Health Innovators
Health Innovators

Episode 120 · 2 months ago

How to scale smarter, faster, better w/ Steve Ardire


Whether you’re looking to break into AI, streamline your commercialization journey, or bring the next big disruptive innovation to market - you need to know how to scale.

Steve Ardire knows a thing or two about scaling a business and the key decisions that go hand in hand with doing so, faster and better.

Let’s face it, startups face a lot of challenges. We tend to fall into “friendly” traps and sometimes hyper-focus on landing those big-name deals.

Steve is here to give our listeners some tips on how to avoid those pitfalls, while serving up some tried and true strategies to help you stay focused on your end goals.

So, if you built a startup, your next move is to scale it - smarter, faster, and better. You’re going to want to watch this episode!

Here are the show highlights:

  • The biggest challenge to startups (6:05)
  • The fundamental flaws of “friendlies” (9:25)
  • Key decisions that help in the commercialization journey (24:36)
  • How to shape serendipity by connecting and illuminating the dots (25:29)
  • The next disruptive innovation (31:04)
  • What to look for when choosing AI technologies (33:20)

Guest Bio

Steve Ardire is an AI Startup Advisor and “Force Multiplier” who shapes serendipity by connecting and illuminating dots that matter.

Steve has built his AI career by leveraging deep relationship capital with recognized personal brands.

A life-long ​”intentional learner,” Steve treats every experience as an opportunity to learn with curiosity and a growth mindset.

If you’d like to reach out to Steve, you can find him on LinkedIn at Steve Ardire or on Twitter at @forcemultstevea.

You're listening to health innovators, a podcast and video show about the leaders, influencers and early adopters who are shaping the future of healthcare. I'm your host, Dr Roxy Movie. Welcome back to the show health innovators. On today's episode I am sitting down with Steve Are Dory, who is the AI startup advisor and force multiplier. Welcome to the show, Steve. Well, thank you. I like your emphasis on force multiplier, which we'll talk about, because it's kind of an interesting connotation. Well, let's just jump right in. What force multiplier is? Force multipliers. So it's interesting. Um, force multipliers like a superset of what my deliberables are advising AI startups. So the reason I use that I don't want to be bucketized into, you know, a container, whether it be you know Biz Dev uh, sales, you know product development. So this gives me the latitude to say when I'm retained by a startup, I do a full soup to nuts deliverable. Uh, not all my engagements, but most of my engagements are like that. And it it comes everything from you know, it's all about balancing business strategy and I know you're very accomplished that that from your background with smart execution. If you don't have that, that balance between the two, you're not going to succeed. So what I do is provide a measured, you know, uh, Inter leaving of strategy with execution, and that includes and everything from helping the shape the business strategy, the product market fit, the team, recruitment, putting together a scintillating pitch, closing the funding through my network and then taking a operational kind of a fractional sea level rolls for Multiplex Biz, dead marketing and sales so you can scale smarter, faster better. So that's all of that combined. Is this force multiplier all of the different lanes that you swim in? That's right, that's right. So yeah, yeah, so basically I wanted to just pick up off your metaphor. It is multiple lanes, but I am kind of multiplexing that to where I can really be in an aggregate of a swim lane and not be all over the place. So that's that's the threading that I helped provide and and keep the startup focused, really focused, because if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there right and if you stay focused. What does that mean? Hey, you're more operationally efficient. You're not wasteing, you know,...

