Savitra Sharma

Founder of Third Wave Analytics

Savitra Sharma, Founder and Managing Director of Third Wave Analytics, has over 20 years of leadership experience in life science, consulting, and digital marketing organizations. Sharma founded Third Wave Analytics, a San Francisco-based lab information management system (LIMS) that operates on the Salesforce platform, in response to a growing need in the medical industry for user-friendly, cloud-based tools to manage laboratory data, samples and inventory. When the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, the University of California-Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) used Sharma’s LIMS technology to create a clinical testing lab serving the greater Bay Area in just three weeks. Sharma has an MBA from the University of California-Berkeley and a degree in engineering science from the University of Virginia.

Where did the idea for Third Wave Analytics come from?

While working in engineering consulting, I saw firsthand how inefficient and ineffective labs were at managing their data. Front office staff had powerful tools built by Salesforce, but labs were often forced to use old-fashioned spreadsheets to keep track of their data and information. This resulted in important details being lost in translation — often with no recourse to find electronic or physical records of the research or tests being performed. I knew there had to be a better way, so I got in touch with Salesforce and proposed a collaboration to create a new kind of software specifically for the laboratory.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

With current demand for lab testing at levels we’ve never seen before, I’m working around the clock. I usually get up by 5am and catch-up on the news before digging into my email. I’m located on the West Coast and have clients on the East Coast and in Europe, so starting early is essential. Usually my mornings are filled with client meetings and general management responsibilities.

Ideally I like to set a chunk of time aside each afternoon for big picture planning, but that often gets taken up by things that need to be dealt with immediately. Long-term strategizing gets pushed back to evenings and weekends, but I’m very mindful of my long-term goals for the company and prioritize time to work toward those. A healthy balance between time spent on daily operations and big picture strategy helps me be productive and stay focused.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas don’t come together magically — you have to take action. Sometimes they work out; other times they don’t. But if you don’t take action, you’ll never know which ideas would be successful. Instead of dwelling on vague concepts that might turn out, I write up my idea in concrete, actionable steps. I discuss it with my team and we flesh out the pros and cons. Usually within a week or so, we have a pretty good sense of whether to pursue an idea. Immediate action and collaboration with people you trust are the keys to turning concept into reality.

What’s one trend that excites you?

It’s undeniable that our country is very divided and facing a lot of challenges, but I’m hopeful as the scientific community comes together to create a vaccine in record time. Vaccines usually take many, many years and pharmaceutical companies engaging in high stake battles for patents. The collaboration among the biggest players in the pharmaceutical industry and brightest scientists to create and distribute an effective vaccine gives me hope that unity and better times are on the horizon.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Being an active listener. As entrepreneurs, we sometimes think we have all the answers, but we rarely do. Good ideas take shape when smart people collaborate together and engage proactively — sharing viewpoints, weighing pros and cons, debating viability, etc. Considering your ideas as flawless is one path to failure. Sitting back passively and letting someone else steer the ship is another. Finding that sweet spot where you listen and engage has helped jumpstart my entrepreneurial endeavors.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry what others will think. It’s easy to spend way too much time and energy worrying about others’ opinions that don’t matter. Set clear long-term goals and don’t let yourself get distracted by outside noise.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Lab information management CAN be easy. I talk to medical professionals around the world who share a consensus opinion that their data tracking systems are inefficient and confusing. With a simple, intuitive platform that organizes all lab testing data and securely stores it in the cloud, lab information management systems can be a pillar that labs rely on — not an obstacle that compromises speed, efficiency or accuracy.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Tie everything I do at work back to my central mission when I started the company. My goal is to equip labs around the world with reliable information management software at an affordable rate. When opportunities to go off in various directions come up, I carefully consider how such a decision would affect the company and our long-term goals. I recommend keeping your eye on the ball and not letting flashy short-term gains cloud your judgment or distract you from your ultimate mission.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Recognize how everything fits together. I have a background in life science, software engineering and marketing. Third Wave Analytics was formed at a natural intersection of these three industries. Starting a niche company that involves multiple industries, I rely on skills I learned and connections I formed in previous jobs. I didn’t realize it when starting my career, but every job and interaction has the potential to play a key role in a future project. Learn from each experience and carry the most valuable lessons forward with you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Waiting to go off on my own and start my own business. I always aspired to start my own business, but that voice in the back of my mind held me back for longer than I would’ve liked. I worried about my business possibly failing and it took me a while to realize my inaction was actually the failure. I had my niche and business plan all dialed and committed myself to going all in on it. It’s been a lot of work, not without shortcomings, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As the world opens up and people return to offices, businesses are inventing comprehensive health and hygiene protocols to keep their employees safe. Testing is much more widely available than it was at the start of the pandemic, but it’s still costly and complicated. Many businesses are hesitant to implement sweeping testing regimens because of cost, but there are ways for most businesses to test employees and not break the bank. Think outside the box and work with your local health authorities to develop a system that keeps your employees feeling safe and gets them back closer to a normal routine and workflow.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Buying lunch for volunteers at a drive-in testing facility in the Bay Area. I’ve bought them lunch a few times since the pandemic started. They’re out there risking their lives working tirelessly to keep our community safe. A hot meal is the least I can do to say thank you.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Working closely with Salesforce for the last decade, I continue to be blown away by the vast capabilities of their software. From HR to accounting to email marketing and now lab information management, Salesforce has robust tools that will save your business time, money and aggravation. Even if the platform seems pricey at the beginning, getting top tier information management software is a worthwhile investment that will help your bottom line.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth is one of the most applicable entrepreneur books I’ve read. It provides concrete examples of how hard work and dedication are more important for successful entrepreneurs than simple brilliance. I come back to her advice on cultivating grit in myself and team often throughout the year.

What is your favorite quote?

“Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.” – Angela Duckworth

Key Learnings:

  • Continually evaluate how all of your past experiences work together to shape the future business you want to create and impact you aspire to have.
  • Find a niche that brings your strengths and experiences together.
  • Always be cognizant of your long-term goals and how each decision affects your pursuit of those goals.
  • Even if you aren’t 100% sure your business idea will turn out, take the risk, put everything you can into it and don’t let “what ifs” haunt you.
  • Foster a culture of grit in yourself and people around you.