Serial entrepreneur Bryan Kaplan Reflects on the Challenges and Promise of Growing the Technology Sector in Pittsburgh
Bryan Kaplan is a technology executive, serial entrepreneur, and angel investor with more than 27 years of experience in driving business strategy, leading cross-functional teams, and facilitating enterprise change management across the healthcare and SaaS software spaces.
A business leader and self-starter from a young age, Kaplan started his first company at age 11, creating calendar and address book applications. He rolled that venture into Delta New Media, which he founded at age 13 to create web sites and help companies start their first online stores. As a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University, Kaplan won first place in the school's undergraduate business plan competition, using the business plan for Delta New Media.
In 2021, he co-founded Collaborative Fusion, Inc. with two other CMU students. Providing innovative emergency management solutions for federal, state, and local governments and the private sector, Collaborative Fusion supported clients in preparing for emergencies, coordinating response efforts, and building stronger communities. Kaplan formed the company with Atila Omer and Lawrence Yau. The trio worked tirelessly to connect students across degree programs to bring business and technical expertise together to form the company.
The terrorist attacks on September 11 proved a pivotal moment for the company.
"We were introduced to a gentleman named Dr. Richard Hatchet who was a triage leader at Ground Zero. Dr. Hatchet said one of the problems during the response was that many medical professionals showed up to Ground Zero but none of their credentials could be validated. This experience led to the creation of policy and technology to assemble and pre-register a cadre of volunteer health professionals," Kaplan explained.
Collaborative Fusion immediately began advocating for standards to verify medical licenses and credentials and build software to ensure medical professionals arriving to the scene of an incident could be rapidly put to use even across state and jurisdictional boundaries.
"Atila had the finance and operations background. I had the technology background, and Lawrence supported design and software architecture. As we added staff, we were fortunate to support numerous federal initiatives which helped grow the company. " said Kaplan, adding that that is where they looked to mentors to help bridge the knowledge gaps.
Kaplan noted he had the technical expertise from Dr. Hatchett and the mentoring from George Fechter of the University of Pittsburgh and Jim Goldberg, a Pittsburgh-based corporate law expert. He added there are many others who have helped along the way.
A Los Angeles native, Mr. Kaplan graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an Entrepreneurship concentration. He considered pursuing his MBA but decided to go into business instead. By 2003, The Pittsburgh Business Times touted him as "someone who is changing the face of Pittsburgh."
Kaplan is currently the Chief Information and Technology Officer for Juvare which is a SaaS software company providing crisis and emergency management solutions to over 600 emergency management agencies, 50 federal agencies, 4,000 hospitals and public health department, and numerous Fortune 500 companies and higher education institutions.
"My work in emergency preparedness and response is a personal calling that has a societal impact. It's very important to me – and I'm very proud of the fact – that our businesses save lives. I can point to scenarios, whether it is shelters we've helped organize, emergency services we've routed more efficiently, or reimbursement funds to citizens in need that our solutions have helped accelerate" Kaplan said. "Some of what we do is a little bit abstract, but it's not hard to take the leap from what we do to the direct impact. And I wouldn't trade that for anything."
His advice to entrepreneurs, inventors and investors is to not give up.
"Good teams and good operators are able to pivot to respond to what the market is telling them," Kaplan said. He reflected on his work at Collaborative Fusion that was able to make a sizable pivot from a software product targeted at the university market to one operating volunteer management systems across 30+ states. "A level of flexibility is important, but you also need people who are passionate about the product, the mission, and the type of work that you're doing. People who are passionate and invested end up figuring it out."
Pittsburgh continues to be a promising, albeit challenging, environment for growth in the technology sector.
"Pittsburgh can be a difficult region to commercialize a good idea There are more people writing checks for early-stage ventures today than there were ten years ago but we still have a ways to go," Kaplan said.
Kaplan said in the early stages of development he saw Pittsburgh with an advantage for raising angel funds due to its accessible, close-knit network of angel investors. However, a disadvantage is the lack of professional venture capital investment originating in the region.
"Pittsburgh is unique in that it is at the intersection of health care, robotics, AI/ML technology. I would argue that there are few other cities…that have the unique concentration that Pittsburgh has that makes this very exciting," Kaplan said. "The accelerators here in Pittsburgh do a good job of helping companies find that product market fit."
Kaplan's experience motivates him to help entrepreneurs and their ideas break these barriers by giving back in the same way he was given – in investments of time and funds.
"I've really done my best to participate in the startup ecosystem here in Pittsburgh because I'm a firm believer that without mentors and people who help guide process, it doesn't matter how old you are, how much experience you have or don't have," Kaplan said. "It's hard enough to get company off the ground let alone doing it without anyone around you that can help you."
A friend of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Kaplan sees how JHF is working to bridging these gaps to get forward movement of patient safety innovation in the region and to mark Pittsburgh as a hub for autonomous patient safety technology.
"I really appreciate the Foundation's interest in wide patient safety and community preparedness initiatives that help us as a community be better consumers of health care and have better access to data and information," Kaplan said. "Whether it's policy or advocacy, what the Foundation does is critically important to this region and Karen is an expert voice on a number of topics that draws national level visibility of the assets of this region, which certainly is a catalyst for not only company growth but also improving patient outcomes."