that Smith would say that, so much so that he devoted the entire first chapter of his book (including this story) to Intuit to make the point that no matter what size a company is, it can innovate if the senior management supports it.

“All the people I’ve met there, there’s no ego; they’re not afraid to change their behavior,” says Ries. “I saw one senior guy whose idea they’d been working on for nine months get disproved in a day because someone had a better way. He got up in front of everyone and said, ‘This is my bad. I should have checked my hypothesis earlier.'”

One project inspired by Ries’ ideas is what’s called the Lean StartIN. It’s an intense two-day product brainstorming session in which three- to five-person teams are expected to come up with an idea and a series of tests to prove its merit. The first one was held in January in San Diego with 11 people. The next one, in February, had 52 people present at the company’s Mountain View headquarters, with Smith as chief judge.

To be sure, not everyone buys into it. Ries has met plenty of line employees who roll their eyes and say the equivalent of “Yeah, right,” or are unhappy with the projects they’re working on. “But Intuit is proof that a little bit of the right mentality goes a long way.”

Take the case of Mint, the easy-to-use personal finance website that Intuit snapped up in November 2009 for $170 million. Mint showed up Intuit with its far simpler execution of a financial dashboard, connecting all of the user’s bank, investment and credit card accounts. Mint’s founder, Aaron Patzer, was initially worried he was going to lose control of his baby. “Every startup fears being sucked up by the Borg,” he says. “But they told me I could run it as I saw fit, and they held true to their word.”

For a couple of years he oversaw the $100 million personal finance group that included Mint, Quicken and Quicken Bill Pay, but by 2011 he was itching to get back to product design and engineering. So Brad Smith granted him the role of making Intuit’s biggest products as easy as Mint is to set up for the first time. At the time the setup of QuickBooks’ desktop version had 45 screens of text that, in Patzer’s observation tests, few users ever took the time to read. QuickBooks’ engineers told him people had asked for each of the screens. Patzer ignored them and cut the setup down to three screens, burying any extra text behind a click. He kept in mind one of Marissa Mayer’s principles: Leave in any feature that more than 20% of people use and get rid of anything that fewer than 5% of people ever use.

One idea that came out of the Lean StartIN competition was called Mint PayBack, devised as a simple way for Mint users to get their friends to pay them money owed for things like groceries, rent, restaurant bills. They came up with a simple test to see if anyone would use it by creating a dummy page called and tweeting the Web address to its thousands of followers. Several dozen clicked on the address and saw a page that asked for their and their friends’ e-mail addresses and the amount requested (minus a 50-cent fee). The rate of recipients clicking on the link was a lot higher than they expected, so they wrote some software to connect it to the real Intuit payments network and over three weeks collected $597 in fees. Twenty-four percent of the people using it weren’t even Mint users. The service is likely to become a real offering soon.

The Lean StartIN program is now graduating to a full world tour, with stops in Canada, Bangalore, Waltham, Mass., and Tucson, Ariz., with the goal of creating 100 “startups” in 100 days, from which maybe ten new products will be born.

Nearly 30 years after he came up with Quicken at his kitchen table, Scott Cook is convinced that one of these new products can perhaps be as transformative for Intuit as that original cash cow. The place he has seen the most dramatic leaps in innovation from the bottom has been in India, where the company had no established habits in product development. One experiment that delivered crop price information to mobile phones through text messaging now has close to 1 million farmers using it across three states. Some users have reported close to 20% jumps in their take-home pay. “Human behavior is so hard to predict. Unless you run an experiment you just don’t know what works. That’s how learning happens.”

By Bruce Upbin

NACCE 2019 Entrepreneurship Explorations

NACCE 2019 Entrepreneurship Explorations, held in beautiful Newport Beach California, ignited creativity and engagement for all attendees with record attendance this year. The mission of NACCE that resonates with so many is ‘to provide leadership and sustainable, scalable resources to foster entrepreneurial thinking and action in one of the largest entrepreneurial ecosystems in North America’.  (Make sure to check out the video highlights below!)

