The other day I had the opportunity to sit down with second year MBA student Adam Beal for an exclusive interview focused on his latest business competition win as part of the InnovateHER Challenge. (Vibronix also won a second place finish in the Burton D. Morgan Business Competition recently). One of the first questions:
Q: So Adam- what do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Spare time? [laughs] I like to fish, hunt, watch football, play basketball and read. Long walks on the beach, too.
It is always humbling to discover the lightheartedness behind the suit. At first glance, Beal appears as every other student on campus, with similar interests and hobbies-but what most do not realize is that he is helping market a product that can enhance the lives of millions of people around the world.
Having originally studied Microbiology at Colorado State University, Beal decided to pursue an MBA with Krannert in 2014. As Vibronix’ Vice President of Finance, Beal is responsible for financial projections, business planning, business development and strategy. Vibronix, which has already won prize funds through various competitions, is commercializing an intraoperative breast cancer assessment tool called MarginPAT. The tool helps remove a tumor within one surgical operation and eliminate the risk of a second operation.
The following interview covers Beal's background before Purdue, inspiration for joining the team, and details related to the journey.
Q: As VP of Finance with Vibronix, can you describe your role in further detail?
A: I want to start by saying engineers are smart, but they look at problems in a different way than business people. Engineers and are usually product and design oriented, which is good! But adding an MBA to a firm that is run by scientists or engineers can provide balance. MBAs are trained to assess the market, design business models, formulate strategy and reduce risk; all of which can increase the venture’s chance for success. When I joined the firm, the [Vibronix team] had already won several competitions, but didn’t have anyone with business training on their team . My job at Vibronix has included business model development, market analysis, competing in business competitions and competitor analysis. A major challenge is that the majority of our competitors are privately held companies, so it’s difficult to find solid information. Some of the competitors are ahead of us in terms of business development, but we are close to entering the market. We’re working to close the gap.
Q: Tell us about the upcoming Rice Business Plan Competition
A: It’s the world’s largest graduate-level student start-up competition. We’ve been preparing for the competition for over a year and hope to be accepted for this year’s event. We’ve been through several workshops and competitions in the last year that were also attended by student teams from Ivy League schools. Our team has often been more advanced than those of other schools and it feels great to know that we can compete with the best in the world. We’re [Purdue] definitely underrated.
Q: How is your product distinguishable from what’s already on the market?
A: Better sensitivity and better specificity. There’s an unmet need in the industry to efficiently confirm that an excised tumor specimen be surrounded by at least a 2 mm margin of healthy tissue. Our product, MarginPAT, uses a novel technology to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy tissue in the patient during surgery in order to minimize secondary surgical procedures. In addition to saving (precious) time, the procedure cuts cost; performing a second surgery can cost thousands for patients and insurance. MarginPAT only takes 5-10 minutes to analyze tissue, compared to the current protocol of histopathology- which can take a week. Overall our product’s performance is better than anything in the market and has the potential to improve the outcomes of breast cancer patients globally.
Q: What drew you to this role and team?
A: When I came to Krannert, one of my goals was to start a company. I knew that wasn’t an uncommon goal for someone attending a top tier school. You have 2 years, free time, resources and connections- it’s a good time to do it. I was granted a U.S. patent in 2014 for an exercise machine I invented and I planned to start a business based on the device, but soon after I decided to join Vibronix and have spent the majority of my time working on commercializing MarginPAT. I was introduced to the Vibronix team by a colleague and was impressed by their technology and potential. I’ve continued in my spare time to work on my other project and plan to incorporate Rise Strong LLC in 2016 to market my invention.
Q: Could you tell us more about the current business operations?
A: Although Vibronix is a pre-revenue firm, we currently have a working prototype at IU Health in Indianapolis, IN. We’re conducting a clinical study and have endorsements from several top breast cancer surgeons. Our team is very hands on- they are present for surgeries and running the analyses using MarginPAT.
Q: Could you tell us more about your team?
A: I like our team. I work closely with Dr. Pu Wang (Co-founder, CTO) and two other post-doc students Lu Lan and Rui Li. We really have a strong, efficient team. We meet every week or two weeks and have been successful in advancing the business and winning competitions. We’re confident that this company will be productive and improve care for patients.
Q: What other titles do you hold?
-President, Purdue Graduate Entrepreneurship Club
-Vice President of Professional Development, Purdue University Consulting Club
-GA for Launching Global Leaders and business office part-time
Q: Could you tell us more about your journey getting here?
A: Getting here was a long journey. It took a couple years from when I decided to pursue an MBA to when my MBA program began; the application process is really tough and I decided to get started early. I applied to 12 different schools. At the end of the day with all offers on the table, I chose Purdue. When I visited some of the other business schools who had offered me a scholarship, they didn’t excite me. They weren’t Purdue. Purdue was attractive because it was a top tier business school with an impressive alumni network. In addition to its high achievement in business, Purdue is a leader in technology and engineering. Since I had a STEM background, Krannert’s STEM focus in MBA programs was attractive as well.
Q: What’s your favorite read?
A: I strongly recommend the book: Your MBA Game Plan by Omari Bouknight and Scott Shrum.
Q: What’s your advice to future MBA students interested in pursuing a degree at Purdue?
A: If you’re serious about business school start early. Try to get a good GMAT score. But a strong B-school application is about more than test scores. It’s about knowing and believing in yourself. You need to know how to tell your own story, and how your background and experience can help you to succeed in business school and beyond. Become a success story that they [your network] can be proud of.
Beal leaves us with the following quote:
"Business school is a place where initiative is rewarded. Be imaginative and know your talents. Determine how you can use your time in school to improve the program, enhance the experience of your classmates and promote your professional development. Develop a service-oriented mindset and work to build a positive legacy. That’s success. When people see that you’re doing positive things and contributing to the MBA experience of other students, you’ll be looked at as a leader and considered for the greatest opportunities."
By: Rachel Cooper