Amber: Hi, I’m Amber Ambrose and this is BusinessMakers USA live, coming to you from Columbus, Ohio. Y’all nailed it, I’m telling you. We’ve got an enthusiastic audience here, and I should also mention this is brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Now, tonight my guest is Navin Goyal, who is the Co-founder of LOUD Capital and SmileMD, so welcome to the show.
Navin: Thank you very much for having me.
Amber: Yes. So, Navin, we’re going to start with LOUD Capital. Tell us about it and what it is.
Navin: LOUD Capital is an early stage venture firm that I started along with another co-founder, Darshan Vyas, about three years ago. We started it to invest in early stage companies, and when I say invest that is partially capital but it’s also a lot of time, other resources, other basic fundamental things that aren’t out there for a lot of entrepreneurs. So, essentially that is what LOUD Capital is, helping a business grow to whatever level they want to go to.
Amber: Sure, and so, you came to this path through a sort of circuitous route and so that brings me to, what is SmileMD?
Navin: SmileMD is actually a mobile anesthesia company that basically provides access to care. And so, what we do is we go to various offices, whether it’s a dental practice, various medical practices, and we essentially get procedures done that can be done in an office versus a surgery center or hospital. And so, when you’re talking access to care there’s plenty of people, let’s say, kids; we do a lot of children, and so, children who are far from a children’s hospital and need a procedure, sometimes there’s long waits at a hospital or even there’s logistical issues; transportation. When a kid gets sick, a bad respiratory illness, they’re not able to undergo anesthesia, and so if you’re waiting a couple of months, and the average wait for a dental procedure at a children’s hospital is about six months, so let’s say you wait six months and you get sick, you travel two hours and you get cancelled because it’s not optimal for the, you know, the risk is high.
Navin: What we do is we actually go out to various offices which could be in the patient’s community, and we can get it done within a month. And so, we’re doing it more economically, so it definitely is cheaper than a large hospital which has huge overhead costs, but it also gets it done in a timely fashion. You’re talking about progression of disease, all these things that happen when you’re waiting, we’re taking care of that. The economics, the medical side of it, the actual access to care for various communities and demographics, that’s what we’re doing.
Amber: Sure, and you’re an MD as well, yourself, and a practicing anesthesiologist.
Amber: Where do you find time to do this, Navin?
Navin: I don’t know that yet. I started out as a—I don’t know how far back we’re going, but I wanted to be—
Amber: Let’s go all the way back, Navin.
Navin: I wanted to be a physician and that was my one goal at the time. I went into science, I went into a funky undergraduate major called molecular genetics, which to this day is insane. I wasn’t even that good at it, and it was so hard, but someone told me, hey, if you do something different and tough, it’s better when the med school guys are looking at you to accept you. So, I said, ok I’ll do it, and it was so hard, and I wish I did something else. I became a physician, and I trained in Chicago, became an anesthesiologist. I loved it and I still love it, but my heart 100% was in it and so now I’ve been practicing for about 11 years in a private practice here in Columbus.
Navin: About 5-6 years ago I just started, kind of like a kid in a candy store, I never really looked outside of the science, the medical route, and then I started talking to various people and what they do. I started investing as an angel, started investing in some real estate, started meeting really, really smart, hardworking people, people making huge sacrifices, and that’s what really got my attention because I felt like I took my time and effort to sacrifice to get to medical school and to be a physician, but then there’s just so many other pathways of what people want to do in life. When you hear their stories, which I feel like prior to that I didn’t really listen too much, I was just so focused on my own story, I was really inspired.
Navin: Listening to entrepreneurial stories, starting to angel invest, and then just kind of being in the middle of my practice where I was finally done with the millionth test that I’ve taken, because once you pass your boards in the medical world it’s like every 10 years you re-certify, but otherwise, you’ve been studying for tests too often. I never read leisure books, I never did any of that. I started reading, I started talking to people, I know that sounds ridiculous—
Amber: That sounds normal.
Navin: But I got inspired and so I started looking outside of medicine, just in various ways, and that’s what brought me to where I am today. SmileMD was the first company that I co-founded with two other close friends of mine who were anesthesiologists. Being an anesthesiologist, it didn’t seem like a radical idea to start an anesthesia company. It now is very different from when we started it in a good way, but that’s really what made us take the first step, and then that kind of brought me to LOUD as well. Just kind of seeing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, seeing that there’s a lot of help that’s needed. Even to this day, Columbus is an amazing city, it’s on a huge trajectory, but there’s still a lot of help that’s needed.
Amber: What do you think it is about Columbus that is fostering what seems like a very strong startup ecosystem?
Navin: Sure, and that’s a great question. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to start with the Midwest, actually, and then we’ll go to Columbus. I know Columbus, I’m obviously a little biased about Columbus, but in general, the Midwest is on a trajectory because I think it’s finally being recognized for untapped talent, for really salt of the earth people. I say salt of the earth recently because there’s an entrepreneur that we invested in that’s out in California, and every time they come to travel to Columbus and we have various meetings, they keep saying it’s so great to be in the Midwest, it’s like salt of the earth. They miss that because there’s a lot of people who are raised in the Midwest, they tend to stay in the Midwest, and some people can say that’s a negative thing and a lot of people, in this discussion, it was a very positive thing.
Navin: They’re very proud, they’re very hard working, and so the Midwest in general is being recognized. The economics of it, you know, a huge percentage of the population, GDP, all these great stats out of the Midwest. If you’re a company, you should have a presence in the Midwest if it’s not your headquarters. That’s the Midwest in general, and finally people are recognizing that. Whether it’s for investment, whether it’s to go to school here, whether it’s to move here, start a company here. Cost of living used to be the only thing, the only attribute that people talked about, but it’s still an important part, because especially if you’re an early stage company startup, if you have a check in your pocket to hire talent, to start a company, to do what we want to do, especially with technology, social media, education, you can do it anywhere in the country, so why would you be paying such a premium in various cities when you can go to the Midwest and start it much more economically?
