With a Harvard MBA and a role as CEO of GE Healthcare in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Andy Nunemaker easily could never have returned to Milwaukee.
But he did, choosing entrepreneurship in his hometown over far-flung executive employment. He first helped develop EMSystems, which developed communication solutions among hospitals and EMS agencies. That company was sold to Intermedix, and then Nunemaker co-founded and serves as CEO of Dynamis Corporation, a provider of sales software in the healthcare insurance industry.
Nunemaker is also heavily involved in civic causes, serving on boards of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and is an avid art collector. In the Dynamis offices in West Allis, Nunemaker answered 5 Questions from Build MKE:
What was the best advice you got about being an entrepreneur?
Understanding yourself. The reason I say that is entrepreneurship sounds fun, and it sounds great to be your own boss, and it sounds exciting. But you’ve got to an an extremely high risk tolerance, and you’ve got to understand that coming into it. Besides all the fun parts of entrepreneurship, there is a high, high level of risk with any startup and that equates to a very high level of stress, especially if you don’t have a high risk tolerance. And so there were a lot of sleepless nights for me early on … and I didn’t have a complete understanding of my risk tolerance when I went into it.
You’re a worldly guy. What is the best distinguishing characteristic of the MKE entrepreneurial community?
It’s a tight knit group of people. Milwaukee has created an ecosystem with investors, mentors, seasoned entrepreneurs and new entrepreneurs and we’ve created forums where all of these people can get together, and great things are happening.
What responsibility does a successful entrepreneur have to that community?
I believe strongly that any successful entrepreneur was given help among the way. Either through mentorship, through someone who believed in them, invested in them. Nobody got there on their own, so therefore anyone who would be classified as a successful entrepreneur owes it to start giving back.
With Milwaukee, we have stronger sense of place and of loyalty, and I think it comes more naturally in a place like Milwaukee. I see people giving back, I see it happening all the time.
How do you identify a need in a marketplace?
First off, you find a need by talking to people. We interviewed dozens and dozens of employers who buy health insurance for their companies, and they told us time and time again that there’s a big disconnect between the way they want to buy, and the way brokers sell them insurance.
The ultimate validation is that strangers will pay list price. Anyone can give it away, and anyone can get their friends and family to buy, but when strangers will pay list price, that’s the ultimate validation of the concept.
What single work of art would you like to own that you don’t?
That’s easy. Andy Warhol, in the 1960s, did an acrylic on canvas. It’s about 6 feet by 6 feet, and it’s of a Schlitz six-pack. It’s privately owned and on loan in the Tel Aviv Art Museum right now, and I would love to get my hands on that some day.