From Chaos to Compass: Steven Collens’ Revelatory Journey Through Company Culture

Steven Collens` Journey: Building Culture, Embracing Change & Pioneering Healthcare Innovation

In a recent episode of Bright Founders Talk at Temy, Matthew, representing Temy — a global pioneer in sustainable software solutions — sits down with a stalwart of the healthcare innovation ecosystem, Steven Collens. 

As the CEO of MATTER, Steven has been steering a revolutionary venture since its inception in 2015. With a fervent mission to expedite the evolution of healthcare, MATTER offers a fertile ground for healthcare startups, having nurtured around 850 companies on their journey. From fledgling enterprises to those on the cusp of large-scale operations, MATTER’s reach is global and its impact, profound. 

Not merely an incubator, the organization also collaborates with industry giants, aiming to bridge the innovation gap and foster collaborative solutions. In this candid conversation, Steven dives deep into the ethos of MATTER, emphasizing the power of collaboration and its pivotal role in the healthcare landscape. Join us as we unpack the story of MATTER, its accomplishments, and the future of healthcare innovation.

Steven Collens's Journey: Building Culture, Embracing Change & Pioneering Healthcare Innovation

Collaboration: The Heartbeat of Healthcare Innovation with Steven

Steven, sporting a contagious enthusiasm, jumped straight into the meat of the matter — no pun intended — when asked about the essence of his company, MATTER. Starting its journey in 2015, MATTER has been laser-focused on a mission close to Steven’s heart: accelerating the evolution of healthcare. “We’re all about helping healthcare innovators zoom towards their goals of enhancing health and the entire healthcare business framework,” Steven expressed with a glint in his eyes.

We’re all about helping healthcare innovators zoom towards their goals of enhancing health and the entire healthcare business framework

Now, if you’re imagining a serious, suit-and-tie conglomerate, you’re off track. MATTER’s playground? An incubator for healthcare startups. Imagine: a whopping 850 companies from all over our globe, each armed with diverse tech tools, all united with the dream of reshaping health and healthcare. Whether it’s a passionate duo just starting their venture or a bustling team of a hundred, MATTER’s got their back, offering tailor-made services for every developmental stage.

But Steven’s excitement didn’t just end there. MATTER’s magic wand also extends to the big fish — mammoth insurance companies, health systems, and tech associations. “We help them tap into the pulsating world of young entrepreneurs, sharpen their internal innovators, and weave collaborations that could redefine the industry,” Steven remarked. And then, as if letting us in on a secret, he leaned in, “Collaboration is the best way to innovate in healthcare.” That quote, right there, felt like the mantra that every aspiring innovator should tattoo on their minds. Because, in Steven’s words, when young tech-savvy entrepreneurs join forces with industry giants, that’s when real change unfolds. And that’s what MATTER is all about.

Steven’s Unexpected Journey: Big Pharma to Fueling Healthcare’s Future

“Collaboration”, a term that seemed to be Steven’s mantra, echoed consistently throughout the conversation. He delved into the intricacies of working with industry behemoths – from towering pharmaceutical giants to expansive health systems. Yet, what struck most is the truth he laid bare: these organizations, despite their vastness, often find themselves at a loss when seeking external innovators. “Most of them don’t really know the best way to find the right entrepreneurs to collaborate,” Steven mused. This is where MATTER’s magic happens. Bridging the gap between these giants and the small, nimble teams of passionate entrepreneurs, Steven painted a picture of a symbiotic dance of knowledge-sharing, all aimed at the holy grail of better healthcare.

But it was Steven’s personal journey that truly captivated. From his early days at Abbott Labs, exploring the vast terrains of global healthcare, to his venture into the realms of the entrepreneurial world with the Pritzker group, Steven’s path was far from linear. He recalled the thrill of constructing a tech incubator from the ground up. “I would wake up on a Saturday morning and think, ‘Oh, my God, I get to work today!'”, Steven exclaimed, his enthusiasm palpable. This fervor eventually steered him towards healthcare, leading to the birth of MATTER.

I would wake up on a Saturday morning and think, ‘Oh, my God, I get to work today!

Interestingly, MATTER wasn’t always the dream. “I didn’t necessarily think I would still be doing this eight years later, but I love it,” Steven shared candidly, a testament to how passion can redirect one’s path. His story serves as a reminder that it’s not always about where you start, but the difference you make along the way.

Breaking Through Barriers: Steven’s Unexpected Journey to Entrepreneurship

There’s an undeniable allure in the untold stories of entrepreneurs, in the grind and risk that lead to their success stories. For Steven, diving into the uncharted territories of entrepreneurship after enjoying the comforts of structured workspaces was anything but easy. “It was terrifying. I lost a lot of sleep and doubted many of my decisions,” Steven admitted. This honest reflection might surprise some, considering we often see success stories through rose-colored glasses. But Steven’s candidness offers a fresh, relatable perspective on the challenges faced during the uncertain beginning stages of a new venture.

It was terrifying. I lost a lot of sleep and doubted many of my decisions

But for all its anxiety-inducing moments, Steven’s leap also had its share of exhilaration. Steven mentioned how energizing and thrilling the entire experience was, hinting at the dual nature of entrepreneurship. His time in the corporate world left him with an itch—a need for speed and innovation that didn’t always align with the pace of larger companies. “Despite my long tenure at Abbott, something always grated a little with me. Companies don’t necessarily work at the speed I hoped,” he said. His motto of “trying something else” when faced with obstacles and his keen listening skills were instrumental in shaping Matter and adapting it to the evolving needs of its stakeholders.

One cannot help but admire Steven’s approach, learning from every venture and every role he took on. His realization on the importance of rapid experimentation and listening gave him a unique perspective. “An enormous amount of listening” helped him understand the journey and challenges of every stakeholder in the ecosystem, ensuring the success and longevity of Matter. Steven’s journey, filled with unexpected turns and profound insights, reinforces the idea that sometimes, the most rewarding paths are the ones we never saw coming.

The Culture Compass: Steven’s Voyage in Navigating Business Values

By the time Steven’s company began expanding, he found himself at a crossroads. It wasn’t about numbers or strategies. It was the intangible but very real essence of company culture. Steven recalls, “Our culture was awful… I didn’t think about culture and values.” For a man who had been through the corridors of the US Senate, Goldman Sachs, and Abbott, this was a new frontier. And not in the exhilarating way. It was chaos. But what Steven realized was that the organic evolution of a company’s culture might be fine for a startup, but as it grows, so does the need for structure and intention.

Our culture was awful… I didn’t think about culture and values

Reflecting on his days at Abbott, Steven remembered how corporate values seemed like empty jargon, disconnected from daily interactions. Yet, faced with a deteriorating company culture, he saw their worth. “So we created values,” he says, emphasizing that a company’s culture isn’t a “set it and forget it” element. It requires vigilance and commitment. It’s a living entity, one that Steven admits is “easy to mess up.” He admits, “Culture wasn’t really great, and it didn’t have a clear way of explaining to people what I expect and how I want people to relate.”

Looking forward, Steven embraces an agile approach, one where his leadership team is continuously evaluating their direction, products, and strategies. They are poised on the balls of their feet, ready to pivot or push forward. One of their core values? “Never stop experimenting.” A reflection of Steven’s journey as well, from the polished halls of established institutions to the unpredictable but rewarding journey of entrepreneurship. For those eager to connect, Steven’s door is open, inviting innovators from across the healthcare spectrum to join him in this ever-evolving dance. As our conversation draws to a close, it’s clear: Steven’s compass doesn’t just point north—it points forward.

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