Entrepreneur Patrick Callahan, Head of Data and Analytics for LabWare
An Ongoing Series Highlighting Delaware Innovators
LabWare’s acquisition of Patrick Callahan’s CompassRed data analytics firm in February 2022 started with a chance first encounter between Callahan and LabWare President and CEO Vance Kershner and Callahan at Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville.
“Developing a relationship with Vance is the perfect example of things that happen in Delaware that just don’t happen anywhere else, in my opinion,” Callahan said. “We met over a bar stool.”
Callahan built CompassRed into a visionary company in machine learning and predictive analytics. As head of data and analytics at LabWare, he is now developing a dedicated advanced data analytic arm as part of efforts to elevate the company’s position as the global leader in the laboratory information management market.
Previously, the Drexel University and Widener School of Law graduate was a founding partner of The Archer Group. The award-winning, interactive internet marketing firm, founded in 2003, serves a diverse roster of clients in the ﬁnancial services, retail, pharmaceutical and entertainment industries – including numerous Fortune 500 clients.
Callahan also serves on the boards of several Delaware organizations. These include the Delaware Data Innovation Lab, the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, Girls on the Run and Delaware Prosperity Partnership.
He spoke with DPP about innovation in Delaware and what it takes to innovate successfully.
Why is Delaware a great state to be an innovator?
I’m sure we’ve heard this a million times, but the accessibility to me is the big thing. If you’re looking to be in one of the best labs or chemical spaces, you can drive 40 feet and find people who are customers, thinkers, funders and legislators. There’s a reason why we have the biggest banking, biggest chemical companies and a lot of the other things right here in the Northeast corridor. When people talk about what made the country great, you can see that diversity here in the state – socioeconomic levels, education levels, diversity of thoughts and backgrounds.
How I met Vance is a great example. You couldn’t just go to San Francisco and get a meeting with founders like Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Marc Andreessen (Mosaic, Netscape). You just don’t go to a restaurant, introduce yourself and then strike up a conversation there. That’s unheard of.
In your view, what qualities should a successful innovator have?
I think humility is one thing. If you’re humble, that means you’re always learning, you’re always trying to figure out things, and you’re always knowing you don’t have the answer. People who say, “I know the answer,” are the ones who nine times out of 10, don’t. Getting out there and meeting people is very, very important if you want to sell your product or address the problem that you’re trying to address. That could be over Zoom or in person, but curiosity about another person’s view and experiences is just so important. Expanding what we’re doing at LabWare requires me to get to know the customers in the labs and the end user of the product.
Intellectual curiosity and the willingness to listen to someone no matter how different they are is something you can learn and build into your product and innovate.
You can do that over Zoom. We’ve shown over the last two years that’s essential, and maybe even easier. Before COVID, we’d have meetups where only 30 or 40 people would show up in person. But during COVID, we’d get hundreds of people from all around the world, which would lead to follow-up calls. I don’t know if we’ll go back. We want to have a mixture of both because there are things you can learn on the side before the meeting.
What advice would you give an innovator who’s just starting?
First, go meet people, go to these meetups. Many are free, but I find myself asking if someone will spend $1 on it. To me, that is a good qualifier because if you give it to them for free, they won’t necessarily assign value to it. When we were doing these meetups, people would sign up but two-thirds of them wouldn’t show up. The minute we started charging $5 and giving the money away to a nonprofit, really engaged people showed up because they thought of it as value. If you’re providing value, you should get value back for it. It’s not just time.
Second, follow your interest. Doing good is good for business. I feel passionate about Girls on the Run, but speaking at a networking event also landed Archer one of our largest clients. Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to get something out of it. Be genuine, but give back to the community – and encourage your team to do the same — and I’ll tell you, you’ll get it back tenfold. There are so many nonprofits in Delaware that do so many good things that you’ll meet your next customer, hear about the next important problem that you can help solve or just meet someone with a different perspective that will help you back at the office.
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