February 12th, 2019
Welcome to Leading Indiana Ambition – a series of leadership stories fueled by Elevate Ventures highlighting entrepreneurship across the Hoosier state. This month, we profiled Andy Perry of Curvo. Stay tuned next month for more!

 

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

First-Time Founder and CEO Andy Perry Heeds Leadership and Life Lessons at Curvo

Andy Perry says he has always had a thing for cost optimization, even as an undergraduate at the University of Southern Indiana. Today, the CEO and Co-Founder of Curvo applies that passion to healthcare. Based in Evansville, 6-year-old Curvo is an Elevate Ventures portfolio company and clinical spend management platform for hospital supply chains. Curvo has grown to serve more than 450 hospitals and has achieved over 4 times recurring revenue growth in the past 18 months. A first-time founder, Perry has drawn from a supportive family foundation, the example of mentors and a constant focus on his customers’ success to shape how he leads.

 

Tell me about your childhood.

I grew up as a preacher’s kid, born in Kentucky. Just before I started high school, we moved to Evansville for my dad to work as the director of a homeless shelter. It was really cool, really formative. That was our family’s work, to be close to that homeless shelter.

My parents gave me a great gift in the sense that I didn’t have a lot of baggage. They raised me to care about other people, to have a strong sense of purpose and a mission. They made me feel like I could do whatever I set my mind to and worked hard for. I’m extremely grateful to have had such a good childhood.

 

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

On the surface, what Curvo does seems far removed from your upbringing. How did your early career path lead you to where you are today?

I was this weird kid that at 19 wanted to go into purchasing. I didn’t even know what that was. I always gravitated toward things like cost optimization and cost savings. During a development economics class at the University of Southern Indiana, I began to see entrepreneurship as a path that can lift people up and make things better for everyone. It really set me on this entrepreneurial trajectory. Right out of college, I began working for a company that audited purchasing departments of hospitals — supply chain and accounts payable. The themes of “caring for people” that were instilled in me since birth and the love of business and entrepreneurship that sparked in college fused nicely in a career on the business side of healthcare.

 

Few people leave the security of a corporate job. When did your entrepreneurial streak come to light?

I really liked uncovering inefficiencies, and so I did that on my own as a consultant for most of my 20s and early 30s. I wasn’t afraid to work hard, but I always had to be able to map it to the big picture. That time of my life was just all about indefatigable learning and trying to salvage every little nugget and every little bit of learning that I could. It was a circuitous path, you know? But I just took advantage of every single opportunity to learn, and I never chose the easier road. And my amazing wife was so supportive the whole time.

 

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

Who else has influenced your development as a leader?

A lot come to mind, but one in particular is a gentleman named Wayne Merriweather. After getting my graduate degree [MBA], I really wanted to help solve problems inside of hospitals instead of finding them after they had happened, so I worked for Wayne, who was the COO at a hospital. I learned so much from him. He was the humble servant leader who would spot something good that needed to be done and get the right people around it, but he didn’t stop there. He would see it through, and then just keep going on to the next good thing that needed to be done. Wayne wasn’t worried about credit. In fact, he freely doled it out to everyone else.

Kent Parker has been an unbelievable mentor to me at Curvo. His leadership style and knowledge of our space have helped me short circuit a lot of learning curves. He was the COO of Ariba, which SAP purchased in 2012.

 

What sort of CEO do you aspire to be?

Among Curvo’s core values are learning, passion, humility and customer centricity. It’s my goal to make these values the foundation of our company. These are what ground us and drive our vision for this space. And so I hope that we are always instilling these values in our team members and always following them.

 

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

While exercising flexibility is key, what has surprised you most about founding and leading a startup?

Even though I had worked on my own, and taking risks wasn’t new to me, I’d never raised capital and tried to build a big software company. When you’re in those early days, you think there’s going to be a plateau or a great beyond and once you hit it, it’s going to get easy. The biggest lesson you find out as you start to hit some milestones is that it never gets easy. The challenges get bigger. Things get more complex. That’s also the fun part to work on and to solve, but it never gets any easier. You have to stay on your toes, continue to up your game and look inside yourself.

 

In March, you announced the acquisition of Mendenhall Associates, publisher of Orthopedic Network News. How do you transition to suddenly leading a small remote team in Michigan?

What Stan Mendenhall has been doing for customers was so much a part of what we needed to do in order to help hospitals improve their cost and quality around orthopedics, in particular. That was really the driver. We’re still working on all the integration of operations — with some bumps and bruises and some high fives — but we’re putting together a truly outstanding offering, which ultimately will lead to better patient value.

 

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

Curvo received funding from Elevate Ventures in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. Has funding from sources such as Elevate helped you be a more effective leader?

Before we ever raised any capital, we were adding talent, knowledge, networks and contacts to our company. We were and still are getting smart people interested in our company who know things we don’t know, that know people we don’t know, and who have insights into where we need to go. And so, every investor, from that perspective, has been additive or creative. It has never been just about the capital. Elevate has been a strong example of that, with Ting Gootee, Phil Lodato, and Bob Myer’s guidance on facets such as corporate governance and our initial fund-raise, plus making connections and general encouragement.

 

In addition to leading Curvo, you’re a father of five. Do you try to raise your children like you were raised?

Definitely. For my wife and I, the biggest values that we hope our kids adhere to are to tell the truth, treat people with kindness and love learning. If they can do those things, they’re off to a good start.

The work-life balance is really a matter of boiling down priorities to kids and Curvo. When you’re starting a company that’s all there is time for. Instead of balancing, it’s really focusing — letting the things that are extraneous and less important fall away because there isn’t the time in a day.

 

How does having a Southwest Indiana headquarters benefit you, your employees and Curvo?

When we first started out, my cofounder in San Diego and I were spinning up parallel networks of contacts and people, in part to determine where parts of the business should live. We were looking for access to customers, access to capital and access to talent. Those were our three main drivers.

Curvo CEO Andy Perry

1. Access to customers leant itself well to this area because most of my network had been in this Midwest region, so we were able to get some early beta customers in that way.

2. Access to capital was great because of things like Elevate Ventures and the Indiana Venture Capital Investment [VCI] Tax Credit, which gave a tax credit for any of our Indiana angel investors. In Evansville, an emerging supportive startup ecosystem led by Drew Peyronnin was bringing to light investors that needed some deals. We had elbow room in Indiana. If you had a good idea and some traction, you could get some visibility and circle up that capital. It was really an advantage.

3. Regarding access to talent, we acquire talent from anywhere and manage as a distributed team. Most of our engineering team is out of Indianapolis right now with our CTO in Evansville. It’s just an outstanding team effort.

 

And do you think that has an impact on potential entrepreneurs in this area?

For sure. For a lot of would-be entrepreneurs, it’s very fragile in the beginning, the idea is fragile. And there there’s a belief gap that we need to help everyone cross, this encouragement of, “Yes you can do this.” And the more examples we have and the more interested funders and founders that we have, the more we help others cross that belief gap. That kind of safe, supportive, more pervasive ecosystem is such a key part of getting people to take the leap and pursue an entrepreneurial vision.

 

 

Read our first Leading Indiana Ambition story profiling myCOI’s Kristen Nunery here or the second profile in the series about Sigstr’s Bryan Wade.
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