Leverager of technology: Brian Flynn

  • Chief Operating Officer, i-Comm Connect, (New York, NY)
  • M.B.A., Corporate Entrepreneurship, Lehigh University, 2016
  • M.Eng., Technical Entrepreneurship, Lehigh University, 2015
  • B.S., Finance and Marketing, Marist College, 2009
I sat in on a few classes before enrolling in the TE program… and I was hooked. This program is structured like nothing I have ever been a part of before. It will really teach you everything you need to know about launching a business – from ideation to startup.
-Brian Flynn

Unlike his brother and sister, both Lehigh alums, Brian chose to attend Marist College for his undergraduate studies. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Marketing and spent four years working in the wealth management field before deciding his next move should be graduate school. His siblings and their friends convinced him Lehigh had what he was looking for and would be the right choice.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Technical Entrepreneurship (TE) master's program?

Well, actually, when I first enrolled at Lehigh for graduate work, I registered for the M.B.A. program. I completed one year of work on my M.B.A. before opting to switch gears. I kept hearing more and more about the leading-edge TE program, so I placed my M.B.A. on hold and enrolled in TE instead.

Was that the right move?

Those 12 months in TE turned out to be one of the most enjoyable years of my life! I was energized by the flexibility of the program and the opportunity to try my hand at many different things. The classes were really innovative—no rows of desk facing a white board, but chairs arranged so cohort members could exchange ideas. The emphasis was on hands-on activities, and real-world entrepreneurs gave hours of their time to share insights with us. I felt fortunate to be a part of it all.

What skills did you develop in TE?

I learned a lot about a lot. How many examples would you like? I learned about the whole product development process, of course, as well as the specifics of proof of concept, lean methodology, rapid manufacturing, and 3D printing.

How did your mindset evolve as a result of your year in TE?

Going through the TE program made me think of the iteration and commercialization process in an entirely different way, and it helped me to think more like an engineer without losing the business orientation that was so embedded in my undergraduate experience. It gave me the total picture, the entire scope of what's involved with starting a business. And it exposed me to working in cross-functional teams.

What did you do immediately after receiving your M.Eng. in TE?

Immediately after receiving my TE degree, I continued doing what I'd been doing. I had co-founded a digital media startup, The Life Collective, about halfway through my TE year. Based in Allentown, it's a visual storytelling agency that aims to intensify the connection between businesses and consumers through cutting-edge video production, web design and development, branding and graphics, and photography. The Life Collective's clients have included Reebok, the global athletic footwear and apparel company; Lamprey Systems, a shipping logistics and tracking company; Jerm Cohen, a fashion photographer; and Lehigh University. I continued working with the company as Head of Business Development while I completed my Lehigh M.B.A.

Why did you decide to make a career change?

After receiving my M.B.A., I wanted to travel and to learn more about entrepreneurial climates elsewhere. I spent seven weeks in California exploring the state and meeting with those in the entrepreneurship space—including numerous Lehigh alums—in order to develop a west coast network.

Eventually, I returned to the Lehigh Valley, parted ways with The Life Collective, and moved to Manhattan. My goal was to immerse myself in the New York culture and get a better handle on the east coast entrepreneurship picture, which is growing in incredible ways. I met with venture capitalists, financial technology innovators, and others with the potential to help me fine tune my goals and lock in my next career move. Obviously, my priority was identifying the best possible fit for my interests, strengths, and skills, but I was also hoping not to have to wear a suit to work every day!

So what are you doing now?

I serve as Head of Product for a startup called i-Comm Connect. Founded in 2009, i-Comm Connect is a privately held internet software and services firm with about 15 employees. It's a high-energy, innovative company on the move.

Tell us more about your software and services.

Our signature product, TACTAL, a patented voice over internet protocol (VoIP) click-to- call software, connects people browsing the internet with companies all over the world.

Here's how it works. Businesses contract with us to place an instant call button on their website or mobile app allowing people browsing the internet from a microphone-equipped, internet-enabled device to establish a phone connection with a knowledgeable company representative simply by clicking the button. The benefits to both parties are significant. Businesses gain by providing a free communication service to potential customers, increasing browser-to-customer conversions, and acquiring valuable data about who is looking at their website, along with information regarding where these people are located. Internet browsers gain by saving time, data minutes, and any long distance charges, as well as by avoiding the frustration that so often accompanies efforts to reach a real person. Our client list is diverse and includes such businesses as Auto Europe, a global car rental agency; tkc.io, an IT support and web development company; and Inn by the Sea, a luxury beach resort.

What are your daily responsibilities?

My role is to make sure the product gets to market and works for customers. I supervise six employees and two interns. We're focused on developing product, strategy, and marketing; identifying next steps; securing user feedback; ensuring the product is meeting customers' needs; and implementing changes that will improve the operation.

Where do you work?

The company is based in Portland, ME, but my team works out of a shared co-working space, Grand Central WeWork, in New York City. Hundreds of companies are housed in this classic building dating back to 1927. The environment is extremely conducive to creativity and collaboration.

How are you applying the new mindset and new skills you developed in TE?

My mindset and my skills are very much a part of who I am and how I function in the business world. They guide my work as I apply methodology, basic principles, and good practices in terms of responsible decision making, particularly in terms of the allocation of capital and human resources.

Are you still connected to others in your cohort?

I am. There's a sense of family within the TE cohort—an entrepreneurship family. While members of my cohort came from diverse backgrounds and had different skills sets, we emerged from the TE program with a common knowledge base, mindset, and desire to stay in touch with one another…in part because of the extent to which this experience truly transformed our lives.

Can you share one important takeaway from your TE year?

TE taught me that it all comes down to whether people want to buy your product, so offering—and, more importantly, delivering—exactly what they need is crucial.