A Tale of Transformation

By Mike Kijewski LPS’10/WG’12, Founder of Gamma Basics

After undergrad, I was teaching AP chemistry and physics to suburban Philadelphia seniors.  My young, undergraduate vision included inspiring them to look at the world in an inquisitive and analytical way and to strive for personal evolution.  After three years of trying to help them discover their own dreams, I understood that I was failing at my own teaching.  While I loved my experiences inside the classroom, I realized that I wanted a career that was more entrepreneurial while still helping to improve the lives of those around me.

Mike used WVA funds to attend the 2011 American Association of Physicists in Medicine converence in Vancouver. At that show, they met their second largest customer.
Mike used WVA funds to attend the 2011 American Association of Physicists in Medicine converence in Vancouver. At that show, they met their second largest customer.

I started performing radiation safety analysis for a small company that built radiation oncology facilities while I was applying to graduate school. A year later, after being accepted to the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Medical Physics program, I started a software company, Gamma Basics, to solve some of the workflow issues I observed in my prior job.

While starting Gamma Basics, I realized that an MBA from a top-tier business school, like Wharton, would help me grow my company more quickly than I could with my limited business skills. Through what I can only imagine was some clerical error, I was accepted to the Healthcare Management MBA program at the Wharton. During the first days of pre-term, I was immediately struck by how lucky I was to be surrounded by such intelligent and accomplished students and faculty.

Over the next two years, I used every resource available at Wharton to grow my startup. The Venture Initiation Program provided regular advising sessions with experienced entrepreneurs. One of those advisors literally stood in front of me and coached me while calling the Vice President of one of our prospective customers. Without that guidance, I don’t know that we ever would have landed our first customer, Varian Medical Systems.

The Wharton Venture Award gave me $10,000 that enabled me to focus on Gamma Basics full time over the summer, rather than securing a more traditional internship. That $10,000 helped fund our first trade show appearance, which directly led to our second customer, Landauer Medical Physics.

I was fortunate to take HCMG867, Healthcare Entrepreneurship three times over my tenure at Wharton. (As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t as bright as my classmates.) Over the course of those three semesters, I developed a close relationship with one of the professors, Gary Kurtzman. Gary provided invaluable advice while we were raising money from investors, and later became an investor himself.

During one of the many events where Wharton invited successful alumni back to campus to speak to students, I met Greg Bentley (WG’77), the CEO of Bentley Systems, a local architectural software company. Greg immediately took interest in what we were doing in Gamma Basics, and later became our biggest advisor and investor.

About 18 months after graduating from Wharton, Gamma Basics was acquired by Varian Medical Systems, the world’s largest manufacturer of Radiation Oncology technology. While the acquisition was small compared to some of the tremendous successes that have come from Wharton alumni over the years, the idea that I could have started and sold a software company to a Fortune 1000 healthcare company would have seemed completely impossible to me just a few years earlier.

While there are many Wharton alums that have experienced greater success, there are likely few people for whom Wharton had a more truly transformational experience. I look forward to being able to help other members of the Wharton community the way they’ve helped me.

MikeHeadShot2 200Bio: Mike Kijewski is passionate about new advances in the intersection of internet technology and healthcare. He was the founder of Gamma Basics, a radiation oncology focused software startup, which was acquired by Varian Medical Systems in 2013. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School, a Master of Medical Physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BSeD in Physics from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.