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Don't Give Up the Ship

So, how was my weekend, you ask? Well, this was a special one for me. I headed down to Corpus Christi to proudly behold my godson officially becoming a United States Naval Aviator. American naval aviation dates back to the teen years of the twentieth century, when test pilots boldly actualized the theorized potential of aircraft to take off from and land aboard vessels at sea. As an entrepreneur, I truly am a sucker for such history. Innovation literally takes flight when bold vision converges with the sheer will to act.

And let’s not forget resilience.

Resilience. That word began rattling around in my mind as I was watching two beaming parents pin Wings of Gold on their flyboy. Resilience indeed. My godson truly embodied this very trait on his arduous journey to earn those wings, which have been presented to a select few since 1917. But there was something else about the ceremony that got to me; something beyond the patriotism and godfatherly pride. His accomplishment didn’t just hit close to home; it hit close to the office. It resonated on a professional – not just personal – level.

Let’s briefly start with my godson’s story before segueing into my entrepreneurial experience. It’s important to begin with the former because when I mention his “arduous journey” people tend to assume that I’m merely referring to his training – basically everything he went through between being accepted at the Naval Academy and getting his Wings of Gold. That is not what I’m talking about at all. Overcoming standard Navy training was not his hardest challenge.

He was never the best student, certainly never in reach of such laudations as top of his class orwith honors. Anyone not familiar with his character and fortitude would have immediately discounted his prospects of ever going to Annapolis, let alone flying for the Navy. For my part, I’ve known him all his life; and the advice I offered was to go for it but to have a backup plan should it come to that. After all, I told him, any good naval officer would not charge ahead without a contingency plan. But he had no contingency plan. He had no Plan B, no fallback, no safety net. His future, he resolved, would be at the Academy and, following graduation, in the cockpit of a naval aircraft. He rejected my counsel (and I tend to give good counsel).

The Japanese have a saying: fall down seven times and get up eight. Indeed, my godson had to take the SATs seven times in order to qualify for the Naval Academy. How’s that for steely determination? He had about as much place in a Navy officer’s uniform, as a manmade contraption had in the skies back in 1903. He belonged in a Navy aircraft about as much as that aircraft’s ancestor belonged on the deck of a sea-bound naval ship back in 1910. That is to say, he didn’t fit in… until he did.

Bold vision and sheer will. Resilience.

Now, what about my alluded-to professional experiences? Well, I certainly am not going to compare my business trials and tribulations to the tests facing the members of our armed forces. Yet, that young man’s resiliency echoes the story of my company Emerge.

A few years back Emerge was a nascent health tech company, rough around the edges and struggling to find footing on the shaky ground of US healthcare. We had invested the lion’s share of our funds into our research and development. Things looked quite promising until expected key financial backing fell through at a critical time. Now this wasn’t our first stumble, but it was the most serious and was more akin to a coma-inducing faceplant into the concrete. We were hurt bad. One of my co-founders, Spencer McDonald, and I, seeing no recourse, made the tough choice to call our people in for one final company meeting and fire them. We did just that. Game Over.

Three days later, I was sitting at home, not in the best of moods, when the phone rang. It was my former CTO. At least, I thought he was former. “We’ve been talking,” he informed me.

I depleted my last measure of cool to enquire as to who exactly are “we” and what have “we” been “talking” about.

“We got together and had a company meeting,” he elaborated. “Yeah, all the employees… without you, that’s right.”

At this I exploded. How dare they take it upon themselves to hold a company meeting after being let go? What part of Game Over did they not understand?

My CTO replied point-blank that it wasn’t over; adding that our company’s mission of Saving Healthcare was too important to abandon. They would not, to borrow from the naval expression,give up the ship. Emerge, they had decided, would have no contingency plan in lieu of success. There was no Plan B, no fallback, no safety net. Our future, they had resolved, would be to save healthcare with innovation. They rejected my decision (and I tend to make good decisions).

Don’t think that these words of theirs were just empty bluster. Every one of our employees at the time unanimously agreed to keep working for at least 90 days without pay. They believed enough in what we were doing to give months of their time and skill in exchange for no compensation. The question was if I believed in the mission enough to fight tirelessly and find a way to raise the needed funds to get us over our hurdles?

What a team. How could I not step up for them and for our goals? We overcame our challenges. The square pegs of healthcare found a way to fit in after all. Bold vision, sheer will and… resilience.

I consider myself fortunate and blessed to have these people in my life. People like the freshly-winged aviator and like the second-to-none employees of my company. The best people in the world.

For Emerge, our golden wings are our paying customers. No, not because it’s all about the money. Rather, because these paying customers signify acceptance and recognition of our value to healthcare and of our considerable efforts.

We’ve earned our wings. We are ready to fly. Get ready for the sonic boom.

Don’t give up the ship

Scott Finfer, CEO and Co-Founder Emerge Medical Data Intelligence


Scott Finfer is the CEO of Emerge Medical Data Intelligence, a company dedicated to removing the barriers between caregivers and critical Electronic Health Record data.  Emerge’s solution, ChartScout, empowers medical professionals with swift, reliable access to EHR data via comprehensive patient-chart search and visualization capabilities; as well as customizable context-specific dashboards.

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