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An Interview with Joel Arun Sursas, Head of Clinical Affairs at Biorithm, Singapore

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Joel Arun Sursas is the Head of Clinical Affairs at Biorithm, Singapore. He works closely with engineers and implementation consultants to achieve medical technology solutions that improve patient outcomes, enhance monitoring and protect patient privacy.

Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

The best days at work are typically days which involve multi-disciplinary collaboration and brainstorming. As a startup, we are privileged to have subject-matter experts sitting at an arm’s length away from one another. Unlike MNCs where “departments” are often fragmented and walled-off, we can achieve a lot of mileage in small focus-group discussions. As a physician, I immensely enjoy exploring the minds of the engineers, business developers and product developers in my midst.

The worst days at work would be the days I spend dealing with the mountain of paperwork that comes along with regulatory requirements. As a startup we are looking to market our device in the EU, UK, Australia and Asia – each region has a unique regulatory framework, each with its own accompanying set of essential requirements and documentation. Navigating this space can be complicated, time-consuming and confusing. It’s part of the learning process, however, and being accustomed to the various regional requirements and legal stipulations will benefit us in the long run as we develop our future pipeline of products and services.

Who are the clients/what are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

I enjoy going back to my roots and engaging with clinical users the most. The projects that give me the most fulfillment are those that directly engage physicians and nurses; I think that my role enables me to be an effective bridge between the IT domain and the health domain. After all, the core of health informatics is the people, and engaging in discourse with the key stakeholders enables me to manage patient data in the most effective, safe and optimal manner.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

I would have to say that it would be in formulating the value proposition of our medical device to multiple stakeholders. Initially, our medical device was positioned as a patient-advocating device – which it is. However, I think we started to turn more heads when we buttressed our value proposition to include physicians, midwives and the hospital administration. This change made me realize the importance of developing an all-encompassing value proposition that attracts as many vital stakeholders as possible. It makes the conversation a lot easier as no matter how diverse your target audience is, the message is a positive one.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

I thought that medical school would have taught me most of what I knew about medicine. However, my two years in the Singapore Armed Forces developing and implementing Southeast Asia’s largest EHR and my time spent at Biorithm have taught me a lot more about the medico-industrial complex. While I have furthered myself professionally at Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins Medical School in the field of health informatics, the self-learning from these pivotal experiences has been challenging, immense, and extremely rewarding. I would say that this experiential learning has been the most crucial part of my professional journey thus far, and I would venture to say that it will continue to be.

 What risks is your company facing?

 Although we do face competitors as a fetal-maternal monitoring company, Biorithm views competition as an opportunity. Firstly, the fact that there is viable competition validates the space we occupy. Secondly, it keeps us on our toes and encourages us to continually seek differentiating factors which will eventually culminate in better clinician and patient outcomes. Thirdly, competition can always be converted to collaboration should the occasion arise!

What would you do with unlimited resources?

This is a tricky question. Intuitively, I would invest most of it in the company as (unsurprisingly), I believe in our company. However, on that note – I think that the success we have achieved so far as a small startup has been contingent on the limitation of resources we face. That constraint forces everyone to learn, step out of their comfort zone and upgrade themselves daily. That’s the “burning platform” that most startups face at some point in their life cycle, and it is what most successful startups attribute their success to.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

It would have to be in writing our Clinical Evaluation Report (CER) for our device, for CE marking. The CER contends with the background literature – my research background comes in very useful for this segment which is typically medically jargonized. I enjoy looking at up-to-date evidence for subsequent analysis.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I juggle my work with freelance medical writing which I do to finance my post-graduate studies. Because of the time zone difference, I’m usually up in the wee hours of the morning in Singapore attending live lectures in Boston or Baltimore. I’m an exercise addict, so the adrenaline of post-work exercise helps to keep me awake!

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

I’m confident that our team-effort at Biorithm towards innovation will see an impressionable mark on the way obstetric and fetal monitoring is conducted. The technology has remained grossly unchanged since the 1960s, and we are poised to change that.

You can know more about Joel Arun through his Website and LinkedIn.

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Interview

An Interview with Tech Entrepreneur and Founder of Continental Global Brian Colpak

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Brian Colpak interview

Brian Colpak is an experienced manager, tech entrepreneur, and founder of Continental Global. Previously, Brian has worked as a managing partner and the go-to person for project management in large companies. Before starting Continental Global, Brian had led several other companies—including Future Technologies, where he was President and CEO, that was recognized as one of the top 100 fastest growing companies in Massachusetts.

Mr. Colpak has always had a passion for technology and is currently devoted to securing part of an upcoming project in Dubai where he will be heading up an eleven-member team of seasoned technology executives and former state department personnel. This opportunity is a testament to his commitment and work ethic at Continental Global.

