I was featured in the latest UBS Entrepreneur Report “A different way of thinking - Turning crisis into opportunity”.

It was a pleasure to share my journey and experiences with the UBS team and other entrepreneurs (Vishakha Rajput, A. Magdalena Haslinger, Paul Donovan, Christina Dean, Saygin Yalcin, Nigel Smith, and Mette Lykke) in their latest Entrepreneur Report.

Here’s the full Report, in PDF.

And here’s the text of the section that features me (pages 8-11):

Fall down seven times, get up eight. Jorge Cortell, Founder and CEO, Kanteron

Founded in 2005, Kanteron Systems is a healthcare IT, or computational bioinformatics, company that helps some of the world’s largest healthcare providers manage imaging and genomics data. Headquartered in Valencia, Spain, the company also has an office in Madrid. Healthcare customers include the NHS in the UK, ISSSTE and IMSS in Mexico, and EsSalud in Peru.

Just months before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in early 2020, Jorge Cortell’s computational bioinformatics company, Kanteron, presented a paper on monitoring epidemics at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. It is therefore no surprise that demand for the bioinformatics company’s software has grown swiftly since.

That’s not to say the pandemic has left Kanteron completely untouched; on the contrary, it has disrupted normal procurement and payment processes. However, sales opportunities have grown as healthcare authorities around the world have sought to understand the spread of the disease and have come to appreciate the value of technology in healthcare.

“For people in healthcare, this pandemic has been a wake-up call,” explains Jorge. “They have realized that sometimes you have to move fast, and, while safety and security are always important, not acting can be more dangerous than moving too fast. So, I believe, a lot of people are looking at healthcare technology with different eyes.”

Key Milestones

  • 1993: Professional basketball career at Valencia Basket Club ends prematurely due to serious injury
  • 1994: Founds Global Comunicación y Marketing, his first business
  • 2005: Founds Kanteron Systems
  • 2016/18: Member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Venture Philanthropy and Social Investments

From basketball pro to entrepreneur

At 48 years old, Jorge has faced several crises in his life that have proved to be turning points. One came at the age of 21, when a serious injury called jumper’s knee brought a budding career as a professional basketball player with Valencia Basket Club to a premature end. “You devote years to preparing yourself physically and mentally for professional athletic competition. Reaching that goal and then having it completely disappear in a second was really devastating,” he says. “It took me years to overcome that adversity.”

He went back to school, studying at Oxford University, MIT, Harvard, ESADE, the University of Valencia and the University of Manchester. A serial student, his qualifications span computer science, medical imaging, clinical genomics, entrepreneurship and marketing.

But injury was not the only personal challenge that changed his life. Jorge met his wife when she was a breast cancer patient at a New York hospital in 2005. He realized the potential for medical imaging techniques combined with genomics, which his company was developing at the time, to help diagnose and treat cancer and a range of rare diseases. The software worked, and they were later married.

The innovation edge

Jorge is a highly original thinker. Diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, according to his personal website, he thrives on bringing new ideas to different fields, using deep tech to gain a competitive edge. He has founded eight businesses, setting up Kanteron in 2005, and has advised the European Commission’s Expert Group on Venture Philanthropy and Social Investments.

He believes that being innovative is an entrepreneur’s most important quality. It has been a hallmark of his businesses ever since his first venture, a tech-centric marketing agency he set up in 1994. “Our competitive edge was deep technological understanding, and that’s still the case today in my current business,” he explains.

Seeing necessity as the mother of invention, Jorge has reacted adeptly to the unprecedented speed at which new scientific discoveries are being made during the COVID-19 pandemic. New findings are now validated and incorporated into the Kanteron platform automatically in real time.

There is a full-time research and development team at Kanteron, nevertheless staff working in other parts of the business across six countries also keep abreast of scientific advances. “All of us are sharing information with each other about new technologies, new developments, and scientific papers. We’re feeding each other, so we’re constantly learning.”

Jorge has also learned from his mistakes. When starting Kanteron, for instance, he did not initially appreciate that the clinicians using the system were not the people making the buying decisions. They were in management positions at the hospital or ministry of health.

Judging by what has worked for him, he thinks that entrepreneurs should share four success factors: unwavering determination, relentless pursuit of a vision, a high level of flexibility and a commitment to doing good.

Steering through the crisis

  • The pandemic has benefited Kanteron, as healthcare providers have turned to healthcare IT.
  • However, the company has had to adapt to some disruption in procurement and payment processes.
  • Kanteron has accelerated its own innovation, automating the incorporation of new findings onto its platform

Fall down, get up

As a member of UBS’s Industry Leaders Network, he also acknowledges the value of informal and formal networks. “Whether we like it or not, networking is absolutely fundamental,” he notes. “I think the focus should be on making the network more inclusive and making it more diverse, but there is no question that networking is absolutely key.”

Following the crisis, he hopes that society will make long overdue changes, tackling social inequality, racism, workplace conditions, financial issues and the environment. To entrepreneurs navigating through the crisis, he says, “Never lose sight of who you really are. Always keep your feet on the ground, understand the market and the customers and understand your role.”

“I have a personal motto, the Japanese proverb ‘Fall down seven times and get up eight’.”