I've been a startup CEO for a few months now. I'm 23, I'm employing a few people for the first time in my life, and I'll be employing a lot more. Although Pristine still has a long ways to go, I don't foresee my job changing very much as the company grows. I spend the vast majority of my time:
1. Pitching investors (begging for money and telling the Pristine story)
2. Courting employees (telling the Pristine story)
3. Selling and marketing (begging for money and telling the Pristine story)
4. Predicting the future, and adjusting the ratio of the activities above accordingly (fortune telling)
Sometimes, I let it get to my head that Pristine has already changed the world. But we haven't, yet :). I've found that thinking of myself as a beggar, storyteller, and fortune teller is humbling since none of these descriptions is particularly flattering.
We already know we're going to need to raise a few million dollars by the end of the year. That means I will continue to beg for money, tell the Pristine story, and sell the Pristine dream: redefining care delivery models on Glass, starting with surgery. I'll continue begging for money through the end of the year.
We're going to be hiring a lot of talented people, and I've got to convince them to do something crazy with their lives. Since the best people are already employed, that means I have to convince people to quit their cushy jobs. I have to be one hell of a storyteller to do that.
I'm not going to lead the Pristine sales force, but I will probably lead the first few sales. More importantly, I will be the face of the company given my energy, enthusiasm, insanity, charisma, and presence on HIStalk. Blogging has been one of the best decisions I ever made in my life: it taught me how to write and tell stories far more effectively than ever before. I've learned more than I ever could have by simply writing down what I already knew. It's counter-intuitive, but profoundly true.
As CEO, my most important job is to predict the future, and plan accordingly. Of course, predicting the future is really hard. Most people who're paid quite handsomely to do predict the future fail. I don't get paid much, but I try to predict the future anyways. All of Pristine's stakeholders will suffer if I fail at predicting the future.
My anecdotal observations are that most tech startup CEOs spent their first days as founders coding. I would love to see some data on the subject. I'm certain that the ratio of founder-CEOs that code at healthcare tech startups is lower than at more traditional, pure tech startups. I never wrote one line of code for Pristine, and never will.
During my first year at VersaSuite, I hammered away at the keyboard faster, longer, and louder (yes, louder. People used to crack jokes about my typing volume) than everyone that I knew while head banging to Skrillex. Just about the only interruptions I allowed were demos. I recall some of the early demos that I gave at VersaSuite. I would delve into excruciating detail covering every detail of the electronic health record (EHR). I have particularly fond memories demoing the nuances of the electronic drawing system that I built. When you're aware of every detail, and when every detail matters, you inevitably talk about them. Unfortunately, the world doesn't care about every detail. I didn't learn that until at least 6 months after I stopped coding. After 6 months without directly manipulating the system with my own hands, I was finally able to appreciate the forest instead of the trees.
I spent almost every night of February pouring through Android tutorials on Code Academy, Code School, and TreeHouse preparing for Glass. I had no clue what I was going to do with Glass, but I assumed that I would need to learn Android so that I could build the initial product myself. I'm actually really glad I went through those tutorials and built some simple Android apps. At least now I have a rudimentary understanding of Android development, but more importantly, learning the foundation forced me to find a cofounder that was far more technically capable than I ever will be. In those couple of weeks, I learned enough to know what I didn't know. I forced myself to keep head up and try to predict the future instead of pull weeds out of the ground.
It's fun to look back on the past few months and reflect on what we've learned at Pristine. I'm not sure how startup founder-CEOs can code for more than the first month. Meetings take up an enormous amount of time, and CEOs have to take a lot of meetings. I'm extremely fortunate to have successfully recruited an incredible cofounder (Patrick), VP of Engineering (Mark), advisory board, and investors. Thank you to everyone who heard out the Pristine story.
Now all I have to do not to screw it all up is predict the future. Should be simple enough, right?