Teaching Entrepreneurs to Embrace Their Inner Geek
by Ken Accardi MBA’05, healthcare tech entrepreneur & Babson adjunct instructor
When teaching how to transform businesses with digital technology, one of the first things I tell students is that I was raised as a Geek and not as a business person, but that it’s important for them to become Geeks as part of their Babson journey.
I grew up in my career at GE Healthcare, armed with a BS in Engineering and an MS in Computer Science. I was successfully on the tech track at GE. I started as a software developer in the X-ray division and came up with a technology for remotely diagnosing X-ray problems via this relatively new thing called the Internet. My technology ultimately won for my team GE’s highest R&D award—the Dushman award. But it was what the “business people” did to it that made is truly special. They put a business model around it that allowed GE to deliver higher uptime, to charge more for our service contracts, and to develop the careers of top-performing field service technicians. I was envious of business people who embraced corporate entrepreneurship.
When I moved to Boston, I was married with young kids at home and felt I had missed my window to get an MBA, but then I heard a radio commercial on NPR for Babson’s blended learning program (then called Fast-Track). It was at Babson where I learned about strategy, finance, entrepreneurship, and other aspects of running a company that my engineering background never gave me. Ultimately Babson gave me the tools and self-confidence to start my own company, Ankota.
Ankota makes solutions to enable the next generation of home care for the elderly. We sell to companies (B2B) that provide home care services and essentially, we are their practice management software, doing client management, caregiver scheduling, electronical visit verification, billing, and payroll. When I started a healthcare software company focused on home care, people questioned why I didn’t instead make software for hospitals “where all the money is?” My Babson education taught me to look to the future… Our elderly population is poised to triple in the coming decades and ultimately, I knew that innovation would rule the day. Four years in we’re a million-dollar company that is cash flow positive, is growing rapidly, and has created 16 jobs.
But as the song says, “times they are a changing…” My path started as an engineer but ultimately led me into business as a tech entrepreneur. Babson students start with a solid business foundation and it’s my job to teach them the importance of tech in ALL their lives and careers. On day one in class, we’re talking about major digital transformations like Uber and Netflix and their impacts on the taxi industry and the corner video store, but then we’re going way deeper. This article by Silicon Valley entrepreneur coach Sramana Mitra paints a compelling and somewhat dystopic picture of the future of work. Every Babson student needs to come away with the strategies and tools to transform businesses with technology and with the ability to be a life-long tech learner. It’s my pleasure and honor to make sure that all Babson students find their inner Geek.