Brian is a devoted family man. He and his wife Christine were blessed with a baby boy – Dereck – who was diagnosed with Autism at 18 months old. From that day forward, his goal was to help these special children and create a platform to support their needs.

Mr. Colpak served on the Board of Advisors at his son’s school, the New England Center for Children. For five years he supported the school with his time and donations.

Brian sat on the school’s Executive Event Committee to raise awareness and drive donations for children with autism. Events he organized included the 6th Annual “Night of Music,” where he worked alongside Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

Brian, Thank you so much for talking with me. For an entrepreneur, every day is challenging. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

My best days at work are the ones where everything comes together. As a leader and entrepreneur, I specialize in leading my team to get things done, and it takes a lot to be able to bring together a group of people to create solid work. My worst days are when that doesn’t happen.

Who are the clients/what are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

Everyone enjoys a challenge. When you get projects that are not interesting or challenging, it can be a real drain on your motivation. Unfortunately, when you work in IT, it is best practice to avoid any problems that are a significant challenge — you never want to be puzzled. You want to deliver quick solutions to your clients. That’s why, as a team leader, I strive to keep people interested in their work without creating a problem for clients. We are constantly updating and innovating to make our systems more efficient, which helps maintain a spirited work environment, while also keeping things simple for the people we work with.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

My biggest ‘a-ha’ moment: I discovered just how important it is to remain consistent in the workplace. In order to succeed, you have to have a degree of consistency so people know what to expect from you. And that’s not only about clients but also employees. Your organization as a whole will work 10x better if you learn how to approach everything while maintaining consistency.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

The most important part of my professional journey has been in bridging the gap between being a businessman/entrepreneur and being a leader. They are not the same thing. Unfortunately, so many businesses out there fail because the leadership is incapable of leading. Management is an art.

What risks is your company facing? Also, since you are in the tech sphere, what is the importance of Innovation in this industry?

To be honest: There aren’t many risks at the moment. I’ll say this, however: The biggest threat to any company in the tech sphere is not innovating enough. This is an industry that is constantly on the move, and you really need to keep pace with your competitors if you want to succeed.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. With unlimited financial resources, what would you do apart from investing some of it for business growth?

With unlimited resources, I would fund autism research and awareness campaigns. You can do quite well using just limited resources in the business sphere. Send unlimited resources to a cause that deserves it.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

This is an everyday occurrence for me. I truly believe that when you do something you love, you end up getting lost in it. And I love the work that I do.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I love to spend time with my family and friends. I cherish my lovely wife and son, and they are something I focus on every single day of my life. I also have two wonderful parents, Claire and Donald, who are 89- and 88-years-old. We go out to dinner once a week, and I greatly enjoy spending time with them.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

The things I have done for my son, Dereck, are the most important things in my world. Simply making his life a better one is something I believe has made a huge difference in the world. The same can be said for my wife. There is nothing more important than family.

On the business front, I make a difference by leading a team of specialists and experts in the IT sphere.

 

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Interview

An Interview with Medicare Expert Matthew Bussard

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Matthew Bussard - Medicare Expert

Matthew Bussard graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in 2017 and is the go-to financial service broker for Medicare users across Rhode Island. He volunteers at clinics to help clients enroll in Medicare, alleviate any unnecessary medical expenses, and answer healthcare benefits questions. He is passionate about making a difference in his clients’ lives. Mr. Bussard understands the importance of proper healthcare, especially among the older population. He works hard to address his clients’ issues as quickly and efficiently as possible and is always available to guide them through the enrollment process.

Matthew handles initial Medicare enrollment, upgrading to better healthcare plans, billing, finding a new service center, and anything in between. As a broker, he cares the most about establishing trusting relationships and serving people in the long-term.

Mr. Bussard enjoys giving back to the community. He participates in local cleanups around his hometown of Providence, coaches little league, and donates to The Hunger Project. Mr. Bussard is also a proud member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), known for demonstrating exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct, and outstanding client service.

Matthew, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

Thanks for having me. My best days at work are when I leave a meeting knowing I put the client in a better position financially than they were in before they met me. The worst days are days when I’m working really hard and still leave quite a bit for me to accomplish the next day.

People from different age groups go on medicare. Which age group do you like the most and why?

I love helping people going on Medicare for the first time at 65. Oftentimes, I’m able to answer a ton of healthcare questions they have which makes them feel relieved and satisfied.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

Learning the importance of A+ customer service. Medicare is something you receive at 65 and keep for the rest of your life, so you really need to be there every step of the way if you want to make a true impact on someone.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

Building strong habits from the professionals I look up to. Some of the most successful people I’ve met are willing to show you everything they know if you only ask.