Navin: As we’re going to the Midwest, and I just wanted to say that because I think the region in general is doing great, the thing I love about Columbus is a couple things; one, it’s still relatively small to get business done, and so, you’re only one or two people away to getting decisions makers. That’s a really, really important. I think we were just talking, I was just talking to someone a second ago about another city which was very spread out. Even if the population is not huge but you’re very spread out geographically, it’s still a little bit tougher. These are small things that add up to obstacles in a business. Columbus has a huge talent pool, obviously, with Ohio State being here, amazing headquarters are placed here, I don’t have to list names but there’s a lot of great ingredients here.
Navin: Finally, we have the confidence and we have the collaboration to make real recipes out of these ingredients. And then the collaboration part, I think, is extremely important compared to other cities, even in the Midwest. When I say collaboration, I think that’s a hot term that people use on social media, LinkedIn, and so I don’t want to throw that word out without really describing what I mean. When you’re building a company, let’s say, you’re as strong, you’re as productive, you’re as fast as your slowest, unproductive counterpart, right? You really are. And so, if you have a government body, a city, a culture, and then along with the private world of business and people and vision, and you have everyone aligned, you can get things done much more efficiently and much more productively.
Navin: When you look at, let’s say, a collaboration scale and you look at various cities, I think the collaboration scale of Columbus is huge, it’s really advanced. Even for being a, I don’t know what we’re considered, a mid-sized city, but collaboration is very high. If you want to do big things here, you actually have a much better chance, in my opinion, that things can happen a lot quicker and more productively.
Amber: Who is LOUD working with these days and who are some of the people that—I know you have, you probably want to champion everybody in your portfolio, but what are some of the things that are happening that are very exciting and moving forward quickly right now?
Navin: We are up to about 24 different companies that we’ve invested in and work with.
Amber: And you’re very active in these companies, right?
Navin: Yes. So, the name LOUD came from our first investment; it wasn’t silent capital, it was loud and active capital. We’re extremely entrepreneurial and we love entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is extremely sexy. Again, social media, LinkedIn, a lot of people love it but there’s plenty of, as many people in this room know, 95% of it is heartache and blood, sweat, tears and unsexy stuff, right? 5% is sexy lines that we want to put on a poster and, yes, this feels great. That being said, I think in a weird way our whole LOUD team we love it all. We understand there’s a lot of hard work, but I think we’re all kind of aligned to say we want to build companies, we want to help really smart people build companies, but I’m kind of going everywhere.
Amber: That’s ok. I’ll bring one up because I know we interviewed the founder of the company, a co-founder of Genetesis. Tell us about what they’re doing and how you’re involved in that.
Navin: Genetesis we invested in last year and it’s an extremely smart entrepreneur team based in Cincinnati that are basically doing non-invasive imaging. Right now, they’re doing the heart. What they started out doing was, you go to an ER for chest pain, and you get an EKG, and the thing with an EKG is it’s very non-specific. It could look really bad and ugly and you say, oh, crap, this look bad, let’s go do a couple other tests. Or, it looks great, but the patient looks really ill and has really bad chest pain, you’re probably going to get those tests anyway. It’s very nonspecific, is what we call it in the medical world. Genetesis is actually going down to magnetic fields, essentially. If there’s any damage to the heart, if you’re having a heart attack and you have decreased blood flow to one section of the heart, your tissue starts changing. They can detect that.
Navin: If they see changes in a structure of their heart, then they say, hey, something is actually happening here, let’s order this test. It’s a more specific test, and that’s how they started. This is something that is just a little piece of technology that goes over the heart, so it’s not invasive, where we’re poking needles or doing anything like that, and so it can be used in various places. It doesn’t take up a lot of real estate in a hospital, so if you look at MRI machines and CT scanners, they’re huge, they take up a lot of real estate. A lot of them apparently aren’t being used, if you look at utilization, and so Genetesis is hopefully going to start at the heart but go to various aspects of the body to help imaging.
Amber: I see. So, is your entire portfolio based on medical companies, or healthcare, or do you have all kinds of other industries represented?
Navin: We’re actually industry agnostic. People assume since I’m a physician, oh, healthcare, healthcare. I actually have a lot more fun in non-healthcare because I learn about new industries, but we’re everywhere. We’re in aerospace, hydrogen energy, AI technology, ED tech, healthcare as well, but we kind of believe, especially being in the early space, that you have to take risk on different entrepreneurs. One entrepreneur let’s say, that’s in agriculture, they might be doing something really innovative, that really can help your energy company or help other entrepreneurs in doing various other things.
Amber: Collaborative, would you say?
Navin: Yes, exactly. This is not just academic where I’m touting, hey, we have to be more collaborative. We’re actually doing it. We’ve connected our, I think it’s 24 companies today, we’ve connected them already where one founder is doing some amazing things and we get them on the phone with, let’s say, our aerospace company, and there’s just a lot of collaboration on a very practical manner. Again, not academic, but getting it done.
Amber: Well, Navin, thank you so much for sharing some of your information and your thoughts on the Columbus ecosystem and the Midwest, really, in general, and the startup scene here. It’s really exciting, so we appreciate it.
Navin: Thanks for having me.
Amber: Our pleasure. Once again, you’ve been watching BusinessMakers USA, live from Columbus, Ohio. Thanks for joining us.
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