9 Startup Lessons Learned From Anthony Johnson (Empire Genomics)

Startup Grind Buffalo had the privelege to host Anthony Johnson (CEO Empire Genomics), and I have to say it was one of the most entertaining and valuable Startup Grind's yet!

Empire Genomics, led by Anthony, is on a mission to understand, treat, and hopefully get rid of cancer. You can check out the video below.

Here are the 9 takeaways to make you a better entrepreneur:

1. Be a duck

When asked how Anthony manages his time he encouraged entrepreneurs to be like a duck - cool on the surface but working frantically underneath the surface.


2. Get rid of distractions

TV is a major distraction, and Anthony chose to not have a TV for decades so he could focus on activities that would add more value to his life. Entrepreneurs need to choose what is more important; watching Jersey Shore re runs or working on their startup.

3. Investors want to hear your story

Anthony expressed frustration with the lack of investors in Upstate NY that had a bio background, so he focused on telling investors Empire Genomics story and value proposition.Plus Anthony said it takes A LOT of persistence to get funded, and to start with local investors first before looking to other cities for funding.

4. Be selfish with interns/fellows

Empire Genomics started a fellowship program that is more in depth then an internship, and allows students to experience different aspects of Empire's business. Anthony said having a program like this is good for companies long term because it becomes more of an extended interview instead of just a summer job.

5. Hire for PASSION

When asked what Anthony looked for in potential employees Anthony responded that he hired for passion above anything else. Anthony told a story that an applicant said he wanted to start a company in 3 years, and Empire was OK with that because it was his passion.

I thought it was very honorable that Anthony did not dismiss this candidate for his goal of running his own business, and I doubt many other CEO's would approve of Anthony's viewpoint.

6. Buy companies if it allows you to grow faster and cheaper

Empire Genomics recently bought a Canadian startup, ID Labs, which allowed them to gain access to a variety of benefits that would have been expensive and timely if Empire developed them internally. Buying another company can mean you are able to grow quicker, and for less money, and startups should always be looking for potential acquisitions.

Details on ID Labs acquisition can be found here.

7. Entrepreneurs should be like Plastic Man

When asked what super hero Anthony would like on his team he said Plastic Man, because he can adopt to any situation. Flexibility is often lacking in entrepreneurs which can cause problems given the often problematic road entrepreneurs walk


8. Know your surroundings

Anthony told a very funny story of when he first interviewed for a job in Grand Island (which is near Niagara Falls), but thought it was part of Long Island. Also, when Anthony worked this job he was living in Buffalo but spent most of his time on the West Coast. Due to this he took a while to experience all the awesome things going on in Buffalo.

9. Do not be afraid to dream BIG

"Dreamers" was Anthony's answer to the question, "If Buffalo is to succeed it needs more____".

Buffalo has successful companies but Anthony urged all Buffalonian's to aim BIGGER and not to settle just for an average startup.

Empire Genomic's certainly fits this mold of dreaming big, and with given the excellent leadership of their CEO Anthony Johnson I know they will succeed!

I would like to thank the Startup Grind team, sponsors, and all the attendees for helping Buffalo entrepreneur's dream BIG. I hope you can join us for a Startup Grind!


Anthony Johnson (left) and Eben Piazza