The First Customer

The First Customer -Todd Fisher's Business Chronicles From Military Service to Market Mastery

December 08, 2023 Jay Aigner Season 1 Episode 84
The First Customer
The First Customer -Todd Fisher's Business Chronicles From Military Service to Market Mastery
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I was lucky enough to interview Todd Fisher, Chairman and Founder of Intraprise Solutions

Todd shares his entrepreneurial journey from a small town in New York to building a successful business with a focus on health information technology and financial services.

From starting as a web-enabled business solution in 1997 to his ventures like Mobile MD and Enterprise Health, Todd discusses the evolution of the company's client acquisition strategies over the years. He emphasizes the importance of understanding niche domains and combining technological expertise with specific industry knowledge. Todd encourages thinking big, leveraging emerging technologies, and embracing the value of luck in the entrepreneurial process.

Tune in now to the latest episode of The First Customer to glean insights that could ignite your entrepreneurial spirit!

Guest Info:
Intraprise Solutions

Todd Fisher's  LinkedIn

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[00:00:27] Jay: Hi everyone. Welcome to The First Customer podcast. My name is Jay Aigner. Today, I am lucky enough to be joined by Todd Fisher, chairman and founder of Intraprise Solutions. Todd, thanks for joining me today, boy. How are you?

[00:00:39] Todd: Doing well. How are you doing?

[00:00:40] Jay: I'm doing fantastic. you're not too far away from me over in Yardley. I'm in the, Richborough area, which I guess is, you know, not too far as the crow flies.

where'd you grow up? And you mentioned earlier, you know, the Canadian border, we talked about hockey a little bit. where'd you grow up? Right.

[00:00:56] Todd: up on in a small town called Clayton, New York. Clayton is in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. and if you're familiar with New York State in the shape of New York State, it really, it's at the, it's pretty much at the northernmost part of, the state. And, and the Canadian border runs right through the river where the town that I lived in. you know, is and, and a lot of people know the Thousand Islands region up there because it's a tourist destination in the summertime. For a lot of folks, it's very pretty, very nice rivers, very nice river. And, and, you know, I grew up there and left. To go to college and really haven't been back. Well, I go back to visit, but haven't lived there again.

[00:01:39] Jay: Okay. Now, do you think, there was any impact there from you being an entrepreneur later in life? Anything up there?

[00:01:46] Todd: from when I lived up there,

[00:01:47] Jay: Yeah. When you 

[00:01:48] Todd: when I was young, you know, it's always hard to say. I'm kind of old. I, it's hard to remember back then. But, but, I will say, I will say that, I will say that from an early age, I've just earned my own way. and, from, you know, I think I was 11 or 12 when I got my first job. And so, in that sense, yes, the work ethic,is really sort of important for, for somebody to be, To be an entrepreneur and fail and succeed and fail and fail, learn, succeed. And, and in that sense, I guess, certainly got a good start there. but I think the, the, real start was, when I went on active duty in the military and got assigned things that I really had no idea how to do and realize that I could learn how to do them and was, did well. And when I separated, that was when I kind of got the bug.

[00:02:40] Jay: Very cool. so what was the first business you tried to start?

[00:02:43] Todd: the one that I'm running now,

 Intraprise Solutions. I started that in 1997. we formally incorporated, I believe, on October 3rd, 1997. about 12 months before that, I was working on a prototype. That was an idea that I had, you know, this is back at the beginning, of course, of the first web, you know, first internet bubble and, and started the business as a web enabling business, web enabled business solution.

So business type of a business and, and, I had formerly worked for after I had gotten out of the military, a health information technology company in the very, very early days of, electronic medical records. the days when, the electronic, the digital medical record was literally a scanned image of the paper. And, and I saw an opportunity to reduce the total cost of ownership of deploying those types of systems by using browser platform, independent browser based technology, which was. Pretty, you know, I was new then, and, new ish. And, and I think when I started, there were 70 million people on the internet and now nothing need be said.

[00:03:50] Jay: Yeah.

[00:03:51] Todd: and so, that, that's how it started. I saw an idea, an opportunity. I knew that there was a problem, a challenge in maintaining those systems that are very costly to maintain because the systems that I was, But then I'm talking about, in the health information in the health information technology space. were built to serve provide health care providers in hospital settings.

