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Joanne Lang, CEO of AboutOne
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         Leadership Insights

            Fast Charging Social Entrepreneur

                By Suzanne F. Kaplan


In 2008, Joanne Lang, CEO and founder of AboutOne, found herself in the back of an ambulance with her critically ill son, panicked and without access to his current medical records.  A British-born SAP executive specializing in cloud computing for more efficient business operations, she realized that the same technology could work for families like hers. Since founding AboutOne 3½ years ago, Lang’s technology innovation has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Philadelphia Magazine, and on lists such as Forbes Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch, Dell Founders Club Entrepreneur, and Microsoft One Company.  She is currently a finalist as a technology innovator start-up for SmartCEO Voltage Awards, with the winner being announced later this month.



From Frightening Experience to New Technology

From that frightening ambulance experience, Joanne Lang recognized that while she had Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, there was nothing in the middle to manage her home life. Based on her experiences as the mother of four children, she designed AboutOne, a patent pending technology that merges the power of cloud-based business tools with the fun, user-friendly features of social media apps.

The online organizer not only replaces the file cabinets, notebooks, and various tools that families use to store household information, but also saves time by automatically using family members’ existing contacts and calendar apps to organize information so it’s available whenever needed. Users, especially military families, caregivers for chronically ill family members or elderly parents, and grandparents, use the system for personal health records, contacts, home inventories, school records, photos and memories.

Social Entrepreneur Personified

Although Lang’s business idea sprang from her not wanting any other parent to go through what she went through, she also knew she had to be financially successful to make her idea an ongoing reality. 

She is the personification of a “social entrepreneur.”

Looking at the impact that a business can have on society, The Economist defines a social entrepreneur as having more than the sole goal of making a profit—they try to meet a need “in an innovative, profitable, and socially responsible way.”

Her technology is innovative. She raised over $4 million in venture capital from normally risk-averse Philadelphia area investors, and 2014 revenue is expected to be in the seven digits range. She provides flexible hours for her 10 employees, mentors in Tech Girls to encourage girls to enter technology, and has instituted a “Comeback Mom” initiative for mothers to re-enter the workforce after taking time off for child-rearing.

Advice for Start-Ups:  Aim Higher

Lang has two pieces of advice for entrepreneurial spirits considering a new venture. First, aim even higher than you think possible. She feels one of the biggest failures in life is to not aim high enough.

Second, team up with people who balance your strengths and are opposite in skills and approaches.  As long as they believe in the same mission, a diverse team thinks through a variety of potentially bad scenarios and finds a wider array of opportunities.  Significantly, they also provide support during the emotional ups and downs the entrepreneur will invariably encounter.  



In Leadership Insights, Suzanne F. Kaplan, President of Talent Balance and GPSEG colleague, interviews and writes about outstanding leaders to share their stories and experiences.  Although we've all probably read some of the thousands of publications on leadership, it's the personal insights that Suzanne will be capturing for our benefit.


We welcome your comments and suggestions of other CEOs and leaders, including those not well known to GPSEG, whom you would like to see featured in future columns.