Feb 7, 2008
Accuri Cytometers CEO Jenn Baird tries 2nd startup - Sonetics Ultrasound
Jenn Baird took a risk. But most people don't even know what she's up to.
And that's the way she wants it for now.
Baird is best known as CEO of Ann Arbor-based Accuri Cytometers, a medical device company expected to introduce its first commercial product onto the market this year. The company's flow cytometry system may be offered for 80 percent less than its standard market competitor, threatening to shake the foundations of the $1.3 billion industry.
But Baird is also CEO of another startup company, Sonetics Ultrasound Inc. The company is quietly pursuing technological advancements and is keeping a low profile on purpose. How low-profile? It doesn't even have a Web site.
"We're keeping it very quiet while we're securing IP," Baird said.
It's the kind of risk that Michigan needs to take more often, said Jeff Schox, an intellectual property attorney who represents Accuri.
Schox - who lives in San Francisco but regularly travels back to Ann Arbor, where he accumulated clients as an attorney a few years ago - said Baird's strategy of pursuing two business opportunities at once is akin to the positive entrepreneurial attitude of many business people in California.
Starting two businesses at once is rare in Michigan, he said.
"I think the typical entrepreneur never would have gone after that," he said. "We need to be able to say, 'It's OK to have a startup company.'"
Accuri, Baird's most high-profile company, has been in the spotlight recently after announcing its plans to expand its Scio Township location as the company starts manufacturing of its new flow cytometry system. The company plans to add about 88 jobs over the next 10 years.
Baird says that in the interviewing process, she's searching for people who display an entrepreneurial mindset - prospective employees who realize that it's OK to latch onto different business opportunities as their careers evolve.
"It seems like some of the people we interviewed, they don't even realize that's a possibility," Baird said. "You have to take a more entrepreneurial approach to your own career, and my sense is people either get that or you don't."
Baird didn't reveal much about Sonetics' technological pursuits - except to say that it has a "bigger market opportunity" than Accuri.
She said Michigan is slowly developing an entrepreneurial culture, but that it starts with the willingness to try something new.
"I think there is a genuine desire to help one another that's kind of a Midwestern culture thing. There's a genuine desire to do that," she said. "I think the challenge from an entrepreneurial culture is that we as a community at large have not yet mastered risk-taking. Where a failed venture in California may be viewed as a badge of honor, in Michigan it's viewed as a black mark.
"That's a challenge."
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