NACCE President & CEO Dr. Rebecca Corbin kicked off the conference by pointing to the Centers of Practice around the themes of entrepreneurial mindset, equity and inclusion, engagement, apprenticeships and workforce development, making and global entrepreneurship. The exhibit hall provided an opportunity for friends to learn more about the COPs and meet all the sponsors. During the conference several events took place including two new pitch competitions, a film screening of Most Likely to Succeed, live music, book giveaways and plenty of sponsor gifts and interactions!

NACCE awarded Clinton E. Day the Entrepreneurship Star Award in August and two more distinguished NACCE awards were presented during this annual conference. Dr. Paul Dale, President of Paradise Valley Community College accepted the Entrepreneurial President recognition and Dr. Constance Carroll, Chancellor of San Diego Community College District accepted the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.

Saturday opened with an Offsite Tour opportunity to explore Newport Beach led by Katie Calabrese Director of Membership and Projects. A beautiful day on the Pacific Ocean with a self-guided Duffy Boat Cruise made for a memorable networking opportunity between educators.

Sunday was your preconference chance to grab autographs for the newest NACEE book Community Colleges as Incubators of Innovation – Unleashing Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Communities and Students. Dr. Corbin kicked off the event and the book’s authors took the attendees through firsthand entrepreneurial accounts and best practices. Author Dr. Ron Thomas shared lessons including: ‘Don’t go it alone, Know you, Solve problems, and Involve customers. Design Thinking expert and author Beth Kerley pointed out entrepreneurship is ‘Not about resources, it is about Resourcefulness.’ President and CEO of the Morgan Foundation and author Deborah Hoover provided impactful stories of how a profession of ecosystem builders is growing sharing how the Morgan Foundation is leading the charge in Ohio.

For the Opening General Session, a warm welcome was provided by Dr. Corbin, NACCE Chair Dr. Susan May, Host Colleges Dr. Lori Adrian. The main keynote was provided by the brilliant Direct Selling Education Foundation invite Gordon Hester. His candid approach kept the audience engaged as he shared his success stories built on the fact that ‘Standards are more important than Goals.’ Chris Mackey General Manager of CPP Innovation Labs of Myers-Briggs noted the importance of looking for opportunities to share entrepreneurship with kids early on with a nostalgic testimony of him and his son touring Washington DC complete with a thoughtful thank you card to a Senator.

Monday opened with lots of excitement as Charles Knippen, President of the National Society of Leadership and Success transformed the audience’s perspective on how high someone can jump. Jaws dropped at the end of the presentation when he described the car wreck him and his husband survived by showing a gory picture of his bloody shirt….a shirt he had cleaned for the presentation. He stated that it reminds him of the importance of fully loving each day. Tallahassee Community College EVP Madeline Pumariega talked disruption to educators asking ‘if we are prepared for the UBER of education’ like taxi medallion owners thought would never happen. Intuit VP of Education David Zasada spoke on Design for Delight (D4D) teaching corporations and institutions on how ‘it is everyone’s job to Innovate.’ They followed up with a detailed walk through of D4D in the last breakout session of the day.

For Breakout Session 2, Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc. had a full breakout room. The audience engaged in Lean entrepreneurship tools and training solutions with an experiential exercise. Participants came away more prepared to face the frightening pace of automation and disruption that will continue to impact workforce and the economy.

For lunch, the Verizon Innovative Learning panel discussed amazing impacts on communities they had across campuses. The Keynote Ted Dintersmith author of What Schools Could Be and a producer of the film Mostly Likely to Succeed provided a very blunt view of how colleges and K-12 need to improve their approach of education. He passionately pointed out that a kid shouldn’t fail out of school for a subject like algebra when most school President’s possess an elementary math level as well. He had a film screening of his documentary that proved project-based learning as the core can be an alternative educational approach vs the current hierarchy dominated memorization path.

Coffee, Dessert and Networking please!! NACCE Director of Marketing and Communications Leah Deppert delivered Speed Networking and Meet-Ups with Rosé in the Rose Garden Monday evening before the film screening Most Likely to Succeed. We all were in awe of the California sunset dipping into the Pacific before heading in for the thought-provoking film.

While the author of this article had to make an early departure Tuesday, please make sure to check out to see the full agenda!  Enjoy the video highlights:

By Clinton D. Swigart, CPA, MA

Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc.

