Name: Dr. Andrew Boorn
Hometown: London, England
Occupation: Chairman and CEO of Tornado Spectral Systems
School: MBA – University of Toronto, Ph.D. – Georgia Tech University
Can you briefly describe your business and the goal you are striving towards?
We design, manufacture, and sell dispersive optical spectrometers and systems primarily for Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique but Raman systems have traditionally been limited by a lack of what we refer to in the industry as “sensitivity.” Resolution and throughput are two of the key parameters within Raman and this is where we come in with our HTVS (high throughput virtual slit) technology which eliminates spectrometer slit losses while maintaining high spectral resolution resulting in an order of magnitude improvement in sensitivity.
Our goal is to position the business to get acquired by a midsize or large company. In order for us to do that, we need to continue to prove our technology.
What kind of tools do you use to stay productive?
I make great use of reminders on my personal planner. In a single work day, I will probably enter anywhere from 5 to 7, or even as much as ten. Doing so helps keep my day on schedule and ensures I stay on track. I’m also a big fan of GoToMeeting as it has made it easier to communicate and be in the loop with my team who are scattered all across the globe.
What’s the biggest difference between Tornado Spectral Systems and the last company that you’ve worked with?
Both of the last two companies that I was with were large and publicly traded ones. There was a solid structure and solid cash availability.
Now at Tornado, we don’t have that safety net as the onus is entirely on us.
What advice do you have to the recent Ph.D. in your field looking to step into the world of entrepreneurship?
If you really have a good idea that has some commercial legs, don’t be intimated by the business side of it. There is a whole lot of jargon that you’ll have to learn but what matters most is if you believe in your idea and believe it has value.
It’s also critical to keep on top of your expenses and learn how to thoroughly understand financial statements. Therefore having a good finance person is key. In addition, having a good lawyer will help you with reviewing contracts, conducting due diligence, and supporting with other vital aspects of your business.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face in life?
I’ve always lived by the motto to do the job that’s in front of me and everything else will fall into place.
The transition from scientist to business person was something that really opened my eyes. The MBA really gave me the belief that I could do this.
Where does your motivation stem from?
I’ve always been intellectually curious. I’ve always been interested in how things work. Whether it be: processes, businesses, or financing, so that’s what I’ve dove into.
Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
I’m an avid soccer fan and have played all my life. It not only keeps me fit but helps me get my mind off of everything. It’s still a great learning experience in life and business as it helps in translating those skills into the workplace.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say?
Besides a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast, one thing I am passionate about is listening to motivational speeches. I find TED talks are a great platform for spreading ideas and influencing others.
Because I have been with big companies in the past and now back with a smaller company, it has given me an appreciation and a holistic overview on how to better run our business. When there is more risk, there is more reward. The challenges of being in the hardware business are real but the potential is out there. This is what continues to drive me and push our team to great heights!