Dan Cane is the quintessential industry disruptor. The Lake Worth native and Cornell University grad changed how higher education used the internet and online services when he created education portal Blackboard. In 2011, the company sold for $1.6 billion.
His latest venture is Modernizing Medicine. The company’s “intelligent” electronic medical records solution is helping physicians increase efficiencies in their medical practices while improving both treatment and business outcomes by adapting to each doctor’s own style of practice.
Last year, Cane was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year and was honored by Gov. Rick Scott with the Business Ambassador Award. His team has raised $85 million and overseen several acquisitions on the path to changing the face of modern health care.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of building this company into a transformative industry player? Any time you get to do well by doing good, it’s incredibly rewarding. The fact that I’ve gotten to make an entire career by fixing industries like education and health care makes it that much more special to me and the employees who fix this. A leader can only inspire a company to go so far. So that intersection of working in an industry that’s meaningful and being able to build a great culture in an environment that people get excited for is why people show up every day to change the world.
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change or improve about South Florida’s business climate? I wish we could change the perception of South Florida as being about tourism and agriculture. This region has so much more to offer, regardless of whether you’re in the I-4 corridor in Orlando, where everybody still seems to think it’s about a mouse and Universal Studios, or Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Boca Raton, where people talk about events and resorts. We just need to promote the thriving business community in Florida more.
How do you follow up a $1.6 billion exit from Blackboard? With another one, but you scratch the word “exit” and you just talk about a company worth billions. The mistake I made in my last company was the word “exit.” What I didn’t realize is you don’t have to sell your company. You don’t have to leave or turn it over to somebody else. The goal is long-term sustainability. I’m not building Modernizing Medicine for an exit. I am building it to be as large as, if not larger than, Blackboard. So, how do you follow up a billion-six exit? With a billion-seven sustainable.
If you could ask one executive one question, who and what would you ask? Jeff Bezos: How have you managed to hold The Street at bay for so long? He does not answer to The Street, even though they’re publicly traded. I think someday we’ll need to take Modernizing Medicine public, and I think when that day comes, I want to be like Jeff Bezos. The company, Amazon, has grown, and it’s so successful, and it’s not just shopping. But somehow he has been able to focus not just on maximizing profitability, which when you go public almost every company is held to that singular standard. So the question would be: How is he able to focus on growth and innovation, rather than pure financial outcomes, in a company as large as Amazon?
Why is giving back important to you? One of the things that makes me tick, that I try to instill in others, is the sense of whether you are making your time or your treasure – or both – available to the community at large, and you’re getting involved. It has to be something personally [that] there’s a calling to do. For me, that’s science and education. I’m vice chairman of the board of Florida Atlantic University, and vice chairman of the board of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. It doesn’t have to be monetary. What these not-for-profits need is guidance. They need leadership. They need to be challenged at the board level. It’s something that I get back amplified whatever I put in. In my case, it’s education and science, and helping motivate and instill a sense of wonder in the next generation.
CEO, Modernizing Medicine
Birthplace: New York
Residence: Boynton Beach
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a weekly series highlighting the Business Journal’s South Florida Ultimate CEO Awards honorees. The award recognizes 15 of the area’s top CEOs, highlighting the breadth of talent and leadership across our unified tri-county region. We’ll feature at least one of these chief executives weekly as a lead-up to the Sept. 29 awards program at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa.
Jeff Zbar writes for the Business Journal’s special reports, including awards sections.