The Brutally Honest Guide to “Finding Your Passion”

Ugh. “How to find your passion” Cue the doves, rainbows, and synchronized unicorn dance ensemble.

Here’s a topic used frequently in entrepreneurship.  “Make your work your passion and you won’t have a job.”  Two points of view below.

How to Use a Double-Edged Sword

I refer to the double-edged sword concept a lot. Life comes with tradeoffs and opportunity costs. You can’t experience the positive aspects of a decision and remove the unintended consequences at the same time. One example I use often is the fact that self-improvement can help you find the inspiration you need to change, but it can also lead to mental masturbation — the process of congratulating yourself for learning withouttaking action.

Learning how to find your passion has a double-edged sword, too. One of the best lessons I’ve learned involves understanding both sides of an argument. Unless you can fully understand the opposite case to what you believe to be true, you don’t have knowledge. It’d be easy for me to take a one-sided approach to the idea of finding your passion. I’ve done it before.

In my process of learning and implementing self-improvement, I’ve gone back and forth between stances. I don’t consider this waffling. I consider it true learning. If I wrote something in the past that I come to change my mind on in the present, I won’t change or delete the article. I think of them as timestamps in the past; solidified pieces of thought. I need the reminders of what I used to believe to inspire me to keep questioning my belief systems.

Let’s take a look at the passion debate at every angle so you can make a decision that works for you.

The Pro Argument for Finding Your Passion

A Gallup survey revealed that “A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. ”

You spend basically a third of your entire life working, which means that doing what you hate just to get by robs you of a large portion of existence. Doing what you hate for a living also has a ton of negative consequences. It drains you of your energy, which causes you to be less present with your friends and family while you’re not at work. Being in a negative environment for eight hours a day has a spillover effect.

You’ve seen people who let the jobs they hate whittle away their soul. You see them every day on the highway while you drive to work. Hell, maybe you are one of these people right now. You see the feeling of desperation in the person you walk past in the grocery store and make eye contact with, only for them to ignore you or even frown. And it’s not just that they’ve had a bad day. You can tell life itself has put them into this default state.

Finding your passion, however, produces the exact opposite effect. When you find your passion, you’re full of life. You want to wake up in the morning because you’re excited about the day. When you work, you don’t feel like you’re working. You’re in a flow state and the time passes by without effort.

You’ve heard the saying “Find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Why Trying to Find Your Passion is Dangerous and Counterproductive

You can’t eat passion. Passion doesn’t pay your bills.  You can’t enter “finding your passion” into an application for medical assistance.

Who the hell are these millennials with no life experience to be telling you how to find your passion and live your bliss? They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Someone has to wash the dishes, haul the garbage, do your accounting, construct your roads, and wait your tables. The world spins because of people who don’t follow their passion. On top of that, finding your passion is all good and well until it doesn’t work. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to find it only to get zero tangible results.

If that wasn’t enough cold water splashed on your dreams, here comes the tidal wave, finding your passion can be dangerous. I actually wrote an article about this topic.  Here’s the most highlighted passage:

“The problem with focusing on what you’re passionate about is… it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it comes with a poor underlying assumption.The assumption is that your level of love dictates how dedicated you’ll be to the journey. You think that once you find that ultimate passion, things will fall into place, and you’ll do the work necessary to succeed.”

This is backward.

In reality, you don’t find passion until you get good at something. When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process.

Most people want the results without the effort. They want passion to fall in their lap. You shouldn’t chase or seek your passion because that means it’s trying to evade you. Often, you’ll end up chasing your own tail, running on the advice treadmill, and making no progress toward building a life you love.  Do your job, be thankful you have a roof over your head in the first place, and stop being so entitled.

So, What’s the Real Answer?

As always the real answer lies somewhere in the middle.  The odds of you finding a magical passion right away are basically zero. On the other hand, trying to find your passion is still worth attempting, even with low odds, because the alternative of living below your potential can have dramatic negative consequences, too.

How do you find balance? How do you overcome the hurdles and build a vehicle for your freedom? Here’s everything I know based on a half decade of learning, testing, experimenting, failing (multiple times), and finally succeeding.