...funding resources. You're keeping the eye on the ball and executing on the on the most critical stuff, and it's it's really both efficient and effective. So when you say the balance, the balancing business strategy with Smart Execution, why is that not already happening? Like, what's like? You know, we every company has business strategy. We always have to execute. So what's happening in the marketplace that creates this need to be able to balance that? What are some of the challenges? Right? So, the first one, I'll give you the easy stuff and then we'll peel the oni a little bit more. It's chasing bright shiny objects. It's amazing how, uh, startups get, you know, excited about here's a new shiny object, let's go after that. But what do you already have in terms of execution, both on product development roadmap? A lot of them need to do some consulting services on the front end and, you know, before they're fully productized. Right, and uh, you know, the ideal framework, you know, as a startup in and I do everything in Ai Space and multiple verticals, is making sure that, Um, you can, you know, you can permutate, you're always permutating, you know, but you're also making sure that your overall strategy is being executed on, and that's what most startups, Um, don't do very well. That's that's why they need this guidance of, you know, balancing the strategy with the execution. Now, if you're you know, over the years when you had, you know, when I was involved, not as a false multiplier but just as an advisor to startups, you had the sales team going after the wrong deals, okay, and what you need to do is focus on the right deals and make sure you do what I call ruthless triage every day. Are you really locked onto the right, you know, customer? Are they? Are they taking you for a ride, or they just like I want to Swab you down right? So you've got to be, you know, aggressive but cordial and firm to say. Listen, I always like to say if the potential customer cannot put together a competent statement of work, you don't want to work with that. For both folks. Okay, they're just totally pretending and that's not going to be helping you. You, uh, just like I do in the funding the same thing with sales. I like two hops to a close. It is extremely efficient. So you do a scoping call out of that. Is there a next step in terms of further due diligence where you can really suss out whether there's...

...a potential match, you know, for some type of agreement? And once you have that, then you put together a, you know, a statement of work and you make sure that that's executed on and that's how you move the cadence and you move the ball downfield. So do you think that that's where the biggest challenges with the startups is really in that business development arena, is identifying and spending time with the right targets and then being able to move them to close and keep that pipeline going? I certainly do. I mean, if you don't have the handful or two handfuls of the right early adopters where you can get those use case studies, that are gold, you need them. I mean a pitch is you know, you know of the criteria for funding, whether it be precede seed, series a, which I operate on mostly, is on the team, and after that is you know, you know the problem, you know the problem you're addressing your you know, does your solution really have a fit? But then in the final stages of due diligence for a potential investment, and it's going to come down to I want to talk to three or four of your customers. And you know, if you don't have those, those are gold, those are the final pieces you need to consummate a deal and if you don't have them, forget about it. Your you know, now some companies what I call, you know, startup Silicon Valley. If you're in the club, you get a free pass on this, okay, because and it's it's I you know, it doesn't bother me anymore, but I always like to make the statement rock say that, okay, just because you're in x, facebook, Google, you know whatever, right, and you may have or, you know, illustrious academic credentials. A lot of vcs still look at that and say, Oh, that's going to be a winner, and they don't do the degree of scrutiny in evaluating but they'll give you five, seven billion dollars and you don't even have a product yet. But eight of the startups are not in the club. So don't re tech crunch and ventor be and all the other BS. Okay, that paint this rosy picture, because that's just a very small sliver of companies that are getting, you know, this free paths on the front end and then they can make an excuse of Oh, we need to do a pivot. And that's the other thing that is totally infuriating. You know, when you see companies how to do a pivot, you say that,...

