Ben Nelms, co-founder of ProKnow® Systems, is a successful serial entrepreneur whose new team is utilizing the cloud to harness big data to transform radiation oncology.
"In grad school, I got to study under a professor who was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in radiation oncology," Nelms said. "I was not assigned projects to perform, but rather problems to solve. There's a big difference. After rising through the ranks of industry, I started my own design company through which I got a lot of products to market by developing them myself, then selling the IP to vendors for a royalty. In the early days is when I met my co-founder of ProKnow, Richard Sweat."
ProKnow® is short for Profound Knowledge and is an homage to the industry pioneer of quality control, W.E. Deming. Deming said to optimize quality requires looking at the system of components (both human and technological), studying and perfecting each in its own right, for the ultimate good of the whole. Such a mindset leads to a 'profound knowledge' of the industry, the product, its purpose, and its end users.
"We apply this mindset to radiation oncology," Nelms explained. "ProKnow® will be the first commercial offering to use big data analytics dedicated to not only the continual improvement of radiation oncology, but to help our users really figure out which techniques, methods, and technologies work the best to cure cancer patients. It also helps resolve the day-to-day bottlenecks in radiation oncology. ProKnow® organizes complex information into an elegant, yet intuitive, form, and puts at the users' fingertips in a cloud-based system so they can get it anywhere."
Nelms recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs be omnivorous readers, reading practical works such as The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, but ranging to more symbolic ones such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer or One Man's Wilderness, a book by Sam Keith about the journey of Richard Proenneke to build a home in the Alaskan wilderness, to, in his own words, "Do a thing to completion."
Asked if he had any advice for entrepreneurs, Nelms offered, "Invent something that makes a difference so that when you're working 90-hour weeks you have something besides paying the bills to pull you along. It's not always fun so you need a mission beyond that of just a profitable company. Also, make sure you make a product or service that will provide a healthy return for your investors - always bear in mind their importance, and the risk they took in your idea."