Take Everything I Say With a Grain of Salt

I’m a human being just like you. I have my own faults, biases, and beliefs about the world. You can take the exact same steps as me with dramatically different results. There are no guarantees with any of this. Not to tickle your lizard brain and push you toward a negative behavior you’re prone to, but be skeptical of me.

Most people start following self-help writers until a weird thing happens — they fall in love with them.  They get so caught up in the people they’re following they take all their advice verbatim and spend more time idolizing the guru than doing the work.

I read a bunch of self-improvement books. After a while, something interesting happened. I ran into conflicting advice from different sources I respected equally. That meant I had to figure out what was true by testing both sides of a debate to see what works. As I improved my own life, I started to look at these other influencers at eye-level instead of looking up to them. I see behind the smoke and mirrors. I also realize these people are just human beings, not Gods with superhuman talent or vessels of the “secret sauce.”

Far too many of you get trapped in hero worship and mental masturbation. Reading some self-help writers book means nothing. Testing and filtering out their techniques to see who really knows what they’re talking about does. Taking bad advice isn’t neutral. It pushes you back. Be optimistic, but pay attention to who you’re listening to, how they got where they are today, and whether or not you can replicate their strategies.

Eventually, you’ll narrow the people you listen to and you’ll have weeded out the pretenders. Here’s what to do next.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Be This Person

It’s fascinating to see people pick apart advice.  I have a hobby. I go read negative reviews of Amazon books. One comment I hear often “The author didn’t go into enough depth and provide enough actionable advice.”  Ok. What did you expect exactly? Did you really think an $11 e-book was going to give you the blueprint for millions? What were you looking for exactly?

Resources:  Here are all of my most tactical, detailed, and useful guides on finding your passion

AND…What Part Does Passion Play in Your Success as an Entrepreneur

The energy of passion. Such energy will keep you going when the tasks are unpleasant, the money isn’t coming in, and your physical energy has done left the building. It can be the one thing that earns the trust of your employees and customers. It will fuel your business when the economy gets tight and the competition gets fierce. Without energy, as I said in “3 Ways to Leverage the Resource You Can Least Afford to Do Without” you’re toast.

Free, 9-Topic 2019 SCORE Startup Success Virtual Conference 10/24.

Attend the Startup Success Virtual Conference on Thursday, October 24th from 12 to 5 pm ET.;F:QS!10100&ShowUUID=D5EF72CD-7056-4B8C-9FCF-F7F8FF1333CE&AffiliateData=TwoWeek;F:QS!10100&ShowUUID=D5EF72CD-7056-4B8C-9FCF-F7F8FF1333CE&AffiliateData=TwoWeeks (Links to an external site.)

Register and view agenda via above link.  Free, half-day online conference with business experts –Building an E-commerce Based Small Business (Links to an external site.), An Easier Way to Write Your Business Plan – The Business Model Canvas (Links to an external site.), The Ultimate Formula for Making More Sales by Mastering Social Media Marketing (Links to an external site.), What You Need to Know About Franchise Ownership (Links to an external site.), Access to Capital 101: Funding Options to Start and Grow Your Business (Links to an external site.), Disaster Preparedness and Continuity for Your Business (Links to an external site.), The Financial Dashboard – Your Key to Small Business Success and  (Links to an external site.)The Value of Communication When Starting Your Business & Beyond. (Links to an external site.)

Can click on any of 9 topics above for complete details.  Excellent subjects for startup small businesses. 

The Startup Success Virtual Conference offers all the benefits of an in-person conference. Choose from exclusive webinars on startup topics (Links to an external site.) that matter to you. In between sessions, stop by virtual rooms to get expert, business advice from a mentor, network with other aspiring and current business owners, and enter for prize giveaways.

Growth Story: Eric Fish of Lacuna Diagnostics

Where are you from? Are you a Tampa Bay native, transplant, or boomerang?  I’m originally from upstate New York and transplanted to Tampa. However, since New York, my wife and I have been all over the place. We’re both veterinarians and both recently accepted jobs in Tampa. We’ve only been here a few weeks!

Tell us more about your role at Lacuna Diagnostics. What does a day in the life look like?