...uh, core team, the CO founding team, was clueless. Okay, uh, if you miss it by that much. Today, and the tolerances today, you know, the windows are tighter, you know, and you've got to be able to hit each of these milestone along the way from a product development standpoint, you know, going from you proof of concept and VP commercial viable product. And and sure there might be, you know, some permutations. Are always is, but you need to stay on that, you know, executing of the critical path. And it comes right back to balancing business strategy with execution. So what do you think about Um? You know, you've got scenarios and you know, in my experience it really depends on where that innovator is in that just customer discovery process that it's very common for someone that hasn't done a lot of customer discovery to build to kind maybe get someone to do a proof of concepts, have an M v P, go to market with something, maybe even be able to get some friends in their network to buy those solutions. But then they kind of start to hit this they're stuck. They can't really grow beyond that because there really isn't a market need for what they built and and really requires, Um, maybe a pivot, but certainly going back to customer discovery, where you've in where you've got other companies or other innovators that are really heavy on the customer discovery and maybe aren't so um right for a pivot because they've done the homework upfront. You bring up an excellent point and one of the fundamental flaws in this is that a lot of startups go with people that are friendlies because they're scared to go outside of their friendly zone and once they use up, whether it be for funding or, you know, you know, you know, POC or MDB deployments, they're screwed because they don't have the savvy nous to reach out to the tougher targets that may if because they haven't done the due diligence, and that is exactly why, you know, a big percentage, I don't know how to quantify it, but a huge percentage of why startups never make it out of you know, the the the M V P C. They never make a successful, commercial, viable product because of that reason roxy well, and you know, even myself I've experienced that early on in my career. I started off with a couple of people that already done business with and under different companies, and I mean we were probably three or four years in without actually ever proactively going out and building a target list and pursuing those companies that we wanted to do business with. We're just taking all the business that was coming our way, and which is good, right. It's kind of..., oh, okay, well, we must be doing something well because we've got all this business coming. But then you're like yeah, but are these the people that we really want to do business with? Exactly what it's profitable? Is this going to be like, you know, is this going to help us with our growth strategy going forward? And then the lightbulb goes off and you're like no, no, no, no, no, we need to like actually start developing this. Except and reject criteria. You do much more intentional and that's what you alluded to. As far as doing the ruthless triage, I mean just doing one off catch, as can you know, Biz, Devan sales, that is not a scalable strategy. You've got to have something where you know, you know some you know, the usual playbook is, you know, pick a vertical or to execute on that, really get enough penetration and then be able to replicate that and then and then extend to some other verticals, depending what your your product offering is. So you've got it's really you know, you've got to be methodical, got to be analytical and you've got to not be timid in terms of reaching out to the top, you know, two bigger targets outside your zone, and that's what, Um, you know, I have no problem doing because, uh uh, you've got to have relationship capital and multiple areas. So for me, since I advise you in future of work, hyper automation, augmented intelligence, conversational AI, emotion, AI, personality, health care, mental health, psychedelics, extended reality. I mean people say, how do you keep everything threaded? Well, it comes back to what we talked about before. We Ken we're going to share with the audience. I'm, uh, a intentional learner for decades. I treat every opportunity with a curious and growth mindset and that, you know, it tomaze. You know, most people. Uh, it's changing a bit now, but you know, after forty they just cruise and uh, you can't do that today. It's if you want to remain viable and work into your seventies. All right, you have to. You know, I get over the lass. You know, I've been doing this for twenty five years, the last eight in in Ai. and Um, I get, you know, incomings from people that say, Hey, I want to do what you do. I said really, Um, you know, thirty years from IBM or HP whatever, right, and I said what are you? What are you going to offer to the startup? And when you take that logo off your back, who are you? Who Are you right? You know. So today, even the young kids, and I'm dealing with a couple of my engagements, I'm like the grandfather advisor because they're all Gen z kids, you know, that are like, you know, twenty four years old, and that's that's unlock reality, which is...

...this xr startup right and uh, you know, to be a successful advisor like you're doing in your business, you've got to have you've got to build your own personal brand without that screwy corporate logo on your back. If you don't build a personal brand, I don't think you can really make it as a as a as an advisor today. And and you know, to the point that you made earlier, is that whole growth mindset right, um is. I mean I think that you probably have found this too. It's like the more you learn, the more you realize that you don't know anything and that you've got to keep reading and keep studying and exactly changing lightning fast, it really is. The pace is incredible. And you know I have on my website, uh, my personal website, not just on Linkedin, which is a force multiplayer Stever, dear, I put up a post Um. It's also Um my pin tweet, the three elements of trust that personifies me and Y ai startups have me or seek me out and I'm not going to read everything. I'll just give you the three containers. It's it's positive relationships, okay, which is the relationship capital, honest feedback. So, believe me, I don't sugarcoat. So I'm very objective, but you know, I kind of velvet glove it. You know, I'm I'm Italian, so I can kind of get a little, you know, high powered along sometimes. But this is how you really create. You know, you, you know, uh, you create cooperation as well as resolved complict very quickly. Don't let this fester like a woon. Right, and it's honest feedback in a healthful way. So the number two container is good judgment with expertise. So getting act to what I said before. If you can't really give everybody thinks they're today, because they can, you know, go do a quick study on Google. That they're and informed expert and I and and they give you this Little Mandy Pandy. You know, B s for the most part, that are just echo. They're just an echo effect of DA. I already know this, right. So what is really your informed perspective thinking? You know, I always like to say if you don't know what's in the box, how can you think out of the box? Right? So a lot of these advisors don't really know. They're just giving you drivel for the most part. Right there, it's either I'm I've never done it before myself, but I'm gonna tell you how to do it exactly, which is really what you know, the big consulting office, to PWC, ECCENTER, etcetera. You know they'll give you all the advice you want, but they've never done it themselves. Okay, which is which is just so ironic and it's...

