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Entrepreneur: a Different Kind of Entrepreneur

by Miki Saxon

During the original dot com boom a young woman told me that there had been no startups before the Internet and that all startups involved it.

Once again it seems as if all the focus is on web startups that sell, or help sell, stuff to consumers.

But there are other kinds of entrepreneurs, some start companies, while others innovate inside the system—and the system isn’t always a company nor is the end result a product.

Sometimes it’s people.

Dr. Carnell Cooper, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, is such an entrepreneur, although I’m sure he doesn’t think of himself that way.

Those who treat young victims of violence know that there is a high probability that the same kids will be back again and again and that one of the next incidents is likely to be fatal.

Dr. Cooper knew that, but he believed there was a way to break the cycle.

In a country where violence remains a major public health issue and homicide remains the 15th leading cause of death and the leading cause of death among African-American males ages 15 to 34, the work of Dr. Cooper and his colleagues has resulted in an 83 percent decrease among participants in repeat hospitalizations for violent injuries, a 75 percent reduction in criminal activity and an 82 percent increase in employment. He created a hospital-based violence intervention program that has helped more than 1,500 victims of violent crime and their families.

According to Mark Suster, an entrepreneur turned VC, a successful startup needs to solve a real problem and “win the battle for share of mind.”

Granted, Suster is referring to Net startups, but there’s no question that the problem Dr. Cooper is addressing is very real. Nor is there any question that its impact is wide-spread, its cost enormous and its impact on our GDP substantial.

Dr. Cooper started his program in 1998, ran out of funding in 2001 and has subsisted on grants ever since.

He found a real solution to a real problem, but still can’t capture mindshare.

Will Americans ever accept that we have problems that can’t be solved with an app? And that the solutions that do work should be funded even if they don’t offer an obvious 10x return?

Image credit: University of Maryland Medical Center

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