No, No, No, Yes! — David West

Leading up to the start of the new school year, I am seeking out current Hopkins startups, to learn about their experience. I spoke to David West, the founder of Proscia, a new venture that brings computer intelligence to pathology, a 150-year-old field that was ripe for a digital leap. Proscia uses the Cloud to store biopsy slides (some 1.5 billion are scanned each year), and provides the informatics to analyze patterns to help with diagnosis.

Proscia got its start with a familiar story. As a freshman, David started looking around him at the cool thinking and research underway at Hopkins. Soon, he was exposed to histomorphometry (computer-assisted analysis of images — I had to look that up) for cancer detection. David saw the commercial potential in applying digital capabilities to cancer biopsies, and started exploring this concept.

It was David’s answer for what prompted him to actually turn this idea into a company that really stuck with me. He simply said “I really wanted to start a company from the beginning.” This may seem like a trivial answer, but it gave me valuable insight into the mind of an entrepreneur. Rather than stumbling across an idea and suddenly having the thought that it could be turned into a company, an entrepreneur searches for ideas everywhere, explores and rejects several concepts, and can smell opportunity when a really worthwhile idea drifts their way — one that they can believe in and be truly passionate about — for the next several years. One that they will stick with through thick and thin.

No, No, No, Yes! — explore until you find the one to dedicate yourself to.

As part of the Hopkins community, we are exposed to great ideas all the time. We just need to be on guard and not let them slip by. But even great ideas have issues that need to be solved, hurdles that need to be overcome. Too many of us come across an idea that we find exciting only to be discouraged and move on.

When asked about his struggles with Proscia, David said that his main struggle was getting rejected repeatedly, “When you start out, you’re always gonna be stupid” he said.

No matter how brilliant you think your idea is, how well you think you’ve though it through, you’re gonna be stupid. But with rejection after rejection, you gain the ability to see each “no” as an opportunity to adapt and improve your concept, strengthen your pitch, and get to Yes. As David said, “Expect your business to change every month.” “Eventually you will have heard every question and every way someone can tear you apart.”

No, No, No, Yes! — gotta turn the critiques into adapting and winning.

So, how is David doing this summer? Family & friend funding has been a big help, and Proscia is now on its way to closing on $500,000 for their seed round, and has received partnership interest from Hopkins and other medical centers, and companies in the space. David and his team plan to spend the next 8–12 months trying to build out strategic partnerships with distribution channels and vendors. We will be rooting for him!

Tell us about your ideas and ventures, and Hopkins entrepreneurs to profile.

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No, No, No, Yes! Image credit to book by Gideon Amichay