...just so laughable for the most part. Hey, it's Dr Roxy here with a quick break from the conversation. Are you trying to figure out what moves you need to make to survive and thrive in the new covid economy? I want every health innovator to find their most viable and profitable pivot strategy, which is why I created the covid proof your business pivot kit. The pivot kit is a step by step framework that helps you find your best pivot strategy. It walks you through six categories you need to examine for a three and sixty degree view of your business. I call them the six critical pivot lenses. As you make your way through this comprehensive kit, you'll be armed with the tools, tips and strategies you need to make sure you can pivot with speed without missing out on critical details and opportunities learn more at legacy, Hyphen DNA, dot com, backslash kit. And I think the other side of that is those that are Um practicing with with not grounded in any science. It's just whatever I did last time, and even if you were lucky enough for that to be successful last time does not mean it's the great strategy this time. Bingo. I can't emphasize that enough, and that's really why these Lutch, you know, these the people in the club, get the free pass. There's no guarantee it's going to be successful. You know, and if you actually have a you know, a a team, it doesn't have to be all ex harbor, you know, Stanford and Mike. If you can get it. It's just like in sports, if you can get you know, you know they have to have talent, but they've got to have their mental game and if they're more cohesive and conjunction as a unit, that team, call them the B team, is going to beat the a team nine times out of ten. Period End Zis are a bad about it. Right, so so, uh so. The other thing is, you know, back to good judgment expertise, is that colleagues will seek you out because they trust your ideas and opinions. That's huge. All right. So, rather than just you know, you know, raise your hand, look at me. I don't want to hear you know, they know who to go to, people and and the corollary to that roxy is you can anticipate and respond quickly the problems. Wow, I can't emphasize that one enough. It's really sort of like, you know, in healthcare, right, is preventive medicine. Get ahead of it before the malady manifests itself. So this notion of the anticipating and responding really quickly. It doesn't allow the problem to fester or get invented, which is going to be harder to extract, and resolves the real world example of that. Okay, so it's uh, it's I'll go back to Um customer acquisition, which is every thing right. If you can't...

...uh, you know, if that customer cannot articulate, you know, the problem that they have and put together a statement of work, right, and uh, you've got to be able to interject, right, if you kind of like saying, Hey, this is our you know, this is our solution set. And if they have a couple of areas where it's not covering and you can covering their purported statement of work. You can say, well, we can build that in, you know, because we have like of the solution. If you don't pent of the solution for you know, given opportunity, you're killing yourself because it's taking you out of your wheelhouse. Right. So I always use the metric or, you know, something close to that, as a viable customer opportunity. And that's where a lot of startups, you know, because they like it may be a big name company, but if you if you get enveloped and just working with big names, you're gonna get sucked in and you're gonna kill you your whole business strategy and execution, their whole business is just going up in these names, because big names just hijacked your company, their hijack exactly, and they basically they took all the wind and they just sucked up all the resources and you're screwed. You know, your product mode map has become their products exactly. And you see this all the time, like there was an egregious example of they won't name the company, but it's Ay they had state of the art virtual reality glove, you know, with aptex really sophisticated. They were talking to facebook and, low and behold, when facebook announced their glove, it looked just like the company's and you got it. You know. That's why I say in you know, in a startup, if you get a call from Microsoft, Amazon, Google, you know you've got to be super careful. All right, funding is a different avenue, but still. Yeah, but you can't get sucked in until you actually are on the market with commercial, viable product. Are Doing, you know, minimally. More is better, but doing you know, you know, a couple of million dollars a year in sales and you've got a game plan where you're you know, it isn't just all direct sales. And that's the other thing. In all my engagements I always look for the fastest pathway to Var and O, e. m resellers, because that's how you scale faster, better, smarter. Today, if you don't have that, you're fooling yourself, you know, because you want, you know, vcs. Look for, you know, high growth trajectory. You know, over a very short window to get to you know, the magic number is get to ten million in sales as as fast as possible and do it on the lowest amount of money and my my axiom, you know,...