And, that's a very logistically complex environment to begin with and a very mission critical time sensitive. Things can't break things can't go down. And, and so I saw an opportunity and taught myself how to write some software and connected with a few people to do some of the harder software development because I'd never written anything before. And, Figured out a prototype, show, showed it to folks in the industry. And, that's how it started.

[00:04:42] Jay: How did you get connected into the, you know, the medical records space?

[00:04:48] Todd: My,I, one of the first jobs that I got essentially the first is second, technically was the first job that I got out of, after I, finished my active duty, serving in the military was for a, for Health information technology, startup, who, you know, subsequently had ultimately went public and change their name. but I was a project manager and, an implementation person for them. and I, that's where I learned about. You know, electronic medical records, the medical record process as it relates to how things flow or flowed back then, at least it's actually still sort of similar and, and that's how I got connected and because they were a startup, they're, well, they, yeah, they were a startup.

I was the 15th employee twice because I said, no, this is a. is getting to me. And then I said, No, I really actually like that. And, and the people were wonderful. Awesome. Many of them work for me now. And, And, and so, because it was a small company, I was exposed to the startup culture and I got involved in a lot of things from sales and business development to implementation and execution and all that kind of stuff.

[00:06:02] Jay: Who was your first customer for that business? Do you remember?

[00:06:05] Todd: Yes. The company that had hired me twice as the 15th employee. Contracted me to build a production version of, the, proof of concept that I developed,which was the web enabled electronic medical record. I can't guarantee that it was the first one in the country. It was one of the first ones in the country to, I know it was a very early, player as it relates to using the browser is the primary, primary front end for end users.

and, and then having the, like track medical records scan and centralized and not being distributed out to, To desktops and things like that. And, and so that business land vision was the name of the business. They're out of Cincinnati. They're since they've since gone public and they're now called streamline health. and, and they gave me a contract, to build this. And at the time. It's funny what we learn, if I knew then what I know now, would that contract have, given me the confidence to just say, okay, I'm going to leave what I'm doing now and go do this all the time. I don't know, but, I'm glad I did.

It's worked out well.

[00:07:15] Jay: So, you co founded a couple of other things later. We were talking a little bit about that mobile MD, I think enterprise health taught me through kind of where those got spun up from, how you spun them out and other businesses, like, how did that process work?

[00:07:28] Todd: Sure, sure. Intraprise Solutions, because we are comprised of software developers and engineers and. Industry subject matter experts, we focus historically, we have focused since the start. I mean, our early on, we started in health information technology, but early clients also included, players in the mortgage industry, finance services.

So, we have historically been in those 2 industries. Equally, I would say over the course of time. and during that time, our business kind of served as a sort, a place to incubate new concepts, new ideas, new solutions, just by the nature of the way we did things and because of, you know, the reasons that people would, people meaning bus, other businesses would engage us to help,in the early days, leverage the internet. to their benefit to, you know, that might be considered a 1st iteration of digital transformation. and, and so we were exposed to a lot of different, problem solution opportunity benefit type, combinations and, and that environment. Solving problems for other companies also gave us opportunities to incubate new ideas and see where things could be better.

And, and with respect to mobile MD, you know, we saw an opportunity, to. Build a, uh, a private cloud-based, this is really early. As before, you know, public cloud services really were a big thing. we, I bought a data center and, and we operated the system of health information exchange from that data center. And, and it was successful and we bootstrapped that for a number of years and signed quite a few, health systems. And from there we took in some private equity, and. did well. And in two years after we did that, we sold the business and exited and the entire time that we were running mobile M.

D. Intraprise Solutionswas still continuing to do work largely in the financial services sector again, continuing to kind of create solution that kind of continue to create solutions for our customers using the latest, greatest advanced techniques and technologies, to solve problems that were. And are and continue to be quite challenging. and so, like I said, it really provided for a good proving ground for a lot of different types of solutions. And, and that's we, it served as a great place to incubate new business ideas and businesses.

[00:10:10] Jay: Love it. What's kind of give me one of your biggest failures and what you learned from it.

