Student entrepreneurship in health care
When Andrew Ringer decided to study business in university, he didn’t plan to end up working in health care. However, the transition seemed natural when he decided to become a student entrepreneur that provides technological solutions to home care nurses.
His business, Professional Performance, makes a product called Pro-Nurse, which is a digitized health record software system that runs on tablets. It allows nurses that go into homes and provide health care services to track and submit the health records at the point of service, rather than faxing or sending paper records later.
Ringer graduated from the Wilfrid Laurier University business co-op program this year. He worked at a start-up company called Contingent Workforce Solutions (CWS) for all three of his co-op terms. Jeff Nugent, the founder of CWS, had a strong influence on Ringer. “I kind of view him as a personal mentor. I’ve worked with him very closely, I think I was his second employee, give or take, and I’ve done a lot of good work for CWS. He has really cultivated my entrepreneurial spirit,” said Ringer.
Working with an entrepreneur inspired Ringer to pursue his starting his own company, but he thinks that any co-op experience is beneficial to student entrepreneurs. “I think that it helps to put things in perspective. I think that when you’re a student you lose grips on reality when you’re doing case studies… you really can’t rationalize doing it yourself. And getting into co-op some people are put in the position where they can affect those changes,” he said.
Attaining the resources that are necessary to run a business is a challenge that every entrepreneur faces. While some may think that this challenge is amplified for a student entrepreneur, Ringer doesn’t see it that way. He thinks that one of the biggest benefits to being a student entrepreneur is the access to great talent. He and his business partner were able to hire highly skilled computer science students because they had access to that community through a school club.
Time, however, was a resource that Ringer lacked. He said, “Studying and running a company is very difficult. Something’s got to give.”
Ringer believes that there is less risk to starting a company as a student. He believes that when people become entrepreneurs later in their careers, they often have family and financial obligations that make the venture more risky and failure more damaging. Ringer discussed that it also fits in with the transitions that students are already facing in deciding what type of career they want to pursue.
Being perceived as young is one of the biggest challenges that Ringer faces today.
He often gets the impression that it is a problem that he looks young, saying, “I often am asked questions to build credibility in the company.” He does not think that this will hurt his business, however, because his company is the only provider of this specific service. He said, “If our clients want a system to manage the clients at the point of care visit, they’re either going with us, or they are waiting three years for IBM to develop something.”
The most important lesson that Ringer has learned is persistence. “I’ve been writing code for probably a year and half now without any payback or any results. You have to learn a lot of self discipline in order to do that.”
His advice to other student entrepreneurs is “Don’t be afraid. Just do it.”