...from a couple of years ago, was, uh, ten million and no more than ten million in funding. This is mostly for enterprise consumers. Different get to ten million in sales and you have minimally a hundred million potential acquisition now today, because of open source clouds software, you know all the plumbing. If you have a compelling application. Uh, with and you know, one of my engagements, evermore I O is is really an example of that, because we're the product just launched evermore Io. It's a mind tech tool that helps gen Z with skillfully using real life contexts, with narrative powered by empathy. I it's really building, you know, skill sets, you know, as smart and as tech savvy as these young Gen Z are, especially with the mental health crisis right that's really impacting that demographic more so than anyone else. The whole point is talk things out, see the patterns, work it out yourself rather than just relying on you know, because you know the gen Z, they don't listen to their parents. They they you know, the peer support is questionable and they don't always want to talk to a therapist. Right. So it's like, you know, work things out yourself, like, you know, like it really builds a lot of character and you're going to get, you know, a lot of benefit out of that approach there. Um. So let's go back to some of the companies, because I like the example that you're giving here. Let's go back to some of the companies that either you're currently working with or maybe have previously, and talk about what are some of those key to decisions that they made that helped them in that commercialization journey. So how did they get to those milestones? And maybe some of those were things that were luck and they stumbled upon it. It was maybe serendipitous Um, or maybe it's some things that were strategically well thought out and orchestrated and that was the thing that became their path to profit. Right. That's a great question, and I always like to say luck is the residue of diligence. Okay, and like I do, uh, and I have this right on the top line of my website, you need to shape serendipity by connecting and illuminating the dots that matter. Wow, that's loaded. It's you feel this back. Let's feel this back. So so I'll go back to I v Michelle, CEO, founder of Evermore so brilliant, you know, Um uh, product designer, product manager, big...

...companies, you know, media companies, PWC, et CETERA. She really cultivated this starting eighteen months ago, going through a couple of accelerators, really iterating, iterating along the way, you know, congealing, getting sharper, you know, the product offering along the way and uh, and it's a it's a continuous process of iterations like like Um, she just posted where we have, you know, the product launch, you know, is just recently happened, but that doesn't preclude us from continually to fine tune our pitch and the product development roadmap. It's a real this is the a perfect blend of what I put the frame of balancing the business strategy with with the smart execution, and it really Um uh, it really uh AH, has manifested in terms of carving out Um. There's we have one graphic in there about our edge, which is really providing the joy of healthy socialization combined the Self Knowledge. So there's a lot of folks out there that you know, that can you know, like can provide access to. In fact, there's this one company, Um that just closed cerebral three million dollars in funding well at a four point eight billion dollar valuation. and Uh uh, Simone biles is their chief impact officer and invest there. So they brilliant marketing, but brilliant marketing. But you have to give the CEO credit because, Um, he was really smart at this and he did unlike, you know, talk space, headspace, Ginger. He really has put together a very impressive lineup of payers and providers on already he's like outguns his competitors to where he's saying I want to create a one stop shop for for healthcare, and that's why he raised his boat of money and be a one stop shop. Okay, and then may consider you acquisitions and, you know, opportunities along the way. So Um, but the thing about it is, you know, uh, he's really gone. I mean this is like, you know, an amazing example...

