Disruptive entrepreneurship is something we encourage here at the David Eccles School of Business. And no one is a bigger champion than Troy D’Ambrosio, director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
So D’Ambrosio was the perfect person to lead a panel of entrepreneurs at the Utah Economic Summit. The panel, called “Change Agents: Disruptive Startups” brought together three Utah entrepreneurs who are all making disruptive innovations in their respective fields. Priyanka Bakaya’s PK Clean turns recycled materials into fuel, Johnny Hanna’s Homie helps people buy a home directly from MLS listings online and University of Utah School of Medicine student Ashley Langell is revolutionizing the treatment of cervical cancer with a new medical device.
One of the big takeaways from the panel was the importance of teamwork in innovation. We often think of entrepreneurs like they’re golfers, D’Ambrosio said, who go out and win the game on their own. But they are really more like basketball team managers, who can spur the whole team to work together to accomplish great things.
Each entrepreneur agreed, giving credit to the teams that have allowed them to succeed. Langell credited the U, which has provided support, helped connect her with other students, and even allowed her to take a break from medical school for a year to get a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering. Hanna spoke of his coworkers, but also his wife, who has held down the fort with their six children at home as he develops his business.
Technology was also a key component of each entrepreneurs’ success. Hanna founded a company back in 2003 that allowed landlords to collect rent via online payment. But no one would use it because they didn’t trust the internet for paying bills. Today, people are willing to buy and sell their largest assets — their homes — online, which allows Homie to operate.
For PK Clean, the main issue has always been cost, Bakaya said. Automation has made recycling costs drop dramatically, which has allowed her business to operate in a cost-effective manner. Langell has utilized 3D printing to be able to quickly get her product to prototype.
D’Ambrosio is fond of saying that entrepreneurs greatest strength is their ability to deal with ambiguity. But he challenged the panel to pick their signature strength that has helped them succeed. Langell said perseverance has helped her never take no for an answer, while Hanna felt like this greatest strength is in recruiting fantastic people who can accomplish a job without being micromanaged.
Bakaya credits her resourcefulness — and that of her team — for helping PK Clean succeed. She said one of their favorite things to do is buy cheap, second-hand things from the KSL classifieds that they can use to hack together solutions.