[quote style=”boxed”]Invest early in structure and systems. It seems really odd to hear these words come out of an entrepreneur’s mouth. Everyone always told me “build fast, organize later.” But you’ll find over the short- and long-term that small efficiency improvements, like agile development and project management tools, yield huge productivity gains and set the tone for your business that last long after you grow past your ‘two people hacking in a garage’ days.[/quote]
Neil Thanedar, 24, is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup CEO. He is currently working at his fourth startup, LabDoor, as its CEO and Founder.
Born to parents with MBA, MD, and PhD degrees, he may have been destined to science and health entrepreneurship since childhood.He has spent his life following his father’s prescient advice to “never get a real job.” Neil used his passion as a guide and found cool places to work where he could make a real difference.
In past lives, he co-founded an FDA-registered product safety lab, partnered with doctors to help commercialize health technology inventions, provided marketing and technical assistance to a sports technology startup, and managed community organizers in inner-city Detroit.
Neil was named by CNNMoney as one of its ‘Generation Next entrepreneurs to watch’ in 2011. In his very limited spare time, he writes about startups on LabDoor’s digital health blog, and his articles have been featured on sites like Forbes, Inc., and The Next Web.
Neil studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received degrees in Business Administration and Cellular & Molecular Biology. He spent the first 18 years of his life in St. Louis, and four moves later, still considers it home.
What are you working on right now?
My life right now is LabDoor. We’re a digital health startup that builds report cards for supplements and pharmaceuticals. It’s like a modern Consumer Reports, with expert scientific reviews of the safety and efficacy of each product, all easily available on the web, and most recently, your iPhone.
Think back to the last time you bought a multivitamin or cold medicine. How did you choose the best product for you? Did you read the label? Check out a couple user reviews? Be honest, you just bought the bottle with the flashiest packaging! Instead, just use LabDoor to scan a barcode, see what the experts say, and pick the right product.
How far along is LabDoor?
We created LabDoor in early 2012, and have built an amazing team of scientists, developers, and designers. Our scientists analyzed over one hundred top products, and thousands of users have already registered for our first applications. LabDoor also recently completed the prestigious Rock Healthstartup accelerator program.
Where did the idea for LabDoor come from?
I spent two years building the vision behind by product safety startup, Avomeen Analytical Services. Our independent laboratory had become an industry expert in understanding what makes consumer products like supplements and pharmaceuticals safer, but our reports to the FDA and manufacturers were never released to the public. Meanwhile, customers have been left on their own, stuck with confusing product advertising, labels, and user reviews.
I knew there had to be a better way, and the potential solution kept me up at night. Finally, during a meeting with Startup America CEO Scott Case, I figured out the idea for a way to translate FDA and lab data into a grading system that regular consumers could use. Eight months later, that vision has turned into LabDoor.
What does your typical day look like?
I live a very simple life. On a typical day, all I do is eat, sleep, work, and workout. All leftover time gets spent with my girlfriend and two dogs.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I just start building.
Ideas are awesome. They’re invigorating and drive passion, but ideas are not real. From day one with a new idea, I try to make something real, whether it’s a 30 second pitch, one-page business summary, or a set of quick wireframes. It’s a great dual test. First, if you can’t summon up the energy to work on your own idea for an hour, it’s probably not that great. Also, by building immediately, you have the ability to seek feedback from others and iterate quickly, a huge leading indicator of success.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Digital health and big data will radically alter the course of the world. That’s been known for a long time, but technology and consumer awareness have finally caught up to the hype. Incubators like Rock Health have done an amazing job of focusing the key resources needed for tech startups in these specific fields to maximize their chances of success.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve been lucky enough to never have a whole job that I hated. That’s the benefit of constantly working for yourself in small startups! But I used to hate having to manage tasks like accounting and HR at my startup Avomeen. I quickly learned that being a leader isn’t all about vision. Unless you can balance between vision and execution, your business is either going to fail fast, or grow quickly enough for you to get replaced by your investors with a real CEO.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I’m a firm believer that every small detail impacts the course of your life. I would never risk missing out on the journey I’ve had and the people who have become a part of my life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Hit the gym! Seriously, the first thing that every new startup entrepreneur drops when work gets hard is their health. Don’t think you have time? I guarantee that you will be more productive in 14.5 hours/day of work after hitting the gym than you will with 16 hours/day of sedentary desk time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Invest early in structure and systems. It seems really odd to hear these words come out of an entrepreneur’s mouth. Everyone always told me “build fast, organize later.” But you’ll find over the short- and long-term that small efficiency improvements, like agile development and project management tools, yield huge productivity gains and set the tone for your business that last long after you grow past your ‘two people hacking in a garage’ days.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I wish more people would look to themselves instead of politicians to change the big issues that we’re facing around the world today. It all starts when crazy people like startup entrepreneurs tackle challenges like healthcare and bureaucracy.
Tell us a secret.
I have a recurring dream about leaving the startup world to join a rock band. In real life, I’m the worst singer in the world, I can’t play an instrument to save my life, and I hate travel. It makes no sense.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Google Apps: My life runs on Google, including Chrome, Mail, Drive, Calendar, and Groups. Having everything in one place is awesome.
Buffer: Love the simplicity of running my whole social media life through one dashboard.
Asana: Obsessed with organizational tools, and this is the best business productivity app I’ve ever used.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would highly recommend all books written by Brad Feld. I’m particularly excited about his new book, Startup Life, which I had the opportunity to discuss with him recently. It tackles a hugely underrated challenge for entrepreneurs – managing a marriage/partnership.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday, when I watched the Saturday Night Live skit of Louis C.K. as Abraham Lincoln. Awesome!
Who is your hero?
My dad has always been, and will always be, my #1 hero. There are a thousand reasons why, but overall he’s been an amazing influence on me, both personally and professionally, and is where I turn to for wisdom and guidance.
(I love you too Mom! Thanks for your unconditional support!)
What is your favorite quote?
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne