I’m the type of person who believes in starting things. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. You need validation as fast as possible and getting to that point where it’s acceptable is all that you need.

 

Shuhan He is a doctor and an entrepreneur. He is the founder of ConductScience, a brand that creates high-quality equipment created and developed by scientists for scientists. He is also the mind behind Maze Engineers, a startup that creates automated mazes which allow doctors and researchers to further improve their studies on behavior and neuroscience. Aside from these endeavors, he has also been involved on other projects such as DoctorLingo, which is a site that focuses on helping people further understand scientific and medical terms used by doctors by creating a dictionary for these terminologies.

He is also a resident physician in Emergency Medicine at the Harvard Teaching Hospital Affiliates Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals.

Outside of work, he is a fan of fitness and wellness, advocating intermittent fasting and daily exercise. He has also done the Gobi March, a 250km race, placed second in age division of 18-21-year-olds in a marathon, and has done over 15 marathons/ultra-marathons.

He is currently based in Cambridge, MA.

Where did the idea for ConductScience come from?

Before I became an entrepreneur and startup founder, I am first an MD, clocking in hours in the emergency room and conducting research in the field of neuroscience. I have spent years in Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and has done numerous research in neurological diseases, with over 20 publications in this area.

With ConductScience, the site solves two primary issues. Since I have dedicated a lot of my time working on experiments in the laboratory, I realized that the way scientific apparatuses were distributed made no sense. Products went through layers and layers of resellers and distributors who were incredibly expensive. Almost like car dealerships. By selling products online and direct, you could save the user significant costs. We have spent a lot of time obtaining the best deals possible and thus we’re able to offer incredibly low prices for the same equipment you’d receive in other places, for a fraction of the markup. We simply don’t keep a sales staff. You come to us to shop instead.

Also, the way that scientists innovate and transfer technologyto the industrial sector was incredibly overburdensome, and the current system makes it so that most inventions never see use in the real world. By using a unique process called Open Access IP, we are able to give scientists the ability to receive “Royalties”, almost like how Spotify monetizes artists. This means more inventions from scientists can enter the real world.

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

A snapshot of my typical day outside of the emergency department usually looks like this: I wake up at 7AM, make myself a cup of coffee, and then proceed to work. By noon, I workout, and then take a nap after. I go back working until 8PM, and then spend the rest of my night probably having dinner with my significant other or with friends. By 10PM, I would usually call it a day and hit the sack.

I believe in habits and creating a ritual that best works for your personality. I find a lot of inspiration from a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and it has helped me realize how my ‘ritual’ works. I’m a morning person and I mostly dedicate the early hours of the day to more productive work when my mind is most clear. I get most of things out of the way before noon, giving me a chance to relax for the rest of the day. Afternoons and nights are dedicated for secondary work, sometimes lazy work when I’m already exhausted. Generally, I dedicate around 4-6 hours of very productive time daily. I also make sure to aside time for working out.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m the type of person who believes in starting things. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. You need validation as fast as possible and getting to that point where it’s acceptable is all that you need.

It also helps that my work involves talking and interacting to really intelligent scientists, researchers, designers, and doctors, giving me more ideas along the way.

What’s one trend that excites you?

There has been a movement for independent entrepreneurs not seeking venture capital. Most people call it ‘bootstrapping’ but I personally like to call it the difference between Genghis Khan and Christopher Columbus. Here’s how I see it:

Genghis Khan entrepreneurs are the ones who conquer the world by eating what they sack, and slowly sack the next town, village, state, and eventually the world. One great example would be Judy Faulkner, an innovative mind in the field of healthcare who founded Epic. She successfully built her empire by standing by and believing in her ideas, without the need to ask for funding from other people. She is now one of the richest women in the world and her startup has largely addressed the issues of data gathering in the medical field.

The other type of entrepreneur would be the Christopher Columbus type — they conquer the world by asking the queen for funding for ships, then sail the Atlantic to sack the Americans. This is the most case for many funded startups.

While I think there’s nothing wrong with asking for funding, I really like how bootstrap entrepreneurs are starting to take flight. The challenge of not receiving any help from others make entrepreneurs more creative and resourceful, and it has helped the community come up with innovative and more well thought ideas.

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

I find exercise to be helpful when it comes to productivity. Aside from its health benefits, it also helps me clear my head and have that much needed dopamine boost. I also find daily reminders about life to be helpful. In fact, I have a personal site called AgeWhen.com where it shows a graph of the number of weeks that are left to live if one lives until the age of 85. It’s a stark reminder of how awfully short life is and it helps me get moving, stay productive, and to live life to the fullest.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I hope my younger self would have been more patient. If I were to talk to him, I’d also remind him to believe in the best of people, to love his friends and cherish his family more. These people are important and will always be there no matter what. Lastly, I’d probably let him know that there will always be things to do, but he’ll never be too busy for the one above.

