An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
“Fail fast, fail often” — This is a core value to bttn as an organization and something that I always refer back to. We are trying to turn an established $300B+ industry on its head, which is no easy feat. This requires taking big swings, not little, measured swings. To make progress toward big, audacious goals, you must be willing to fail constantly. At bttn, we embrace failure and learn from it every day.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing JT Garwood.
JT Garwood started his career in Enterprise Sales at Microsoft and learned from some of the best and brightest mentors in the industry. He combines GTM expertise with vision and charismatic leadership to create trusted relationships with customers, partners, and advisors while inspiring the team. JT earned his Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a focus on International Business and a minor in Asian Studies from the University of San Diego and his Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Starting my career at Microsoft in government sales was foundational to me leading bttn as CEO. I have always been drawn to sales and business, so it was not surprising when I felt the entrepreneurial side of my brain itch.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, news channels were full of stories about companies and hospitals being price gouged or defrauded when trying to obtain PPE and medical supplies. Wanting to explore this problem, I decided to start my first startup company. Our goal was to connect medical supply manufacturers abroad with hospitals and health systems in the United States via blockchain. While we sold that business within a year, the experience enlightened me to the healthcare industry’s issues in sourcing issues, supply chain, and transparency. Add in the extreme lack of customer service for the price of medical supplies, and it was clear there was a ripe opportunity to disrupt a massive industry, while improving efficiencies for everyone.
My co-founder Jack Miller and I decided to act, and bttn was born in March 2021.
Now, in September 2022, we are up to over 80 full-time employees, with +10,000 customers who have transparent access to over 2.5 million medical supplies from name-brand manufacturers. We are on a mission to reduce the cost of healthcare for all.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
At its core, bttn is forcing the U.S.’s slow-moving, $250 billion-dollar medical supply industry to pivot by incorporating price transparency, technology and an easy-to-use user interface. We are building a modern way to purchase Grade A products at wholesale prices as a B2B retailer. Our online platform shows the prices of products — what you see is what you pay. By enabling selection, trust, and technology, we can offer price savings on medical supplies between 20–40% versus the incumbent model.
Every one of our incumbents — the reputable, big-name players in the medical supply industry — still play the old game: field sales reps, minimal-to-no price transparency, contracts, and MOQs. They don’t have an easy way for customers to easily purchase products online, on their own time.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll be the first to admit that I make a comical number of mistakes. But what separates good, successful entrepreneurs from others is the ability to be comfortable with failure and recognizing that it isn’t the end of the world — these are just learning moments.
I’ll never forget when my co-founder Jack and I went to raise our pre-seed round — our first actual capital raise. During the first call where we got commitment from the lead investor, they suggested that we raise the money via a SAFE. We didn’t know what a SAFE was, but we nodded our heads and agreed on the path forward. When the call ended, we opened our computers and proceeded to spend the next 24 hours researching and learning what exactly a SAFE is (God bless Y-Combinator and the internet)!
By the next morning, we could answer any question, comment, or concern regarding SAFE’s and had one ready to use for the raise.
We closed the round and secured $1.5 M in funding.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I credit much of my success to having worked alongside and being mentored by some incredibly knowledgeable leaders.
One person who’s had a profound impact on not only myself but also bttn, is our President Steve Nielsen, who served as the former CEO of McKesson Medical and LABSCO. Steve doesn’t just bring a wealth of medical supply industry knowledge to the table, he also brings decades of leadership, customer excellence-based business building, and a genuine passion for helping others.
He left retirement to join the company because he believes that bttn has the power to disrupt the medical supply industry at large and reshape everything he knew to be true.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disruption can be positive and rewarding of every stakeholder if done correctly. Typically, we see positivity in tech when disruption, improves processes and leads to innovations. To produce “positive disruption,” informed intention and strategic decision-making must play an integral role in the change.
As a student of marketplaces, Amazon’s impact fits squarely into “positive” disruption. Providing access and transparency to every item in the consumer goods space was a lofty goal, but they did just that. Amazon’s prices and convenience have saved consumers billions, while also enabling new categories of technology as the company has expanded.
Disruptors that don’t make it are those who are inundated with complex processes, unsustainable practices, and are hell-bent on doing things only one way.
To disrupt, you must be nimble.
The difference between your product or service and that of your incumbents matters — this is the real value your company brings to the market. You must know what you’re running towards, while simultaneously understanding that the boat that you’re currently on to get there might get a hole. At this point you can either throw in the towel and remain stagnant or figure out how to keep moving.
Can you share five of the best words of advice that you’ve gotten along your journey?
- “Fail fast, fail often” — This is a core value to bttn as an organization and something that I always refer back to. We are trying to turn an established $300B+ industry on its head, which is no easy feat. This requires taking big swings, not little, measured swings. To make progress toward big, audacious goals, you must be willing to fail constantly. At bttn, we embrace failure and learn from it every day.
- “Do things that don’t scale” — When you’re starting a company, you’re always presented with options on how to deploy your capital. Oftentimes, you’re presented with the best solution first. That might mean going with the big expensive CRM instead of manually managing sales opportunities when you first launch. That’s ok. Everything is fixable at an early stage; do as many things as possible that don’t scale until you have to change.
- “Don’t stop”– Since bttn’s launch, there were countless times when things looked bleak. These were opportunities to stop, pause, and see how things would play out. The big secret to entrepreneurship is knowing that it’s just a matter of 1) doing it and 2) staying in the game for as long as you can.
- “Embrace the suck” — As an entrepreneur, every day can feel like you’re waking up to get punched in the stomach. Growth and disruption are not easy. You will be challenged every single day. The power comes in being able to embrace the suck and see everything instead as a strength.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
The great thing about the healthcare and medical supply market is it’s filled with opportunities. While our current focus is providing affordable, bulk wholesale medical supplies online to medical practitioners, businesses, and consumers, it is by no means our only way to impact the market. The industry is wide open and ready for the taking.
As for what is next, bttn is going to continue scaling to lower the cost of healthcare for all. Our next strategic move, whether it be a new product, service, or expanded line of business, will directly support this vision. We want to be the one-stop shop for everything a medical practice or everyday consumer needs to buy. The more products that we can provide our customers with, the greater our impact will be.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I consider myself a lifelong learner with a huge passion for books, podcasts, and anything else I can get my hands on. Three books stand out to me as truly influential.
- “Multipliers”- Liz Wizman
This book was my bible when I became a part of a large organization and started leading one of my first teams. It taught me how to optimize teams for what they are good at and multiply the results.
2. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”-Ben Horowitz
I consider this essential reading for any entrepreneur. Ben has a way of sharing so plainly the challenges that you will face as a founder and leader at a startup.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
- As a major history and US President nerd, it would have to be “The Man in The Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
This quote has had a profound effect on everything I do. This is rocket fuel for an entrepreneur and encapsulates why we do it. This quote has propelled me to make many life decisions, from applying for big tech jobs to becoming an entrepreneur.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire people to pursue what they are most passionate about. Not just for a day or a year, but for decades.
By acting on an idea and helping solve a problem I’m passionate about, I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with the right people to help bring my vision of transforming the entire medical supply chain ecosystem to life.
I’d love for people to pursue roles that get to the heart of their motivations so they can bring unparalleled passion and energy day in and day out. Imagine how much more we could achieve if we pursued what we were passionate about not just in improving our own lives but also in the lives of others.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Meet The Disruptors: JT Garwood Of bttn On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.