So just what is a man who was the captain of an Indian naval warship of 85 men and officers, doing running a women’s healthcare company in Boston
I’m not sure which part of his story is more interesting –
- That Prakash Veenam went to India’s equivalent of West Point
- Or that he captained that naval warship
- Or that he left his military career to move to America to start over as an entrepreneur by getting his MBA (at the prestigious Babson College)
- Or that, one year out of school, he was chosen to become the CEO of a high-tech Boston-based women’s healthcare product business
The fact is, it’s all damn interesting.
To start, let’s dip into the company he leads.
Maternova was founded in 2009 by two women and it does two things exceptionally well.
- It manufactures and sells an array of innovative women’s health and medical products, like a combined Hep B and C and HIV tester, or an armband that detects childhood pneumonia.
- It consults with medical caregivers around the world, like midwives in South America and Africa, on health and product issues.
So just how did Mr. Veenam end up as the CEO of this fascinating company, especially when his background did not lend itself to women’s health issues?
Upon concluding his naval career, Prakash decided he wanted to become an entrepreneur. This makes a whole lot of sense of course. Veterans are known to be excellent entrepreneurs as they have a certain set of skills that dovetail nicely with business life – they can create a plan and follow it, they know how to build and lead a team, they know how to analyze and accomplish projects and missions, and so forth.
While he was at Babson as a business development “fellow,” the founders of Maternova were hunting for a CEO. This makes a lot of sense because often the skills a founder has that are well suited to starting a company are not the same as those needed to run a growing business.
A CEO with that second set of skills if often sought out and hired.
The two Maternova founders went to Babson, first looking for someone to help them with some special projects. Babson specifically sought out Prakash, as they thought his background gave him the leadership skills needed for the assignment.
The two Maternova founders agreed and after only a few months doing the special projects assignments, he was asked to interview for the job of CEO. The founders loved him, loved his naval background, loved his management style, and loved working with him.
He has been the CEO for over a year now. As he told me, “Although Maternova is not a startup, it is like a startup. It is an innovative, forward-looking company. And it is a very good fit.”
Prakash explained to me that his naval background made him uniquely prepared for this job. “As with a business, when I was out at sea, I needed to plan, yes, but I also needed to be creative and have a willingness to think on my feet, and pivot to solve problems. I also had to learn how to give orders, get people to carry out those orders, and work as a team.”
Sounds like business to me.
- Read next: Why Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs
As for what’s next, he points to his vision for his company. “We are looking to grow, to find investors, and great partners, and to create new products.” Indeed, they now have 60 products in the pipeline.
“It’s all part of the challenge that is entrepreneurship,” Prakash says.
Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs
What with their ability to follow a mission, their commitment to teamwork, and mastery of follow-through, veterans make great entrepreneurs. Here then are some of the best small business resources available to them:
Bank of America:
SBA Veteran Programs:
Not surprisingly, that best friend to small business, the Small Business Administration, has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. For example, Operation Boots to Business is a program for military service personnel transitioning to civilian life.
The Veterans Administration:
Similarly, the VA has a great small business resource center, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. Offering help for everything from starting, to financing, to growing a business, this is a great place for the fresh and seasoned veteran entrepreneur alike.
Veteran Entrepreneurship Courses:
According to Bunker in a Box CEO Todd Conner, “Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.” Using videos, online tutorials, and articles, veterans can embark on 14 “missions” that teach entrepreneurship. Along the same lines, but in person, Patriot Boot Camp offers entrepreneurship training programs in various cities nationwide.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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