By Ashwini Nadkarni (Founder, Appguppy)
“A doctor, huh?”

That’s the usual response I get at a startup event before I’ve even pitched my business. It’s generally followed by, “So what do you contribute to a startup that lets people create their own mobile app?”

Entrepreneurs are a diverse species. Some major in computer science in college, others in art history. Diversity of your experiences is an asset when building a business. That’s why I’m surprised to find out that I need to justify my background.

In thinking about my response to this commonly asked question, I’ve come up with a few insights on how entrepreneurs can use their varied background to benefit during an industry crossover:

  • Know that your skills can be generalized. Whatever your background, you’ve built up something beyond a specialized knowledge base. That something is a set of generalized skills. These can be far more valuable when you’re starting your own business. After all, it’s the accumulation of varied abilities that form the foundation of being an entrepreneur. For instance, project management, marketing, and sales all require solid communication skills.
  • In my own case, anytime I work with a patient, I need to be a saleswoman and a marketer. People have to believe that I’m not judging them. They also have to trust that my clinical recommendation is going to help them without hurting them. In working with customers, partners and investors, I need to apply the same skills I use to build trust with patients.
  • Remember that your vision for your industry is applicable to other industries. Even if your product or service has its roots in a focused field, you can make it useful to everyone. Whether you’ve cultivated your passion while working in a unique industry or picked it up during your education, find a way to make that passion contagious. While conducting academic research on social media adoption trends, I found that more and more doctors are actually using social media to connect with their patients.

I wanted to find a way to expand social media strategies for clinical practices. When I saw how readily people use their smartphones to access information about their physicians, I knew I wanted to lead a startup in the mobile space. My goal was initially for clinical practices to be able to make their websites suitable to mobile so that people could access the information on their smartphones. But after talking to friends in different industries, my vision became for any small business to be able to easily connect with their customers by going mobile.

My mobile startup Appguppy makes it free and simple for anyone to build a mobile app that brands their business or website. Customers of that business can then download that app on their phones, giving the business a marketing ubiquity.

Keep in mind that success in any industry requires building relationships. If you’re used to conducting yourself in a particular way in one workplace setting, it doesn’t mean you have to change in a different setting. For instance, as a doctor, I’m used to listening to people.

That’s what makes it such a pleasure for me to be working at a startup where listening to small businesses is our focus. I had to listen to individual retail owners and service providers to figure out that it’s pretty costly, complicated and confusing for them to create a mobile presence for their business. Listening was what inspired me to solve their problem. The same goes at startup events.

I’m excited to find out how other founders got their inspiration for their business. I’m also excited to figure out how we can partner to help each other thrive. As for investors? They’re a fantastic source of feedback for how I can improve my startup. No matter who I meet, I listen, because that’s what helps me to build relationships.

So what’s my favorite response to that initial skepticism that I get?

“Yup, I am doctor and I’m listening.”

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Ashwini Nadkarni is the Founder of Appguppy, a mobile startup. She is also a resident physician at Boston Medical Center. Ashwini has been published in the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, the American Journal of Psychiatry and BMC Molecular Biology. She holds an MD from Northwestern Medical School and her BSc from McGill University. Follow her startup at @appguppy.