Issue 12 2021

16 CEO MONTHLY / ISSUE 12 2021 , Nov21041 CEO of the Year, 2021 - Kentucky, the USA The Balance in InnovationCenter (BIC) aims to use teams ofminority andwomen engineers, developers, and scientists to create an environment void of the biases ofmisogyny and bigotry. These prejudices are evident in the current culture research and development departments in medical device companies, so BIC intends to avoid them in their entirety. In addition, it promotes career growth and leadership positions within start-ups for thewomen andminorities in BIC. Balance Innovation Center LLC follows the venture studio model of taking concepts to a functional prototype and spinning off a company of that prototype, all whilst bringing in high quality, under-represented minority and female engineers and scientists to work. These professionals then work with the best medical professionals to pioneer creative medical devices. Moreover, BIC will then provide board members, mentors, consultants, and additional services to these start- ups, aiding medical advisors with new concepts, new talent and thus, continuing a cycle. Overall, the company primarily focuses on products in the medical device industry. The logic behind reaching a functional prototype is to remove much of the device’s risk and set the company up for success. Additionally, BIC provides an accelerator/incubator space for medical device start-ups, focusing on those with minority and women founders. The services provided are focused on delivering tools explicitly needed for medical device development. CEO Jill Mari Embry believes that the most rewarding mission anyone could have is to give back. Jill explains, “I was raised by amazing parents that taught my siblings and me that it was our responsibility, given all of the blessings we have, to give back. As an engineer, it has been difficult to find the model to follow to do so; however, BIC is a means to reach back and help others by providing career paths in a diverse, inclusive environment.” The goal for Jill and the company is to create an ecosystem of career opportunities for those that have not been able to thrive and excel in traditional STEM careers. In addition, BIC has a non-profit organization, LegUp, a STEM program for K-12 and college and university students. It provides programs for K-12 students and mentors, role models through BIC, and creates internships for college and university students, start-ups, and tenant companies within BIC. Jill states, “I believe in a collaborative style of management. Although I may be responsible for the end decision, I respect the voices of everyone. I believe that good ideas can come from unlikely places. Each person comes with a lifetime of experiences and knowledge, so it doesn’t matter what your title is; I have an open-door policy, with the caveat of honesty and respect.” For Jill, regarding her management style, it has been noted that it has not changed much over the years. “What I have learned is that it is important to hire people that are going to thrive under that style. It is also important for me to surround myself with other leaders that can buffer some of my expectation, which at times can be unrealistic for some to meet, or to deliver messages for me in a softer, more tactful manner,” states Jill. Overall, the staff of BIC is the key to its success. The company hires professionals with the same inclusive mindset that its founders have and ensures that anyone who works for BIC will be treated with respect. Jill explains, “The company is a team where every member adds value. Although each product will have its specific team, everyone at BIC can give input on any project. I grew up in a basketball family, and the key I take from that is that it doesn’t matter what your position is; you contribute to the win. Regardless of how you get there, it’s the end goal that is important.” The company’s clients are the tenants and start-ups in its facility and those that BIC would license technology from. Jill explains, “Currently, we have a relationship with the University of Kentucky (UK) to license technologies developed by physicians and researchers associated with the UK. Additionally, we are in the process of developing a relationship with the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs as a source of potential technology to license.” However, currently, the biggest challenge BIC has is raising capital. Of the billions of dollars of VC money being spent, only 0.39% goes to black women- owned businesses. Furthermore, only a small percentage of that goes to minority or women-owned companies, and even less in the medical device area. “Recently, we have been approaching large companies that have pledged to support programs for diversity and inclusion, with the majority of these companies being focused on internal programs or non-profit, STEM education,” Jill explains. One of BIC’s concerns with this is that the cultures in these companies and the medical device research and development departments are not being addressed. There have been talented minority and female engineers, scientists, and developers for decades that have left such companies and industries because of the challenges. Jill states, “We are determined to get our initial start-up capital in 2021 and will be working closely with those in the city of Lexington, KY to provide what resources they can. We are also working with the University of Kentucky to identify technology that would allow for a one year to start-up - two year to market technologies, knowing that these initial successes will be critical.”