AI’s Chris Meenan Offers Entrepreneurial Insights (Part Two of Interview on BioBuzz)

In part two of this two-part series, I talked with Maryland health IT executive Chris Meenan about his company Analytical Informatics, Inc. (AI), and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. This is an excerpt. Read the full post at

Meenan-300AI started in Baltimore because you were tied to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Did you ever consider locating anywhere else?

We love Baltimore. It’s a great center for innovation in health care for a number of reasons: innovative hospitals, two large academic medical centers, and a vibrant tech/startup community all call Baltimore their home. It feels like a great place to be for us as a health care IT startup.

What advice would you offer to entrepreneurs?

If you want to be a CEO of a start up, you have to think about what that role means and what it will take to run the company. Max Levchin, one of the co-founders of PayPal, called it the “coffee shop fallacy.” He said that a lot of people think they want to run a coffee shop someday, but in reality they don’t want to actually run a coffee shop. Instead, they want to just hang out in a coffee shop, and enjoy that experience. Running a coffee shop and visiting a coffee shop are two different things. His point is, you can’t just be in love with the idea of a business. You have to be in love with the idea of running a business. As a university scientist, you have to recognize that running a company is very different than the idea or implementation of the technology. I was a faculty researcher and systems engineer, but I was also an MBA student at Johns Hopkins. For me, it was a natural fit. I love the idea behind the technology, but I really enjoy the business and the financial side. Bottom line: Before you start a business, think about what a normal day in your life will be like running that business.

That is good advice. Could you tell us a little about your partnering strategy? What are you looking for?

Our strategy is to work with innovative partners who understand clinical informatics and really believe in the ability of improved information technology to have a big impact in improving health care. We’ve helped to create a consortium of hospitals, academic medical centers, and startups working together to build tools that bridge the gap between clinicians and disparate information systems that have the data they need. This strategy of bringing amazing software created by our consortium members and other innovative partners to the larger health care community is at the heart of our mission to improve quality and efficiency in health care.

All of our partners who develop tools are developing them to be portable, which makes it easy to take a technology built by one member and use it across any site with the Analytical platform. There is a huge cost savings for hospitals to get access to these tools without additional integration costs.

You’ve successfully received a Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) award from TEDCO. Can you offer advice to others who may be considering that path?

TEDCO’s support is instrumental to us. Although we had been growing organically at a good pace, we needed resources to go faster, to accelerate. The MII award helps us to do just that. We will use the grant funding to enhance sales and marketing efforts, demonstrate our technology at national meetings, and for product development. It allows us to hire more staff and move in parallel on more key product initiatives… [read more]