Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Caleb Carr of Vita Inclinata Is Helping To Change Our World

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The amount of time needed to build a venture-back business is enormous and the sacrifices your family and friends must make are immeasurable — it’s a constant shift from your family to your company. I got divorced because I couldn’t manage my obligations to the company and my responsibilities to my home life. I learned a lot, but I wish I had prepped my relationship before.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caleb Carr.

Caleb Carr is the founder, President, and CEO of Vita Inclinata Technologies (Vita), a Denver-based aerospace and industrial safety technology startup. Caleb has served as a firefighter and search and rescue tech for over 10 years, where he found the inspiration to create Vita following the death of a friend. In his free time, Caleb is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado and is an active firefighter at Bennett Fire and Rescue in Colorado.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had no idea what it was initially. Then, when I was 15 years old, a friend of mine went down with cardiac arrest in the state of Oregon. A helicopter crew tried to save him, but the rescue basket swung around, preventing the rescue. This story was the ultimate reason I wanted to go to college for medicine. However, once I got to college, a professor heard the story and simply asked, “why don’t you just fix it?” That question was the driver for why I started on the journey of entrepreneurship.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Traveling to Ukraine has been the most interesting journey of my entrepreneurial career so far. See the link here for the full story:

We received contact weeks after the war broke out from the Ukrainian government requesting Vita’s helicopter load stabilization capability. The Ukrainians had never completed medical evacuations via helicopter hoists. To that end, the company responded and deployed a unit. My trip was challenging; there were so many roadblocks in the way, both figuratively and. Within the first 15 minutes of getting into Lviv, we were sitting at the bottom of a church working on our laptops with air raid sirens. It was surreal.

Meanwhile, after hours of driving through Ukraine, we got to the airfield where we were due to train the crew. As the helicopter took off, I was told by the crew that Russian jets were in the air space and that the training would need to be quick. My heart dropped. We were in a big, hunky, soviet helicopter that was the easiest target in the world. I sat in this helicopter, waiting for it to take off, thinking about the reality that this was my one time to abort before we went into the air. It is that moment that you think about your entire life, the learning lessons, the people you will miss. It didn’t take much for me to think about the core mission and focus on the outcome, which is what I did. Mission accomplished. When I think about the experience, I realize how challenging it was, both personally and professionally.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The name of Vita Inclinata is a unique story. I was 18 years old and was looking on Google Translator to try to find a cool name in Latin. Somehow “Life” “Inclined” came to mind and hence Vita Inclinata. I had no intention of the name ever sticking — I didn’t think it would ever become a real company. Well now 10+ years later the name has stuck, and our French and Italian customers laugh at me about it all the time.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Vita’s mission is to build technology that brings people home — every time. I founded the company following the death of a friend, a situation that happens regularly due to old and legacy techniques for helicopter hoisting missions. To that end, Vita’s technology eliminates the risk of helicopter hoisting operations and can save four lives at the same time it takes to save one life (per the US Army).

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In the 1990s, Ken Bowling was a pilot who experienced a life-changing event when his plane crashed into the San Bernardino mountains. You can see his full story here for all his statements:

Within any organization, teams need inspiration. So many people look at my story, yet Ken’s story explains the reality of helicopter hoisting. Ken impacts our cause every day because he inspires staff as to why they do what they do to execute the collective Vita mission.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1) The venture community needs to invest in mission-driven entrepreneurship vs. market-driven entrepreneurship. So often, VCs invest because they see the potential market first before they see the solution that the company is bringing to the market. I would argue that this has led to many failures because market-driven businesses do not carry the passion, justification, or pure grit required of the founder to be successful. By investing in founders who have a mission (before they have even found the total market potential), VCs and the venture community would stand behind founders who are much more driven to succeed because of that personal mission. No amount of market can replace the emotional drive that a personal mission can bring.

2) Invest in Safety — many organizations say they invest in safety when it is just a marketing tagline. As a safety innovation company, we see this reality firsthand.

3) Entrepreneurs are everywhere, we just need to invest in them both with our finances and time. The creation of entrepreneurship courses as early as high school should become a reality. Too often people associate entrepreneurship with building a business, yet entrepreneurship can also drive innovative thinking which enables people to think of solutions to problems in their day to day lives — regardless of whether that turns into a business. Companies every day ask their employees to be innovative — teaching entrepreneurial thinking at a young age will enable our young people to do just that, innovate.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability to do everything you ask of someone else yourself. I believe that a leader is always driving the organization and is responsible for making sure that stuff gets done at the end of the day. Therefore, leaders must be able to do everything they ask of their people to avoid requesting the impossible and receiving the unexpected.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. The amount of time needed to build a venture-back business is enormous and the sacrifices your family and friends must make are immeasurable — it’s a constant shift from your family to your company. I got divorced because I couldn’t manage my obligations to the company and my responsibilities to my home life. I learned a lot, but I wish I had prepped my relationship before.
  2. Check your ego at the door. In startup world, a lot of things happen that drive a significant ego. For me it was ringing the NASDAQ opening bell and raising tens of millions of dollars. To that end, the ego only takes you so far and it affects all the people around you.
  3. Employees change the obligation. When you have no employees, you can do anything — truly there is no one looking to you but maybe one or two investors to be successful. However, once you have employees the calculus changes. You have their lives to worry about, their livelihood, their families. Health insurance matters, benefits matter. To me as a founder, all those things were secondary — once you have employees that all changes.
  4. Failure is a good thing; I think this is self-explanatory. Often one fears failure, as I did for many years. Yet, I realized quickly that by not encouraging failure you hold onto ideas longer and often waste more money that can be diverted somewhere else.
  5. Lawyers are not worth the dollar you pay them in the early stages. There are plenty of outsourced vehicles for legal help like the Westlaw practice series. If you screw up the legal docs in the initial stages of your company the only reason that someone will sue you is because you created something valuable (and I say this as a lawyer myself).

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that companies all have a social responsibility to help this world, not just make money. As I mentioned above, mission driven entrepreneurship is the way that people should begin to think about how they fund and build businesses. To that end, every company has a responsibility to find and define that mission regardless of the industry. With the evolution of SBA loans and fiscal support from the US government, I believe that many, if not all, funding sources should encourage said businesses to have to articulate that social responsibility, whatever it is.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years. At a very young age, I learned that life can be over quickly, so the question for me has always been “what are you doing today to change tomorrow?” When I was 17 years old, I had to search for a missing 28-year-old woman for three days. I had a 15-year-old and 16-year-old under my command at the time. We found her in the afternoon, but she didn’t want to come down the hill. We waited with her for an hour, waiting for the police to come to join us to help. Once the police were 15 minutes out, she jumped off the 250-foot cliff. She survived long enough for me to get to her and try to help for about 10 minutes before she passed. At that moment, I realized that life could go so quickly, so we must do something today to change tomorrow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet with Secretary of Defense Mattis. As a leader in some of the most turbulent times in the government, Secretary Mattis can shed light on how to rapidly innovate solutions for today’s warfighter, enabling companies like Vita to be more successful and rapidly innovate to protect our soldiers.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Caleb Carr of Vita Inclinata Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.