Dr. Caleb Frankell '04 and Rick Genzer '86

By Allison Eatough ‘97

In 2015, an unexpected meeting between two Terps – who graduated 18 years apart – led to the creation of Instinct, a software designed specifically for veterinary hospitals.

Here’s how it happened.

After graduating from veterinary school in 2008, Dr. Caleb Frankel ’04 hoped to someday open a chain of specialty animal hospitals.

But while completing his emergency veterinary training at a Florida animal hospital, he said he was “blindsided” by the state of the field’s technology.

“What the veterinary setting had for software was 20 years behind other industries,” he said. “I recognized that my colleagues, for example, were spending hours after their shifts writing records and dealing with 11 clicks to do a simple task. There are a lot of problems in the veterinary industry, and I started seeing the correlation between the really frustrating technology, or lack thereof, and the problems.”

While the Pennsylvanian still dreamed of opening his own hospitals, he said he couldn’t stop thinking about those problems – or ways to solve them.

So in 2015, Frankel began designing software that could streamline and modernize veterinary hospital operations. Recognizing he needed additional support, he vowed to “take a meeting” with anybody who asked for one that year.

That included a liaison from the University of Maryland Alumni Association. Frankel shared his software idea with the liaison, who mentioned she had just met with Rick Genzer ‘86, a fellow Pennsylvanian and “software technology guru,” Frankel recalled.

The liaison made the connection, and a few weeks later, Frankel and Genzer, currently director of investments for Ben Franklin Technology Partners, met for coffee.

Having been a very early or co-founding member of six startups, Genzer provided valuable advice during Frankel’s early, software development days.

“One thing I’m good at is providing what I call two-by-four advice,” said Genzer, who at the time ran his own business and technology consulting firm. “I’ve seen the two-by-fours that are about to smack you in the head as you ‘round the corner, and I can help you duck – not all the time but some of the time.”

“When you start a startup, especially if you’ve never done it, there are just an infinite amount of decisions that have to be made,” added Frankel. “I enjoy that, but many of them were completely out of my wheelhouse as a clinician. It was really nice to have a second brain I could call. Before I’d even ask 70 percent of the question, he knew the answer to it.”

After months of meeting regularly at the local coffee shop, Frankel asked Genzer to join him as a partner. Instinct Science launched in May 2017, and by 2020, veterinary hospitals across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia were using its software.

Frankel credits the University of Maryland Alumni Association for connecting him to Genzer – one of many “Maryland moments” that has helped shape his life, he said.

“I like to say Rick has helped me mature from a founder to an actual CEO,” Frankel said. “Anybody can start a company, but often those people aren’t the right people to run a company continually if it succeeds. I found that I really love this part of it actually, and so far, I think I'm good enough to stay in it at this company.”

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