Sarah Haig nominated by John Harthorne
John Harthorne is the Founder & CEO of MassChallenge in Boston, Massachusetts.
Title: VP of Business Development and Founder
Company: Silverside Detectors
Industry: High Tech
Number of employees: 3
What they do: Silverside Detectors develops nuclear radiation detection technology that equips governments to protect their cities and citizens from nuclear terrorism.
What makes her company unique? Silverside Detectors is solving a very serious problem in an incredibly cheap and efficient way. What makes Silverside unique is the very fact that they are the key to preventing wide scale nuclear disasters before they even become a threat.
What are some of her awesome achievements? With her background as a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, Sarah has been able to secure grants from the CASIS foundation to bring her research onboard the International Space Station and DARPA to accelerate the creation of their world-saving product.
What gives this entrepreneur that ‘Got Next’ glow? Sarah Haig is able to bring her charisma and charm into a field mostly dominated by stuffy middle-aged men. As a role model in a male-dominated field, Sarah leads the charge for all young women entrepreneurs looking to gain a foothold in the world of science innovation.
Tell us why this entrepreneur should be a 2014 She’s Got Next winner: The work that Sarah does with Silverside is going to ensure that we actually have something “next” to look forward to! She has built microfinance companies in China and Afghanistan, consulted with economic development programs in Sri Lanka, India, and Dominican Republic, and advised NATO on development priorities in Afghanistan. She leverages this expertise in early-stage organizational growth and public policy to connect Silverside Detectors to the international policy agenda around nuclear threat reduction.
Let’s Talk to Sarah
Lioness: Where are you located?
Sarah: Boston, MA
Lioness: Why did you decide to launch your startup?
Sarah: I am tired of assuming that words and good intentions will actually shift public policy impasses. In a graduate school class on nuclear threats, the discussion focused on what governments should do, and a sentence or two would be tossed out that “the private sector needs to develop better detection technology.” Imagine my joy, then, when I connected with Andrew Inglis, a nuclear physicist that had decided to leap out of academia and commercialize the revolutionary “nuclear bomb detector” (a neutron detector, with significant applications for detecting nuclear material in transit routes and large urban areas). We launched Silverside Detectors, which is putting efficient, flexible, affordable detection technology in the hands of movers and shakers responsible for reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Lioness: How do you feel about being a Who’s Got Next winner?
Sarah: Every now and then I accidentally take a dose of context – realizing that this idea/enterprise on which I’m completely fixated, about which all my friends/family are constantly asking me – is really not the biggest deal in the world. I recommend this painful medicine to everyone, and one of my favorite parts of the startup community is constantly coming into contact with good execution of great ideas that make me remember that the world needs a lot of innovation, and that entrepreneurship is anything but a zero-sum game. Of course I also love every opportunity to get people excited about the cause and technology to which I’m committed, and I appreciate the “Who’s Got Next” platform for – if not scaremongering – then at least making people realize that nuclear terrorism is a threat that they can understand, is a cause that people are working hard to conquer.
Lioness: What does being a female entrepreneur mean to you?
Sarah: I can’t say I’ve ever been a male entrepreneur … but putting aside what I think are pretty cosmetic challenges that are gender-specific (and yes, please throw rotten tomatoes at me – I realize that all of us have very different experiences!) I think that the core challenge, opportunity, and joy of being an entrepreneur is the same: developing the thick skin, listening ears, and … cojones … to put your heart on the line every day. (Forgive the anatomically mixed metaphor.) Let’s be honest: our ideas, and the companies we build to execute on these ideas, are part of us more than most jobs.
For all that I try to remember that this is business, it’s really hard not to take it personally when somebody shuts down the idea that I’ve so carefully incubated. Being an entrepreneur is that incredibly delicate balance of plowing forward no matter what opposition I meet, and developing the humility, grace, and discernment to know how to act on the feedback that I’m constantly inviting.