Baruch alum talks entrepreneurship

Baruch College alumnus Michael Gilvary, the co-founder and CEO of both Idion and Cutaneous Information Technologies, came to speak at Baruch on Sept. 30 about his business ventures and gave students advice on how to become successful entrepreneurs.

Gilvary’s company Idion created an identification and security platform with skin-wearable stickers. The technology authenticates wearers and links them within the event or place that they are located at and can be accessed via smartphone. The startup originally focused only on events within the healthcare field, but its services are now also being used at venues such as concerts, hotels, resorts and museums.

Lunch & Learn, a new program at Baruch, is a group of roundtable-style events in which successful Baruch alumni who have started their own entrepreneurial ventures tell students about their experiences. This was the first of the Lunch & Learn series, which meets around once per month, each time focusing on a different topic of interest.

Gilvary has 15 years of management experience, as well as experience in marketing within the healthcare industry from his time at the Stryker Corporation. He also served as the chief operating officer and part owner of Lulu DK LLC.

Unhappy with his job at Stryker, Gilvary decided to attend Baruch and get a business degree, though he was uncertain which specific field he wanted to pursue. The CEO soon discovered his passion for entrepreneurship when he took a class on the subject. Gilvary has spoken at Baruch on numerous occasions, because when he first came to the college, he felt “very lost,” but soon found his way. Gilvary hopes that by coming to speak at Baruch, he will be able to give back and provide guidance to students in a similar way. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2007, he and his friend came up with the idea for their first startup, and Gilvary quit his job, taking the leap into entrepreneurship.

Gilvary explained to his audience the five key components of being a successful entrepreneur. The first component, he shared, is coming up with an original idea. He spoke of the importance of valuing the creation, delivery and capture of the product. Gilvary emphasized the importance of knowing the product’s distinguishing factors, as well as being able to explain the premise of the business simply and clearly to investors. He then spoke about knowing the product’s customer scope and how to effectively target consumers. Finally, Gilvary stressed the importance of figuring out how capitalize on the profits and stop others from trying to copy your business.

After creating a “palatable and manageable” business idea, the next step and in Gilvary’s opinion the most important, is to make a plan. In Gilvary’s words, “Everybody has ideas but, no one has a plan. A plan takes something from an idea into something you can actually move on.” A plan, he said, is how an entrepreneur is able to move forward and actually make an idea become a reality.

The third factor of successful entrepreneurship is deciding how much time you are willing to put into the venture. Gilvary guaranteed that every investor wants to know if you are working on the venture as a full-time or part-time job, indicating how serious you are about the venture. According to Gilvary, ventures are often more time-consuming then is expected. He warned that one must decide how much of their time will be required in order to make the venture successful, and if they are committed to invest that amount of time into it.

After making these decisions, the capital required to get the business started must be earned. Gilvary said that a plan and financial projection must be presented to investors in order to show them that the product has validity. He explained that by capital he is referring to both monetary and human capital. Gilvary said that a major part of making a venture successful is getting a good team of workers, which in his opinion can be just as hard as getting money.

The final component involved is “having the guts to step out beyond the ranks and make it work.” In Gilvary’s opinion you either “have guts or you don’t,” and only some people are cut out for it. He spoke about the fears of leaving your comfort zone, and the importance of controlling fears and managing risks, as well as being the “owner of your own domain.”

When speaking of the challenges involved in entrepreneurship, Gilvary emphasized the importance of listening to advice, and recommended the use of negative feedback as a guideline of how to improve. He also stressed the dangers of procrastination, and how it sometimes causes companies to miss their window of opportunity and fail.

Additionally, Gilvary spoke of the many risks involved in entrepreneurship. He said that 95 percent of startups don’t meet their projections, and that there is a major psychological price involved in leading one. He explained that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to “think beyond,” meaning that you must be creative in finding different ways to approach and solve problems.