At Lacuna Diagnostics, I’m the Chief Medical Officer and as an early stage startup founder I wear a lot of hats. Much of my job involves reading pathology cases and reviewing the reports from the other digital pathologists on our team. We have a total of 18 pathologists in 4 different countries on our team that I help manage. My main goal is to provide quality assurance and that the pathology cases, received from customers, are completed in a timely fashion. I often review our case notification system to manage surges and urgent cases to ensure we get back to customers as quickly as possible, essentially managing the supply and demand. I also serve as the case management system expert and provide any technical support to both our team and customers.

Aside from those tasks, I also help weigh in on product development, research and development. Originally Lacuna Diagnostics started with one product, now we have three. While similar, they each have different iterations and hardware to operate. My goal is to work on streamlining these products to become less hardware dependent and more scalable with internet technology, as well as to innovate new products and revenue streams. When I’m not doing those tasks, I will support our marketing efforts by writing copy for our blogs and posting on social media. On the sales side, I talk with customers from a technical standpoint and as a medical professional on our diagnostic practices and the functionalities of our product. In turn, I’m involved in most client install calls and company meetings.

How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

My career in business started in an interesting way because I had planned a career in academia doing veterinary research. I went to California to study to be a veterinarian and received my DVM in 2012 which was quickly followed by a pathology residency and PhD training in Auburn, Alabama. I joined the faculty at the Auburn University vet school and was dedicated to being on their research team. Through a series of connections, a consulting business fell in my lap in 2017.

One of my colleagues in Canada that I had worked closely with, Dr. Norm Lowes, owned a consulting business called CytoVetStat where he would provide pathology consultation to veterinary health professionals. His structure at the time was very ad-hoc. He would have clients scan or take pictures of their pathology results and other lab results to send to him via email or phone. He would then review them quickly and send back his findings through the same method. He approached me once his health began to decline and he was unable to keep the business afloat and asked if I would carry the torch. I was very passionate about the business he was doing, but had no idea how to run a business. Either way, I told him I’d do it.

From 2017 to mid-2018, I worked on CytoVetStat and grew it by 900%, servicing clients in Taiwan, Singapore and the US — some of which have now converted over to Lacuna Diagnostics. In late 2017, my work with CytoVetStat had caught the eye of the Lacuna founders, and they asked for my help on a proof-of-concept research study. At the time, the company had the bare bones of what Lacuna Diagnostics is today. They were still navigating product-market-fit, looking for seed funding, and fine tuning their business model.  And ultimately the business I was working, was projected to move towards the tech innovation and integration they were working on. After helping out with an early proof-of-concept, I sold my company to Lacuna Diagnostics and joined as a co-founder.

How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

I’m excited there is a diverse and vibrant startup community in Tampa Bay. I got plugged into this community by Vikas Bhatia, founder of JustProtect. He mentioned he was moving from Manhattan to Tampa and that he was connected with people here. He also mentioned how great the startup community was here and how organizations such as Tampa Bay Wave and Embarc Collective are here to support startups. Not only is the cost to start a business here lower than other established startup regions, but I believe resources like these provide a competitive edge and infrastructure to help startups go to market, get funding and succeed. Overall, I’m excited to have a community I can learn from, events I can go to and people I can commiserate with over the lows and celebrate the highs.

What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

I think a basic principle is to be open to any opportunity that comes across your door. I certainly didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur or a founder, but it found me and has been an amazing journey. I believe I’m a small part, by way of Lacuna Diagnostics, of the change happening in pathology in veterinary medicine. A lot of big companies see what we’re doing, which is taking a traditional process and making it digital, and want to acquire us. It’s exciting but also reassuring that we’re moving in the right direction. What we’re doing is changing the way pathology is done now and innovating the way it will probably be done going forward. Everything is digital now and being a part of this transition in veterinary medicine and pathology is amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am if I had said no. Be willing to say yes and embrace the uncertainty, risk and fun.

Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

I would love to have a role in connecting the human health care companies in this region to other vet health care companies. There is a One Health movement that wants to holistically look at the health of all species to correlate similarities or differences in illnesses, diseases, prevention and treatment. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. IT has been slow to develop in the vet industry but advancing in human health care. Vet health care uses similar tech to human health care but ends up being much more expensive because of limited availability. Sometimes there are findings in each industry that can help the other. I think bringing them together would help close a lot of those gaps and allow us to improve care for both people and animals. I would love to connect with human health care companies in Tampa Bay.