...with blue chip named DCS, but for most of the startups that don't have, you know, this marketing fashion. Yeah, exactly. You've got to really do it the old fashioned way. What what you've been talking about and uh, and you know, and this is where you've got to be able to carve out a clear differentiation and really back that up with Um, you know, with with the execution, and then really get you into on your go to market, you know, hitting so like an evermore you know, we've got, uh, we're going to convert, uh, like of the thirty thou data users, which is a huge freaking number. All right, and then get these, you know, activate our referral and endorsement partnerships, which I alluded to before, right, customers and partners, hit the e Du, because that's where the Gen z demographic, you know, the education market, and then continue to integrate with biometrics, you know, Um, you know, Alexa Fund, and then this will serve up the entree into uh, you know, healthcare segments for psycho metrics other healthcare data. So it's really kind of, you know, rather than just being in a bucket of, you know, mental health per se, by bringing psycho social innovation where we can kind of use, Um, social determinants of health with this carving out of voice plus emotion Ai, because that's the richest bucket, rather than just doing it through these kind of boring text chat bots that don't really you know, that are just really there to kind of tell you what you want to hear. But they don't really, you know, give you that difference. So the votes and an emotion ai where you can have some self learning. You know, there's a there's a play for farmers and pairs, schools and learning, you know, clinician, everybody can profit from that. Yeah, yeah, so. So, Steve, as we start to wrap up here, I want to give you an opportunity to share with our audience, Um, what is like your outlook for two when it comes to ai or some of the sectors that you specialize in. What are some of the trends Um to be on the lookout for or some of the opportunities that folks can take advantage of? Right. So, uh, like you, I'm pretty busy. You know, I'll be going back to pre covid. I was speaking at like six events a year and now I've been like doing podcasts like this in virtual events. But but one of my favorite areas that I that I talked about, is is augmented intelligence. That's where humans working with...

...machines. Right. Um, I always like to say this, alluding because we're both fans of innovation, Clayton Christison. But let's let's peel back to Peter Drucker. Alluding to Peter Drucker. Efficiency should be delegated to machines, while the effecting this should be a human pursuit. So Uh so, um. I talk about a lot in augmenting, you know, human intelligence and healthcare, future of work. That's the next disruptive innovation, Innovation Right. Um, I talk about, you know, you know, frustrating barriers to dissemination that they are. It isn't just the data scientists and machine learnings. Right. I talked about things like large firms versus startups. WHO has the advantages? And, low and behold, if it's a really smart, clever startup, they can out gun you know, you know, IBM, Microsoft and Google and the rest of them out there. But you've got to have you've got to be nimble and flexible and know how to reach out to the chief data officer and really find one of those guys that you know was willing to make a smart that can think out of the box rather than just doing the lazy stuff on, you know, paying way too much money for, you know, company X, Y and Z. A big area that I talked about what investors should look for when choosing AI technologies to back, which is part of my deliverables and two things that they should look for. You know, uh, they really they they have to really recovered in it. But I'M gonna re emphasize they really need to look at Um. Uh. Does the purported solution have depth and breath? Know, it's really, really important, in fact, that a new engagement that I'm going to be embarking on Um is really kind of like I won't name the company because it's not official yet, but they're they're they're using UH. There's a lot of effort in voice by a markers and Um like to detect depression right and, you know, an anxiety. But if you have something that can accelerate healthcare by a markers uh, that Um, that really are applicable to like precision medicine, clinical development other spaces that are more granular, you can you can have a cost reduction in your R and D operations, you can accelerate R and D to discovery and using you can increase the productivity men pasurably. And that's...

...all about, you know, the big thing in healthcare today rock. How do you scale healthcare research into commercialization? Faster, better, smarter? Yeah, well, Steve, I could just talk to you for day. We could just go on and on, but we do have to wrap up here. How can our audience get a hold of you if anybody wants to follow up with you after the show? Absolutely so. You can find me on Linkedin, because there's not too many Steve A R D I R s out there. My website. It's a long one, but I like that's my byline. It's force multiplier, Steve Bardery DOT COM. Happy to connect and uh, really enjoyed this podcast. Roxy. Yeah, thanks for being here on the show today. Thank you so much for listening. I know you're busy working to bring your life changing innovation to market and I value your time and attention. To get the latest episodes on your mobile device automatic Lee, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast APP like apple podcast, spotify and stitcher. Thank you for listening and I appreciate everyone who shared the show with friends and colleagues. See You on the next episode of Health Innovators.

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