In our early days, we were still focused on the radiotherapy portion of healthcare. This was the area we knew best. In that in-between time, while I still worked at Varian but ran Neoforma, I existed in an odd, ethereal state...
And, frankly, the day-to-day issues I faced there seemed incredibly petty to me now. Challenges that had previously excited me seemed suddenly to be quite mundane. Some of the people I had resolved to get along with were much more difficult to tolerate.
Needless to say, this split brought me quite a bit of tension. Each day I was teased by the pull of a new world, only to be pulled back to the old one again and again.
These feelings were brought to the forefront during my first trade show after officially founding Neoforma. This was one of the major trade shows in radiotherapy. I had represented Varian at this conference for many years. That year I would still be in the Varian booth, but representing both Varian and this new partner of Varian, Neoforma.
Jeff and I took turns in the booth demonstrating our software to an enthusiastic audience of healthcare professionals. Meanwhile, whoever wasn’t in the booth was walking the floor, speaking with most of the vendors, including some Varian competitors. This was very exciting for us.
We were cautiously, but warmly, greeted by most of the vendors. There was a certain amount of confusion though. They ask us if since Varian was the market leader in radiotherapy and Neoforma was sponsored by Varian, didn’t that mean that working with Neoforma would bring them closer to Varian? We stressed that, “No, there is no such connection. Varian is simply one of our many customers.” It was true.
We felt that, instead of being treated by the general populace of Varian as the loving offspring we thought we were, we were being treated as a tick that had finally been plucked out by tweezers. For some suppliers, those trying to buddy up with Varian, this news cooled their interest in us. For others, those that had long been pushed down by Varian’s dominant market position, this news vaulted our status to that of long-lost friends.
Jeff and I struggled to make sense of our multiple identities. We were trapped between two worlds: one characterized by obligation, tradition and resentment, and the other by optimism, uncertainty and jubilation.