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

Some people believe that everything happens for a reason, but that’s something that I don’t truly believe. As someone who has spent a lot of time working in the medical field, I’ve seen way too many brain tumors in young people and numerous horrible traumas to some amazing people, that it is hard to believe that this is true. I think the world is a mishmosh of randomness and that bad outcomes absolutely happen.

However, this doesn’t mean that we’re all doomed and we’ll find ourselves tangled in bad situations every time. I guess, what this just means for me is that it’s important for us to really go after things that mean the most and prioritize them because we will never know when we’d be gone. Life is transient. My family and friendships could be gone tomorrow, no one will ever know. It could be gone and I just appreciate it for when its here. And just to be clear, these things can be gone for no reason at all.

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

I really recommend people to explore the beauty of audiobooks. It’s easy and you can definitely listen to it wherever you go or whatever you do. Driving around town? Doing some errands? Just hit play and you’ll actually get to learn more by just lending your ear and listening.

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

Since our products require a lot of coordination and collaboration with different professionals, I try my best to keep a small team. This would not only eliminate the unnecessary effort for communication, but it’s also a great way to manage our finances more wisely. With only a small number of people to manage, this give us flexibility and an opportunity to be more efficient in our work.

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

Starting out, I’ve encountered a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur. I used to try ideas that didn’t have any sort of margin or profitability. I would not validate it in the market and would spend a lot of time building features that I wasn’t sure that people actually needed.

I tried exploring the niche of dating early in my career but I learned quickly that it’s a different and difficult market to enter. Creating a model that would work both ways – satisfying the customers and being profitable – can be a huge challenge. Charging the customers would mean a smaller pool for potential matches while creating a free service with advertising is difficult to monetize. Eventually, I let that go and focused on further refining ideas and models in my field of expertise.

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

I actually have a few things in mind! I honestly think that someone should make a fortune cookie cereal just for the heck of it. Customized chess sets would also be nice, with my friends as the playing set. I love audiobooks so if someone can make soundtracks for these (making the scenes a little more dramatic perhaps), that would be awesome. I know that there are car fridges but I hope it’ll be more accessible, so perhaps something like that. It’ll be perfect for groceries and for storage of cold diet soda while you’re on the road. If it’s something related to my field, turbotax for government grants for scientists and academics would also be a good business model. Lastly, I think someone should definitely make a job dictionary. If I want to know what a sommelier is, what they do, what their day to day is like, shouldn’t I be able to look that up?

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

I recently purchased a slow cooker and I really like it. It’s cheap, economical, and it’s a great way to cook healthy meals. My days can get hectic and this has truly helped me save some time from cooking. I could easily prep the ingredients, put them in the slow cooker, and leave it for hours. Instead of spending too much time cooking, I am able to get more work done and come back with a healthy dish for lunch.

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

While Gmail be a common service that most people use, I really find a lot of its functionalities useful. You can make multiple email addresses for your company in just one inbox, making it more centralized.

I also like Mixmax as it offers great flexibility and adds a lot of useful functionalities for my emails. Tracking, scheduling, one-click templates — these features make emailing easier and more efficient.

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

I highly recommend Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham’s “Street Smarts“. It’s based on a series of articles by Bo Burlingham — possibly one of the best writers in entrepreneurship. He discussed Norm Brodsky’s businesses and the daily grind of the company. It talked and focused on common issues that entrepreneurs usually face instead on frivolous things like venture capital.

A lot of books explores stories and addresses ideas that focus on ‘theory entrepreneurship’, most of which comes from venture capitalists. However, there are very few books that feature empirical entrepreneurs — those who discover rules and best practices through experimental data — and Street Smarts is one of the rare ones that bring the spotlight towards these unconventional ways of building businesses.

What is your favorite quote?

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… and that is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

Key learnings:

● Life is really short and we have to make the most out of the time that we have. Go hard and stop putting off the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Things doesn’t have to be perfect to put into fruition; sometimes, all we need is to take a step forward and start doing things.
● Embrace Genghis Khan — take one step forward and slowly build your way up. It doesn’t matter if it takes time, as long as you’re headed towards to the direction that you want and you don’t stop, you will get there.
● Exercise is a great way to stay healthy, stay in shape, and clear your mind. Carve out time dedicated to working out. Your body and your mind will thank you.
● Keep things simple, fast, and efficient. Some problems doesn’t require big words, grand solutions, and complicated answers — sometimes, all we need is to simplify and find efficient ways to find what we’re looking for.

Connect:

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