Company Spotlight: Bill Tan from Transcendent Endeavors

Bill Tan is the founder and CEO of Transcendent Endeavors, based in New York City. Transcendent Endeavors is a venture studio and includes portfolio companies such as Canopy Innovations. It was founded to enable healthcare providers and patients to transcend language barriers and enhance quality of care. The company focuses on creating technology and services that will benefit vulnerable and underserved populations. Bill kindly shared his inspiration, experience, and advice in an interview detailed below! 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Bill, could you begin by sharing your role in the story behind Transcendent Endeavors? 

The inspiration for Transcendent Endeavors came from first-hand experience. Growing up, I often played the role of an interpreter and translator for my family. I witnessed how communication barriers can have adverse effects on both the patient and provider side of healthcare services. Having recognized the need for better language assistance solutions in healthcare and education, I founded Transcendent Endeavors to address communication barriers with innovative technology-enabled solutions.

This sounds like a unique business model. How is Transcendent Endeavors structured?

As a venture studio, we create products and companies that solve challenging problems. Each venture answers to a specific, well-defined issue for vulnerable and underserved populations. We have a team of motivated innovators with diverse experiences and expertise. Common resources can be shared and leveraged across projects, and we collaborate in research and early stage prototyping to accelerate product development. Once a venture has gained traction in the marketplace, we spin it out as its own company.

An early success was the Starling Bedside Communication System. Starling was a patient-nurse messaging platform that operated in multiple languages, creating inclusivity, transparency, and optimized workflow. Another big success in our portfolio is Canopy. Canopy Learn is the #1 most widely used educational tool in the U.S. for healthcare providers to learn medical Spanish, and a new Canopy360 platform is being launched to help hospitals manage their language access programs more effectively.

You have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. What do you like most and find most challenging about working with start-ups? 

There’s not much to be disliked! It’s definitely got its own set of challenges, and that comes with the territory when your work answers to a calling. Rather than just a job, what we do in a societally minded venture is a mission. What I appreciate most in this whole experience is the sense of higher purpose that’s attached to our projects. We know that the sweat and tears we put into our work will be well worth it because our products make a positive impact on others. During times of doubt or set back, our strong sense of purpose kicks in and carries us forward in the right direction. 

Entrepreneurship is often defined by its challenges. In our field, introducing innovative approaches to large institutions is a difficult process to navigate. Many of these rigid structures are in place for good reasons. However, they create the perception that these problems are inevitable and unsolvable, or permanent. The language barrier is a good example of an entrenched barrier that hasn’t been critically challenged. Reinventing processes that have been in place for decades, is a challenge in itself. Therefore, it takes a great deal of tenacity to search for and create better approaches that people will want to adopt in their everyday practices.

How would you describe the organizational culture at Transcendent Endeavors?

We are very collaborative, and we come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. Our specialties range from public health to linguistics to software engineering; everyone brings something unique to the table. We understand that no one has all of the answers, so we must join forces and work together to create a disruptive and viable product. This understanding and collaborative spirit is the bedrock of our culture. Beyond that, we have team outings, lunch-and-learn sessions, and quirky rituals that we do to liven up the office.

What advice would you give a college student or recent grad preparing for the professional world?

Focus on building relationships that are valuable, especially mentorship. I can’t emphasize how helpful it is, when one’s struggling, to have a mentor who can provide insights on their similar experiences. Even if you still have to make the same mistakes, they can support you along the way. Of the people I count as my mentors, some I catch up with every few years, others I am in contact with almost on a weekly basis. When it comes to seeking out mentors, don’t be intimidated by people’s big titles or accomplishments. Most people don’t need to carry an official title of being a mentor, but they are most happy to share their experience and be helpful when you ask.

Bill concluded with one of my favorite lines from our conversation. He shared, “Having a strong sense of self-awareness is important -- it reminds you that there is always more to learn, and opens up your mind to the people and resources that can be helpful.” Bill embodies this sentiment, as he is a visionary with a desire to create better healthcare and communication solutions. 

More about Transcendent Endeavors here:

Nicole Mintz