[00:10:20] Todd: Great question. And I will say, I will say, you fail more than you, you succeed. and it sounds like I'm dodging the question because I'm not saying what it was yet, but I'll get there. I think I have to think about it. It's been a long career. the other thing I will say is that luck plays a lot bigger role than people realize. And anybody tells you that, you know, it was all them and no luck involved and. in any successes, they haven't taken a step back and gotten perspective. no disrespect to anybody, but a

[00:10:51] Jay: No, I'm a firm. I'm a firm subscriber to that theory

lock is lock and timing are now You know, the old, chance favors the prepared quote, I think is very true too, because you have to be ready for

[00:11:06] Todd: quote of mine. 

[00:11:07] Jay: that we have to be ready for that opportunity and the luck to happen. But yeah, people who don't give luck, it's fair share, I think are, not really not being honest with themselves.

[00:11:16] Todd: Yeah, Chance Favors Prepared Mind, Louis Pasteur. I love it. I

love that quote. and, and so, you know, the biggest failure I've had, I've, a number of times I think we, we started down a path that was, pretty far out there and didn't stick with it and spent a lot of money. On, on ideas and invested in, in, in ideas that ultimately have proven to be, you know, good ideas.

we were really early and trying to figure out how to do, you know, leverage what we have come to know as big data. to, to build models that perform a behavioral next generation, behavioral analytics, pretty sophisticated analytics based on, you know, the linguistics and things like that to figure out, you know, what type of personality we're dealing with and what their tendencies are.

I'm a big fan of the behavioral sciences. I like to study a lot about the behavioral sciences and things like that. And so we, Like I said, we were a good, we're a great business to incubate new ideas, some of those ideas, we kind of got ahead of the head of our skis a little bit and, and had to pull back and regroup and, and, and that's time, money, effort, energy, people, and, and definitely a difficult process to go through, especially when you're passionate about the idea.

[00:12:42] Jay: Right. Yes. I definitely feel you on that. if you had to, or had the opportunity to kind of travel back in time and, whisper into Todd's ear before he started the business 26, I think, 26 years ago. what would you tell him? What would be some of your advice? You know, things that you've learned along the way.

[00:13:02] Todd: One, luck plays a really important role in everything you're about to do. and,and honestly, this is going to sound counterintuitive given what I just said, but I go big, you know, big, in particularly as, as we've advanced and very sophisticated technologies become democratized. and more, meaning more accessible to, at a cost or a price point that allows a lot more competition, in the marketplace to do big things. I, you know, I think, I think we, or I didn't think big enough. and, and so I would have made that suggestion is, you know, if you can imagine it and you, and it's out there and you can, and you think you can do it. You know, it's, you know, why not? What if what next are the questions that you should ask yourself? And, and I didn't ask myself that for a long time, and we've been successful, but I think we've also missed a lot of opportunities.

[00:13:58] Jay: How have you guys, how was your approach to getting clients? How did that change over the duration of your business? I mean, you've been doing it for a long time. You obviously have a great team under you now, and there's probably a bunch of different mechanisms for acquiring, retaining talent and getting clients and all that sort of stuff.

 how has that changed? How did you used to do it? And how do you do it today?

[00:14:22] Todd: Well, when we started, we did it by, as I hired folks into the business and I hired people, I knew not least of which my brother, I hired a lot of folks who were coming out of the military because I. I. was familiar with that. I understood their mindset or at least you know, I understood what they learned. and, and, and that served me very well. And, and we, we traded on our reputation and. Networking before digital engagement and social networking was a means of actually creating awareness of an organization and then getting out there. like, we are talking today that wasn't the case back then. But, but that kind of, That kind of, approach ended up serving as well, and, and then just making darn sure that we did a very good job at what we, delivered. And, and we're proud of our history. we've done some pretty cool things that have since, you know, really kind of been transformative in some industries and, and, you know, like in healthcare with, coding and abstracting medical records so that people, some physicians could get paid. We created a web based solution there for a company, and it was one of the first, if not the first, and it allowed them to recruit. Remote coders and that when they were in short supply and so things like that got us into a network of individuals. And then we went, we would attend trade shows and things like that, where the network of people all showed up at the same place, same time, and we were able to talk to them and, and that served as well.

