CEO Spotlight: Q&A With George Heinrichs of ANDE
George Heinrichs is the CEO of ANDE, the global leader in Rapid DNA. With a mission to use Rapid DNA to create a safer world, ANDE’s pioneering work is already having major impacts on a wide range of applications in the U.S. and internationally. They are the first firm to receive approval from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a rapid DNA identification platform that complies with new standards under the Rapid DNA Act of 2017.
How did you become involved with your company?
I received a call a few years ago from a friend leading a large federal research lab. He told me he was involved with a young company that had technology that would change the world. He was wondering if I would be willing to get involved. I agreed to meet the original founder and was gobsmacked by what they were doing. In the first 15 minutes, it was clear to me that my friend was right; this would change the world if what they described really worked. The original founder was incredibly bright and highly motivated. What he had accomplished before I arrived was nothing short of amazing. I assembled a team to do our own due diligence and confirmed this was real. The technology was even better than advertised and the founder was everything I could have hoped for. I agreed to join as CEO. Every day since has been a blessing.
Please describe what your company does today?
We provide Rapid DNA technology. We are focused on identifying humans based on global forensic standards. Our system performs the analysis in less than two hours – traditional labs take days, weeks or months. It is mobile. It is rugged (military certified as rugged, which really means something!). The system operator needs only a brief orientation. Our systems provide immediately actionable results without further study or review of interim or complicated lab outputs. We do the whole job. Our system has undergone extensive review and testing around the world, including the US FBI, and other oversight organizations in Europe and Asia. It is the only FBI NDIS approved Rapid DNA system in the world. The results are robust and have been shown in formal juried scientific evaluation as equivalent or better than existing labs. The potential for a random match is one out of a trillion trillion.
What aspect of your team or company culture are you most proud of?
I have had the privilege to work with a lot of the people at our company in previous companies. It was sort of a ‘let’s get the old band back together’ moment when we began ramping our organization. I love their passion and integrity most. Our systems have been deployed to attack the problem of sex assault around the world. We are making a material difference every day. The State of Kentucky is leading the world in this regard using our systems. We are also doing work in India where there is growing resolve to stop the sex assault problem they face. We have a program to help identify children and adults who are trafficked for sex or other slavery. We successfully identify kids in situations that before there have been no workable tools. Traditional biometrics are less reliable or unusable with people under 14. We help identify remains after major disasters like the California Camp fire where we played a significant role in identifying the deceased. We help victim's families get closure and move on with their lives. Our success rate with disaster identification based on remains burned at 1500 degrees centigrade is about 87%. This outperforms virtually all previous technologies and we do it in under two hours. We also help solve homicides and all kinds of other crime. We help exonerate people. Rapid answers can mean rapid elimination as a suspect which helps investigators focus on the correct suspects. We do this all without compromising an individual's privacy. Our system does not provide medical or other information from DNA. We only calculate a DNA ID that is much like a human fingerprint (less than 200 bytes). I love our team because they care about these things very much; They care about our customers and the victims in the world. They work through every challenge imaginable to help in many ways and in places and circumstances where no other options exist.
What is the most important thing you're working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
We are working to scale our operations as demand for our product ramps. It is complicated, multi-national and geometric. My approach is to find and recruit the best people in the world for the task at hand. I believe we have some of the best people in the world working on our growth challenge. I am convinced we have some of the best scientists in the world working on our technology. I believe we have some of the best customer support and engagement teams available anywhere. I am thankful for all the people on our team who make this possible.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as a CEO?
Let’s see I think there are three clips I think about regularly:
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. We are tackling world class problems some of which have devastating impact; But, we can do it with a smile, work with people who are our friends, and who share our passion.
2. Life’s lessons will be repeated until learned. (from my friend Terry Gold - he was so right)
3. Negotiate and build for the upside. If you spend all your time on downside protections you’ll miss the big show.
What has been the most meaningful aspect of your engagement with the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network?
I love BEN because it has provided an opportunity to engage with some of the genuinely incredible entrepreneurs in our area. Their willingness to share and to help is actually mind boggling to me. I have been privileged to have access to women and men who have done great things and are willing to share both their wins and their losses in the name of learning and helping. If I were to rank the natural resources of our area for entrepreneurs I couldn’t rank any resource higher than our entrepreneurial community. I have had some occasion to work in other entrepreneurial environments and would say that such openness and a genuine willingness to help is rare. I’m not sure how it all developed here, but I am confident we owe much to our predecessors. In my time that has included such influential and brilliant folks as Peter Behrendt, Jesse Awieda, Tom Washing, Denis Nock, Jim Collins, John Hill, Dale Meyer, Dale Hatfield, “Merc” Mercure, Juan Rodriguez, Brad Feld, Marc Peperzak, JB Holston, Mark Retzloff, Terry Gold, and others I should name, but apologize for not including them here. Many of them have had a much bigger influence than they know - their contributions aren’t on a single balance sheet somewhere, instead, they have added something significant to all. BEN keeps this momentum going. Thanks to all who make BEN work; JB Holston, Phil Weiser, and Greg Greenwood have led this group along with a truly outstanding staff to do things others thought too difficult. They deliver an impact that is hard to measure, but it's not hard to see if you work among them. We are privileged to have them in our midst.