Case Study - Canswers

Client Situation.

Canswers was conceived as a way to mine vast amounts of otherwise unused cancer data and create a virtual tool that could be used in diagnosing and recommending treatment for patients. Over the course of several years, this relationship spanned the full lifecycle that Lighthouse's clients often follow. It began with a short and finite project, grew into a longer-term series of efforts requiring ongoing support from Lighthouse, and ultimately transitioned to a less time intense and periodic executive advisory role.

Challenges.

  1. Canswers was knowledgeable in the area of medical research and analysis, and had some unique knowledge related to cancer. However, it had limited cancer data and no direct experience in using technology to mine and manipulate that data for bioinformatic purposes.

  2. Canswers was conceived by a small group of young entrepreneurs who lacked direct experience in starting and growing a business.

  3. Canswers was only an idea at the time Lighthouse was engaged. No product existed, there were no customers, and no actual business plan had been established.

  4. The market Canswers wanted to pursue was crowded, with well-financed, skilled competitors.

Lighthouse Role.

Lighthouse recommended a gradual, methodical approach to the set of challenges faced by Canswers. When Lighthouse was introduced to Canswers there were many uncertainties that could have taken the business a number of directions. Lighthouse felt it was important not to over-commit the client either to the unknown business or to a lengthy consulting contract. The following steps were taken one at a time, each building on the one before:

  1. Defined the scope of the business opportunity. The skills and assets of the company were evaluated against potential markets and market sectors available to find the best fit to meet the company's goals. This in-depth analysis resulted in a significant and ultimately beneficial shift away from the original concept for the business.

  2. Defined a market. Once a more targeted market was identified, Lighthouse worked closely with the client on an in-depth study of the market. This process provided necessary insight on the scope of the market, its accessibility, and discovery of the unique niche and positioning the company could fill.

  3. Redefined a business plan and product unique to the market and more aligned with the strengths inherent in the company. Lighthouse was then engaged to help the company develop a comprehensive business plan.

  4. Built a small, but skilled team. With a plan in place, Lighthouse was retained to help define the resources - employees, partners, and advisors - that would be needed to establish and build the business. Job descriptions, budget, recruiting strategies, and other elements designed, reflected both the goals and resource limitations.

  5. Developed a seasoned advisory board to supplement young managers. Lighthouse assisted Canswers in supplementing its full-time staff with a broadly skilled and seasoned board of advisors. This board not only provided short-term capacity and depth, but also long-term guidance, reality-checks, and credibility.

  6. Supported the evolution of the President in his role as well as the execution of work plans. Throughout its engagement Lighthouse played the dual role of coaching the company's President in his own personal role while advising the company in a broader sense. This was enormously valuable to enabling this chief executive to mature quickly as a new entrepreneur without causing his company to wait or falter in the process.

Successes.

Over three years many successes - small, large, personal, corporate - were achieved. Those successes included:

  1. Trending Canswers away from things not core to strengths, towards things that are.

  2. The shear ability of Canswers to survive and succeed with no outside capital and in a down market.

  3. Establishment of key data and technology partnerships with industry leaders.

  4. Creation and growth of a network of customer relationships building credibility for future sales.

  5. Recruiting experienced, talented employees to the team, even given the inherent risks.

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