And,when we spun out mobile MD with private equity, and we had, because we've been bootstrapped pretty much enterprise has been bootstrapped. It's entire all 26 years. but, but when we took in some private equity, went and spun out mobile MD, we, of course, added a little more, I guess, which we'd characterize as traditional or expected, you know, outside sales, team and the like, and that certainly was very beneficial and helpful.

and, and it was a good way to, leverage the capital that we took in on the technology was largely, I mean, we advanced it, but it was largely built by them and, to grow. so, so we've kind of run the gamut there. And today we do, we, our outreach is, is social media, digital engagement with, with, with, our target audiences.

We do a lot of research market research using, using the tools that are available to, you know, marketing agencies and things like that organizations that's what they do. And, and then engage, you know, our audiences very specifically

[00:17:01] Jay: related to the solutions that they need.

[00:17:04] Todd: You know, I'll give you an example. I'll give you an example. We know that in the, financial services space and the mortgage debt back securities mortgage back security space. you know, the idea of being able to value a portfolio of assets and then simulate what would happen if interest rates go up.

If they go down different things happen in the economy, you know, running simulations using different kinds of, statistical models. that's a really important thing. it's gotten a lot of news lately, given the. Relatively recent bank failures and understanding exposure. And so that's what I mean when I say, so they're very targeted specific messages that we communicate saying, you know, we understand this domain, you know, a lot of people can write software, not a lot of people can write software and know what you mean when you say, you know, you know, mortgage backed security, what that even means.

[00:17:55] Jay: Right. have you guys leveraged, the offshore talent for what you guys do? So you're all us based.

[00:18:03] Todd: we are us based and, and, People make choices, people make whatever choices they want. My experience with organizations that have leveraged, and this does not mean it's applicable to everybody by any stretch of imagination. My experience with organizations that have done that is there historically was enough overhead to manage that, that it ended up resulting in the same, roughly the same amount of cost.

And, you know, and today more so than ever, in my opinion. that the real value is in the combination of understanding how fast and what the technology is and where it's going and then the niche domain expertise is critically important. I, technologists have to be able to speak the domain that they're serving today.

In my humble opinion,

I haven't been dealing in very niche area financial services and in very specific areas and. in health care, and so maybe it's less so in other parts of the economy, but, but I find that's very important.

Interesting. Okay. well, this was great, man. A lot of great stuff. I love the story. I love that you're a local guy and, you know, you're kind of just the, the American dream entrepreneur. and thank you for your service, by the way, I should have said that earlier. but, it

[00:19:25] Jay: I, if people want to reach out to you, Todd, if they want to find Intraprise Solutionsor anything else you're involved in, how do they do that?

[00:19:31] Todd: say again.

[00:19:32] Jay: If anybody wants to reach out to you or to, find more about Intraprise Solutions, how would they do that? Where do they go to find you?

[00:19:39] Todd: They can find us at intraprise dot com. W. W. W. dot intraprise. I. N. T. R. A. P R I S E dot com. there's contact information there. my email address is T F I S H E R at intraprise dot com. certainly, somebody wants to reach out to me directly that would be wonderful too. And, not a problem. I'd have to commit to memory everybody else's email address and I don't have that. I'll tip my tongue, but, Visit our website and, and, we have a knowledge exchange where we exchange ideas about advanced, you know, emerging technologies and, and so, that kind of dovetails nicely with what we do.

So, yeah, that's how I suggest folks get in touch with us.

[00:20:21] Jay: Awesome, man. Well, you've been great, Todd. enjoy the rest of your week, brother. Enjoy the beautiful wall of fall weather. We're going to get here in the next few weeks and, I'll talk to you soon. All right,

[00:20:29] Todd: All right, thank you very much. I appreciate 1, 1 shout out real quick.

I'd be very remiss not to do this. No one person makes this happen and everybody that's ever worked for us is awesome.

[00:20:42] Jay: I love it, man. And you could not be more right, sign of a good leader there. So thank you, buddy. I appreciate it, Todd. See you, man.

[00:20:48] Todd: All right. Take care.