Caspar Szulc of Innovative Medicine: “Purpose”

Purpose — Our purpose is to provide people with greater levels of health and happiness by helping them to heal smarter. At the end of the day, health is our most valuable asset, so creating value is key to success. Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy […]

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Purpose — Our purpose is to provide people with greater levels of health and happiness by helping them to heal smarter. At the end of the day, health is our most valuable asset, so creating value is key to success.

Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.

Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?

In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Caspar Szulc.

Caspar Szulc, the “healing entrepreneur,” is co-founder and president of Innovative Medicine, a company dedicated to transforming healthcare using a personalized, comprehensive approach to integrative medicine. In addition, he oversees the New York Center for Innovative Medicine, a state-of-the-art facility that helps people heal smarter by offering cutting-edge medical options and therapies from around the world. Caspar is also the host of “Your Health. Your Story,” a podcast where listeners can learn from experts in the field of integrative medicine and wellness about how to reverse disease and preserve health.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

From an early age I learned that health is our most valuable asset, in part because both of my parents are doctors. And yet, despite access to so many medical options, it felt like as a society we weren’t achieving optimum health. So, I wanted to start a different kind of healthcare company, which would be much more comprehensive, much more personalized than the way conventional medicine is practiced. That was the seed for Innovative Medicine.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Unlike many ‘Aha!’ moments of pure inspiration and bliss, my “Aha!” moment came from frustration and unhappiness. Working as a financial analyst and feeling unfulfilled is what motivated me to take on the risk of starting Innovative Medicine, which included opening a state-of-the-art clinic called New York Center of Innovative Medicine. The idea was to use what was familiar — medicine (my father is a doctor, and my mother is a psychologist) — and to disrupt the status quo by taking an outsider’s perspective to deliver new ways to treat chronic disease — in a different kind of setting using different kinds of therapies and medical options.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

My father. I still recall the time I traveled from Boston to visit him in New York City. We were walking down the street when he shared a story about being stuck in his career, feeling frustrated with a conventional medical system that didn’t give him the license to think outside the box. He talked about how breaking free from the confines of working in a hospital and into private practice permitted him to pursue a much, much broader definition of medicine. Being able to practice an integrative approach that heals body, mind and spirit brought him great satisfaction and happiness. I will never forget the lesson he gave me, as it led to the boldest decision of my life and one that forever changed its trajectory.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It’s looking at a serious problem (chronic disease and illness) and solving it on a completely different level than most other companies. Whereas many in the healthcare industry continue to look under a microscope for answers, we take a drone approach; that is, one from high above, thereby being able to connect the dots that span past, present, and future, and then applying a truly integrative method that is tailored to each patient since no two people are exactly alike. Our clinic offers over 75 cutting-edge therapies and treatments from around the world. It puts patients first while pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I see every interaction as an opportunity to help people view their health as the absolute greatest wealth and to empower them with actions to optimize it.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Patience — I’ve been around medicine my whole life and have been an entrepreneur for over 15 years, and I feel I’m just getting started.

2. Passion — I love talking about medicine and health. As an introvert, it’s often hard for me to open up with strangers or participate in small talk, but if it’s about health and medicine, I won’t shut up. The opportunity to provide people with greater levels of health and happiness is what lights me up and fuels me.

3. Perspective — You will get knocked down, feel absolutely gutted and like a failure, and contemplate if you made the right choice many times. But if you see every challenge and failure as a lesson and something to make you stronger, you will succeed in the long run.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Watch your expenses. Do not put all of your cash into a single risky move in the beginning, like taking out a Superbowl ad your first year when you have no real revenue stream. This advice paralyzed me and made me feel fearful for some time. You can’t be overly risk-averse or overreact to every expense incurred in running a business. Be conservative and watch cash flow, but don’t let it lead to inaction and paralyzing fear.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

There’s a certain level of stress every entrepreneur goes through. You’ve laid it all on the line and often need to double down on high-risk moves to survive in the beginning. There were many sleepless nights before a large contract was due for payment or payroll was supposed to run where we simply did not have enough in the bank. Somehow, some way, things worked out.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

An unwavering belief in myself, the foundations of the mission around the company, and a strong support system in friends and family. The more I learned about optimizing my health using stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, visualization, affirmations, breathing techniques, proper diet and supplementation, and spiritual practices like Ho’oponopono, the more I was able to cope with challenges.

The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

Have a totem — it can be a physical one like the spinning top in the movie Inception, or a mental one. For me, it’s a mountain top. I love hiking and mountain climbing and have climbed some of the highest peaks on different continents. At times it can be grueling and emotionally and physically draining. But you take one step at a time, upwards, towards the peak. The ultimate reward is when you summit. I know climbing the mountain that’s in my head may be a lifelong journey, but the idea of what lies at the top keeps me moving forward one step at a time, regardless of the current situation I find myself in.

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

I’d advise they take a long and hard look at what they want and make a choice they feel comfortable with. Everyone will have an opinion on this, but the truth is each company has a different personality and culture that emanates from its founder. To try and understand that as an outsider and give advice as to what is the best decision for them would be doing a disservice. There are benefits to fundraising and bootstrapping, but ultimately this is an incredibly personal decision that should be made solely by the founder.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Patience — It takes time to build a successful startup, which is challenging because attention spans have gotten shorter as technology has played a larger role in our lives. People expect quick answers, quick and easy solutions, quick everything. Some things just take time.

Presentation — Pay attention to details. In a competitive world, details matter and positive first impressions are crucial.

Persistence — There are plenty of naysayers to go around. If you have patience, passion and purpose, persistence will pay off.

Passion — With all of the time, energy and emotional ups and downs of starting a new company, especially one that disrupts the status quo, you’re going to need passion to succeed.

Purpose — Our purpose is to provide people with greater levels of health and happiness by helping them to heal smarter. At the end of the day, health is our most valuable asset, so creating value is key to success.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

One common mistake is not defining success in terms of years, decades, or even centuries. Another mistake is not defining what success is. Too many want to be profitable and cash out as quickly as possible.

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?

Stop working longer and start working smarter. One sleepless night can set you back days in productivity. Take a long-term approach to your work. Do you want one year of long nights, burnout and chronic illness, or five years of consistent, productive days that are balanced with personal growth, health and happiness?

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Fortunately, I’m doing it now — to get as many people as healthy as possible by reversing disease using ultra-personalized treatment plans that provide a pathway to optimum well-being.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would choose someone that was just diagnosed with a complex chronic illness and was told they’d have to live with it for the rest of their life. I’d want to have the conversation and reframe it to help them see there are always options and there is always hope.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my personal Instagram, @casparszulc, or follow Innovative Medicine online and at @innovativemedicine.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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