Even Multiple Sclerosis Can’t Keep This Entrepreneur From Innovating

February 11, 2014

1:30 pm

Entrepreneurs learn to overcome obstacles quickly, as they work to build something from nothing, or at least from nothing more than a few ideas and dreams.

As an entrepreneur, Griffin Granberg has faced and surmounted more than his share of obstacles, ranging from the familiar pains of the startup life – long hours, trying again and again until you get it right — to the kind of challenge most of us will never have to face. Griffin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was just 27 – young, but already an old hand at entrepreneurship.

According to the Business Journal in his native Sioux Falls, Griffin began his entrepreneurial journey in middle school, when he created a mobile DJ service, performing for his friends at school dances.

By the time Griffin graduated from high school, he had taught himself HTML, Visual Basic and PERL and had acquired several paying clients.

However, it wasn’t until later that his entrepreneurial skills – and his resolve – would be seriously tested. After unexplained visions of strange particles appeared before his eyes, Griffin and his optometrist were left scratching their heads until Griffin’s vision deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t see objects directly in front of him.

Finally, doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed Griffin with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system and damages communication signals between the brain and spinal cord.

At this point, many of us would have given up on entrepreneurship, channeling all of our reserves to fighting this disease and doing the work of adapting our lives to it. Not Griffin – he underwent plasma replacement to restore his eyesight and went on to become the majority owner of TidySurveys, a company that brings customer feedback to clients through online surveys and questionnaires.

It was then that Griffin’s medical diagnosis collided with his entrepreneurial drive. While attending to the large appetite caused by his medication, Griffin took a restaurant survey to receive a discount on his meal. Attempting to complete the survey on his mobile phone was such a disastrous experience that Griffin knew then and there how to enhance TidySurveys’ platform to accelerate its growth. Now, they optimize surveys to fit on any mobile device screen so that customers will actually fill them out instead of becoming frustrated from all the pinching and zooming.

As Griffin told the Sioux Falls Business Journal:

 “An aesthetically pleasing survey will actually impact the response rate and decrease the time it takes somebody to fill it out. The benefit for our clients is they now have direct interaction, in a mobile way, with their customers.”

Griffin is continually improving the customer experience at TidySurveys in Chicago, where the company is based. He has never let his challenges discourage him from creating and improving through entrepreneurship. In fact, his unwillingness to cease to be an entrepreneur, even in the face of a major medical diagnosis, has led to a 40 percent growth for TidySurveys in less than a year. Griffin’s story is further proof that life – no matter what obstacles it throws at you – will always present problems requiring an entrepreneurial mind to solve as long as you continue to pay attention.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.