Making Something From Nothing: Lisa Thee Of Minor Guard On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine


Clarity of vision. In order to lead, it is important to know your “Why” and make that transparent to your team. Your company culture should be aligned with that Why. Integrity in how you operate will lead to long term loyalty and growth for those who choose to join you on this crazy adventure of inventing the future.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Thee.

Ms. Thee is a Top 50 Global Thought Leader for AI, Privacy, and Safety with demonstrated experience in delivering revenue and solving complex business technology, governance, privacy and risk challenges at scale.

Ms. Thee is a consultant to some of the world’s most innovative healthcare and global technology for confidential computing and digital safety. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of Minor Guard, an Artificial Intelligence software company focused on making people safer online and in real life. She is a keynote speaker helping business executives to “Embrace AI for Digital Transformation.” She hosts the Navigating Forward podcast. She has been named to the Top Health and Safety, Privacy, and AI Thought Leaders and Influencers and Women in Business You Should Follow by Thinkers 360. She was recently named to the 2022 “Top 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics” global list.

Ms. Thee currently serves as an advisory board member for Engineered Medical Solutions, Humaxa, Spectrum Labs and Marketplace Risk. She is also a Board of Director’s member for 3 Strands Global Foundation, a human trafficking prevention and reintegration focused organization.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan where my parents had a clearly defined vison of a path to success for me. Attend the University of Michigan, get a STEM-based degree, and build my career in the auto industry. I was 5 internships down that path when I graduated from college and took the right hand turn to move to California for a job in the tech industry.

As a figure skater, I was high on passion, but low on talent for the sport. My biggest influencer was Kristy Yamaguchi, but I knew I was not Olympics-bound. The love of the sport and the creativity it allowed for taught me a lot about failing as part of the process. I would fall trying a new jump 100 times before I would land it, this was a good training ground for entrepreneurship. It’s not about how you fall, it’s about how you get back up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I was raised in an environment where gender equity was a lived experience. Although my dad retired as a VP of Environmental Engineering, he was also the person who took me to all my sports practices as a kid and had a home cooked meal on the table every night when my mom got home from work. My mom went back for an MBA when I started 1st grade and broke into commercial banking in the 1980’s, when women still had to get suits made for work because they did not sell them off the shelf in the women’s department. I did not know that this wasn’t how all houses functioned, since it was normal to us; I did not notice gender bias in school or the workplace until after I became a parent myself. I recognize that many people haven’t had both lived experiences, and as someone with a platform I needed to speak up to support others that face more overt discrimination. That is why I am outspoken about what needs to change in the workplace — to be more inclusive for all people to bring their talents to the table and lead.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. We stand on the shoulders of generations that did not have the opportunities we have today. I am grateful to be born in the right place at the right time, to have the opportunities that I have today to bring influential leaders and innovation together to address social justice issues at scale.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

According to a recent survey from Forbes, 1 in 4 women surveyed are interested in starting their own business post-pandemic. Emily Kennedy and I are successful startup executives who have built our social justice software companies from scratch. We have released an Entrepreneurship 101 e-course series to help accelerate women towards success. Our course is titled Spark Passion, where we demystify the process of founding a company and provide guidance on free resources to launch your business, find your customers, and build your min Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We also help prevent burnout with community and wellness practices in partnership with Women in Data.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Don’t self-select out before you even start. Most ideas start with a vision, but are quickly modified by the market demand. It’s good to get a sense of the competitive landscape, market opportunity, and some customer pain points before building a Minimum Viable Product. After feedback from your beta product, you may find your product evolves to fit a specific issue affecting the market. Don’t forget Slack started as a gaming company and that Twitch did not focus on livestream gaming until they were down to weeks of funding runway.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

It starts with clearly defining the problem you are trying to solve in the market, creating a minimum viable product to gain market feedback (if you are proud of your first product you launched too late!) finding your beta customers who will accelerate your innovation journey by solving sector focused problems, and making innovation a continuous process. Once you have something with product market fit, it is much easier to find the right path to scale adoption.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Clarity of vision.

In order to lead, it is important to know your “Why” and make that transparent to your team. Your company culture should be aligned with that Why. Integrity in how you operate will lead to long term loyalty and growth for those who choose to join you on this crazy adventure of inventing the future.

2. Fundable Executive Teams.

Most investors know that what an early stage startup thinks they need to build will not be the final product. It is important to showcase that your leadership team can react to changes in the market, customer feedback, and technology trends to stay aligned to a real consumer need. Investors are betting on Founder teams as much as they are on ideas.

3. Relentless focus on the customer.

Many technical founders fall in love with technology for technology’s sake. They don’t understand the need in the market or how to help potential customers become aware that they are addressing that pain point. There is much more to running a business than building cool stuff.

4. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It is important to free yourself from the grinding tasks in life that will not get you where you can make the most impact, in order to bring your unique contributions to the world. Early in your career it is a great way to build and demonstrate skills, but what got you here won’t get you there as leader.

5. Look within for guidance.

It’s important to have consistent wellness practices that allow you to drown out the noise of the world to hear your own wisdom. Only you know all the competing priorities of your life: your goals and dreams, and what lifts your energy vs what drains you. It is important to get out into nature and see the tops of the trees to get grounded back into your body which will always help you identify the next right move. I use guided Breathwork and Meditation to help me.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

As a female founder of an AI focused software company it is important to me that we demystify the process for business leaders to launch their own businesses, which is why Emily Kennedy and I have created a training course called Spark Passion. In Spark Passion we have established a simple 5-week program to quickly validate your idea, so first-time founders s can move forward confidently with their idea to change the world.

It’s not rocket science, it’s about implementing proven strategies that can help determine whether your passion can become a business that brings positive impact in the long term. Emily Kennedy and I created Spark Passion to help innovative leaders walk through the steps to gain momentum and have an actionable plan to move their idea forward. Our first course “Free Resources to Turn your Idea Into a Business” is available on demand for free.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Engaging a consultant once you have a lean canvas is not a bad idea, but if you don’t have your business plan on paper yet it may be expensive and premature. Leverage podcasts, books, and the small business association for free resources to jump start your exploration.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I choose to bootstrap and raise a SEED round from angel investors. It really depends on how much fuel you need to grow your share of the market; that will be a company-by-company decision that needs careful reflection.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. For 2022 I am measuring my OKR’s in lives saved, dignity restored, and trauma prevented. As a software company CEO, it is important to be that we relentlessly advocate for people’s ability to thrive both from a physical and mental health perspective. At Minor Guard, we will be launching IOT enabled software to create the “life alert for young people;” as a consultant I am focused on using Confidential Computing to accelerate innovation in healthcare and safety; and as a keynote speaker I am evangelizing business leaders to “Embrace AI for Digital Transformation.” I am energized at what this next year will bring!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I am an “Arm Cherry” and would love to sit down with Dax Shepard for his Experts on Expert series. A book I co-authored ‘Demystifying Artificial Intelligence for the Enterprise’ just released, and I would love to discuss it with Dax and Monica! I love how they make innovation and complex topics approachable for large audiences and it would be an honor to work with them to bring more awareness to AI Ethics and how we can increase trust and safety in the digital world.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market