- May 27, 2017
Sumus CEO Jim Baker’s recent interview with AutoCruitment Co-founder and CEO Bethany Bray confirmed an interesting trend in the Interview Series: often the origin of a company is the result of a cascade of unforeseen events. Bethany says: “There was no plan to start a business. It was a series of very fortunate events that just lined up– it presented itself.”
AutoCruitment—a technology and service company that very successfully streamlines the patient recruitment process in clinical trials—was “one of those ideas that grew over a few years,” Bethany recalls. She goes on: “Like many entrepreneurs, we identified a problem: clinical trials were impossible to recruit for, but patients were always excited and grateful for the opportunity to participate. There was a disconnect.” When asked about a specific spark that set things in motion, she states: “Having someone, a customer, who actually wanted to pay for our service, our idea—we realized it was now or never.”
The theme of things evolving organically is not only true for the beginnings of AutoCruitment, but really, for Bethany’s own journey as well. She is from the UK and originally had a plan to pursue a PhD in England, but all of that changed for her with a visit to America. With ties to other entrepreneurs (and tennis aficionados) in Atlanta, Bethany developed a new course of action: earning a doctorate at Emory. Of course, that changed as well—with the start of AutoCruitment; instead, while cranking up the business she enrolled in the MBA program at Georgia Tech.
Bethany explains: “I always thought I would invent a drug; I wanted to help people. But I soon realized drug discovery has a one in a billion chance and science wasn’t the only way I could make a difference. I had always wanted to start my own company – I just imagined it would be much later in life!” With the business afloat, would things settle down and actually begin to follow an expected pattern? Her answer: “Everything continually changed from how we thought it would be – it still does!”
Maybe the unforeseen is the norm for entrepreneurs and their businesses. Bethany had envisioned AutoCruitment to be more of a technology company, but in the end, it was just as much service-oriented. Even the customer base turned out to be different. She says, “We worried we would have to compete with CROs (Contract Research Organizations). They turned out to be our partners.” Did anything turn out the way she thought it would? “Our end goal, our mission always stayed the same and our desire to give Clients an ROI-based model; we are paid for performance,” she responds.
Speaking of performance, Bethany sheds light on her management style: “I want employees to feel ownership. No one has a job title. Everyone does everything. We work incredibly long hours, but it’s their company too. One thing I have learned is people are happier if they have ownership of something and a view of what is going on in the whole company.” Time management is crucial for Bethany—and for everyone at AutoCruitment.
Bethany had a mindset change from the initial frenzy of starting a company. Deciding that she was “in it for the long haul” and “a work life balance would be essential for the good of the company” as well as herself, she explains that AutoCruitment became “a marathon rather than a sprint.” Coincidentally, Bethany is a passionate runner who would like to run her own marathon one day.
Ultimately, AutoCruitment’s mission and true purpose is to help get drugs to market faster. For her, this is clearly about more than just business: “If there was a cure for Cancer tomorrow, it would take five to ten years to get to patients. I have friends with parents with Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer, Parkinson’s—we need better solutions faster. We are helping that happen.”