What are some of the risks Medicare is facing right now?

Not too many. Medicare has been around since the 1960s so until that ever becomes replaced, there will always be a need for helping seniors with healthcare.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

Get more things done much faster. I’m my own boss, and I don’t have any employees, so every single task I need to do gets completed by me only.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

Organizational tasks at the office. When you’re rearranging files, checking your book of business, housekeeping, things like that can make time fly by.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I love staying active and getting time to spend with my friends and family. I love my business, but hard resets are always important. You have to have a life outside of your career, and it’s hard for me sometimes to put the laptop and phone away late at night or on the weekend.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

I make a difference in the world by providing an incredibly unique yet important service to my community. When you reach retirement, there’s nothing more important than your healthcare, and I’m thankful to be in a position where I can solve some crucial problems people have. It could be lowering their monthly healthcare costs. Maybe signing up for benefits like dental, vision, hearing, and others that they currently do not have. Whatever the case may be, I’m able to make a positive impact in their lives, and I’m very proud of that.

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Interview

An Interview with Yasmin Bashirova around Strategic Finance Management for Start-ups

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Yasmin Bashirova

Yasmin Bashirova is the Chief of Staff at an e-commerce start-up on a mission to bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market.

She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Resource Engineering. After graduation, Bashirova worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City, where she provided data-driven financial analyses for capital decisions such as M&A deals, IPOs, and LBOs.

Combining her engineering and finance background, she delivers data-driven results for projects in the finance, product development, and marketing sectors. Bashirova’s top skills include research, data analysis, economics, and strategic leadership. She also speaks four languages, including Azerbaijani, French, Russian, and English.

We recently got a chance to Interview Yasmin Bashirova about strategic finance management for start-ups.

How did you get started in strategic finance management for start-ups?

Starting out as a Chief of Staff at Shift, I had to wear many hats and found strategic finance to be most aligned with my background. In a growth stage company, the strategic finance arm is crucial for scaling the company in a sustainable fashion, so it’s been exciting to be a part of an impactful team.

In your experience, what does strategic finance look like at a start-up as opposed to a big business?

I never worked in a strategic finance arm of a big company, but a guess would be that the experience is most likely more focused / niche vs. broad. When you’re in a small company, as the team is still small, you have an opportunity to work with more business partners and capture more business management and decision-making than you would in a big company FP&A role.

What was the biggest takeaway for start-ups during Covid?

Managing your runway early on is crucial. As we saw during COVID, start-ups that weren’t well-positioned for the recession and couldn’t pivot in time ended up not making it through the difficult macro environment. 

How do you think your background in engineering has prepared you for success in the field of data-driven finance? And more specifically, would you say your background has any perks when it comes to finance for start-ups?

I think studying engineering in school prepares you for any kind of job, even if your role doesn’t end up being super technical in scope. Engineering teaches you how to become a structured thinker. In computer science, for instance, I learned how to decompose large tasks into smaller manageable steps. This type of mindset is something I encounter every single day in my work in strategic finance. If a business has a problem, the answer is rarely a binary decision dependent on one variable, so isolating for different components that drive the issue is an engineering approach that I use in strategic finance on a day-to-day basis.

When it comes to finance, how do start-ups strike a balance between short-term growth and long-term resilience?

It’s tough to summarize this question in a quick interview, as this is the billion-dollar question that many companies are dealing with every day. From my perspective, the business model needs to have a profitability path in sight as the business scales. The heaviest costs from the unit economics components need to decrease as the network effect becomes more prevalent. When operational or corporate expenses are growing linearly with the company’s topline, that’s when issues start to arise because the business model will never become profitable unless there’s a sudden change in the profitability profile.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while coming up with a financial strategy for a start-up? And how did you overcome it?

Start-ups are resource constrained relative to big companies, so the biggest challenge I faced was building out tools and dashboards from scratch. In order to come up with a strategy, you need to understand the state of affairs for key drivers and challenges for the business, and getting clarity is not the easiest thing in start-ups as the data is not perfect. I overcame this challenge by partnering with operational and technical leaders and letting their expertise drive the analysis from the bottom-up vs. judging based on my assumptions.

What are some tools that are essential to your craft? If you have a problem related to strategic finance, what kind of things can you rely on to help you find an answer?

Most of my work is done in Excel/Google sheets. The majority of my analysis relies on pivot tables and excel formulas like index match, as well as scenario planning using what-if analysis. It’s tough to point to one tool as the panacea for the problem; usually, the combination of all is what you need.

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