Lacuna Diagnostics is headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado. Coming to Tampa, I have the opportunity to build our virtual second headquarters here. I feel that being here and making Tampa Bay a home base, with the connections and community to support us, we will be super charged to get things done.

Story Courtesy of Embarc Collective accelerator Tampa FL,


New Vets STRIVE Course Smash Hit.

 After 7 years of hosting an annual veterans entrepreneurship symposium, Dr. Andy Gold and his team took the next step. Forming a partnership with IVMF, Institute for Veterans and Military Families from Syracuse University, HCC, Hillsborough Community College Tampa used it lean, evidenced-based entrepreneurship skills to launch STRIVE -“Startup Training Resources to Inspire Veteran Entrepreneurship”. The five-week program teaches veterans and their spouses how to design, plan a model, and launch a new business through guest speakers, mentoring, and a “hybrid” course (half online Canvas course with half in-class instruction). This 7-year old method of planning a new business venture uses a target market to assist the entrepreneur solve a problem or validate a need. Each student has the opportunity to use legal, insurance, marketing, and eCommerce tutoring in their process of tweaking an idea as they test its viability. Compared to the old, obsolete traditional business plan, “lean” lowers the risk (no funding or employees until validated) and doubles the chance for success (by determining a market does or does not exist for the concept).

From the very start, IVMF has approached the challenges faced by veterans and their families through informed and strategic evaluation and analysis. A simple and profound idea — entrepreneur training boot camps for veterans — has been the catalyst for an entire series of highly effective and life-changing programs.These are programs that are driven by scientific research and designed to work through the help of generous donors. Whether it’s no-cost career training and professional certifications for a competitive edge in the job market, or choosing from an arsenal of programs designed to meet business owners where they are on their entrepreneurial journey to coordinating care and services for military families in local communities, the IVMF and STRIVE are committed to enhancing the lives of our nation’s military after they return home.

The STRIVE program is offered through a partnership between the IVMF and HCC to expand the reach of effective veterans small business training, condense an intense version of “lean”, and hopefully duplicate its own educational model in other rural and lesser known colleges. STRIVE is a 3-phase program that provides Veterans that have a nascent (budding) early stage business, or idea for a business with an opportunity to take action. By stress testing the business with a rigorous business modeling, design thinking, effectuation, and cohort-based curriculum, participants will develop their entrepreneurial competency and interact with an array of subject matter experts that help support aspiring entrepreneurs. This program will help to identify, overcome and mitigate trouble spots within the business model, leading to increased potential for success.

The course is designed to increase entrepreneurial competencies, while at the same time works through business modeling, lean start framework. Whether you enter the program with an idea for a business, or you are already in business, but at a budding stage of business enterprising journey you can expect to achieve the following objectives:

  • Assess and develop your personal entrepreneurial capacity.
  • Differentiate between entrepreneurial and managerial thinking.
  • Play with idea generation techniques to help you better create and shape ideas into bold opportunities.
  • Evaluate opportunities using a rigorous feasibility and experimentation processes.
  • Develop, define, and clearly communicate a business concept to determine its feasibility.
  • Gain confidence to use entrepreneurial thinking and action with future opportunities.
  • Identify myths associated with entrepreneurship.
  • Develop internal operational structure for your business.
  • Expand your network
  • Develop a cogent business pitch presentation

Throughout this course, veterans develop a mindset that enables them to build a toolkit to create and evaluate entrepreneurial opportunities, marshal resources, and form teams driven by creativity, leadership, and smart action. This course is a journey through the front-end of early stage entrepreneurial activity and an immersion experience for finding, creating, and advancing early stage opportunities. The next STRIVE cohort (class) will be in Tampa in HCC’s new InLab incubator on April 24th through June 6th 2020. Here is the contact website InLab is room 204 or 210, 2nd floor of the DSSC/Social Sciences building on HCC’s main Dale Mabry campus.


