Trailblazing female leaders break barriers, shatter glass ceilings, and are powerful role models for aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals. Their extraordinary achievements and visionary leadership inspire and empower others to overcome challenges, embrace innovation, and create meaningful change.
Keryn Gold, PhD, CEO & Managing Partner at OTBi Solutions (Outside the Box, Innovative Solutions), stands out among these iconic leaders. Combining her extensive experience leading startups and consulting groups, work in venture capital and private equity, and history running centers of excellence and billion-dollar divisions at Fortune 50 and FAANG companies with a uniquely compassionate approach, she empowers organizations to overcome their most formidable challenges and accelerate their success while improving work/life balance.
Keryn defines her own success by the value she generates for clients, has a career history delivering multiple-fold ROI in less than 3 months, and has received numerous awards and accolades over the years, including: “Top Innovators and Entrepreneurs,” “Most Inspiring Business Women,” “Top 10 Inspiring Innovators Pushing the Boundaries in Their Industries,” and “Changemaker of Distinction.” She doesn’t just adapt to change, she helps shape it, and ensures her clients are always ahead of the curve while improving the amount of quality time they can spend with their loved ones. We interviewed Keryn to learn more about how she is able to deliver this transformational value to her clients.
Q: Looking at your background, you’ve been shaking up the status quo from a young age. Can you tell our readers a bit about the start of your entrepreneurial journey?
Ha! I never mean to disrupt the status quo; I just have a visceral aversion to dysfunction and a deep-seated need to take action to make things better for people when I see opportunities for positive change.
When I was a kid, I played sports competitively and was set to attend college for free on scholarship, but I sustained a career-ending injury. With that path closed to me, I focused on academics and was ultimately invited to attend college early, which I accepted. I ended up dropping out of high school, started college at age 14, and graduated summa cum laude in 3 years from a Top 15 university at age 17.
The Human Genome Project had recently been completed, and I sought out a disruptive new PhD program aimed at training “hybrid” scientists who could “speak” both biomedicine and predictive analytics and understand how disease happens, how to predict it, and what we could best do about it. I completed my PhD and learned from 12 different labs across 6 departments, but discovered academic culture wasn’t for me. It was this realization that ultimately led me to the business world.
What led you to form an OTBi Solutions of your own?
Before I started my own OTBi Solutions, I joined a newly-formed start-up biotechnology and life science advising group founded by former PhD students who had just completed their first project. After seeing what I could do, they ultimately elected me president of the group. I set best practices and trained over 100 consultants, formed strategic partnerships, and together with my team, 15x’d their growth over 1.5 years. Through this experience, I found that I seemed to have a knack for this – and that I loved consulting and empowering people and businesses to think differently and find alternative, accelerated paths to success.
I noticed that many of our early clients at some point needed to seek funding to enable further growth. Being a person who values seeing problems from all angles so I’m better able to meaningfully help more holistically and provide both near-term and long-term value, I sought to learn from investors who made funding decisions that enable businesses to bring transformational new products to market. This was out-of-scope for the non-profit consulting group I ran, so I established strategic partnerships to ensure the group’s ongoing success and project-flow, handed over the reins of the organization, and formed my first business, OTBi Solutions (Outside the Box, Innovative Solutions), in 2012.
I started by providing pro bono consulting services to local venture capital and private equity groups. Impressed by the quality and rapid value of my deliverables, these groups hired me to not only evaluate investment opportunities and do M&A, but also serve as Chief Operating Officer of one of their education technology holdings while I was still in my 20s. This provided invaluable opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.
You’ve had an impressive and diverse career path, from being CEO and COO of start-ups and running consulting groups, to working in venture capital and private equity, to building and leading divisions within Fortune 50 and FAANG companies. What do you believe is the secret to your success with businesses across industries and stages of growth?
I have a genuine desire to make things better, and I am driven to take action. I measure my success by the value I’m creating for others and what I can empower them to do. I have a relentless curiosity, drive, and passion for understanding how things work and what people need, and unblocking and empowering them to reach their full potential. This compels me to continuously learn and optimize and improve to enable me to more holistically help others.
I seek to understand and meet people where they are, dig into the data and see what stories it can tell, and approach problems from different angles. I leverage this multifaceted perspective combined with a focus on delivering within-weeks and long-term ROI, empowerment and autonomy, challenging dysfunctional status quos, and delivering transformational value to my clients and partners across industries.
What is your business philosophy and what do you believe sets you apart from others?
I have a core belief that things are fundamentally solvable. My business ecosystem focuses on uncovering hidden profits and unleashing the potential of employees to create transformational value for clients. My commitment is to expedite the realization of multi-year plans while improving schedule flexibility for everyone, leaders and individual contributors alike. Essentially, my goal is to help organizations realize that they can indeed have it all: accelerated success, engaged employees, and work/life balance, with minor modifications to how they operate.
Over the years, due the types of roles and magnitude of money I was responsible for, I’ve been put through 100s of hours’ worth of testing. The assessments consistently revealed extremely high strategy, tactics, ideation, empathy, logical analysis, adaptability, and drive. One of the things that always perplexed those assessing me though, given my history with competitive sports, is that my “competitiveness” score was a mere 2 out of 100. This was, for example, anathema in venture capital and private equity (and it makes me a terrible sales person!).
