We try to iterate as we need to and not over-think something until we have some information or evidence to support our decisions.
Janet Kosloff, InCrowd Founder, and CEO, began her career as a registered nurse. Hailing from generations of entrepreneurs, Janet realized that her heart was in business. She completed her Masters in Healthcare Administration in order to apply her healthcare experience to business management and innovation. In her early business career, she held founding management roles with several successful start-ups including Commonwealth Care, Olsten Health Services, Consensus Health, and MedPanel.
Having worked in healthcare market research and understanding the challenges faced by life sciences companies, Janet saw an opportunity around the speed of information. With her unique combination of inherent entrepreneurship and interest in healthcare, she created InCrowd, the real-time micro survey platform transforming market research from a static and time-consuming activity to a seamless dialogue between researchers and the markets they serve. InCrowd opened its doors in August of 2010. In May of 2011, the InCrowd platform received its first answer from its online Crowd of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, other clinicians and managed care executives, which InCrowd delivered to a client company. By April 2016 that number had exceeded one million answers delivered to life science companies – from a now 1.8 million member clinical Crowd.
Janet received her Bachelors in Nursing from SUNY Buffalo and her Masters in Health Administration from Simmons College. She is an active member of PBIRG.
Where did the idea for InCrowd come from?
I worked for a traditional market research firm in business development and experienced first hand the increasing urgency my clients had for market information. Their worlds were moving faster, with highly time-sensitive efforts, and they needed a better way to keep their finger on the pulse of the market. The way traditional market research was conducted—on a project basis, and over the course of months—was no longer sustainable in today’s business environment.
Once this problem crystalized for me it became clear that there was a next-gen research product that needed to be created, and that I was going to start a company to lead that movement. We wanted to change market research from something done once a year or once a quarter, into something done every day to truly gain market intelligence—creating a true dialogue between researchers and the markets they serve. The best part is, we’re doing it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Luckily my days are very diverse since I get bored easily! Running a growing company provides me with a lot of opportunities to focus on different areas of the business and help my team evolve. Some days I’m on the road at client meetings, others I’m with investors, or brainstorming about new products, or juggling the myriad daily day-to-day decisions involved in taking InCrowd to the next level. I try to approach each day with the idea of focusing on the things that will move the business forward the fastest.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a very collaborative process at InCrowd. My leadership team is very involved in client feedback, all deeply listening to and valuing the voice of our customers. Ideas usually stem from a real need we see in the marketplace. We then do client research to confirm that there is a need and to better understand the requirements. Our clients welcome opportunities to sit down with us and explore their business problems and growing needs, which allows us to develop relevant solutions. If we observe a consistent challenge with several clients, we then see where it fits on our roadmap and then build from there.
We’re fortunate to be small enough to nimbly respond to client and market needs – and large enough to have a strong team of experts with great experience and skills that both recognize the changes in the market ahead of time, and help the organization address them.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend of using automation and technology to remove the friction between needing something, and getting it, really excites me. Our clients are traditionally dealing with larger market research efforts, which provide static data by virtue of the scale, size, and the time they take to execute. These surveys often ask dozens of questions, many repetitive, and the responses bring very little, if any, new insight. Asking fewer questions, but the right ones and getting responses quickly is one way we do this. It’s combination of technological enablement and survey development expertise. This helps to remove the friction between having questions for a specific type of responder—MD’s primarily, in our case— and getting answers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Making sure I find time to get away from the daily grind to let my mind think about other things. It’s during these time that I have the best, most innovative ideas.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My original career was in nursing which I did for six years. While I wouldn’t say it’s the worst job, you have to have a very special character and mindset to do the job well. I knew early on that it wasn’t my passion and that I needed to make a career change. The experience taught me that there are very special people in the world who devote themselves to caring for others, even in difficult circumstances. I have the utmost reverence for those who take this path. They are often underappreciated.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
This seems odd, but there aren’t many major decisions that I would make differently. It’s not always been smooth sailing, but each mistake taught us something we needed to learn. One mistake I made early on was trying to please everyone who gave me business advice. When you’re starting out it’s all uncharted territory, and though the earnest advice was always welcomed, I didn’t always get the best advice for my business. I learned to listen, carefully consider, suppress my inner pleaser and encourage my inner sage. I learned to recognize that I owned the consequences of every decision and that ultimately I was the best expert and champion of my vision. Five years into this adventure, we’ve built a solid and growing business and a very extraordinary team and culture.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I try hard to keep an open mind and remember that I’m not always right. It’s so important to hire people with different points of view who challenge your thinking so that you don’t get myopic, and you consider things that you might not have considered.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We’ve adhered to the agile development philosophy and have also tried to apply it to our entire business, in the sense of doing, learning, doing, revise, fix, do, etc. We try to iterate as we need to and not over-think something until we have some information or evidence to support our decisions.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had never managed a board of directors before starting InCrowd, so the early days were often rocky with the board. I had to learn how to listen carefully, ensure people feel heard, but ultimately when called for, hold my ground and know that the companies fate depends on me making the right decision, which my team and I are usually best positioned to make.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A carpooling app for schools and/or sports teams. As a busy mother of three, trying to coordinate this manually is a bear. If someone could get this right it would be a killer app!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a few great books on playing poker. These books not only helped my actual poker game but for life in general, as Poker is my current metaphor for life. It’s given me insight to how I play my cards in life and business.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Slack has revolutionized the way we communicate internally. It has dramatically cut down on the number of emails flying around and has increase communication and transparency within our organization.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Power of Now.” It helped me among other things to get over some of the fears that were holding me back and remember that it is the present that matters. It helped me take the leap from my comfortable place, and take a risk to start a company.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
“The Lean Start Up” and “Crossing the Chasm” were two very important books that have shaped my thinking about starting and growing a company. Marc Shuster’s blog www.bothsidesofthetable.com also has been a very valuable resource over the years regarding the start-up ecosystem and understanding the investors’ point of view.