STRIVE is truly a wonderful, free opportunity for any Florida active duty or military veteran.   Photo to left Dr. Andy Gold, STRIVE creator and terrific teacher of entrepreneurs.  His team includes Professor Beth Kerly, Greta Kishbaugh, MBD & Clint Day, MBA.

Entrepreneurs create most new jobs: Why aren’t we talking about them?

While talk of the economy swings from a possible recession, to protecting American workers, to income inequality, tax cuts and tax incentives, Kauffman President and CEO Wendy Guillies brings it back to what’s missing almost entirely from the conversation – entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs, not big businesses, are responsible for almost all net new job creation,” she writes in The Hill. “For too long, many policymakers have pushed entrepreneurship to the side, prioritizing support for big business over new and small business.”

While talk of the economy swings from a possible recession, to protecting American workers, to income inequality, tax cuts and tax incentives, Kauffman President and CEO Wendy Guillies brings it back to what’s missing almost entirely from the conversation – entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs, not big businesses, are responsible for almost all net new job creation,” she writes in The Hill. “For too long, many policymakers have pushed entrepreneurship to the side, prioritizing support for big business over new and small business.”

In recent weeks, there has been talk about a possible recession and tools policymakers should use to protect American workers and the domestic economy. Some are talking about protection of jobs from global competition. Others talk about addressing income inequality. Still others refer to a menu of options, calling for interest rate cuts, tax cuts, and increased tax incentives.

Missing almost entirely from the national discussion is entrepreneurship. This despite the fact that entrepreneurs, not big businesses, are responsible for almost all net new job creation.

For too long, many policymakers have pushed entrepreneurship to the side, prioritizing support for big business over new and small businesses.

Too many have ignored the troubling trends that show a stubborn 20-year stagnation in the rate of new business formation, which jeopardizes our entire economy. And too many have been indifferent to disparities in access to entrepreneurship for women, people of color and rural residents.

Today, there is a hole at the center of our economic discussion where hope should be. But there is a glimmer of hope ahead.

On Tues. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), co-chairs of the first-ever bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus, will convene a caucus roundtable discussion to highlight a neglected segment of America’s entrepreneurial community — women entrepreneurs — and to talk about barriers to entrepreneurship that need addressed. 

At the roundtable, I expect entrepreneurs to tell the Senators what all the available data on entrepreneurship backs up: that if you don’t live on one of the coasts, it’s very difficult to access the capital and resources needed to make an idea a reality.

That if you don’t have access to significant personal wealth, your idea — no matter how viable — is far more likely to die on the vine. That unless you’re a big, established business with lobbyists and an army of attorneys to do your bidding, navigating all the red tape will make it a whole lot more difficult to get traction.  If you aren’t white and male, all these challenges will be that much more difficult to overcome.

The newly formed Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus will help shine a light on the unique needs of those who are denied equal access to entrepreneurship today. While women make up half the population, and people of color soon will, these constituencies are vastly underrepresented in American entrepreneurship.

Most new businesses don’t get bank loans or venture capital, but among the small percent who do get VC funding, just two percent goes to businesses launched by women and just one percent goes to businesses launched by people of color.

Given that the discussion takes place in Congress, perhaps the most relevant question is: what can government do to help promote new businesses? How can governments at every level — federal, state and local — create the conditions where women can start more new businesses?

How do we increase access to capital for women entrepreneurs?  What about safety net programs like health care, family leave and housing? Given that women are the primary caregivers for children — and often for aging parents — can we do more to give women entrepreneurs the support and confidence to take risks?

In the coming months we will hear a lot of debate on topics like taxes, tariffs, and interest rates. There will likely be strong partisan differences on these issues.

Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, should appeal to people of every political stripe. So, let’s seize this chance to come together and launch a new golden age of entrepreneurship in our country. Next week’s Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus roundtable with two-dozen remarkable women entrepreneurs is a great start.

Written by Wendy Guillies is president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation  and published in The Hill 9/23/19.

Entrepreneurs create most new jobs: Why aren’t we talking about them?



inLab@HCC STRIVE Ribbon Cutting


The InLab@HCC hosted an amazing ribbon cutting ceremony (video highlights below) on September 12th recognizing a first of its kind partnership between Hillsborough Community College’s (HCC) Operation Startup and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ (IVMF). The Startup Training Resources to Inspire Veteran Entrepreneurship (STRIVE) program is a multi-phase entrepreneurship program for veterans, military members and their families with a golden opportunity for funding as well for participants that meet the requirements.  STRIVE will expand veteran entrepreneurship and grow IVMF’s number 1 nationally ranked veteran’s entrepreneurship program locally here at HCC!

