Frank Ricotta Jr
Co-founder and CEO
Location: Denver, CO
Industry: Health and Identity
*Second Year Honoree*
As a leader, you can take a me-first approach or a team-first approach.
Frank Ricotta, Jr. chooses team-first.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, his team recognized that 2020 would not be as he planned. He understood he had to do something different.
Ricotta explained that based on the results of an internal strategic thinking exercise, the company refocused their efforts and launched Research Foundry in March 2020.
“We had the support of an international coalition of researchers, public health officials, organizations, and inventive minds, all of whom believe that large-scale problems can only be solved collaboratively,” Ricotta said, “understanding the need to work together to have a profound and sustainable impact on our world." As a starting point, he offered Research Foundry as a free service supporting this global community.
“We initially populated the Research Foundry with a significant number of health data collections, including specific COVID-19 data sets to accelerate research activities,” he said.
“While preparing for the launch, we began discussing collaboration opportunities with Hitachi Vantara and the American Heart Association.”
In May 2020, AHA with the support of Hitachi and BurstIQ launched a COVID-19 data challenge focused on the relationships between COVID-19 and underserved and vulnerable communities. The data innovation challenge was a huge success. Ricotta said that these researchers along with all the participants provided invaluable insights to how COVID-19 impacts these communities along with potential responses to mitigate its impact.
“As the year progressed, we were able to connect researchers with innovators around the world and currently have over 200 new active projects underway on what we have now branded as BurstIQ Foundry,” Ricotta said.
When being led by Ricotta you are never really alone.
He said, “One of your core responsibilities is to build a team that has the ability to not only lift the company but to lift you up as well. 2020 reinforced the need to have a why, both for me personally and for the BurstIQ team collectively. We all need to rally around our Massive Transformative Purpose.”
For Ricotta, it’s simply to make the world a healthier place.
“It is this bond that allowed us to deal with the forced isolation of lockdowns. Through it all, we emerged in a better place than where we started. 2020 pushed my leadership skills to the limits and forced me to grow in ways I could have never imagined when the year began.”
In addition to launching Research Foundry, he recognized that COVID-19 has brought one major thing into focus for just about everyone on the planet.
“We learned that we are all interconnected, that an action in one area can quickly turn into a worldwide crisis. We learned that our stories weave together to capture a much broader view of all the diverse factors that impact our health,” Ricotta said. “We also learned how much is still a mystery.”
COVID-19 accelerated the need for businesses and governments to remotely authenticate individuals, validate transactions, and safely transfer health information unleashing a worldwide demand for digital identity solutions, and in December 2020, he launched his first product offering around identity to help streamline COVID-19 testing, vaccine administration and tracking.
Ricotta added that his biggest challenge was not unlike many organizations. “We had to come to grips with the ‘new normal’ and a pretty significant hit in our revenue projections.”
While most people view blockchain as a technology, Ricotta sees it as much more.
“Fundamentally, blockchains are networks. Networks create connections, connections create communities, and communities create markets. Communities drive change, create movements, disrupt conventions, and even foster compassion. And one more thing. Communities create hope,” he said. “Yes, hope. Hope that I can make a difference, that I can impact my life, that I can impact my environment, that I can impact the world. What lifts my heart more than I can convey is that we are not just a technology company, we are a company that builds communities, communities of hope."
This year has undoubtedly been one of unprecedented change for every business and Ricotta is leaning into the change.
“I work with our leaders to identify our opportunity and share it with the rest of the team, so the whole company can all feel a sense of ownership, agency, and mission through challenging times.”
Ultimately, you will never be successful without your team.
“Be a team-first leader,” Ricotta said. “Having a good sense of humility, gratitude, and responsibility in your role as a leader will go a long way in building a successful team and a successful company.”
"We learned that our stories weave together to capture a much broader view of all the diverse factors that impact our health. We also learned how much is still a mystery."