This was explained to me as manifesting as my being driven to help others, and having a strong aptitude for generating strategic ideas and determining the best course of action, but that my core priority is not personally “winning,” but rather ensuring everyone is heard and understood so the ultimate solution addresses everyone’s unmet needs. I don’t push for the chosen path or outcome to be my original suggestion; rather, I enjoy constructing hybrid solutions that everyone feels are “their babies” to achieve the best outcomes that benefit the most people, not just the loudest or most assertive.
Can you share a bit more about your specific service offerings?
My services are designed to uncover hidden profits and accelerate strategic initiatives while unleashing the potential of employees and improving work/life balance. My goal is to address business problems holistically, but a subset of our services include: strategic planning and management consulting, data science and AI consulting, cost management and expense reduction, process optimization, procurement and supply chain optimization, talent identification, recruiting, and leadership development, coaching, and culture transformation.
You offer an expansive range of services. Could you elaborate on how you’re different from others in these fields?
My ecosystem consists of 3 businesses: OTBi Solutions, FocalPoint Outcomes, and SNAFU Guide. I have a career history delivering multiple-fold first year ROI within 3 months, from start-ups to Fortune 50 and FAANG companies – accelerating multi-year plan achievement 3x+, and for the larger companies, saving clients 10s of millions of dollars. In addition to this proven history, the breadth and depth of our service offerings, the combination of data science and AI with compassionate consulting, and the diverse array of expertise I bring to the table, what sets us apart is our success-based business model. This means we don’t make money unless our clients do.
I’m committed to finding opportunities for clients to improve outcomes while reducing costs, without layoffs or compromising on product or service quality. I help organizations innovate, improve engagement and unleash the potential of their employees, and achieve more without burnout. We enable improved work/life balance, without taking up undue time or bandwidth my clients are already struggling to find. And most of our business comes from repeat clients and referrals, who say they consider me a “resourceful, perceptive, trusted advisor” who “proactively delivers transformational value with relentless compassion — phenomenally fast.”
You also have a unique approach to strategic partnerships and referred business. Why have you chosen this model?
My passion is driving positive change within organizations and empowering as many people as possible. Sharing my net earnings 50/50 with those who refer business to me is my way of expressing gratitude for their trust and providing me with expanded opportunities to help even more people. It’s an unconventional approach in the business world, but it enables us to amplify our impact and aligns with my philosophy of creating win-wins and making sure people know they’re valued.
You’ve received accolades such as “10 Most Inspiring Business Women of 2023,” “Top Innovators & Entrepreneurs,” among others. To what do you attribute this recognition?
The recent press coverage is candidly somewhat surreal. I think there’s a great amount of frustration and uncertainty among business leaders and individual contributors alike right now, and everything feels very out of control. What I offer is a way for people to take back some semblance of control and improve profits and grow while doing right by their people, without layoffs or negative impact to product or service quality, while improving work-life balance and schedule flexibility. Right now, this seems impossible or out of reach for many, so perhaps the press coverage is a function of the fact that we empower clients to achieve this, with a career history of delivering on this promise.
We understand you’re also writing a book? What is “The Leadership Playbook, Revisited” about and what inspired you to write it?
Throughout my career, I have witnessed leaders and organizations striving to deliver results and succeed while grappling with the challenges of employee engagement and work/life balance. The Leadership Playbook, Revisited, is a culmination of over 100,000 hours of research, testing, and refinement, and provides specific, actionable, implementable tools, systems, and processes that I’ve successfully implemented to drive transformational value at start-ups through Fortune 50 and FAANG companies, across industries.
The strategies outlined in this book are designed to distill my experience into 1-page “plays” (with a companion website) to help more people, at scale, to achieve results similar to my clients. All without anyone having to work the 100+ hour weeks that I did for so much of my career to learn and develop these tools and strategies. My goal for the book is to empower leaders and organizations, at greater scale, to realize that having it all isn’t out of reach – that they can have accelerated growth and multi-year plan achievement, engaged and happy employees, and schedule flexibility – and do so without having to clone anyone!
How do you define success as an entrepreneur, and how do you give back?
True success, to me, is not solely measured in monetary terms. It’s about the lives we touch and the positive change we bring about in the world. It’s about addressing real unmet needs and making life better for people. I believe that by empowering individuals and organizations to achieve what they once thought impossible, we can create a ripple effect of transformation and fundamentally revolutionize how business operate for the better to improve not just bottom-line results, but the quality of life for leaders and individual contributors alike.
As for giving back, I volunteer at youth and entrepreneur empowerment organizations to help educate and empower the next generation of leaders and changemakers.
How do you perceive the current rapid disruption in business and technology, particularly with the advent of generative AI such as ChatGPT?
I see it as an exciting opportunity to empower even more people. Though the rapid advance of technology may seem daunting and scary to some, it opens many doors once limited to only those with deep technical expertise. I’ve been advising on data science and predictive analytics for the better part of 20 years, and to me this innovation is on par with the creation of the internet in terms of access to and organization of information.
ChatGPT and generative AI are bringing about a great democratization of technology. With these tools, now, more than ever, for those who choose to embrace it, people from diverse backgrounds, regardless of their education or specific details of their resumes, have the power, right at their fingertips, to learn, grow, and achieve what they once thought impossible or out of reach.
“We empower businesses to achieve what they once believed out of reach: improved margins, unleashed employee potential, and accelerated innovation, while improving work/life balance”