 HCC’s Operation Startup’s Beth Kerley and Dr. Andy Gold hosted the event acknowledging with pointed gratitude everyone that helped create this day of celebration. Recognition covered everyone that pitched in from both higher learning institutions and the supportive Hillsborough County officials and South Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Speakers included HCC President Dr. Ken Atwater, Syracuse’s IVMF Chief Operating Officer Maureen Casey and South Tampa Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kelly Flannery. Kelly spoke to the future by stating that while she is proud to help with this milestone ribbon cutting ceremony, she will be even more excited to help host ribbon cutting ceremonies for each future business that is created in the Tampa Bay area because of this amazing opportunity.

The STRIVE program offers Veterans, active duty, Reserve/Guard, and their spouses with an opportunity to take an early stage business, or business idea through a rigorous 6-week training program. Outstanding instruction led by Beth Kerly, Dr. Andy Gold, Greta Kishbaugh and Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc. Founder & CEO Clinton E. Day (Vietnam Veteran). During the period of August 30 – October 6, 2019 participants access course materials and complete assignments attending in-person training at the InLab@HCC and online through the learning management system called Canvas.

As a CPA, I volunteered my time for financial cash flow statement questions during the Monday night September 19th class.  I came away very impressed at the amount of information, support and speakers curated for each participant. Speakers included Zig Ziglar certified Dave Kauffman, entrepreneur Sharon Fekete and a full panel of heart centered Hillsborough County officials. Dave questioned how far everyone is willing to reach with our imagination pointing out every product once started as an idea. Sharon provided an authentic look into how important connecting with a community is. She credited her Dad for setting such a wonderful example in her life when he made sure to as a young girl introduce her to each person he worked with. The three Hillsborough County officials covered every aspect of business and support an entrepreneur could dream of. Business best practices are shared in abundance for each STRIVE participant.

Here are some highlights of both September 12th and 19th:

Our military and their families are some of the best prepared to take on the startup challenge! God bless the service of these participants and the future jobs they will create for our Tampa Bay community!!!

Apply Now for the 2020 Cohort; here:

by Clinton D. Swigart, CPA, MA
Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc.

Coming Workforce Crisis and Need for Entrepreneurship.

Only lean startup entrepreneurship allows the art of entrepreneurship to be taught and learned so that a person can use their hobby or passion as a backup for self-employment if and when they loose their job.  It also equips an individual to survive in the Gig Economy.

Photo – Yang with colleague Bruce Bachenheimer, Entrepreneurship Professor, Pace University, New York.  Yang was quite an entrepreneurship himself having worked in various startups  and  as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009.  He was Obama’s  “Global Entrepreneurship Ambassador” in 2015.

Importance of Entrepreneurship Now

The world economy faces a massive disruption of labor.  Jobs are going to machines at an alarming rate, and ramifications will alter everything we know  about work. Three forces have been at work since 1990, but will soon go to warp speed.  First is the Gig Economy, which is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors.

Second is the automation of anything that is repetitive and can be replaced by robotics; most automobiles are now made by robots.  Third is the combination of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks.  Deep learning is a type of machine learning that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognizing speech, identifying images or making predictions.

Because Big Data has been growing exponentially, AI and deep learning have much to work from.  In 2013 SINTEF estimated that 90% of all information in the world had been created in the prior two years.  Lots of data is exactly what machines need in order to learn to learn.  Google’s DeepMind AI has learned how to read and comprehend what it reads through thousands of annotated news articles.

McKinsey research says that up to one-third of U. S. workers and 800 million globally could be displaced by 2030.  They recommend businesses and policymakers act now to keep people employed.  The single most impactful solution is to empower one and all with entrepreneurship whose innovative and creative skills can allow laborers to transit to self-employment (or to thrive as a freelancer in the Gig Economy).          —USA Today Editorial Sept. 17, 2019 —