‘Every Day is About Problem Solving’

Author: Cristi Kempf       

‘Listen to the Marketplace’ Joseph Colangelo thinks your clients are the best guiding light for where the market is.

Education

I went to school initially for biomedical engineering. But I quickly realized it wasn’t for me and so I was just another college senior that had no real next step. Eventually, after graduation, I ended up getting a job doing inside pharmaceutical sales. I received some sound advice from one of my bosses there who was like a mentor to me. He said that if I found the business side interesting, I should go back to school for my MBA. I called up the school (the University at Buffalo) and I said, “How do I do this? How do I understand the business side of the pharmaceutical industry?” They said: “You have a science background and you want to go into business? We have something you may be interested in, which is this job at the Tech Transfer Office. You would get paid and then we would also pay for your MBA.”

My First Industry Job

I was business development manager at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), in charge of helping grow and develop their BIO 1×1 Partnering System as well as working with the team to put on a portfolio of international events. At the time, we helped facilitate nearly 30,000 partnering meetings annually, but now the team has that number crushed.

My Previous Three Jobs

BIO; student commercialization manager at the University at Buffalo’s Technology Transfer Office; generic pharmaceutical sales rep.

What I Do Now

I’m co-founder and CEO of Bear Analytics, which we started in 2013. No one’s not wearing more than one hat here. We have a team of problem-solvers. I’m the CEO, I’m definitely the CFO. I’m also the chief product service visionary. Some of the HR stuff flows up, but [Bear Analytics co-founder] Eric [Misic] handles a good amount of that. There are some aspects to what I do around here that you would think I’m a summer intern and then there’s some stuff I do around here that you’re like, “That’s the guy that founded the company.” Everyone is like that here — we’re a team of team players.

My Favorite Thing About My Job

Every day is about problem solving.

Most Influenced in My Career by

It’s a tough question to answer because if you think about each step of the way, there’s one or two folks. But I think about my parents, and the influence they had on me. My father (a mechanical engineer) was a ridiculously hardworking person. On my best day I couldn’t work as hard as he did on his average day. My parents didn’t consider themselves entrepreneurial people, but then they had this side business of owning rental property. My mom would handle the backend from a financial standpoint; she was basically a CFO. Then my dad’s out there doing the fixes, renting the property, so he was head of product and sales.

What I Learned From My Biggest Professional Mistake

Listen to the marketplace. It doesn’t matter what you think you know, what you think will happen, or what “experts” are saying. Your clients are the best guiding light for where the market is going. When we started Bear Analytics, we made all the mistakes. We thought we were experts, we thought we could tell the client what they needed to do, we thought that we knew their pain points. Then we realized quickly — maybe not quickly enough, but pretty quickly — that if we just did more listening and less talking, the market is going to tell us what it wants.

My Next Big Career Goal

To make Bear a household name across events of all sizes. If we can bring the promise of data analytics to a larger community of event organizers, we can help be a small part of powering more meaningful face-to-face events.

My Advice for Young Meeting Professionals

Be honest with yourself. Make sure you’re pursuing something you want to pursue and do it. Don’t dance around it, expect it to happen to you, or wait for a break. Find the path of least resistance and move forward.